Friday 25 December 2015

Christmas Eve in Vietnam

Apparently the people of Ho Chi Minh City enjoy celebrating Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day itself.


Video courtesy of my sister Chloe.

All I can say is this: One does not simply cross a road in Vietnam.

Although, strangely enough, that seems to be the proper way to do it (there is a system of... organised chaos where the motorbikes will avoid you). The craziness starts when you are crossing an intersection where cars are coming from all sides.

It reminds me of the time I crossed over into Singapore from Malaysia before the working day started. But that was amazing for a completely different reason.

Merry Christmas

Andre Lim

Thursday 24 December 2015

Take Heart by The Sam Willows

What a great song. Heard it on the plane.

And to my pleasant surprise, it was performed by a Singaporean Indie band.

Music is great.

Andre Lim


Wednesday 23 December 2015

Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

Probably my current favourite graphic/picture book at the moment

Cost: $40
A little pricey but in my humble view, well worth it.
I don't really have to say much - the pictures say everything.

There are about 110 pages worth of 'comic-like' maps (for lack of a better description). The book is divided into continents.

Each country or continent featured in the book is always split across two pages.

Not all countries are featured in the book, but a good selection of countries is illustrated (notably, many from Europe - and we do get countries like Jordan, Namibia, Ecuador, China or Tanzania)


What is amazing about this book is that not only are the main cities displayed, but the special features (cultural, geopolitical, food, plants, animals) of each country are also entailed on each map! 

So for example, under Australia we have terms, accompanied with pictures, like "Cricket", "Barbecue", "Pavlova", "Barramundi", "AFL", "Federation Square", "Sea Anemones" or "Mount Kosciuszko"

In the United States of America map, cultural icon Elvis is standing near Memphis, Tennessee; while Martin Luther King Junior is standing near Atlanta, Georgia.


The last two pages also show all the current maps of the world (197 by my count). South Sudan as well as Kosovo is also featured here (and in their respective continent sections too) so you can tell this is quite up to date.

This is a fantastic present, for both young and old. If you love maps, this is a must buy.

It's a minor shame that not all countries were covered -  I would really love that to happen. Indeed, I can already see that many on Amazon have complained that their countries are not there.

In terms of geopolitical boundary accuracy, I wouldn't know how accurate the maps are (they look accurate enough to me!). But I can say that the maps are beautifully illustrated and have much educational material within them.

Regardless, I would give Maps a minimum rating of 8.0+/10 for me.

This may be my last post of 2015 as I will be going overseas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Andre Lim

Monday 21 December 2015

Where's Wally! WOW

What a great find.

Yes, I had heard about Wally (or Waldo as he is known in the US and Canada) for a long time now but I only knew about him in a very vague sense.

I did not actually bother delving into the books until very recently.

All photos, with the exception of the travel edition photo, courtesy of my mum

Target is selling this for $29 when the recommended UK retail price is £40!!!



I actually already have the travel-sized pocket edition (which includes 7 of the 7 primary books) - except it is far too small.

The totally essential travel collection - I think I got this for $19
In the full-blown Where's Wally? WOW edition, however, each page is roughly A4 in size; each scene, or puzzle if you will, as far as I am aware comprises two pages.

This edition makes for a great present for someone who enjoys wacky or novel things. The illustrations are gorgeous. The process of finding the items in each scene is not only challenging, but often results in you finding some hilarious items, people or events as well.

As far as I am aware (I have not gone through all the books), each book provides you with a checklist of things to find .

Apart from Wally himself there are other characters to find and, at least in the first book, Where's Wally?, there is also a recurring list of items to find in each scene (a key, a pair of binoculars, a scroll, a bone and a camera).

There is something crazy going on in each page as well - usually ridiculous, hilarious or just weird things. Many of these crazy events or people are in the checklists of 'things to find' as well; however many are not and are left for you to discover on your own!!

Curiously, I did stumble upon one or two items in the checklists that was open to debate - eg in the beach scene in "Where's Wally?" the checklist asks us to find something like "an odd couple" and "two odd friends". I found at least 2 or 3 "odd couples" so I was scratching my head as to which one was right! What does odd mean, exactly? Everyone looks odd!!

The only downside to this WOW edition is that it does not contain the 7th 'mothership title' "Where's Wally? The Incredible Paper Chase". So bear that in mind if you buy this awesome title.

This is a great Christmas present, in my view, for your fun-loving friend(s).

Although I've not gone through all the books, I feel comfortable giving this a preliminary rating of 9/10.

I think it is safe to say that Martin Handford is a creative genius.

Andre Lim

Friday 18 December 2015

Tales of Xillia - the Golden Mage Knight

I beat this optional boss a few nights ago. It was a crazy battle.

Taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtxPYQzB2aU

For those who don't know, the boss starts off as a lone figure; upon defeating this figure, the boss then splits up into two forms, and when you're done with those, then finally into 3 forms. Each form has quite a substantial amount of Hit Points.

I had Leia, Jude, Milla and Elize in my party.

Elize is critical - her main job is to continually cast Revive so that you don't need to risk waiting for Resurrect to work. Revive is an arte that grants a single party member the ability to automatically resurrect if they are KO'd (but you can cast it on all party members over time). Her secondary task is to cast Nurse to heal everyone.

Leia's tertiary job is to steal the items, once, from each of the 6 forms of the Golden Mage Knight that appear (I am not sure if this helps with stopping them from healing each other - probably not - but I did it anyway).
  • Her secondary job is to be the secondary healer to assist Elize. 
However, Leia's ultimate trump card is using items - for she has a special ability that causes every item used to have an effect on all party members. So if someone else used an Apple Gel on a party member, it would only work for one party member. But if Leia uses it, the Apple Gel heals all party members. I try to keep her aside so that she doesn't get hurt (too much) so that when the party desperately needs an item (such as to heal mana or to use a life bottle) she is available to do it straight away. It isn't always possible though of course to keep her safe.

I am not sure why I chose Milla. Alvin would also have been a good choice as he has high HP. Perhaps because Milla has a high Intelligence stat which would help with the damage from the linked artes with Jude.

