Games I want to play but not buy

  • Killer Instinct (N64)
  • Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie (N64, or Xbox Live)
  • The Sly series
  • Prince of Persia (2008)
  • Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (2010)
  • The Professor Layton series (except the first one)
  • Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles and its sequel
  • Devil May Cry HD collection (1, 2 and 3) (PS3)
  • Gears of War 2 + 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions
  • Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny
  • The No More Heroes series (Wii)
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • Metroid: Other M (Wii)
  • Fallout: New Vegas (PS3)
  • Playstation Move starter kit
  • Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (Kinect, Xbox 360)
  • Samurai Warriors Chronicles (3DS)
  • The Sims 3 (PC or PS3)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS)
  • Child of Eden (Xbox Kinect, if I have one, or PS3)
  • From Dust (Xbox 360)
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Malaysia was truly a wonderful experience. Again, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it very much because previous trips have involved sitting down quietly while everyone around me talks in Mandarin or Teochiew (sp?!) around me, but something was different this year. Notably I started learning bits and pieces of Mandarin so that I wasn’t completely in the dark, but I think I was treated differently as well. First of all the kids played with me and opened their hearts to me so I was welcome among them (for the most part). But the adults included me as well, talking with me and me talking with them. Everyone was open and friendly, and it was so excellent to bond with family I didn’t know I liked so much. And I had a wonderful time in general as well, baking cupcakes with Caysin and Ashley, spinning out with Kenny, hiking and shopping with Weng and Yi Qian (and some really lovely conversations, How I Met Your Mother and nutrition shakes), and of course the wedding events… They were all really great, and it was so wonderful doing so much that I loved with so many people I loved.

Having been back a few days, the first and most pressing imbalance to address was my need to see Bethwyn. I’ve spent the past four days with her now, housesitting for her neighbour. It was indescribably wonderful to be with her again even after such a short time apart- I realised that I need her so much that I start to lose myself and my stable perception of the world without her- everything seems slightly different, and there’s a longing in my heart that only she can fill.

But, having well and truly sated my need to be with her, I did some training with Kaneda for the first time in a few weeks. It was awesome to get some conditioning and learn some interesting and important techniques regarding sprawling, chokeholds and knife disarms. I played a lot of Spirit Tracks, and I’m really looking forward to spending heaps of time at home over the next few days cleaning out my room and taking care of all the little jobs that I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. As good as it was to see Bethwyn, I really did miss my home. Staying with her in a house of our own, walking around in underwear and leaving clothes, books and crap (as in accoutrement, not faeces) everywhere is awesome, but this is where I live. All my clothes, toiletries and belongings are here, and travelling around the past two weeks has been adventurous and wonderful, but nothing quite beats being at home.

And for the record, I now have a renewed appreciation for the importance of getting dressed in the morning. As entertaining as it is spending the day in your pyjamas because you don’t need to go anywhere, it also carries with it the listless feeling like you’re not doing anything throughout the whole day. It’s not much harder to put on shorts and a tee shirt, but the feeling is completely different. That tiny ritual of going from resting to actively living is so important.

So to finish off, here’s a brief list of the areas of my life which are a little imbalanced.

  • Exercise (good to get a little, need to get a lot more)
  • Sleep (It’s nearly 2am man, get some rest you idiot)
  • Family (really, really need to spend some time with them. Quality time.)
  • Nutrition (less unhealthy snacks (aiming for one a day), more fruit, more green stuff)
  • Miscellaneous jobs (they’re building up…)
  • The Sword (I need to spend time relearning my sword, inside and out.)

My first ever balance check

After talking to my dear cousin Yi Qian for some tonight, I realised that almost everything she does it striving towards a greater sense of balance in her life. She honours each part of her, including her family, her friends, and the many dimensions of herself, and does her best to live heathily and righteously. Although I too strive to live well and kindly, I think I still have a lot to learn in terms of getting a greater sense of balance. It is only when you are balanced and know your roots that you are able to move an object heavier than you. So, inspired by my cousin, I have decided to start thinking about the areas of my life that are falling out of balance, and perhaps over time I can chart where and why I’ve been slipping. Let’s give this a try.

