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Fountain Pen Disaster!

August 11, 2010

Disaster strikes!

My pen is all covered with ink after I brought my fountain pen (with its ink) to school.

For posterity’s sake:

[image coming soon]

This is going to put me off writing with fountain pens for a while. Though I might still consider writing with them at home…

(EDIT: Shortest post ever.)

CA Discussion: Prep Notes

August 10, 2010
Sports fan Wants sports in schools to be engaging and entertaining, and to make students interested in sports. Therefore feels that schools and athletes should not prize winning above the sport itself, but recognizes that some competitive element must exist. Feels that maintaining safety is fundamental to making sport enjoyable.

…Okay, cool.

I’m going to type this on my blog and I’m going to print this out today.

A very good afternoon to all of you gentlemen. I am an avid sports fan and I enjoy watching sports in schools (IfYouKnowWhatIMean). I am a firm advocate of emphasizing the importance of sports in the formative years of our youth’s development. The best way to raise a generation of youths who are motivated, goal-oriented and progressive is sports. Thus I emphasize the need to make students interested in sports.

I have noticed a very disturbing trend amongst schools in Singapore today. Due to the government’s meritocratic policies (which I do not disagree with – I am merely pointing out its effects on the situation I am about to illustrate), schools in Singapore tend to place performance in the sport over interest in the sport – that is, an aspiring athlete who wishes to join this or that sport because of his interest is turned down in favor of a more naturally talented but less passionate member of the student body. In other words, prize-winning has superseded what I regard as the original purpose of sports – the building of mind and body. For example, in the school Hwa Chong Institution, a student is barred entry into a competitive CCA if he cannot perform or shows no potential – the latter point which I contend against. CCAs like badminton, track and field and other sports-type CCAs require “auditions” to weed out the students who cannot perform. Naturally, this leads to many students who are passionately interested in that particular sport but just do not perform as well as their peers for a variety of reasons. This is a way of ensuring the CCAs continually perform well every year, bagging prizes and gaining glory for the school. This situation does not just play out in Hwa Chong itself – there are many other schools who take in students based on performance while eliminating the enthusiastic but less able students.

However, I do concede that most sports are in essence competitive – even sedentary sports like bowling and golf compete for point totals –  and that many schools who want to attract talent to them would want to put their best foot forward in the many competitions held. It is a sad byproduct of the meritocratic system in Singapore – here I use the term in a rather unflattering manner – that the above situation is transpiring today. Thus, I feel that the issue of  “Should sports be more or less competitive” is mostly moot. The amount of competition that a sport has cannot be tweaked like some tap on a sink. Sports are innately competitive and any attempt to debate that fact would most likely prove impossible.

Are there serious safety lapses in sports in schools? I would say no, definitely not. The schools hire accomplished coaches who are experienced, and safety lapses only happen in the hands of incompetents. The coach would probably be very careful towards the handling of our nation’s future top athletes. There should be no safety issues in the preparation leading up to the competition. However, there might be safety issues during the competition itself, where tensions run high and the will to win is very strong. There are also inherent safety differences in different sports. A sport like bowling or golf would be much safer than full-contact sports like martial arts and the like.

With regards to the unfortunate incident that happened, I believe that the impressionable young people were too driven by the will to win. I’ve seen otherwise rational fans erupt in to raucous disagreements and shouting at each other – hormone-filled teens fighting against each other hardly seems particularly extreme. Admittedly their behaviour cannot be condoned, but I am simply stating that it is not particularly surprising nor should it be taken as THE DEGENERATION OF SOCIETY AND YOUTH WHICH WILL DOOM US ALL. Deemphasizing the urge to win and is hardly a practical solution because it is human nature to win. Nor is it wise to discount the efforts of our young athletes who have trained so hard. In conclusion, I feel that the schools and the students value winning over fair play and the improvement of self, eclipsing the purpose of sport itself. If even sport is corrupted to be yet another avenue of excellence, where shall we turn to to enjoy ourselves? A healthy urge to win that does not go overboard is the key to enjoying sports regardless of the outcome. If the urge to win was not as strong in the ACS and the St. Andrews’ boys, would there have been a brawl? I THINK NOT.

Thank you.

Fountain Pens

August 10, 2010

I recently got my hands on a fountain pen when I was clearing out some junk. My bedroom used to be my father’s office, you see, so he keeps a lot of stuff inside the room which hasn’t been cleared out since he moved to a proper office. So I was doing a bit of spring-cleaning and found (amongst other things) a fountain pen with 5 nibs and an inkwell.

I’ve been practicing with them last night on my History worksheet and today on the draft of this blog post. I find the fountain pens easier to write with because the pen flows smoothly over the page. However, they have to be held at a specific angle in order to write properly and you can’t leave the pen uncovered overnight. The ink dries up quickly if left unattended. Also, the ink tends to smudge if you rub it before it dries. It dries pretty quickly, to its credit.

I’ve been considering whether I should consider actually using the fountain pens for homework assignments and the like. In other words, official work. Honestly there isn’t much difference in ink between the gel pens and the fountain pen. I don’t have trouble with the writing itself (because I hold pens correctly), but refilling is an issue. The ink overflows and makes great big splotches on the writing paper.

I like the words written with the fountain pens more aesthetically pleasing because of the variance in the individual strokes’ thickness. The strokes written by the other types of pens seem boring and static.

Let me just tell you guys a little bit about the pen nibs. I have five pen nibs (I threw one away, it was broken). They are labelled B2, B3, B4, Italic Fine and Italic Medium. I used the Italic Fine to write the draft for this blog post because it was the finest nib. I have absolutely no idea what the individual letters mean, or whether naming the nib Italic Fine means I have to write in Italic. Whatever. I’m just going to write normally.

EDIT: I checked out Wikipedia, and it says that “As a result, the typical fountain pen requires little or no pressure to write,” because “Ideally, a fountain pen’s nib glides across the paper using the ink as a lubricant, and requires no pressure.” Cool, I suppose. I found that my writing speed increased rather significantly when I wrote with a fountain pen. Also, Wikipedia confirms my findings that “[Refilling] was a cumbersome and potentially messy process”. Yay.

KOTOR

August 8, 2010

So I got my hands on KOTOR and was trying it late last night and from 10 till now. (That’s how obsessed I am.) Anyway, let me just talk a bit about KOTOR here:

KOTOR is in typical Bioware style: it has many dialogue options that all lead to pretty much the same thing. There’s a Light Side and a Dark Side kind of sliding scale which goes up as you do good, honorable things and down as you do not-so-good things. I’ve been playing for 5 hours and haven’t even really started the game – the game is huge, believe me. There aren’t many things you can do, and it is very plot-driven – you have to kill this creature to continue, you have to go here, etc. You can’t take a break in between and go bet on some races, for example. I’ve covered this disparity between freedom and plotline in my previous post so I won’t repeat myself. Anyway, you start off in this ship that’s being attacked by the Sith. This is pretty much the introductory tutorial, and the game really starts when you get into the escape pod and jettison yourself to safety.

Landing on some planet you locate the important Jedi that was captured by some street gang. Lots of fighting later you rescue the Jedi and you plan on an escape. Nothing particularly clever – you break down the door of the Sith super-secret facility and you massacre everybody in them. What happens after that I don’t know because I haven’t experienced it yet.

Worth pointing out (again) is that KOTOR is a really long game. I’ve been playing for 5 hours and I would say I haven’t even experienced maybe 1/40th of the game. Then again, most of the time was filled with killing random dudes again and again so, you know, actual experience may differ.

The way KOTOR handles combat is terrible in my opinion. Come on, you’re using swords and blasters and you’re telling me that one blaster shot can’t kill? I mean, towards the later portions of the early game I found that my blaster did 4 damage to a 50 HP man. I mean, seriously? I might as well hit the guy with a wet fish or something. Swords (vibroblades, whatever) don’t have this problem as much (their damage is way higher) but how do swords miss? Against someone who is shooting at your teammate positioned at the far end of the room and you’re coming at him from behind? Honestly?

I also have a few gripes about levels. The levels are too spaced out and mean too much. Equipment is secondary to stats. This doesn’t make sense as far as I am concerned. I mean, the difference in one level really is very major. Someone I got thrashed by when I was level 4 was wiped out when I was level 5. (With the same items.) Plus, the items really are very insignificant (1-6 damage vs 1-8 damage? Wow.) and I found it pretty inconsequential to just sell all my items and hoard a shitton of gold.

Though there are some pretty fine points about the game. The graphics are fine for a 7 year old game, the story is well done as far as I’m concerned. There are a lot of characters you can play with and it is pretty good overall. Verdict? Good game -but old.

Blog Redesign

August 7, 2010

Hey guys.

Check out this spanking new design! In an effort to fish for more ACE better my blog, I have, you know, redesigned it. (That much you gathered from the title). So, here’s what I did specifically….

– Ported my blog to WordPress – it now supports automatic post dating, an automatic comment system and a more organised blog. Hopefully this will intice me to blog more. Granted, my previous blog did have a cobbled-together comment system and a manual post dater, but you know… automatic is better. Just shut up.