Jude's job is critical as I used him to spam Savage Roar as that seems to do the highest amount of damage in the shortest space of time (and has the great effect of knocking the opponent on the floor to give you a breather). When the Golden Mage Knight splits into two, and then later three, forms, it is critical to quickly eliminate the one with the lowest HP so as to swing the battle in your favour. This involves some degree of risk as when you go 'all out' to attack that one member you will inevitably be subject to attack yourself. To this end, I found that attacking with Milla or anyone else was simply not effective enough.

Spamming Jude's Steel, which increases critical attack values, and using the relevant complementary linked arte with Milla, also helps in the long term.

Overall though, as crazy as this battle was, I found the final main boss much harder. I won't spoil it for whoever is still playing it but it was a battle against X and Y. When I finished off both X and Y, Y resurrected and, sometime in the battle, re-resurrected X. It was absolutely crazy. And both X and Y could heal, and it took me a long time for me to figure out what was happening.

Tales of Xillia is definitely my favourite game of the Tales series. Tales of Graces was fun and so was Symphonia, but I think Xillia was a little bit better.

Yes, I am a bit of a geek.

Andre Lim

Sunday 13 December 2015

UEFA Euro 2016 Draw

What an interesting draw. I will need a bit of time for me to digest this.


But there looks to be a good spread of underdogs and "lesser-known" countries in ALL groups (eg. Albania, Northern Ireland, Slovakia) - Group F in particular looks exciting.

There is some hype on England v Wales, which will also be interesting.

I am, however, more interested in learning about footballing nations that I am unfamiliar with.

Andre Lim

Sunday 6 December 2015

What I don't like about Christmas

Christmas used to be, and possibly still is, my favourite time of the year.

However, there is one thing that bugs me.

I feel that people, especially those who are financially struggling, should NOT feel OBLIGED to give presents to their loved ones. Give only if you can and want to - don't give if it will cause you to suffer.

There are plenty of stories where people have borrowed money and accrued small debts just so they can give to those they love.

Of course, I am not heartless - I understand that we all want to give good things to those we love. It is a fantastic thing to give and we should where we can. We all want to show our generosity.

But what does this say about our society when someone who does not have the means feels "pressured" into giving during this festive season? I think we live in an overly materialistic society, and I very much include myself in that group. Perhaps we all have indirectly contributed to the state of affairs in which I have referred to above.

Christmas is a great time to spend with friends and family and to celebrate the life of Jesus.

If possible, people should not take it personally if they are not able to give - give if you can; but if you can't it's all good !!

I don't know how many times I have said this but this is all, of course, easier said than done.

Andre Lim

Saturday 21 November 2015

Mini Ninjas

What an enjoyable game with a fantastic premise.

PS3 Cover Art

The storyline goes something like this:

A ninja master sends out his (at the time) strongest student to combat the forces of evil.

That student fails to return.

The ninja master then sends out his second strongest student to look for the first student.

The second student fails to return.

Then a third student is sent, with similar results.

Soon, the ninja master realises he must send his worst two students (of which one has the potential to be the strongest student yet --but they are students who are not yet ready or properly trained) to look for the others.

This is a great premise for a game or movie.

The storyline demonstrates that a team is only as strong as its weakest links; and it also shows that a team - quite obviously perhaps - functions better as a collective unit, rather than individual units (ie. sending off the ninjas one by one was a bad idea - using each of the ninjas' special abilities was the key here).

I quite like movies or plotlines where there is a a chain of command or a hierarchy in place. What happens when your strongest or second strongest is temporarily missing or gone? Will the others step up? Can the others make the right decisions when faced with adversity?



The short films offered in this game, each a brief biopic of each ninja's unique traits and special abilities, are also fantastic and ought be applauded for their imagination and creativity.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mini Ninjas - although its downsides are that movement in this game is quite slow and the enemies are rather repetitive (though the level designs do make up for this to a certain extent - though they too can be a little repetitive in some respects). The game also felt far too short.

A score of 7.5 to 8 out of 10 for me.

Andre Lim

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Pens for Hire

I just watched this story on the Feed.

One of the major themes of the story concerned students paying impersonators to sit for their university exams.

Now, I can't remember exactly the words Peter McCallum of USyd used but they were words to the following effect:

"We need to engrain a culture within students such that they champion this notion that cheating is something we just don't do."

I agree. But this is no answer to the problem at hand!

In my (largely "unlearned") view, a majority of all university students probably already agree with this philosophy that says cheating is wrong.

However what this view fails to appreciate is that, on one hand, while most students would accept that cheating is wrong, it is probably more accurate to say that cheating, whilst undesirable, is actually a last resort for many.

That is, your typical student would say: "If my life depends on it, I'll cheat if I have to even though I know it is wrong."

I would even go so far as to say that, any one of us, no matter how good our intentions are, or no matter how noble our values are, could easily fall into the trap of cheating.

When a student is put into a dark corner - now the reasons for this could be numerous: family problems, financial difficulties, health, pressure etc - it is my strong view that even the best and most altruistic of us (for lack of better terms) would probably be consumed by the temptation to cheat when push comes to shove.

Yes, we all start off with lofty ideals of fairness and justice.

Yes, we are generally "good people" (whatever that means).

However when our livelihood, pride or finances are on the line - when say the cost of retaking another subject is all too much for a student (especially an international student who has to pay 3 to 4 times the fee of a domestic student) - caving in to cheating is more realistic than universities probably care to admit.

I realise I am being repetitive but my point is that we are all prone to temptation. Including myself.

Not one of us is immune to its lure.

So if the universities want to do something about it, they cannot merely leave it to this lofty notion of "culture" which is subject to the weakness of man - they must do something much more than that.

Andre Lim

Saturday 7 November 2015

Maleficient

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed this movie.



Despite what the critics say, and despite the supposed lack of an all-star cast or appropriate dialogue, I quite enjoyed the plot. And for me, the plot is pretty much everything to enjoy about a movie, so long as everything else remains slightly above average or thereabouts.

In particular, the interpretation of a "true love's kiss" and the non-canon backstory as to why Maleficent turned "evil" is interesting.

However I think the film showcased far too many magical creatures that were hard to keep a track of.

So that's a 7.5-8/10 for me, not that I'm a film critic.

(I can already hear that crowd at Rotten Tomatoes calling for my head)

Andre Lim


Saturday 31 October 2015

A World Cup Hypothetical on Team Form

Team A cruises (easily) to the final of your standard knockout world cup (of any sport).

