Keys Me

Last night, Raquel and I have received from a friend of ours an email titled “Keys Me” with a link to a YouTube video and not much in way of a description as to what to expect from the video. So, we clicked the link, watched and discovered why the email was titled “Keys Me”. Click on the image on the right to see the video first.

Apparently, the singer, Alyssa Alano, is a Filipino celebrity (nowadays at least as I haven’t heard of her before now) and a member of a group of female stars under contract with Viva Entertainment dubbed the Viva Hotbabes. So, no, she is not a loser in a singing contest as the video was implying with the scoring animation in the end. But then, she might as well have been.

I found the video hilarious! And not because of her accent (which is not her fault) but because she didn’t take the time to learn the lyrics of this well-known song before singing it in public. It’s as if she only knows the words from hearing the song over and over again but never really understood the words sung by the original singer from Sixpence None The Richer.

So, when she sang it, she used made-up gibberish words strung together in parts of the song that didn’t make any real sense to her — just as long as those string of words sounded like what she heard from the original song then it nobody will notice. But in fact, people who are more familiar with the song will notice, specially those who are more educated in English. The least she could’ve done was go on the Web to look for the actual lyrics for the song and memorised it before going on stage.

I feel so embarrassed for her. Her only saving grace, probably, was that she was at least moderately pleasing to watch.

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Published in: on June 15, 2006 at 8:21 am  Comments (5)  

Mortality

I know I’m still relatively young to be thinking about aging and inevitable mortality but there are days when I just zone out and think about what it would be like a couple of decades from now. I’d be in my fifties possibly afflicted with some sort of chronic ailment thinking about the good old days when I was an invincible adolescent. I don’t know why I think about such things but I do. And thinking about it depresses me.

Sometimes, I imagine being executed either through lethal injection. What would it be like? What would I see after death? Am I awake one moment then suddenly I’m in a dreamless sleep the next? If the atheists are right and that there is no God and no heaven, would I just cease to exist upon my death? Should I just accept that as the end? I supposed it could be comforting in some way in that after a long time of living, one can finally just sleep and never wake up. I guess it shouldn’t really matter to the dead person. He wouldn’t know any different.

And if there is God and there is Heaven and Hell, what then? One moment I’m dying and then the next I’m either up in Heaven or burning forever in Hell. I sometimes imagine dying and then popping up in Hell where I will suffer for my sins the next eternity or two, burning in a vat of boiling magma yet never ever really dying. It’s a horrible thought. Sometimes, I imagine I go to Heaven. But then, what do I do there for eternity? Would it be all fun forever? Would it eventually get boring? I suppose it’s something I’ll never fathom with my mortal mind.

I sometimes imagine what if instead of suddenly being in either Heaven or Hell after death, I just find myself awake on the ground surrounded by other people also just waking up and then I look up and see God preparing for the Last Judgment where all those unworthy would be thrown in Hell with the Devil and his minions to suffer for all time. I imagine it would feel worse than waiting for your turn at the dentist.

I remembered when I was having my kidney stone episode a couple of years ago, the pain was so intense and unrelenting that I honestly thought that death might have been an better alternative than continue enduring the pain. I guess, that’s when I first ever thought about my own mortality. That’s when I first thought about what it would be like to die.

Even though I’ve been thinking about my own mortality, it doesn’t mean I want to die… yet. Dying actually scares me. After imagining being dead for a minute, I snap back to reality with my heart slightly pounding from the despair of it all.

So, in the end, what’s the point of this post? Nothing, really. It’s just something that has me pre-occupied at random times and I wanted to talk about it with someone. Actually, I already did by talking to Raquel. Anyway, I wish I was 20-something again. I wish I was that invincible youth again. I wish.

Published in: on June 14, 2006 at 12:00 pm  Comments (8)  

Ebay fodder

Hubby was snacking on cereal this afternoon when he suddenly gave me one piece of Nutri-grain, commenting that we could probably sell it on Ebay. A similar piece reportedly sold for more than $1000 so perhaps we could make some money off this piece as well. Is it just us or does this bit look a little like a certain extra-terrestrial?