Oh, yeah, and a custom header. Does it look spanking new and gobgoozoly or what?

– New skin and new fonts – I used TypeKit.com for the fonts and digged out some cool skin provided with WordPress. That redesign on the old blog will have to wait for now because WordPress doesn’t offer me enough freedom to redesign the way I want to. So I have been restricted quite a bit in the design aspect of the blog. But whatever, improvement.

– Spam regulation – no one reads this blog anyway, whatever.

– Widgets – custom HTML elements that I can add to my site. Very useful, and my previous blog didn’t have them.

-INTENSE formatting tools that allow me to do more with the posting and less with the tedious hand-code every single page.

That about sums up the updates and the blog overhaul. I’ll be relinking the blog in a moment…

Dragon Age

August 7, 2010

So I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Origins quite recently (I got it from Marc Thursday) nd am pretty impressed by it. DA:O isn’t my first RPG (I’ve played Oblivion a lot before) and neither is this my first playthrough. I got DA:O I think a year ago but stopped playing it for some reason I forgot…

Well, I remember it now. One, the system requirements are really a beast. I played on the lowest settings and a modest resolution and my FPS dropped to I think the low 10s when the action really heated up, e.g. combat scenes. Two, the entire gameplay is linear for an RPG and reminded me of an FPS with a linear storyline, say COD4. Though there are a ton of sidequests, the thing that really turned me off is the lack of progress you can make without touching the storyline. In Oblivion, the storyline is completely optional and you can do pretty much everything without even starting the first quest (giving the amulet to Jauffre). You can fast travel to all the cities, join all the guilds, finish all the sidequests, etc. In DA:O, you can’t even leave the camp without advancing the story.

It’s quite evident that there is a huge difference in the way Bethesda does things in an RPG compared to the way Bioware does it. You see this trend is Mass Effect, KOTOR or Jade Empire v. Fallout 3 or Oblivion. Bioware wants you to advance the story and to their credit, their story is definitely much more polished and definitely better done than Bethesda’s. I would liken Bioware’s games to a fantastic, gripping movie or a storybook while I would draw parallels with Bethesda’s games to sandbox-styled games like The Sims or Civilization.

To be fair, DA:O does have a few stunning parts that make it absolutely fantastic. For one, the story is very well crafted and everything just fits together. There aren’t any gaping plot holes (or maybe I’m not particularly observant) as far as I can tell, and the cutscenes are beautifully written, rendered and voice-acted. I also like the fact that Bioware has individually crafted every single face in the game. Meanwhile, Bethesda just throws in some random face generation software and the end result is a piece of crap. Every NPC in oblivion has a face that makes me want to puke, aside from the Argonians and the Khajits. The faces in DA:O actually look believable, not like something that was the evil crossbreed of your mother and a dustbin.

Though one must take into account that Oblivion was made in 2005 and Dragon Age 2009. Software has improved since then. Yet KOTOR’s faces are all also very attractive and it was made in 2003. This once again reflects on the way Bioware and Bethesda treat their RPGs – in Bioware games, everything has to be lovingly crafted – end result a wonderfully polished piece of work that sadly fails to deliver in sheer availability of options. Meanwhile Bethesda takes the “throw everything together and we’ll overwhelm the player with a lot of shit” approach – end result a freeform game with a lot of options but everything seems cobbled together and unpolished.

I place a great value on freedom in a game, and this is why I like Oblivion a lot. In Oblivion you can do pretty much everything and it really seems that you aren’t restrained in the slightest. Meanwhile, DA:O ties you down with your Grey Warden bullcrap and you’re pretty much railroaded for the entirety of the game. You can’t rest and explore the gameworld with a horse while you’re busy saving the world from Genlocks and Hurlocks, for instance, but when the portals open everywhere in Tamriel and monsters start streaming out you can still mess about and kill guards. (In Dragon Age, you can’t even attack guards.)

I had this same problem with Prototype, in which it bills itself as a freeform game but YOU CAN’T UNLOCK UPGRADES IF YOU DON’T PROCEED WITH THE STORYLINE and AS YOU PROCEED THE GAMEWORLD GETS LESS AND LESS ATTRACTIVE WHICH DOES NOT APPEAL TO ME. I lost interest with Prototype fairly quickly, because I got bored of killing random citizens.