Areas of imbalance in my life include:

  • Food (been eating too much and too quickly. Need to slow down, eat a healthier variety of fresh and green things, and also perhaps delve into just a little bit of meat and animal products).
  • Family (not enough time has been spent actively doing things with my parents. My brother and I get along well, though not oftenly enough. At the moment, I really should spend more time with Caysin, Yi Fei and Sin Ler, and Jit Ching’s sisters who I am not entirely familiar with… And Qi Shu of course. We’ve barely spoken this holiday, and he was my most beloved Uncle for most of my life.)
  • Friendships (I have neglected too many friendships worth investing in, including Kaneda, Jack, Andy, Craig and many others.)
  • Physical (too much hard, not enough soft. I really should spend more time doing yoga and taiji. My muscles are complaining.)
  • Love (missing Bethwyn a lot, though it is healthy to take a break for a short time. I must also be careful not to overdo it when I return to Australia.)
  • Sleep (it’s 1am, and I keep taking naps during the day. Honestly John, get some rest you idiot!)

There are other areas in my life that are more balanced, but I’ll exclude them for now and just keep checks on where I’m losing the plot. Let’s see how things are another time.

Itadakimasu.

I’m making a pretty significant decision right now. You know how big it is a deal when someone announces that they’re going vegetarian? All those delicious and convenient meat-products are ruled out of the menu. That tasty sandwich, that delicious steak, that glorious glorious lasagne, gone. That’s pretty insignificant for a lot of people, and it can really screw up some mealtimes if you don’t cook for yourself.

The next step up might be considered veganism. That’s like, hardcore man. No animal products at all, ending a delicious rain of eggs, milk, chocolate and cheese. It takes a lot of conviction and a truly passionate person with a strong moral code to make the call to minimise their intake of animal-suffered food.

You can imagine then the kind of decision it is for such a strong-willed animal right’s activist to decide to go back to eating both animal products and meat. And ladies and gentlemen, this is the decision I have made today.

My friend Aaron linked me to an article on how a famous vegan blogger had been suffering many significant illnesses as a direct lack of her intake of meat and animal products. It was an incredible moral battle for her, but when she finally began eating omnivorously, her health went from dangerously poor to better than ever within the space of two months. To me, my decision is somewhat complex, but it aligns with the idea that it’s unnatural to cut out meat and animal products (henceforth shortened to AP) from your diet. Humans have always eaten meat and other AP throughout history- it’s what allowed us to develop a larger cerebral capacity than the other apes (according to Year 12 Human Bio). As my brother has argued time and time again, to deny the consumption of meat and AP is to deny part of humanity.

Life and death are forever linked. Life will inevitably require death, just as death will promote new life. As a swordsman, I should know better than anyone the choices that decide a living creature’s future, and the consequences of those actions. And it is naive, yes naive, to assume that one can live a full life without killing anything. We will always be surrounded by death, but it will now be my choice to accept this rather than reject it. And from that decision, I can choose what death I consider necessary and will honour, and what death I consider needless and despise/pity.

Aside from the necessary nutritional benefits (for the body is designed to break down certain foods, and it’s worse that I don’t take supplements so my body is deprived of many vitamins it really should be getting), veganism is apparently an unsustainable way of life. Although commercial farming, mass raising and slaughter is in my mind a terrible and needless action, so too is the destruction of natural environments all across the world to make room for growing grain and soy. My education in this area is lacking, but if I am to believe Tracy’s article, it is eating the locally grown (preferably wild) food of a region that is the greatest and most sustainable foodstyle choice a person can make. So despite my high moral intentions, veganism is not doing much to save the planet. And although my moral code has recently been very personal (as long as I myself do no bad action, then I have done the best I can for the world), protecting myself from doing evil is not going to stop the world from doing likewise.