Published in: on June 13, 2006 at 9:09 pm  Comments (4)  

Misty Melbourne

Coming from a tropical country, it was fascinating for me to see fog rolling in from the mountains when I was visiting a national park in Taiwan. Back then, my concept of fog is something that blankets an area, not something that looks like it’s creeping in from somewhere. I remember asking my mom what it was and she replied that we better hurry up with our sight-seeing as the fog would soon make the area colder.

Here in Melbourne, we get a lot of foggy days in winter – almost everyday now, actually. It makes getting up in the morning that much harder when you had to brave the dark and cold world outside. It doesn’t help that we have to walk from our house to the station either, as we don’t want to worry about finding a space in the always full car park.

Not everything about the fog is bad though, I would certainly take a foggy day over a windy one even though walking in the fog always reminds of Stephen King’s The Mist. For those who are unfamiliar with the said story, it is about a town taken over by a mysterious mist. As the mist covers the town, the people soon discovers that something sinister has come with the mist and it’s out to get them. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do. You’ll never think of the fog the same way again. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, this short story has inspired the writers of the Silent Hill to create the atmosphere of its haunted town.

I’ve taken some snapshots of one of the streets we were passing this morning (it was around 8 AM when I took the first 2 photos as the newscaster’s voice from the radio declares that it’s currently seven degrees Celcius outside). You could see that it’s quite a thick fog and visibility was poor. I was really thankful of the people who were driving with their headlights on when we were crossing the street. Some drivers don’t slow down even if there are pedestrian crossings and I would rather I see them in case they don’t see me.

As the day wears on, the fog lifts and Melburnians usually enjoy bright, sunny days with temperatures reaching a top of about 15 degrees. It’s a short reprieve from the cold though as it usually cools down in the evening. The last photo in this post was taken at 9:30 just after we were about to make our trek home from the train station. The usually clear glass around the bus stop shelter is now frosted from the cold. We had to walk faster to get our hearts pumping and warm us up. Needless to say, we were quite happy when we got home. Ah, out of the cold at last.

Published in: on June 9, 2006 at 11:08 pm  Comments (2)  

More About Gaming

Okay, I’m still officially in a gaming mood this week from all the games we got either from the Pizza Hut PC Game meal deal promo or from EB Games selling games at the bargain prices during their stock-take clearance this month. And as fate would have it, my cousin KP (who doesn’t like being called by that nickname nowadays, by the way) who works in Korea nowadays dropped me a message on Yahoo Messenger the other day. He was going to get a real-time strategy (RTS) game titled Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth. That sparked a conversation about the good old days.

A decade or so ago, KP, his brother, my brother and I often played Warcraft 2 and Starcraft against each other online via modem connection. This was before Internet gaming was popular so we had to resort to modem to modem online gaming at speeds of 28kbps. Still, it was great fun. We did this almost every night. I remember feeling chills of excitement as our two modems connected to one another. I remember thinking, “tonight, I’m going to beat your ass!” Or something to that effect in Tagalog.

In a few years, Half-Life death matches became popular. But with that kind of multiplayer gaming, we had to go to a nearby LAN gaming centre which was still a pretty new type of business back then. By nearby, I mean traveling to Greenhills which was like over an hour’s bus ride from where we live.

Shortly after the popularity of Half-Life peaked, a mod for HL came out called Counter-strike. It was an instant hit with everybody and soon, it was the most played first person shooter game in LAN gaming centres across Metro Manila. My cousins, my brother, some friends and I would set aside one Saturday night to go to a gaming centre we rented overnight and spend the evening till the next morning playing Counter-strike.

Ah, yes. Those were some of the most fun times I had in my life. I had so much fun that when I moved to Australia in 2000, I missed playing games against friends and family.

The big problem for me was that I didn’t know a lot of people when I moved to Australia. If I wanted to continue playing multiplayer games, my only option was to go online for that kind of thing. So, I bought the latest version of Counter-strike and started playing it online. From then on, I’ve been an online gamer freak.