Team B struggles desperately in every match but always find a way to scrape through eventually to the final.

Based on your experience of watching sport, assuming the tournament was correctly seeded and every one given the same rest etc, and perhaps assuming both teams are evenly matched as the top two seeds, who is more likely to win the grand final, A or B?

(You could easily apply this question to an individual sport such as Tennis - in the context of a Grand Slam for example)

Andre Lim

Friday 30 October 2015

Wallabies v All Blacks - RWC 2015

It's the final showdown.

My prediction:

  • Whoever wins will win by 3 to 5 points. 
  • My mind says the All Blacks.
  • My heart says the Wallabies.

Let's go with the heart..

Above picture courtesy of http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/sio-back-in-full-strength-wallabies-line-up-for-cup-final/6897860

Andre Lim

Friday 23 October 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 - Semi-Final Predictions

Here goes...

Semi-final #1: A close game for 50 minutes, then New Zealand to win by a converted try.

Semi-final #2: Given their past head-to-head record and Los Pumas being familiar opponents of late, Australia to scrape through narrowly by 3 to 5 points. Despite the loss of Sio, Pocock and Folau. And despite their dampened confidence from the Scotland game.

I really really really hope the All Blacks lose though.

Andre Lim

Thursday 22 October 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 - 20 Nations Hat

This hat came today.



It's pretty cool - and looks much too good to wear!



(Cheers to my mum for showing off her photography skills)



Andre Lim

Monday 19 October 2015

Australia v Scotland

WOW

The Wallabies certainly got away with one there. Scotland gave it everything and the Wallabies gave away too many cheap tries, especially from crazy charged-down kicks.

I watched the second half live from about 3am onwards.

I seriously thought we had lost once the scoreline was 32-34.

I don't even know how that penalty was given - that Scotland player must feel so bad for giving away the penalty.

And what about Bernard Foley - Having missed 3 out of 6 kicks from that point (I think, from memory) he had to summon the focus to put that penalty in at around the 79th minute. If he didn't it was game over.

35-34.

Crazy.

And the other crazy thing was that the Scotland fans apparently had been praying for rain - presumably because they play better in that condition. And they got the rain they wanted!! And they actually DID look like they played better in the slippery environment. Wow, some super power they have.

The Wallabies seriously need to improve if they are to have any chance of winning this World Cup.

Scotland can hold their heads up high.

Andre Lim

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter Final Predictions - for fun

Disclaimer: I've not watched enough of this Rugby World Cup to actually make serious calls, but I thought I would just do this for kicks.


South Africa v Wales - South Africa, by virtue of injuries to Wales. A convincing but not a thrashing victory. Say, 18-12.

New Zealand v France - New Zealand. The upset of 2007 was the upset of 2007. Different circumstances. Say 20-8.

Ireland v Argentina - Ireland, despite their injuries, to break their duck of never making it past the quarter-finals. Just. Say 9-8. Too close to call. I admit that I am just taking a random guess here.

Australia v Scotland - Australia. Contrary to what many might think, perhaps a scrappy victory by the Wallabies. Say 20-15.

(So as you can see I haven't done anything special - I've picked all the favourites)

In an ideal world though - or if I called the shots - I would have France play Wales and Australia play Argentina in the Semi-Finals.

I do not know which upset I want more. I like the South African team (they are probably my second favourite team), but I would be quite happy if Wales won for some strange reason. But it would be fantastic to see the All Blacks lose again to (vive la) France..

Many are putting their money on an-all Southern Hemisphere Semi-Finals, which looks very possible according to the bookmakers.

Not that I am a betting person.

Andre Lim

Sunday 11 October 2015

Wales v Australia

A grinding victory by the Wallabies.

I hope they haven't peaked too early, but theoretically this should set up an easier path to the final...

Nonetheless, we have Scotland first so let's not jump the gun!

My next question is this:
Is waking up at Monday 2am on 19 October 2015 even possible?! 
(Bearing in mind that I am no longer at uni)

Andre Lim

Sunday 4 October 2015

England v Australia

Great win by the Wallabies. I am very happy that I woke up at 6am to watch the match :)

(Even with the slight hurdle of Daylight Savings)

Sunday 27 September 2015

England v Wales!!

A good comeback from an injury-ridden Wales.

In the backyard of their old Enemy.

It's supposed to be England's World Cup.


Saturday 26 September 2015

A tale of patience and courtesy

I suspect that many of you will be able to relate to this tale (some of which is based on true events).
***

Washington White-Rabbit and his long-time best friend Betilda Blue-Bird were travelling to the city of Depping by car.

Betilda was at the wheel this time (they always elected to go in turns -- and Washington had driven on the last occasion).

Although the city of Depping was fairly small and suburban in nature, its central hub was notorious for its traffic and congestion.

In particular, Depping's main carpark, the Doles carpark, was regularly flooded with anxious and desperate people who would do almost anything to secure a parking space.

The pair had been waiting in the Doles carpark for over half an hour and by this time, Betilda and Washington were well and truly fed-up.

"We've been here so long Washington. It's just SO infuriating. People keep cutting in."
yelled Betilda in frustration.

"Yes it is Betilda, yes it is. But it's not your fault though. 
Everyone seems to be in a hurry to find a spot."
sighed Washington.


(The following diagram is a depiction of the situation - the blue dot being Betilda's car)



At that very instant, a Green car was reversing out of its spot.

"Washington, look! Someone's coming out."

"That's great Betty! You'll signal right won't you?"

"Yep, Yep."


"Yes, that's good Betilda, you're almost there."
encouraged Washington.

"Thanks. I'll have to slow down and wait for this car to pass us though."

"Yeah, good idea."


"Good job Betilda. Are you okay for the reverse parking?"

"Yeah I'm OK, I'll be fine this time - thanks Washington."

(Betilda would often ask Washington to reverse the car for her in high-pressure situations, but on this occasion she was confident - she had been secretly practising. Reverse parking was previously her weak point, and with it now mastered she was no longer afraid of driving.)


With a full calmness of mind, Betilda began to turn her steering wheel to the right.


...

...

...











Then, out of nowhere, the unspeakable happened.