So it is I have chosen the path of the mostly-vegetarian. That fickle in-between state of being vegetarian, when I feel like it. That is to say I will predominantly eat plant matter and other non-animal products, but once a day if I can, I will permit my body to indulge in whatever nutrients it needs. My condition is this: the animal or AP must have come from an animal that did not suffer unnecessarily for any extended period of its life. It will die eventually, and I will honour its sacrifice for my continued life. As long as it was as happy as can reasonably be expected (a rather subjective phrase that I will consider personally on a case-by-case basis), I will do my best to respect its life, and also its death. For example, if a chicken lives well in a farm, wandering freely and laying eggs as it pleases, I will have no objection to eating those eggs, nor that chicken. If it is raised in a barn for the sole purpose of laying as many eggs as possible in unnecessarily harsh conditions, I will avoid consuming such food as often as possible. If a pig has lived as full a life as a pig can, then I will have no moral objection to killing and eating it. If a piglet is brought into the world and slaughtered for a banquet, I will not indulge in its unnecessarily early death. This approach to omnivorous-ness will probably require much research into ‘free range’ animal and animal products, so as I begin this process, I will mainly continue my vegan diet.

Another condition I’m considering goes along the lines of the saying “If we each killed the animals ourselves we would all be vegetarians.” If I can look into the eyes of an animal and take its life, I will honour its experiences and have no objection to celebrating its death. This may take a while, especially if I am ever to eat a dog or any such animal I love very dearly. Because I know I’d love pigs and cows and lambs as much as any pet, but they too will die some day, and I must not flinch away from this.

Yet another condition I’m considering is paying respects to the life that was taken before every meal, be it fruit, vegetable, animal or the suffering (however mild) an animal had to go through to produce the product.

That’s all I have for now, but no doubt the next few days will be yet another significant and interesting transition in my food choices. I’ll let you know how it’s going further down the track once I’ve gained some perspective.

 

PS: Itadakimasu, as I was told, is a Japanese saying that is a way of opening a meal by saying thank you for the food. Yi Qian tells me that its origins are deeper than a simple “Let’s eat!” Its original translation is roughly along the lines of “Thank you for giving up your life so that I can continue mine.” I therefore strive to say it each and every time I eat something.

Ronin

Greetings from Malaysia! My reason for being here is a somewhat lengthy and not entirely interesting story. My cousin (of which I have 40+, I believe) Jit Ching decided to get married this December, celebrating her wedding on the 18th with a big dinner in Kuala Lumpur, followed by a smaller dinner on the island of Penang for the relatives who couldn’t make it to KL. There was much bandying about as I weighed up the pro’s and con’s of coming. My main reason for going was to honour my family. My main reason not to go was not really knowing Jit Ching at all- we’d only spoken two or three times, and it would cost something like $700 to fly over and back due to the Christmas rush. In the end though, I decided to go for it as Mum graciously bought my plane ticket, and I’m truly grateful I did.

Although my intention was to pay respect to my family, I did not expect to have such a good time as I did so. Everyone has been so kind to me, including those who don’t speak English or haven’t really met me before. I’ve been very well looked after and very busy being invited to travel everywhere, seeing temples, eating food, visiting relatives and playing badminton. It’s been pretty full-on all things considered! The wedding itself was two days ago now, and I was happy to partake in the ceremonies and rituals. The couple had already been married legally, but they still had to go through the traditional Chinese wedding rituals, such as the big dinner the night before, the groom’s torturous games before he was allowed to see his bride, and the tea ceremonies with dozens of relatives, in exchange for hong bao, or red packets of money. It was the dinner that was the most enjoyable celebration for me though- I barely knew the bride, but my God she looked beautiful, and happiness poured out of my heart at seeing the pictures of her with her husband, and the smile on her face when she walked down the ‘aisle’. Everyone looked beautiful, especially my mother, and many celebratory drinks were had (YAM SENG!).

