darthfar: (Default)
As forwarded to me by a friend:

Our Lager, which art in Barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink,
I'll be drunk,
At home as in the pub,
Give us this day,
Our foamy beer,
And forgive us our spillages,
As we forgive those who spill against us,
And lead us not into road blocks,
But deliver us from hangovers.

Happy New Year everyone! :D
darthfar: (Default)
My dad's clinic was packed today, all the way to closing time. I asked him if the major complaint of his patients was overindulgence during Christmas. Force knows, we came dangerously close.

Christmas eve we went out for dinner and cheesecake, and to catch the Christmas performances at the mall. Christmas day breakfast at this spanking new dim sum restaurant (where hordes of people, most of them coming straight from the church, had similarly gathered), *and* dinner at my aunt's, my uncle having cooked up a giant vat of spaghetti. Then *another* dinner at the country club restaurant the following night, to celebrate my other aunt's birthday. Oi. Antacids all around, please.

Was pleasantly surprised to receive more unique coins from my parents for my (small but slowly growing) collection - two solid gold, one silver, all commemorating special national events - as I hadn't expected them to get me anything (and had certainly said as much!). Also - probably as proof of how much of a games nerd I am - received three games from friends this season: one of which is still scaring the hell out of me because I'm wussy enough to play it only when there's still daylight or when there are people talking to me on Steam (Amnesia: The Dark Descent); one which is something I would never have thought to get but which turned out to be highly entertaining (Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures), and one that I'm going to die of old age before I play it because it's taking forever to download on Steam (Mass Effect 2). And if you don't think that's already enough to last me many, many months, I went and bought Wings of Prey for myself as well because... well, it's a World War II fighter simulator, and I never quite got over my I Want To Be A Fighter Pilot phase. (Fighter/bomber sims were about all I played during my misguided adolescence).

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

This isn't the sort of game I would have ever tried on my own, let alone get, but playing it has disabused me of the notion that Lego Video Games are only for little kids. Tory actually got this for me so that we could play co-op. If she'd read the specifications a little more carefully, though, she might have noticed the words, "local co-op"... which effectively means that, unless we find a way to open a wormhole connecting our studies, we're not going to be playing together anytime soon. Which, actually, is a bit of a blessing, given the kind of havoc you can wreak with this game.

I haven't played all that much of it yet, but I can honestly say this: Lego Indiana Jones is singularly The Most Destructive Game I have ever laid my grimy paws upon, and I'm saying this as an action game fan, and especially one who has played Ghostbusters: The Video Game, where they tell you in your financial statement just how many thousand dollars' worth of government property etc you have managed to wreck while taking down your ghosts (my final tally being somewhere in the order of USD300+ K). To put it simply: *anything* made of Lego bricks can be destroyed. This includes all manner of plants, furniture, fixtures, decorations - and, of course, other Lego characters. Not only can you smash *anything*, even upright pianos, apart with your bare fists, the game actually rewards you for this wantonly destructive behaviour by giving you - gasp! - money for anything and everything you break.

Here we see Indy savaging an innocent filing cabinet as coins pour out of it:

Hilarious, I tell you.

Anyway, I digress. The game, as its name implies, is Lego brick-based... or at least Lego bricks rendered in beautiful, shiny 3D. All three original Indiana Jones movies are represented here, each with its own game: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. In each chapter, Indy is accompanied by one or more other characters, each with his/her own special moves/actions/abilities: Indy has his bullwhip, of course; female characters, being more lithe, can jump higher; other characters may wield special equipment, like Satipo who, in Raiders, wields a shovel you can use to unearth partially buried treasure. Gameplay-wise, it's very much action-adventure style, with a hell lot of running and jumping, and finding keys and pulling levers. Only, this being a Lego game, you also get to *build* things to earn rewards or obtain objects for progressing.