"WHAT?!?!?!"
screamed Betilda Blue-Bird and Washington White-Rabbit in exact unison.


A random car, out of nowhere, had just decided to help itself to the space Betilda Blue-Bird was reversing into. 

"But I signalled! Why?"
asked a shattered Betilda.

As always, Betilda looked to her best friend for answers. She felt that this incident could make her lose her confidence in driving again.

Washington White-Rabbit just stared at her blankly, his face was a pale white.


"I... I honestly don't know. I feel like we've been robbed."

"Did I do something wrong?!"
asked an anxious Betilda.

Betilda's confidence was dented.

Washington paused for a few breaths.

"No, it wasn't your fault at all. You were doing a good job. 
That red car cut in line. 
He wasn't here before, and he knew we were here before him."
explained White-Rabbit.


Betilda breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that she hadn't done anything wrong. 

But there was obviously something else that was bothering her.

"But that's so unfair, why would anyone do something like that?"

"I don't know... I don't know but...

...I suppose that's life for you isn't it?"



Now, unbeknownst to the pair (who were so caught up with the injustice of what they had just witnessed), an orange car had pulled up alongside Betilda's car and the driver was winding down his window while the two were talking.



"Hey, how long have you folks been here for?"
inquired the stranger from the orange car.

"We've been here about close to 40 minutes. Someone cut into our spot.
moaned Washington.

"And I signalled too, the guy over there was so rude."
said Betilda, pointing in the direction of the offender.

"Sorry to hear that. 
I've been driving around for nearly an hour myself. No one has let me in either."
moped the stranger.


At that moment, a pink car made its way out from its lot, not far away from where the two cars sat.

"Finally. THIS IS OURS!!'
shouted Betilda Blue-Bird

"Yes, let's go!"
exclaimed Washington White-Rabbit


Just as Betilda was about to ram onto the accelerator, she stopped the car hard in its tracks - pressing onto the brakes instead. 

She had a strange frown on her face.

She didn't need to explain. 

Washington understood.


"Hey, my friend, you've been here longer than us. You go on and take that spot."
said Washington to the stranger, gesturing to the vacant parking spot.

The stranger hesitated.

"Go on, I mean it!!"
nodded Washington.

"I thought you were going to take it. A-Are you sure? I'm fine if you do."
said the stranger, who was slightly confused by what he had just seen and heard.

"Yes, it's all good. Please, after you."
said Betilda cheerfully, who, being in the driver's seat, had made a special effort to tilt her head and raise her voice so that the stranger could hear her.

"Thank you - thank you so much."


And with that, the Orange car happily drove into the vacant lot.


"Let's just get out of this place Betilda. 
Why don't we try Westwood instead?"

"Alright."
smiled Betilda.



Andre Lim
26 September 2015

Sunday 20 September 2015

Japan v South Africa

Amazing.

Better highlights here.

Look no further than the front page of the online Japan Times to see what it means.


Saturday 19 September 2015

Chelsea v Arsenal - the game that made me stop watching EPL

Alright, perhaps this is an extreme reaction - and I agree it is - but if this is the standard of refereeing that the English Premier League will provide, then I simply refuse to watch any future English Premier League matches as a matter of principle.

Of course, referees make mistakes.

What is critical for me, however, in any sport is integrity, fairness and justice.

I didn't see any of that today so I refuse to watch anymore of this.

The person at fault got away with it and the relatively innocent (perhaps not completely innocent? - doesn't matter though) party was harshly punished. It puts a bad taste in my mouth and I refuse to watch any more.

Yes I admit it does come across as a bit self-righteous in many respects but that is just the way I feel...........I just don't like seeing the "bad guy" getting away with foul play.

Andre Lim

About me and this site

I have updated this part of the website :)

You can find it here.

Andre Lim

Sunday 13 September 2015

A tale of two indecisive friends

(The following story is very very loosely based on true events)

***

Washington White-Rabbit met up with his his long-time friend Betilda Blue-Bird.

The two were tossing up places to have dinner.

As usual, they couldn't make a decision.

"Where do you want to go? I'm easy.
said White-Rabbit.

"Well I'm easy as well, anywhere you want to go.
replied Blue-Bird.



(There is a brief silence as each digests the effect of what has just been said)



Finally Washington White-Rabbit, who was a bit more familiar with the area, said:

"So there's a good takeaway over there; 
some restaurants on that side; and 
if we really want to we can take a bit of a walk - a 15 minute walk in that direction - to find some other places. 
Which one do you want?"


"All of them sound good, I don't mind."



(There is another pause)



"Well I'm really bad at making decisions so you choose!
insisted White-Rabbit.

"So am I, how about you choose? I'm really easy you know, it doesn't matter where. 
I don't mind anything."


"OK, how about the takeaway?

"Yeah that's okay."

"Only okay? Do you like Chinese food? That restaurant looks decent -"

"Sure."

"-Or do you want to take a walk, maybe we should walk and look for something else."

"Yeah maybe we should."



(There is another pause)


"Well?"

"I don't know...You've known me for this long, you know I'm not good at making decisions.
moped Betilda.


White-Rabbbit sighed.

"I can't make decisions either. I honestly don't know what we should do."

Betilda also sighed.

"Yeah, I knew that too."


(The two stand there for about 5 minutes in complete silence. They both saw the elephant in the room.)


"So... 

...how did we actually choose a place last time we met up?
Betilda asked

"I can't remember. Maybe we flipped a coin?
speculated Washington.

"Really? I thought we just started walking in a random direction until we reached a place."

"Oh? Then why don't we do that?"



(Betilda pauses)


"Because it means we have to ACTUALLY choose a direction to walk in."

"Yeah and how did we choose last time?!
exclaimed a frustrated White-Rabbit

"We just randomly chose a direction.
said Betilda, matter-of-factly.

"That makes no sense. 
How did we "randomly" choose a direction - 
if we start walking towards the takeaway doesn't that mean we are choosing the takeaway? 
If we walk towards the shops, we're going there. 
If we walk away towards the other shops it means we want something else. 
That's NOT random.
cried out Washington in desperation.


Washington was exasperated.

(Betilda pauses, sighs and then says to White-Rabbit:)



"You're right, last time we didn't randomly walk in a certain direction. 
I think we just walked somewhere that we unconsciously decided to go, without us actually being aware that we chose that direction.