Other highlights of my trip include seeing my dearest cousin Yi Qian. She is kinder and more responsible than ever, if such a thing is possible, and it fills me with great joy to share adventures with her. I feel guilty taking up too much of her time because she tries to look after me and keep me entertained, but we are very good friends, and I enjoy having such good company in a place as distant as this. Distant is roughly the best word I can find to describe what Malaysia means to me now. It’s certainly not foreign, exotic or alien: the humidity, the scents, the dirty back streets and the countless stray dogs, the beggars, the food, the constant showers are all part of my childhood. It feels very much like another place to call home, though it is perhaps lacking in the somewhat less portable comforts of my entire wardrobe, video game consoles and living quarters. I have begun to feel at home, learning tidbits of Mandarin and conversing in Singlish, not to make fun or even to be understood, but because it is the right thing to say at the right time. Certain situations just call for a reproachful or exasperated “lah!” It is indeed good to be back, though the traffic continues to confound me: all those people breaking the rules and none of them so much as nicking the paint on their side-view mirrors.

I kinda wish I had a way of bringing my bokken and iaito with me. I miss training- all this indulgence of eating delicious food and barely walking 3000 steps a day can’t be good for me. Granted the occasional game of badminton has been very welcome, but it’s the martial arts I long for. I’m toying with the idea of visiting a martial studio here, possibly the wushu school that my young cousins are enrolled in (they’re junior champions at ages 8 and 10!) and trying my hand at some gongfu. Mental training is only so enthralling, and my youthful (if tired) body yearns for some action. If only my cousins were old/mature enough to spar with without trying to dominate me all the time. Speaking of which, this one little boy whose name I still don’t know has taken to pulling my ears or poking my back or jumping in front of me and screaming whenever he sees me. I tell you honestly, he tempts a zero-point knifehand to the solar plexus, but I know that would only be received as a challenge. It’s a good lesson in teaching me patience, forgiveness and detachment from the battles not worth fighting. There are other ways to win than through the fist.

Today, being a Monday, is a little quiet. Everyone is at school, or work, or heading back to Penang in anticipation of the dinner next Thursday. Truth be told I’m a little bored, but there’s always plenty to do if I seek it out. I think now would be a good time to take a break from the computer though. We’ll see what rolls from here :)

Lastly, I just want to say how much the little things count. In a country where there’s a good chance no one will understand you when you speak (due to complicated words like “excited” or “prefer”, a strong Australian accent (‘sif) or just an inability to understand English), you really long for some connection to people you are similar to. Of course there’s no use just pining and yearning all day because you’d never appreciate the situation you’re in, but this vacation has given me a good opportunity to step back and realise how happy I am when I’m with Bethwyn. Sometimes another country is a good chance to open your eyes a while and see the bigger picture. Take care everyone! I’ll see you just after Christmas.

Painballing

Around January this year I was persuaded to buy a cheap set of paintballing tickets. Normally something like $120 entry for 8 people, I picked them up for around $155 for 30 people. Thinking I had made some amazing saving, because the tickets never expire, I planned to have a paintballing event which never got organised and kept getting pushed back and back. I thought my birthday would be as good an excuse as any and so, rather belatedly, picked a Saturday in December which would suit me.

Response was not as enthusiastic as I had hoped. I invited 70 people, expecting about 15 to say no (but deserved the invitation), 10 to say maybe and 25 to not respond. Hopefully I’d end up with a good strong 20 people who were as keen to play as I was. After a long process I got 14 confirmed people by the RSVP before the game in two weeks. As I found out, the paintball scheme runs a little deeper, and in addition to buying entry, you need to secure the first 100 paintballs of every play with a $25 deposit. So I forked out $350 extra for everyone who was coming and expected to receive payment on the day. Sadly, for various reasons (some more reasonable than others), I lost about 7 of the original 14 players but managed to make up one or two new faces. So in other words, I paid for 14 and 9 showed up, leaving me in quite a deficit. Very fortunately, the paintball company said the money I paid will carry over to future games so I’ve already paid for five players in the future, but it was just so heartbreaking to make a commitment with my friends and have so many of them pull out. Understandable at times, but really crushing at others. It cost a lot of money so I’m tempted to leave the organisation to someone else in the future, but since it’s under my name I guess I’ll be booking another session some time in the distant future once I’ve recovered some of my resilience/faith in my friends’ commitment. I’ll also make the intelligent move of having it on a Sunday, or perhaps even a weekday when fewer people have obligations.

