A New Beginning

on Sunday, 11 December 2005
Know what? My engagement ring is sitting on my girlfriend's finger. And you all know what that means... Woohoo! I'm now engaged and no longer available (not that anyone else really cares whether I'm available or not...).

And that's not the only thing that's marking the start of another phase of my life. We just placed our booking for a rather nice house; it comes with a rather big price tag but we have support and encouragement from both families so we went ahead.

Wow, two big commitments in a single day. Time to really grow up (and tighten my belt... no more snacks and supper). Have to budget things really carefully now, both to pay the initial payment as much as possible, and to leave enough to get some basic furnishings as well as preparations for the coming marriage.

Thank you Lord for such a wonderful family. Thank the Lord for my beloved. And thank the Lord for all His blessings.

A Fork in the Road

on Sunday, 4 December 2005
I've recently arrived at a fork on the road of life. I got an opportunity to work in a large multi-national corporation as opposed to staying in this current small start-up company. Let me organise my thoughts...

The pay's only slightly better, but the benefits are definitely very much better. Of course, given the new location, the transportation costs and traveling time may well increase, so it's more about the job.

It's a change of environment and is a new beginning, with lots to learn and opportunities for new contacts. But I'm neither fond of changes nor making new contacts. I wasn't good at people skills to begin with and haven't picked up enough yet. But of course, I have to learn at some point. Also, let's just say that my technical skills probably won't be in any challenging or interesting situations; which is bad, since I'd much rather face a computer than a customer.

I'd get to periodically travel to new locations. That might be good, except most of the time, I'd rather be at home. Being away from weeks and months at a time is, well, unexciting at the very least (to me anyway).

The job doesn't feel bad at all, but I can't help feeling apprehensive about it. The road seems to lead to a point where I had no interest in going. So what's wrong with changing again if I don't like it? Because there's still quite a bit I can learn by staying. There's an expert (a damn good one) in the house.

Currently, things might not feel stable, but I was reassured it's more stable than it looks. And I did say I'd stay until Chinese New Year, to see how things go after all the hand-overs. Plus, I have this promise of a good job with even better pay after the festive period... we'll see.

Oh my... I'm leaning towards staying. Can you believe it? Truth to tell, after quite a bit of chats with my (relatively small) circle of friends, I do, in fact, rather stay on than change jobs.
What?! Are you crazy?! Yeah, yeah, maybe I am. I actually feel sad about leaving. There's so much potential in the product, if only we can get past that point of actually selling it. Some of the objections put forth by my pals (my beloved included):
  • Wait for Chinese New Year lah, more jobs, find more alternatives.
  • You donno how to talk to customers wan lah, sure kena bully.
  • You sure? I thought you just like to interface with computers?
  • Ask you mamak oso you lazy, some more want to go overseas ah?
  • A bit waste loh, since haven't close shop, faster ask for promotion lah!

Well... as mentioned, sooner or later you'd have to learn. Right now, I'm thinking later. All those talks and ponderings have actually brought out some resolutions for next year. I even made a list of things I need to improve on. But first and foremost, I need to pick up:
  • Better code and design skills. Basically, more technical know-how.
  • Professionalism. These days, I haven't been working as I'm being paid. Letting morale and feelings cloud my judgment. You can hate your job, your colleagues, or your superiors; but work is work. Personal feelings should never influence the results of which you're being paid for.
  • Leadership and team skills. I need to learn this anyway, so what better way to do it than in a working environment I'm familiar and comfortable with?
  • Basic business logic. I need to learn this anyway, so might as well try to pick up some concepts.

Bad choice, good choice? Only time will tell (wah cheh, like I'm making a really big decision like that... :P ). But a decision has been made. I better go apologise to those whose efforts I wasted.

You are Blessed

on Friday, 2 December 2005
A colleague forwarded this to my inbox yesterday morning. It's very meaningful in that we should always look at what we have and not what we don't have.

If you woke up this morning
with more health than illness,
you are more blessed than the
million who won't survive the week.
If you have never experienced
the danger of battle,
the loneliness of imprisonment,
the agony of torture or
the pangs of starvation,
you are ahead of 20 million people
around the world.
If you have food in your refrigerator,
clothes on your back, a roof over
your head and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank,
in your wallet, and spare change
in a dish someplace, you are among
the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
If your parents are still married and alive,
you are very rare,
especially in the United States.
If you hold up your head with a smile
on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can,
but most do not.
If you can hold someone's hand, hug them
or even touch them on the shoulder,
you are blessed because you can
offer God's healing touch.
If you can read this message,
you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world
that cannot read anything at all.
You are so blessed in ways
you may never even know.

My pastor talked about covetousness during the previous mass, about the tenth Commandment. We should always be content with what we have, and not only lament what we don't have and dream about what we want. It's probably difficult to achieve (since I'm guilty of it in so many ways), but when you do, you'll find life much happier when you feel like you already have all that you need.

Work Professionally

on Friday, 25 November 2005
I was told that someone said we should work professionally until the very last day, as a matter of ethics and professionalism. I have a problem with that. I'm not leaving (yet) and I'm also not really working (not a good sign).

What does it mean when you don't feel like putting any effort into your work? Is it the fact that I'm getting unrealistic tasks to work on? Tasks that I'm ill-equipped to tackle? Is it the management's fault for the company's low morale? Or is it my own fault for not being mentally stronger to resist this lethargy?

If I wasn't right in the middle of this situation, I might have found it hilarious. With people from finance doing HR, those in HR don't really know how to do HR, those from consulting doing management, a non-techie is the lead tech person, and sales and marketing not closing any sales and not doing any marketing. Even worse, pluses are allowed to leave seemingly without much effort to retain them, while minuses remain to leech without much effort to get rid of them.