(Washington White-Rabbit paused to think about what Betilda Blue-Bird said)



"You know what's funny Betty?"


"What?"


"I feel like I've been doing that my whole life. 
Just subconsciously going with my instinct or going with the flow. 
I don't know exactly whether I'll regret the direction I've taken.. 
..but at least in my subconscious mind I've decided to go somewhere."

"Tell me about it. That is how I feel everyday."

"Yeah I know, you're an old friend. We're the same, you and I."


(There is another long pause)


"I give up. I'm going home."
said a defeated Washington.


"Do you have food at home?"

"No, you know I don't keep food at home Betilda."

"What?! Won't you be hungry? And you're just going to leave me here?"

"Well it's not like I want to, I'm just so confused."

"Just pick something."
insisted Betilda Blue-Bird

"YOU pick something Betilda."

"WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WASHINGTON?!"
screamed Betilda Blue-Bird.

"STOP YELLING AT ME"



Washington White-Rabbit calms down and takes a minute to breathe.

"...I honestly don't know Betty. I'm sorry."



Betilda Blue-Bird sighs. 
There is another long pause.


"I'm sorry for yelling at you. You're my good friend Washington."

"That's okay. I'm sorry for being so indecisive."

"Me too, it's also my fault for not choosing."


(There is another long period of silence)


"How about we pick something together?"
asked Betilda.

"How do we do that?"

"We'll just both start walking in the same direction."

"That's ridiculous. What if we both walk in different directions?"

"True."
sighed Betilda.

"This is getting crazy."

"I know."
admitted Betilda.

(There is another long pause)


"Alright I've had enough of this rubbish. This is going to be random. 
You'll follow wherever I'll go?"
asked Washington White-Rabbit.

"Yeah, I'll follow you."
confirmed Betilda Blue-Bird.

"No questions?"

"None, I'll follow."

"Alright."

And with those words Washington White-Rabbit did an about-turn and started walking home. 

Loyal Betilda kept her promise and followed him.

Even though they were too scared to say it out loud, both were thinking the same thing.

We'll starve, but at least we chose.




Andre Lim

Saturday 12 September 2015

Helping others

"If we can't even look after our poor, broken, homeless, widowed, disabled and sick - what chance do the refugees have?
- CT (paraphrased)

My friend said this to me the other day and I thought it was very profound.

If we really care about the livelihood of others, should we not extend the same kindness to all who are suffering, and not just people from a particular category of suffering?

Something to think about.

But eventually we need to stop thinking and actually do something.

Andre Lim

Sunday 6 September 2015

Happy _________ Day!!

Today is Father's Day.

As with Mother's Day, Children's Day (?), Valentine's Day, a Birthday, a Wedding Anniversary or some other occasion I have carelessly forgotten, I think Father's Day is a fantastic reason to celebrate and appreciate our fathers. And so should it be too with the other Days I have mentioned for the respective people we are appreciating  =)

In particular I think the group of people, or the person, responsible for bringing about these celebratory days have done a great job =)




However



what I must say is that these Days should NOT be the ONLY days in which we stop to appreciate someone we love.

I mean seriously, how bad is it if your mum, dad or sweetheart has to wait for that 1, or perhaps 2, days in the whole calendar year for you to spend a bit of time to appreciate them?! 

(Specifically, I am thinking of the scenario where a mother or father only gets to see their now adult and independent children on Father's Day or Mother's Day)

In my view we should show our love, respect, appreciation and admiration for those we care about as much as we can and as often as we can!!!!

Of course, it is great that we allocate special days to demonstrate this even more and I'm not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn't do this - but the critical point is that we shouldn't pigeon hole our loved ones into a particular day of the year.

On a similar note, why do so many artists (or people in general) only get properly recognised after they die? Should we not respect and admire those who are still alive -- ie. while they still walk amongst us?!

Easier said than done of course!!

I myself have been a hypocrite on many an occasion in the above respects.

Andre Lim

Saturday 5 September 2015

A good question to ask ourselves every day

We all know that life itself is extremely fragile and short. Worded differently, our time on this earth is precious and we should certainly make the most of it.

What 'making the most of it' exactly means will probably be a point of debate depending on who you talk to.


"YOLO"

For example, a common expression amongst young people is YOLO - You Only Live Once.

YOLO is sometimes a term paraded around as a reason or justification for doing things like heavy partying, drinking, or perhaps engaging in living-on-the-edge type of activities (eg. skydiving or some other adrenalin-rich activity).

In many ways I think this attitude is actually correct and it's understandable why someone who hasn't thought it through might take that approach - however I think the application is wrong.

Perhaps instead of looking for thrill-seeking or self-satisfying activities, we should help to make the lives of others better.


Our purpose in life?

As Dr Vale Imbrosciano so clearly elucidated, we should seek to tread lightly on this earth - by causing as little offence to others as is humanly possible. That means forgiving and making amends with people. We should also engage in meaningful relationships.

We should also realise that every day is literally a gift - a gift, in my view, from none other than God Himself.

So, I think a good question to ask ourselves each day is this:

If I died today, would I have any regrets?

Now, this question is not to be interpreted as seeking the YOLO-type response mentioned above (ie. "I regret not partying hard today so I shall do so now!!").

What it seeks to elicit is a positive response from us - is there something we should have done today to make someone else's life better?

Easier said than done obviously, but the question is a useful starting point.


But if I knew my date of death...

Of course, if I 100% KNEW that I was going to die today, then obviously my response would be quite different to that which would result from leisurely answering the hypothetical question  "IF I died today...".

Being asked a hypothetical question on death is clearly not the same as being faced with the certainty as to the time and date of our death.

If I knew I was going to die, I might for example give away all my money and possessions to someone who needs it...or someone I trust. Of course, no one knows exactly what they would do until they are in that position. Sitting down to think about it might help, but I would imagine that being on one's deathbed would make one think very differently about life.

On a somewhat related note, as an ex-colleague once said to me, the fact of the matter is that the average person is very unlikely to consider preparing a will in contemplation of their death until they experience a life-changing event. That life-changing event will probably wake us up and make us realise that, in the event of death, we have to plan for what happens to those we leave behind.