I’ve enjoyed FPS games mostly while KP still preferred RTS games. It’s not that I don’t like RTS games anymore. It’s just that, with my limited free time, I couldn’t commit to full RTS game matches. The thing with RTS games is that you cannot join a game in progress. Much like you cannot just join a chess match in progress. You have to be there at the start. That’s not too much of a big deal though. The big deal is that once the match started, it’s very embarrassing to leave the game.

And like I said, I cannot commit to lengths of time in advance just to play an RTS match. What if 10 minutes into the game, something comes up and I needed to go offline? I would have to forfeit the match. Although my opponent would get a win, that win wouldn’t be very satisfying. And then when I come back from being offline, I have to start over.

With FPS games though, I can join a game in progress. Sure, I would be behind the number of kills of other players already playing, but I can always catch up. And any moment, I can just leave the game. There’s still more of them playing so they’ll still continue to have fun even after I left the round. So with FPS games, it’s instant gratification.

So, where am I going with this? Nowhere really. I just realised I haven’t posted anything in a long while and thought that I just write something that’s in my mind at the moment. And here it is. Maybe next time I’ll write something about a totally different topic.

Published in: on June 7, 2006 at 4:39 pm  Comments (2)  

06/06/06

I dreamt of a colleague this morning asking me if The Omen is any good. Apparently she’s thinking of watching it with her kids and want to know if it’s suitable. In the dream, I told her that it’s an okay movie but definitely not for kids, especially not for the younger ones.

Releasing the remake of the 1976 classic today is a nice touch for the people handling the promotions for the film. With the reference to the once-in-a-century date which could translate to 666, it’s enough to scare some people into believing that perhaps today would be the day that would see the birth of the spawn of evil. Well, it’s enough to worry some expectant mothers from giving birth today.

As for me, I don’t think I’ll be watching the remake (unless persuaded otherwise by the hubby). I generally don’t like remakes (can’t they think of something original?) and the new one is panned as worse than the original anyway.

One horror movie I’d really like to watch is Silent Hill, based on the Playstation game about a haunted and fog-shrouded town which is now home to some pretty creepy creatures. I played the video game just to know the story and actually thought of getting the Silent Hill collection (which includes sequels 2,3 and 4). Anyway, the movie was shown a couple of months ago in the US but won’t be shown here till August. Gahhhh, why is it that movies and TV shows are always shown late here in Australia?

Going back to The Omen, don’t believe the hype. According to the Australian Catholic Film Office, the real sixth day of the sixth month in 2006 actually occured in 2002. Wonder if something momentous happened that day?

Published in: on June 6, 2006 at 1:12 pm  Comments (2)  

Palabok Place


Ok, I’ve spent most of the weekend playing some more Sims 2. Well, I didn’t get to actually play with some Sims characters but was busy building a replica of our house in Simlandia. With hubby’s help and armed with the floor plan, we’ve built the basic structure. I’ve downloaded custom objects from the Mod the Sims, The Well Dressed Sim, Sim Resource and the Sims Zone. The original game and some of the expansion packs feature some objects that the Sim characters could interact with but the number of objects are limited. Some very talented people at the aforementioned forums have created various objects to share with fellow gamers. As an example, the facade of our house is made of yellow bricks but the game only has red bricks. Thank goodness, I was able to download a free wall covering object made by Starrats and used that.


To the curious ones wondering what our place looks like, this is a good look-alike although not really accurate. Although some objects could be obtained online, not all objects are available, as you can imagine. As such, our garage door doesn’t really look like that but I haven’t had the opportunity to trawl the Sims 2 websites yet to find a rolling shutter garage door. Also, objects in the Sims 2 are not really proportional to each other (a telephone would take up 1 square, the same as a dishwasher for example. Imagine if your phone is as big as your washer, wouldn’t that be freaky?) Anyway, the resultant replica is close enough to how our house looks like and here it is, dubbed Palabok Place. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Up next, a virtual tour inside? Hmmm… maybe? Hehe.