The day itself was actually whopping good fun. I’m really glad that nine of us didn’t just rock up and shoot each other all day, but that several other groups also registered on the same day and we got split into teams. There were about 70 players all up, and it was really enjoyable to get into the spirit of things. I found myself chewing through ammunition faster- my last session I was quite conservative, only taking the shot if I had a good chance of landing it, but this time around if a target presented itself, I would keep squeezing that trigger until the target surrendered or moved back into cover.

Because of the outdoor setting, there was less tactical deception (though it still existed) and more moving to whatever cover was available and doing your best to take out opponents. I made the mistake of overestimating the other team’s incompetence and made a few dashes into cover assuming they’d miss. I made it about half the time, but the other half I’d get pegged along the way.

There was a healthy blend of games, from capture the flag, king of the hill, deathmatch and protecting the general. I liked the deathmatch the most because it was so close-quarters and everyone was pretty much immediately forced into conflict without long-range sniper type battles. Cover was overcrowded with people lined up behind you and there were deaths every minute. The last game where you protected the general was interesting- one person wore a fluorescent vest on each team and whoever’s “general” fell first lost. In one of the games, I volunteered to be general, but Leith (my trusty guardian) and I had about 120 paintballs between us for the match. So I essentially gave him my gun, said “protect me while I crouch here”, and waited for inevitable doom. Ange on the other hand, the other team’s general (who volunteered at the chance to send an army against me) moved her forces up and participated in the fight once she knew we were winning. I wasn’t holding a weapon when someone jumped out from behind our cover and pointed a gun at my face yelling “Surrender!” I threw up both hands, not willing to take a bullet for the cause, but thinking back of how I could have gotten out of it, I’m fairly confident I could have rolled out and disarmed him before he reached me. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well as it does in my imagination though :P

All up, lots of fun! It’s hard to remember how each paintball you shoot is essentially 12.5 cents, so going through two packs a game isn’t exactly cost effective. It was a splendid day, and very hot and sweaty and dusty. It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with the people who made it, with special mention to Leith who heard about it at 11:30pm, was given the details at 5:30am and stepped up to the game in time anyway. Also great to see Jess Carroll who I haven’t caught up with since primary school and Ange Johnson whose bra miraculously (or fiendishly?) snapped in the middle during one of the games. Shoutout to Toby, whose crazy-ass manic laughter as he ran around the field shooting wildly deserves mention, and my respect goes to the guy in the last round who stripped off his top half for the final game and walked around solidly shooting everyone who came in his sights. He’ll have some bruises to show for it, but his calm terminator-like presence earns him special honour.

It’ll be a while before the next game I think, but it was a great (if exhausting) day of fun. Mayhap somewhere closer in the future :P

Margaret River

So Bethwyn and I thought it would be a good idea to go on holiday for a week this year around our anniversary, once exams were over. We looked at going to Melbourne because it was a different culture, even though it was the same country, but that seemed too expensive. Overseas was briefly considered, but looking at prices in the thousands was a little harsh. We went for a week-long stay in Margaret River, four days in what was a quintessential cottage in the woods, three days in our own apartment. Both places were indescribably wonderful.

First of all the drive down and back was one of the highlights of the trip. It’s often said that it’s the journey, not the destination that counts, and they were pretty damn right! We listened to Hollow Chocolate Bunnies, a six hour audiobook while we were driving, and the time (for me as a driver) flew by pretty quickly. We got from Bethwyn’s house to the cottage in just under three hours flat without stopping for a break (though we were getting quite hungry and were tempted towards McDonalds but decided to push on through). There were drinks and lollipops and 20 Questions and good times all around.