It's a highly entertaining game - and not just for kids either. I suspect that it would be even more entertaining playing it with a friend because... there are endless opportunities for annoying the hell out of each other, seeing as you can push and shove and punch each other, and even put them in a position where they die every time they respawn. Of course, these being little Lego people, there isn't any blood when anybody dies, and they just come to pieces when they kick the Lego bucket. It's also interesting how much of the original story can be captured in a game that involves only hilarious facial expressions and body language, and absolutely no conversation, even if the game is more a humourous version of, rather than a faithful, accurate recreation of the original movies. (How serious could Lego Nazis possibly be anyway?).

On the flip side, the controls make me want to throw my mouse at the monitor at times. Characters can get stuck in various odd places, enemies can spawn where you can't get to them, and you can trip over a ledge and fall to your death on a bed of spikes - and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again ad nauseam. And to make it worse, characters you're not currently playing can block your path out of said hazards, keeping you locked in a vicious reincarnation-violent death cycle. Saving is also a headache: the game only saves after you complete a chapter, which is pretty dang long, so if you have to shut off your computer or go anywhere before you complete one, you can kiss your game goodbye. Oh, and lest you think you can play *any* of the three games at will... think again. I spent a considerable amount of time dismantling everything I could crack my bullwhip at in The Last Crusade, only to realise that, to progress to the next section, I needed a character I did not currently have, and couldn't obtain unless I played the game right through from Raiders and Temple. GAH!

All in all, though, it's a fun game for when you're tired of violence, blood and gore, and want a little good, clean stress relief. Unless of course you find yourself in one of those loops, in which case the game actually causes stress, and rather a lot of swearing.

Next up: Wings of Prey.

Quote of the Day:
 Linda: [On Christmas day, upon seeing that I'd launched Amnesia] "So you're celebrating the birth of Jesus by playing a game that causes you to scream out his name frequently?" ROFLMAO.

Amnesia Diary:
Do not ever assume, when reaching a door, that the monster you hear growling necessarily has to be beyond the door. Turning up a staircase in the sewer to a heavy wooden door, I heard the ominous rumble, and turned and RAN back around the corner - only to crash headlong into one of the goddamn freaks. Needless to say, Daniel's face got torn off in the encounter, and my heart jumped out of my ribcage in a panic and ran away with my lungs.
darthfar: (Default)
Finished my dad's Christmas present in the nick of time:

I'm getting them mounted and framed for him next week *after* he's seen them. The mounts will probably be a dark grey-blue, but I'll let him pick the frames.


Dec. 1st, 2010 11:33 am
darthfar: (Default)
Burning a hole in my reputation, and having a ball of a time doing it. And I can't even show the WIPs.

I'm going to have to make sure my art beta never finds this picture.

In other news, I have finished my Christmas shopping, haha. Oh, the beauty of shopping online - you never have to set foot in an actual, physical shop, and you don't have to force your way through crowds and be touched by somebody's hair by accident and wait forever in line while rude foreign tourists attempt to force their way ahead of you. *g*
darthfar: (Default)
So I said I'd be back on the 30th of December. Yet here I am, typing away at my computer like there's no tomorrow. What gives?

Well, it's "gave", actually. And it was my mother's ankle.

Here is a brief recap of our vacation:


Flight to Macau was delayed for over an hour - which was of little surprise, considering the budget airlines our tour group was taking - but no matter, because (1) I was armed with a thick Michael Shermer book, and (2) the tour operator had gotten somebody at the office to fill in all our immigration cards for us. Unfortunately, said person was probably educated in Martian, because said person managed to mess up half the passport numbers (I swear, the guy must have been channelling the numbers for Alpha Prime Green Guy because none of us knew where the hell they came from), made up bizarre occupations for half of us (clerk??? what the...), and produced two different signatures for each of us on two different sets of documents - which wouldn't have passed inspection anywhere else but Macau.

Thanks to the delay, though, we arrived at our hotel at ten pm, which I suppose is the perfect time for people to crawl from out of the cold into the many, many casinos on the island to worship the One Arm Bandit God of gambling, but my dad and I were exhausted (and personally, I think it's more fun to set fire to a wad of money, anyway), so we decided to stay in. My mother, on the other hand, wasn't about to waste the night cooped up in her hotel room, and went out with a bunch of friends and the tour operator.

Two hours later, she returned to the hotel - limping. Witness accounts are hazy, but it would seem that, while descending a very short flight of steps, my mother managed to subluxate her left ankle. As in, it totally popped out of place when she applied weight to it (whether or not she accidentally twisted it while placing her foot down is anybody's guess), but then boinged right back in place on its own a moment later. Mum was annoyed, but figured hell, she just wouldn't be getting as much sightseeing done on a sprained ankle.

[Yes, my mother's friend's husband went out and gambled and won $16,000. My mother went out and won a leg injury...]


Made an amazing discovery at breakfast time: cafe chairs in Macau can walk. One of our chairs mysteriously walked away from our table to a nearby one occupied by a group one can only charitably describe as "vocal yokels"; a second one tried to walk away, but was impeded by my foot, which was tightly wrapped around it, and so was apprehended in time.

Our breakfasts were very nicely homogenised in our stomachs by the hydrofoil ride into Hong Kong. ("Monty Python" and "bouncy bouncy" spring to mind). Upon our arrival at the Hong Kong immigration, we quickly discovered that queues - and, indeed, order in general - was pure fiction, only believed by people whose IQ scores are surpassed by oysters. In other words, it was total chaos in there. Here, we found, were people who had not only never heard of Miss Manners, they'd have trampled her to human grits if they'd met her. Harhar.

The day's tour covered the Golden Bauhinia Square, named for the 6-metre-tall gilded sculpture of a Bauhinia blakeana (apparently an important symbol for the Hong Kong people after reuinification with China), Repulse Bay (where old men in "tea bags" are said to terrorise the sands), Aberdeen Harbour and Ladies' Street. (No, it's not what you think. Seriously).

The Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh-longest suspension bridge in the world.

Gilding a Bauhinia...

Watching two children watch an artist at work at Repulse Bay.

We went on a sampan ride around Aberdeen Harbour. On one end you see luxury cruisers and the gigantic Jumbo Floating Restaurant (whose past diners include Queen Elizabeth II, John Wayne, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li); go around the river bend, however, and you see a very different side of Hong Kong: the "village" of fishing boats huddled together, inhabited by people who spend nine months of every year at sea, whose wives are illegal immigrants, and whose children are unregistered, and spend only three months a year at school. It was an eye-opener: Hong Kong isn't just a city  of rich people.



See more photos of the village

Ladies' Street. The market here is clothing (and electronics, and food), not humans.

My mother's ankle was rather badly swollen at this point, and so she decided to remain in her hotel room at dinner time, leaving me to gallivant on my own. Found a toy store selling action figures and collectibles at ridiculously low prices, and did myself proud by managing to carry out an entire conversation with the shop assistant (who was dressed as Sailor Moon) on the subject of Star Wars - in Mandarin. (Or should I say Mangledarin?)


My mother's left leg had become worryingly swollen and bruised, and so it was decided: (1) the tour operator and my father would take her to see the doctor, and (2) we would all go home on the next available flight. Thank the Force for travel insurance.

Because it was also determined that I would be of more hindrance than help, I was promptly dispatched to continue the day's tour with the rest of the group. Everybody else of my age in the group was paired up and I didn't want to be a third wheel (or worse, a lamp post!), so I wound up with two of my mother's friends, both of them senior citizens. Of course, age is never an indication of compatibility, and the minute I discovered one of them was a video games nut, we just totally hit it off.