Published in: on June 5, 2006 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  

My scarf

With the onset of winter, it’s starting to get really cold and dreary in the mornings here in Melbourne. Most of the time, we’d have trouble rising in the morning because we just don’t want to leave the warmth of our bed, with the blanket wrapped around us. The trek from our house to the train station could be a really tough, especially on windy or rainy days. Which is why I thought that having a scarf that I could wrap around me is essential. And I didn’t want another one in dull black, like my previous one so I deliberately chose a colourful one. Here’s my new scarf, bought recently from David Jones.

Published in: on June 4, 2006 at 11:54 pm  Comments (2)  

The SIMple life

My fun meter was pretty much depleted last weekend, it felt like I was burnt out from work and my brain won’t cooperate. I was so exhausted that the only urge I had was to vegetate in a couch and space out. I guess it was a long time coming as I haven’t really had any “me” time for quite a long while. I was always off somewhere – working, going out with friends and doing chores.

Last Saturday saw us watching X-men 3 (which was good, better than expected) and went to the mall about half an hour before closing time. I have been thinking for the longest time to get the Sims 2 PC game (I’ve previously rented it out from a video store and I know that I like the game. We even created our own avatars!) The new Open for Business expansion pack has rekindled my interest in purchasing my own copy.

It was sold out at EB Games and we comparison shopped between Big W and Kmart. Kmart had the cheaper price and is selling the Sims 2 Holiday Edition at the same price as the original so we opted for the holiday edition for $88.84 (too bad there wasn’t a Myer near our place as we later found out they are selling the basic game at a discounted price of $74).

After rushing back home and installing the game in both our laptops, we spent the remainder of the weekend creating Sim families and having them live their lives. My Sim family is loosely based on the characters off Stargate SG-1 – Daniel Jackson, Teal’c and Vala forming one family while hubby created the Griffith family based on Peter, Lois and Grandpa from the Family Guy. Yup, could you tell we watch a lot of TV?

I chose a single storey house for my family and had them get jobs that were similar to those they have in the TV show – Daniel took the science track, Tealc got into the military track while Vala had a career in crime. I’ve been playing every night after coming home from work and the Jackson family has now significantly improved their status in life. Daniel is now a theorist (one level away from mad scientist), Vala has turned out to be quite a thief to be elevated to smuggler level (one shy of a criminal mastermind) and Teal’c an astronaut (one step away from being a General). The Teal’c character started out with a tendency to like other men than women – which wasn’t my intention, I wonder if the developers at EA Games equate cleanliness with a tendency to be gay?

Anyway, the Teal’c character was getting it on with a male co-worker but that soon soured when another man whom Teal’c invited over slapped him for flirting with Guy number 1. My guess is that Guy 1 has a thing going with Guy 2 and had Teal’c on the side. Teal’c soon turned his attention to housemate Vala who was initially engaged to Daniel but was gutted when Daniel turned his attention to Regina, a lab assistant who got into the habit of going home with Daniel after work.

With Vala pregnant with Teal’c’s child, I’ve moved the family from their 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom house to a 3 bedroom, 2 baths abode. Vala is on maternity leave and both men only working a few days in a week. Good thing too as they now have more time to enjoy their new home with the expensive furniture and a good-sized pool out back. Unlike at the start of the game when money was tight, the family is now quite well off with almost 100,000 simoleons to their name (all their hard work, no cheats).

The Jackson family was too intent on making it up their respective career ladders that they haven’t even gone out to one of the community centres yet, haven’t even thrown a successful party (I tried throwing a party once but it was deemed a snoozer!) or be saved from death successfully (I tried several times but always had the Grim Reaper taking the Sim anyway so I had to reload from my last save point). Then there’s still the body shop where I could create more Sims with unique features and the Build feature which I’ve only used for extending the kitchen of the Jackson’s old house, never for building a house from scratch.

Overall, I’d say there’s still a lot of gameplay left on this game from me what with all those options still waiting to be explored, modifications to be downloaded and used and cheats to try. My fun meter has significantly gone up and I’m already plotting when to get the other expansion packs.

Some say that the attraction of the Sims series is the ability to control lives and feel like a god. Maybe. For me though, I find the Sims to be more like interactive television with characters who have stories to tell and care about and to remind you that sometimes, the most important things in life are the simple ones.