The Harmony Forrest house was just a beautiful place to stay. There were plenty of insects, which I loved, because it reminded me that we keep trying to box nature out, but we share the planet and land with them, and they have just as much right to inhabit it. It boasted a spa which looked out at the forest through massive glass windows (which was so relaxing, and so comfortable, and a great place to have sparkling nashi pear wine and chocolates) and no communication. What reception you could get on your phone varied between companies, but I was basically incommunicado while I was there- they very specifically designed it so that the outside world could wait a bit while you and your partner practiced the ancient and somewhat forgotten art of “conversation”. It was very much a couples holiday, though there were two extra single beds for kids (presumably), which seemed contrary to the message sent by the very attractive spa and two champagne glasses with love-heart chocolates in the fridge. There was a small TV and some National Geographic DVDs and magazine, a few boardgames (which I’m sad to say we forgot about, probably to Bethwyn’s relief) and a very comfortable electric-blanket equipped bed. It was colder than I had packed for, and I was trying to be conservative and take as few articles of clothing as I could, somewhat to my discomfort. Bethwyn on the other hand scored bigtime- we found some clothes in one of the drawers that someone had left behind, and they were exactly in our sizes. For me there was a somewhat uncomfortable and mildly unattractive pair of shorts, which I left, but for Bethwyn, there was a pair of very comfortable denim shorts, some denim three-quarter length pants and an amazingly sexy and comfortable tracksuit, all from Country Road (which I’m led to believe is a good brand). They fit her so perfectly I doubt their previous owner could have done them nearly as much justice, so it wasn’t even considered to put them back in the drawer.

As for sightseeing, we didn’t really do as much as we could have. We didn’t go to the beach, or to the chocolate factory (due to my veganism and Bethwyn’s non-lactose diet, which suits me well), or to anything new and interesting. We did however go to the fairy shop in Cowamarup, Wild Thyme (at last! That tantalising and mysterious ¬†little cafe on the corner), Lloyds, two bookstores, the Margaret River Markets, the Lake Cave Tearooms (highly recommended. Most amazingly friendly couple who run it with arguably the most delicious food I’ve ever had) and this great little natural/organic healthfood store. I spent a looooot of money on delicious and healthy dairy-free chocolate while I was down there- something like $50 worth.

Darby Park (I believe?) apartments was surprisingly well-maintained, coming from the cottage we’d been trying to keep orderly for the past four days. It was more like a hotel than anything, with delicious smelling breakfasts at the reception/lounge and a small selection of videos you could watch or Xbox (not 360) games you could rent. The rooms were made up every day, but filthy, sleeping-in, private people that we are we waited until we checked out before getting anything ‘serviced’. There were some cooking adventures (and misadventures), a beautiful flat-screen TV which introduced us to Invader Zim (“Aww, my bees!”) and saw over a dozen hours of Okami (I admit it, I used a walkthrough for two or three of them, but I’ve got about half the Stray Beads now, all of the Zodiac statues and over half the animals at 100% fed) and plenty of Spongebob. The bathroom was nice (I always judge an establishment by its bathroom, which is most commonly the ‘worst’ room in the house) and they had lots of organic products (such as tissues, shampoos, facial washes etc). All in all, quite a nice place to stay for very different reasons.

It was a really great holiday and it was a wonderful opportunity to slow down and enjoy living by whim. I do admit, taking a game as absorbing and focussed as Okami might not have been the greatest idea- I did give it quite a few decent hours, sometimes ignoring Bethwyn or spending time at the PS2 rather than with her. I had intended for just casual, hour or two gaming sessions but I really got back into the world of Nippon, so that’s a lesson for next time. If you’re going to go on holiday to do very little, don’t bring a lot. I’m looking forward to another such holiday in the future, but at a $1400 price tag for accommodation alone, I think we might holiday elsewhere if the money can be scavenged. Despite just being done with, after half a week back in Perth, another holiday couldn’t come soon enough.