Arrived at Disneyland at lunchtime (made two stops at two Sponsor Shops first) - and, because a number of people in our group were massively smart enough to bring food to the park only to be stopped right outside, there was a fifteen minute picnic just outside the gates. We wandered around Main Street for a bit, watched the Christmas parade, and then I made a beeline for Space Mountain - which my two elderly companions, in spite of their enthusiasm, were unable to ride due to medical conditions. (So while I was zooming through the darkness of space, the two old ladies went and had themselves a grand train tour of Disneyland). Because wild rides were out for them, we went to It's A Small World and two shows (Mickey's Philharmagic - a grand 3-D experience, complete with gusts of wind, splashes of water, and the welcoming smell of pie - and The Golden Mickeys)... before one of the women spotted the Jungle River Cruise and exclaimed, "Hey, let's go on THAT!" ... only to spend the better part of an hour in the queue, due to technical faults. We did eventually get our ride.

Bambi, Thumper and Flower.

The Little Mermaid float at the Christmas parade.

Space Mountain boarding area.



See more Disneyland photos

Returned to the hotel with Disney merchandise and a grandly pounding head to find my mother in bed, a walker jammed in the corridor of the room, and a doctor's report that said she had not one but three fractures - which meant absolutely no weight on that foot, or it's surgery for you! The tour operator was looking decidedly ragged around the edges from running around making travel arrangements and insurance claims for us (he managed to book us a flight out of HK on the 26th - and messed with the accounting a little so that my ticket would be covered by my mother's travel insurance), so we took him out to dinner by way of thanks.

Memorised William Ernest Henley's poem, Invictus, because I had nothing better to do.


Our tour group left for Shenzhen in the morning after breakfast, leaving my family to spend Christmas in Hong Kong. Because my mother was immobilised and my father was in no particular mood to go out, I went out to explore the neighbourhood alone, armed with my reasonable(y atrocious) Mandarin and a smattering of perfect(ly hideous) Cantonese. Walked several blocks north of the hotel, across the highway, to get the folks lunch, then walked a fair way south, where I stumbled upon just about the most amazing thing: a Park. In the middle of the 7-million-people insanity that is Hong Kong, there was a walled-in Park. With gazebos, and artificial rock formations, and huge trees, and waterfalls. And clusters of old men playing (or watching each other play) chess. It was just amazing.





I stood there, staring at them for a long time, then sneakily took the shot - and ran.

Came back, reporting to my mother that I'd spotted a banner advertising Portuguese egg tarts around the corner. She was absolutely delighted, and dispatched my dad and me to buy a couple of boxes to bring home. So we went after dinner, discussing exactly how many we could fit in our carry-on luggage (and each probably entertaining the idea of eating a couple at suppertime)... only to discover that what I'd mistaken for Portuguese egg tarts were actually... Pacific abalone. EPIC FAIL. >.<


Aside from a number of minor snags we ran into at the airport (delay in locating a wheelchair, in fixing a minor booking problem, and getting hold of our tour operator for the check-in staff to verify his credit card info), the trip home was largely uneventful. My mother warned us that riding a wheelchair might become a habit, given how comfortable it was being waited upon hand and foot - although she had to remind me at one point that she was neither a trolleyful of goods nor a Formula 1 car. The airport service staff did just about everything for us, right up to the door of the airplane, where the flight staff took over and totally indulged my mother. Thank the Force for business class.


The rest of the family wasn't notified of our premature return until this morning. My mother's plan was to sort of keep the whole thing a secret for a while... only we know all too well what happens when you try to keep things from your own family. ;) But that's another story for another time.
darthfar: (Default)

Wishing everybody who reads this a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. :) I'll be out of the building from this afternoon til the 30th of December; going to Macau, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and two other places whose names I simply can't remember.1 Pictures and info when I get back.

[And yes, fractal Christmas trees. Because I'm obsessed with making the perfect one. Still not there yet...]

And just for laughs, more card art - this time, one for a Team Fortress 2-crazy friend:

1 Chinese cuisine, three times a day for eight days? Eight-course meals twice a day? What am I getting myself into?

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