Published in: on June 2, 2006 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cancel that next gen console upgrade

Microsoft’s next generation gaming console, the XBox 360, has been available in Australia since its official launch last March 23 of this year. Ever since, I’ve started rethinking my position on the whole next generation console wars.

In case you don’t know it, there are three next generation gaming consoles fighting a three-way war for consumers’ pockets: Microsoft’s Box 360, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii. The Box 360 is already out and sells for around $650 here, while the PS3 and WI will both come out some time in November. At the moment, the 360 has the advantage in that it came out first and it’s cheaper than the upcoming PS3. The PS3 is rumoured to cost $999 here when it comes out. The WI will be the cheapest of the three at a predicted launch cost of around $300.

I currently own a PS2 so my loyalties are slightly skewed toward Sony and the PS3. The PS3 is touted to have the best hardware from the bunch. The games coming out for the console at launch date seem to be very exciting and graphically superior to current 360 titles. There is also the added bonus that it is fully PS2 backward compatible, meaning all my existing PS2 games will be playable on the PS3 if I decide to buy it. The only problem I have with it is its hefty price of almost a thousand dollars.

Because of that, I started considering the Box 360. I should say that I’m also considering the WI but only because of what I’ve seen on the E3 reports featuring its unique controller and very cheap cost. But, I reasoned to myself that the Box has been known to be the must-have console for First Person Shooter aficionados so maybe it’s about time I make a switch.

I planned to buy the 360 during this year’s nationwide stocktake clearance sales that happens around June. Well, it’s June now. After much searching, I found that the 360 sells the cheapest at Myer for only $629. Not only that but most of its accessories and games are discounted. So, for a Premium Box 360 package, a charge and play kit, an extra wired controller, Call of Duty 2 and Dead or Alive 4, it will only come to just over $800 total. I say “only” because buying this set elsewhere will be dearer. In the end though, I have no intention of buying these at Myer. I only need their catalogue to show as proof of the price at EBGames, Dick Smith Powerhouse or Harvey Norman so they can beat it. Any of these three stores are okay as they usually accept returns for problem products.

I tried the Box 360 controller while playing the first person shooter game, Call of Duty 2, at a JB Hi-Fi demonstration Box 360 in shop and I love its responsiveness. The 360 controller seemed to be better for FPS games than the PS2’s (and by extension, the PS3’s because they share the same controller form factor). More and more I’m getting myself convinced that the 360 is the console for me.

I even got to the point where I had my old PS2 listed on eBay for $100. At EBGames, you can buy the 360 for effectively $150 off if I trade-in my old console plus 7 games. So if I can sell my PS2 on eBay for at least $150 without games, then I’ll come out ahead. I can then trade-in my 7 games at EBGames and use the credit to buy 360 games.

I didn’t want to include the EyeToy PS2 accessory that Raquel gave to me for my birthday with the PS2 package I was selling on eBay. After looking around the Web, I found the drivers I needed to get it to work on my PC as a webcam. It works great. So, even without a PS2 I can still make use of my EyeToy.

However, in the past couple of days, I got to thinking again. I looked at gaming sites on the Web and compared the games for the next gen consoles and even the PS2 ones. The PS2 seems to have lots of great games in its line-up and the PS3 looks like it’s going to get awesome games when it comes out. Also, the FPS game Unreal Tournament 2007 will be coming out for PS3 and since I’m an Unreal Tournament fan, that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.

And so, I decided to back out on my buying an Box 360 this week. I also canceled my listing on eBay for my PS2. I decided to just wait for the PS3 release in November before committing to any next gen gaming console. By then, I can properly compare the consoles.

I’m also afraid that when the PS3 comes out, I might like it better than the Box 360 and thereby regret my Box 360 purchase. But if it turns out that I actually like the Box 360 better anyway, then it’s still good as it will probably sell for less than $600 by then to compete with the cheap WI. And who knows? I might end up actually buying the WI instead.

Published in: on June 1, 2006 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment