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:

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