Anyway, back on track: Admittedly, the Bioware style of doing things is more realistic, but if I wanted reality I’d go to the kitchen and make a sandwich or something. (You have to give Bioware credit for something, though: the game appears to give you a choice through the variety of dialogue options, and you never feel like you’re railroaded. Throughout my playing I did feel a compulsion to carry on with the storyline of my own accord, while in Oblivion I was all “screw the king, I’m going to pilfer some jewels”. So kudos on that.)

So who does it better? As usual, I’m going to give some namby-pamby, inconclusive answer. If you’re the type who doesn’t mind getting railroaded, the very goal-oriented type who plays the RPG for the main quest alone, then Bioware’s games are definitely better for you. The story is much better written, it’s more polished overall, and everything looks really, really good. (The cutscenes are what kept me playing for so long in DA:O – I kept playing new characters just to view the dialogue cutscenes again and again). If you’re that kind of person, then Bioware’s games will give you a hell of a ride.

Meanwhile, if you’re the kind who wants to play in a large sandbox, and is the GTA-type gamer, then you should choose Bethesda games instead. They’re more open-ended than Bioware games and you can do a lot more without “unlocking” parts of the game through following the story.

For people like me who stand in the middle here who love cutscenes (Many of the people I know don’t – they skip everything, spamming the Esc key- I actually listen to everything a person says. I must have spent hours whosyourdaddy-ing the W3 campaign, skipping all the gameplay just to get at the cutscenes. I’m weird that way.), love a good story, but also don’t like to “unlock” things you can do by advancing the main plot or relish the fact that one can drop the main plot at any time and goof around. What to do then? If you could combine the story, the graphics and the cutscenes of Dragon Age with the open-endedness of Oblivion, it would be my perfect game. (I am not immune to pretty lights and nice graphics, after all.)

Meanwhile, I’ll be playing Dragon Age. It might not be perfect, but I’m bored of Oblivion – for now.

Justice

August 4, 2010

Holy shit a suggested blog topic.

I need five posts. Yay.

1. Is justice only about the law? Can you think of examples of modern controversies over how justice is percieved? Do you agree with our judicial system?

Guess what? Cliched answer time. No, justice is not only about the law. Yes, I do agree with our judicial system. Yes, I can think of examples of modern controversies over how justice is perceived and strangely enough, all of them are related to Singapore. As I come to a rousing conclusion the verdict is that our judicial system is completely fair and unbiased and is,  in all senses of the word, perfect.

In all seriousness, though, I do not agree with our judicial system. For one, capital punishment still exists in Singapore and so does corporal punishment and I am against both of them. (Though it should be noted that I am not the radical pacifist that is vehemently against them and calls them “barbaric”, no – I am mostly apathetic but lean to the disagree side). So, no. I also don’t like the fact that the jury consists of government officials and “specialist judges”. According to the United States Department of State (though they have a sore spot for us, so whatever) Singapore’s “judicial officials, especially the Supreme Court, have close ties to the ruling party and its leaders”. So, not the most impartial judicial system, though I suppose every system that requires judgement cannot be totally impartial either.

There was this modern controversy I read in a book about medical malpractice in Malaysia. It was interesting. Case goes, a woman goes to a doctor to have this surgery that has a chance of failing. Surgeon assures woman it’s all right, but operation came out a failure. Woman sues doctor for not informing her properly of the risks. The Malaysian courts awarded the woman compensation under failure to inform the patient of the inherent risks of a procedure (medical negligence). This case is really stupid in my opinion because a) the courts awarded the woman compensation on the grounds that she was not adequately informed, b) the operation was necessary for survival, c) the risk of the failure of the operation would be constant regardless of her foreknowledge of said risks; and lastly d) if it was due to the lack of skill on the surgeon’s part then that is not a criminal offense unless it was due to negligence on the surgeon’s part. An accident on the part of the surgeon is not liable to be prosecuted.

I’m just going to talk about the Michael Fay incident because I feel that this post doesn’t meet my quality standards as of yet (read: word count). There was a big controversy over the Michael Fay incident and I completely agree with the stance of the Singapore government. No, seriously. (Though, as I mentioned, I do not agree with judicial caning). It is important here to distinct the stance of the Singapore government and the actions carried out by the Singapore government. Being opposed to corporal punishment I do not agree with caning but I do agree with the stance the Singapore government took. Admittedly the Singapore government didn’t have to play so hardball (I mean, even Clinton stepped in) but a variation on this stance would be the fairest and most unbiased stance a judicial system can achieve. Justice is blind – she cares not for the stances of other people, and weighs the arguments with an even hand. Michael Fay did commit a crime under Singapore law and should be punished as such. (Once again, I reiterate the point that I do not agree with the specific punishment conducted).

I’ve got nothing else to say. Bye.