Life changing events can include: marriage, the birth of your child, having a health problem etc.


What's my point?

I admit that these are some deep thoughts that are often taboo topics to raise in casual conversation, but it's something we all eventually have to think about.

For now, I think I should just stick to the hypothetical question discussed above - If I died today, would I have any regrets? - and see if this actually changes the way I live my life.

(In theory it should. But we all know about the human condition.)


Andre Lim


Monday 31 August 2015

After watching the Four Corners program on 7-11....

... there is absolutely no way that this regular customer (ie. me) will be theirs any longer.

I am almost ashamed to have purchased anything from their stores =(

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/08/30/4301164.htm 

Andre Lim

Sunday 30 August 2015

Tell me who your friends are and I'll...?

We have probably all heard the full quote that is the subject of this post before but I'll say it in full for the benefit of those who have not:

"Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are."

It's a pretty bold proposition isn't it.

But what does it mean? Isn't it just a matter of interpretation?

The other thing is, don't we have many different types of friends with different attributes? If that is the case, what does that mean?


A fictional example

For example, let's use a simple example and isolate friendships based on these two related attributes:

  • Outgoing/Extroverted friends and;
  • Introverted friends.

When I refer to these two categories of "Outgoing/Extroverted" and "Introverted", what I mean by that is, out of all the attributes those friends have, their dominant attribute is that they are either Outgoing or Introverted. Thus, their relevant category is not the only attribute they possess, but it is the attribute that stands out the most for all to see.

If all my friends were Outgoing friends, perhaps the conventional conclusion is this: we can say with some degree of certainty that I am likely to be an Outgoing person.

You could say the same for the opposite situation - in the scenario where all my friends were Introverted friends.


...really?

However, what if exactly 50% of my friends were Introverted, and the other 50% were Outgoing?

Does that make me half and half?

Possibly.

But, in my view, a very plausible alternate explanation is this: I might belong to one category outright, but I simply happen to be tolerant of the other category of people because I highly value their other attributes.

Friends can have many joint dominant attributes - a Rude person can also be Charitable; an Outgoing person can also be Family-Oriented (just to name a couple of examples).

That is to say, if someone was seen to be amongst many Introverted friends, that does not automatically make them Introverted - there are a multitude of reasons why people pursue certain friendships, and without knowing more about why that person was associating themselves with these Introverted friends, it would be far too early to assume that they were Introverted.

That person who was seen with the Introverts could very well be Extroverted but they just happen to enjoy the other attributes shared by their Introverted group of friends.

Similarly, it should not (necessarily) come as a surprise to find a "Polite" person huddled in a group of "Rude" people.


Degree of friendship

Of course, this discussion says nothing about the degree of friendship with those friends - for example, perhaps the Extroverted/Outgoing person I talked about before might highly value "Extrovertedness", and thus, there is a limit to how close their friendship with the Introverted people can be.

Similarly, a "Polite" person might place "Politeness" as their #1 attribute. 

If that is the case, then of course, no matter how much they enjoy the company of a group of "Rude" people (due to the other attributes they possess), there can only ever be a ceiling on the strength of their friendship with those "Rude" people.


The reality of the matter

I can only speak for myself here, but perhaps this is true for a lot of people:

The reality of the matter is that we are likely to make friends from all walks of life, with all kinds of personalities, backgrounds etc that are shaped by their past, family or other circumstances.

I might for example have an assortment of Rude, Polite, Cunning, Shy, Passionate, Quirky, Outspoken and (**Insert other attributes**) friends.

Rather than assuming that I am all of those types of people in one go, perhaps the better answer is that I enjoy their company for different reasons that have no relationship to their predominant attributes or personality types (until this is disproved of course!).

So while the quote at the beginning of this post can be used as a rule of thumb, I am not so sure it applies to all circumstances.

Cheers,

Andre Lim


Friday 28 August 2015

Looking for ourselves in others

I tried to take a nap but I wasn't tired enough to. So perhaps I will spend the time recording this short tale.

One chilly morning, while I was walking to work, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation between two elderly men. 

It was unclear to me the nature and extent of their relationship - if I had to guess, perhaps they were close friends, or they could have been old ex-colleagues simply finding the time to catch up. 

Judging from their energetic tone and lively mannerisms (despite the cold!), I somehow got the impression that these two fellows had been at it for some time and I just happened to stumble into their conversation. 

(All speculation - I don't know of course)


However what was immediately clear to me was that the conversation had taken a philosophical turn:


A: "You know what Bob, in all my years of being a boss, I've come to discover one really important thing about hiring employees!!"


B: "Yeah? And what's that?"


A: "Well, after many years of going through the recruitment process, I find that you tend to pick people who you reckon are a lot like yourself. That is, you can ACTUALLY see yourself in them."


(B pauses and gasps, as if he's stunned or caught off guard)


B: "You know what! 


....when you put it that way, I think you're right."




Unfortunately I had already reached my office so I had to tune out.


Now, if what A said is true, then this makes me wonder: can this concept be applied to other areas of life?

For example, when we decide whether or not to be someone's friend, do we subconsciously look for someone like us or do we look for something different? But wait, I thought opposites attract? Or does this latter rule only apply in respect of some characteristics, and we look for similarities in others?

And how about couples and marriage? 

Does our spouse need to be like us or different to us? Or both? Or is it just completely random? :)

All very interesting questions that I do not know the answer to.

=)

Andre Lim

Wednesday 12 August 2015

So what really is important in life?

My colleague showed me this profound 'article' today (Please click on the photo to look at it in full size).

I quite like reading these kinds of articles because it puts all my worries into perspective.

Nothing is as precious as life itself.

All relevant rights and credit goes to Dr Vale Anthony Imbrosciano and the University of Notre Dame.
http://www.nd.edu.au/downloads/news/inprincipio/ip_vol_19_no_2.pdf 
In Principio, 2008 Semester 2, Volume 19 (No.2): Page 8

My favourite parts of his eulogy are:
"It is quite amazing how a major existential crisis can force ideas to crystallise at an extraordinary pace. It is as if the gift of crisis brings with it a certain sharpness of mind, cutting straight through a lot of the nonsense that can hinder the onset of real wisdom. The puzzle suddenly resolves itself, where previously no breakthrough really seemed possible...."
"So what really is important?
1. Being reconciled with God...Accepting God's will, being at peace with God's will in every moment...
3 To have trodden lightly in this world, leaving soft footprints behind. That is, having a clear conscience, to have left as little hurt in the world as possible...
6. Having absolutely no sense of "entitlement".
7. Lastly, Grace! The realisation that it is all a gift. We are held from moment to moment by grace alone. That everything is pure gift." 

What an amazing person Dr Imbrosciano must have been.

Thank you for sharing this.

I do not know who you were, but I think you must have been a really cool person. I wish your family all the best and hope they are well.

Andre Lim

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Coffee mugs & Albert Einstein

It was my colleague's birthday last month.


"Tasse Kaffee" by 3268zauber - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tasse_Kaffee.jpg#/media/File:Tasse_Kaffee.jpg

Every morning, this colleague of mine would persistently ask me if I wanted a cup of coffee.

Now, I quite like this colleague of mine - he is very wise, kind, experienced and knowledgeable and, to this day, we have great philosophical discussions - but I don't drink coffee (nor do I drink tea) so I had to decline each time the offer was put to me.

Of course, I can drink coffee every now and then, but it has to be very sweet as I am a bit of a sweet tooth.

The fact of the matter is that I find that coffee (caffeine) doesn't really have an effect on me in small to medium doses - I can still sleep the same with or without it. By way of contrast, during my uni days I found that people would drink energy drinks or coffee to extreme limits (especially the night before an exam).

So I have never really understood the obsession with coffee. But sure, okay, I like the taste - coffee ice cream is great for example.

So the joke would be along these lines.

There was a period of time where my colleague would, at approximately 11am each day (his usual hour), make his coffee and then put in a special effort to walk by my door and ask me:

"Want a coffee Andre?"

Each time I'd have to disappoint him:

"No thank you, appreciate it though"



On other days the following lines would pop up (in no particular order):

"You sure you don't want a coffee?"

"Thanks, but I'm alright---Thank you for asking me though."


"Coffee today?"

"I'm okay thanks."


"Why don't you drink coffee?"

"I don't know, I just don't. Sorry."


"Do you drink tea?"

"Sometimes, but not really on a regular basis"


"You should try coffee one day."

"Sure. I will, but maybe not today...."


"You're the only one here who doesn't drink coffee!"


I'd then often hear him say this in the background to another colleague:

"One day someone will have to force Andre into drinking coffee..."


Our secretary also joined forces with my colleague and asked me the other day:

"So what DO you drink Andre?"

"Well.... I like to drink honey mixed with hot water at home." 

(There is a silence - and then she bursts out laughing)

"WHAT?! That is such a 'dad' kind of drink!"


(I can't really say she's wrong...)

Still, another time, when it was my colleague's birthday, he sent this humorous email to the whole office with words to the following effect:

"So for my birthday everyone MUST have a cup of coffee (and that includes you Andre)."

So, given the above, I thought it would only be appropriate for me to get this mug for my colleague's birthday:
Totally addicted to coffee

I thought it was funny at the time.

However, I'm not completely sure whether he appreciated the joke though, as he hasn't asked me about coffee since I gave the mug to him...**

In a strange sort of way, sometimes I wish he'd start asking me again**.

I didn't mind.


***

I also bought this really cool Albert Einstein mug with this inspiring quote:
I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.

I feel that this is a good motto to have in life. So I have been using this cup at work.

The two cups come from Pyramid International who, as I understand it, have a large host of such novel products.

Interestingly, Albert Einstein and his image are trademarks of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Wikipedia tells me that Einstein's image rights were bequeathed to the University and, apparently, the University employs an agent to enforce these rights at the commercial level.

The cups are rather pricey for what they are and cost around $25 each including shipping.

Perhaps I will focus more on writing small entries like this instead of long, over-the-top board game reviews or music lists.

Andre Lim


** Murphy's Law: The day after I published this post, he asked me if I wanted coffee.

Friday 7 August 2015

Cold..

It's been too cold to sit at my computer and write something.

Hopefully the drought will break soon...

Andre Lim

Saturday 11 July 2015

Video Game Music: Valkyria Chronicles

In my view, this game is an underrated classic.

Although the characters and story of Valkyria Chronicles are rather cheesy and corny (perhaps cringeworthy is a better term), the music itself is tremendous and the general gameplay concepts are quite good. There is something heartwarming about this game that is quite nice.

Copyright SEGA

I played this game say...5 years ago.

I really enjoyed the fact that you could assemble your squad for the battlefield, and choose from characters who had discernible strengths and weaknesses. The storyline was at times a bit too Japanese anime-like but I did enjoy the large majority of it. The missions were varied, challenging and engaging. Certain squad members interacted with each other with a close bond and friendship.

However the combat system felt like a joke and was reality-defying - in the sense that, due to the fusion (half turn-based and half real time-based) nature of the game, I could spend as long as I wanted aiming at an enemy without being fired at.

Nonetheless, I am pretty open minded about games and I was able to easily overlook this and treat the game for the entertainment value it represented. It's a great game and I would highly recommend it. I would give it an 8 to 8.5 out of ten.

I didn't spend much time assembling this list, so I've probably missed a few things, but here goes:

Ranked List

1. Strategy Instructions - The build-up in this theme coupled with the tense and suspenseful (but positive) atmosphere makes this my favourite melody. This title plays prior to commencing the mission, where you are being briefed on the enemy's location and units and the objectives. There is a feeling of hope and courage, masking an underlying sense of urgency and expectation.

Copyright SEGA

A snapshot of what the map looks like when you are about to issue orders/instructions.

2. Main Theme - Sacrifice, mateship and adversity all rolled into one. Epic

3. We are the Barracks - That heartwarming feeling of comradery and a tight-knit unit is excellently portrayed by this theme.

Copyright SEGA
Some of the lesser known squad members you can choose from.

4. Desperate Fight - A climactic battle enfolds, although the positive tone gives away the outcome (the good guys are going to win, it seems). Definitely a lot of passion and motivation can be felt from this piece. A victory is on the cards if we push on!

5. Succeeded Wish - A stirring and bittersweet melody.

6. Chronicles of the Gallian War - If I remember correctly, this theme plays when you view the chapters of the game in book mode. It is a very fitting theme as there is something mysterious and motivational in its notes, as if indirectly telling us that a grand story is about to unfold.

7. Street Fighting - The raucous and chaotic background music emulates a tense and action-packed battle.


Special Mention

Daily Life of the 7th Platoon


Cheers

Andre Lim


Saturday 20 June 2015

Video Game Music: Rayman Origins

What a lovely game. I just finished Rayman Origins last Sunday.

If you are a perfectionist and are impatient, I highly recommend that you do NOT play this game - unless you don't mind sacrificing hours upon hours of your time.

That particular combination of characteristics is lethal.  Playing this game, and getting all the achievements, requires a huge amount of grit and determination!

Cover Art

I can't count how many times I've died in this game.

But it is all worth it as the music, visuals and general theme of the game is quite amazing, creative and imaginative.

If I had to rate it I'd probably give it a 8+ out of 10. The repetitiveness of trying to complete the level with a perfect score got to me towards the end, but apart from that, the game is otherwise quite excellent.

As you might be able to tell, my favourite level in this game is, by a country mile, the Sea of Serendipity.

For the record, the most annoying levels, in my opinion are:
  • Mecha No Mistake (Time Trial) - I still have not finished this. This is the only time trial I have not received the Cup in.
  • Swimming with Stars (Time Trial) - Barely made the time trial.
  • Fickle Fruit (if you are unaware of when the level is going to finish and you are aiming for the Lum Medal): The bouncing fruit in this level (and timing when to hit the iceblocks) makes this level crazy.
  • Land of the Livid Dead - just plain hard.
  • Pirate's Treasure! - easily the hardest Tricky Treasure or red tooth level as you must get the timing and speed right to progress through the last part (where you climb up the masts), which is unforgiving. Even being half a second too slow will cause you to die!
My favourite boss was the Mockingbird.

Ranked List

Please note that many of the tracks on this soundtrack are amazing but I've not listed all of them out.

I'm going to do the lazy thing here and put 3 tracks on 2nd place and 2 tracks on 5th place.

1. Land of the Livid Dead ~ Chasing a Dream: Like Land of the Livid Dead ~ Nowhere to Run (Reprise), this has a strong rodeo or Outback flavour to it. I like the solemn vocals and, perhaps, the bittersweet emotion that the track tries to evoke. It's as if we are journeying with Rayman into the sunset, as he embarks on his lone wolf adventure to save the world. Clearly it is a hero's tale of courage and grace. A fitting hero's farewell.

Copyright, presumably, belongs to Ubisoft

2. Sea of Serendipity ~ Lums of the Water (Glou Glou): A cheerful, uplifting melody sung by a multitude of high-pitched lums (creatures of the game). It's scat singing taken to absurdity. Chaotic, possibly annoying, but undeniably catchy.

2. World Map ~ Sea of Serendipity: The nostalgic and heartfelt whistling makes for a great melody that warms your spirit and heart. There is a great feeling of hope embedded in this tune, almost as if we are singing to our own happy ending. The ukulele (or whatever that stringed instrument is) provides a nice accompaniment as well. It is a bit minimalistic and simple but that's the way I like it.


2. Land of the Livid Dead ~ Nowhere to Run (Reprise): A sad and sentimental piece that has a nice Western or Outback flavour to it. Ruined a bit by the ugly singing before the choral music starts! The whistle tune alone is gold, and, if by itself, it could easily top this list.

Copyright, presumably, belongs to Ubisoft
5. Sea of Serendipity~ The Lums' Dream (Glou lou): I like the chill and eerie aura this song brings. to the table. On the right day this song could make #1 on this list.

5. Jibberish Jungle ~ A Slap-Happy Start: After the introductory ramblings, this tune transforms into something very cheerful and light-hearted through the effective use of the piano/keyboard, steady beat and melodic wind music - that is the part I enjoy very much.

7. Moody Clouds ~ Steampunk Suspense: There is a distinct excitement and buzz in the air. We are making progress!!!

7. Moody Clouds ~ The Mecha Factory: I was very surprised to find this tune in this soundtrack - it is almost out of place. The Mecha Factory boasts epic music on a grand scale that, in some respects, reminds me of Final Fantasy. It's a tad too short though.

Copyright, presumably, belongs to Ubisoft
7. Jibberish Jungle ~ Advancement: That feeling of steady progression and being on the up - the track's title suits this to the T.

10. Mystical Pique ~ Scaling the Mountains: Epic "rite of passage" chanting coupled with victorious music.

11. Desert of Dijiridoos - Breaking the Force Field: A variation to the ending part of many levels. Each world has its own version. Pretty cool.

12. World Map ~ Jibberish Jungle: A funky rhythm, cool variations and a nice beat.

13. Gourmand Land ~ Frozen Paradise: A nice calming melody - reminiscent of a place to unwind or have your peace of mind.

Copyright, presumably, belongs to Ubisoft

14. Gourmand Land ~ Dashing Thru the Fire: I like this tune purely because it is hilarious. "Ai Ai Ai." The best part is when the deep voice comes on AYYY AYYY AYY. Something appears to be very funny to these singing Mexicans - leaving the rest of us bamboozled as we have no idea what is going on. Perhaps the nature of the theme can best be explained when one considers that the frozen levels of Gourmand Land are suddenly (and quite randomly) replaced by these "hot" Mexican levels.

The expression "Ayy ayy ayy" reminds me of that casual phrase (Aiyah!) that many Asians say when something unfortunate happens.


Special Mention

Gourmand Land ~ Glacier Cocktail: A groovy and upbeat melody. Can't think of where to put it on the list.

Desert of Dijiridoos ~ First Staffs: A steady build up to some nice notes but too overdrawn for me. The shorter version is World Map ~ Desert of Dijiridoos.

Desert of Dijiridoos ~ Lost Beats: Great assortment of tribal rhythms and beats. Deserves a place on the list but I've, unfairly, been unable to decide its position.

Level End ~ Yes More Lums!: A great victory melody worthy of any major platformer! Really should sit at about #5 on the above list.

Sea of Serendipity ~ The Abyss: Dark, mysterious ambient noises coupled with a creepy tune.


Cheers

Andre Lim