Sounds grim doesn't it? There are so many cracks and holes already; I wonder if it's still repairable. End of rant.

Dream Job

on Monday, 21 November 2005
I dream about having a job in a games company like Blizzard or BioWare, famous makers of the Warcraft series of games and the Neverwinter Nights series respectively. Or perhaps Turbine Inc., developer of the upcoming D&D Online (woohoo!!). Or even Magic: The Gathering Online. Apparently, there is one more job that would be even better: the Pro Gamer. Check out this news on Johnathan Wendel. It felt unbelieveable, but see this interview and the same news posted on Yahoo! News. I think that fella just become my idol... a six-figure salary! Gaming! He even has this snazzy-looking website, Fatal1ty, his screen name, and his own branded merchandise. Wow. I feel so insignificant.

Bad Luck and Bad Etiquette

There I was, parked along the road right next to the entrance of Pudu bus station, waiting for my girlfriend's bus to arrive, thinking that I had a good spot. I usually stop a bit further back as I didn't want to risk not finding a spot and having to one big round again. A lot of cars came and went, some stopping close to mine, so they could just drop someone off or pick someone up before going off. It was just my luck that this Kancil driven by a Malay girl (from the tudung, or head covering), with some driving skill deficiency, bumped her side-view mirror against mine, folding mine forward (I'm thinking it was really lucky it could fold). The Kancil just kinda slowed, slowed, then went off, the driver not looking back at all, not even a glance or stare, much less any apologetic signal. When I righted the side-view mirror again, I noticed a rather obvious scratched patch. Sigh. Just my luck. I cursed that driver a little. Even she had just stopped, glanced back, motioned something that I may interpret as an apology, I just might've spared her the cursing. Cursing someone is sinful. Darn it.

Color Quiz

on Wednesday, 16 November 2005
Seeing that my sis took the ColorQuiz and posted the results, I decided to shamelessly do the same thing:

Your Existing Situation
Seeks to share a bond of understanding intimacy in an esthetic atmosphere of peace and tenderness.
whoa... really?

Your Stress Sources
The tenacity and strength of will necessary to contend with existing difficulties has become weakened. Feels overtaxed, worn out, and getting nowhere, but continues to stand his ground. He feels this adverse situation as an actual tangible pressure which is intolerable to him and from which he wants to escape, but he feels unable to make the necessary decision.
yup yup

Your Restrained Characteristics
Willing to become emotionally involved, but demanding and particular in his choice of a partner and in his relations with those close to him. Needs reassurance and is careful to avoid open conflict since this might reduce his prospects of realizing his hopes.

Able to achieve satisfaction through sexual activity.
interesting... i didn't know that :P

Your Desired Objective
Suffering from pent-up overstimulation which threatens to discharge itself in an outburst of impulsive and impassioned behavior.
beware! all of you!

Your Actual Problem
The tensions induced by trying to cope with conditions which are really beyond his capabilities, or reserves of strength, have led to considerable anxiety and a sense of personal (but unadmitted) inadequacy. His inability to enforce his will causes him to over-react in stubborn defiance and by assigning to others all the blame for his own failures.
It's not my fault I tell you, not my fault!! lol

Magic the Gathering

on Saturday, 12 November 2005
A friend of mine has gotten me back into playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) collectible card game (CCG) again. Here's the wikipedia entry for it. And here's the Wizards of the Coast (WotC) website for MTG.

Briefly, it's game where each player is considered a wizard or spellcaster, with his "spells" being made up of a collection of cards, usually 40 or 60 cards (many variants exist). A player starts the game with 20 life points, and the game proceeds with each player taking alternate turns to attempt to bring about spells, creatures, and effects to bring the opponent's life total to zero. WotC actually went and created a very nice introductory program for newcomers, if you're willing to wait for the long download. It's worth it for those interested. Or you can just browse or download the rules.

WotC recently released the latest expansion set of Ravnica, the start of a new block after the Kamigawa block (made up of Champions, Betrayers, and Saviors of Kamigawa). An expansion set is just a set of cards within a card block. A block consists of cards linked thematically. I stopped playing during the Ice Age and Homelands sets with the 4th Edition core set way back in 1995. It's now 9th Edition, which was released last year. A core set is simply the current main set of cards.

Magic has really changed alot since I last played. I'm getting addicted all over again. I's a pretty expensive hobby though, so I recently drastically cut down on all games and movie expenses. A good-enough deck can be constructed with around RM50, although it'll never be tournament quality. Some cards can even reach several hundred ringgit (each!). I would say that the statement "the richest player wins most often" holds a much lesser degree of truth than some other CCGs, like Yu-Gi-Oh. Going RM100 is often quite enough to get a good deck for casual play that will lasts through the years. And just so you know, you can be a pro Magic player, just like a pro chess player or pro golfer. The tournaments aren't as glamourous or as rewarding, but I'd say thousands of US dollars ain't bad at all...

Magic consists of 5 different spell colours, each symbolizing different themes, flavour, or ideals. For those of you who already know Magic from before 2002, here's to tell you that Magic underwent a long design session to redefine and clarify each colour. Here's an insight into what each colour represents (in chronological order):
  • Green - life, growth, nature
  • White - order, law, purity
  • Blue - knowledge, manipulation, artifice
  • Black - power, decay, death
  • Red - emotion, might, chaos
Each colour is allied to two colours, and opposed to the other two colours; sitting on the points of a pentagon. And given that Ravnica's focus is in colour pairs (which is very nice and exciting btw), new articles regarding each pair are out (in chronological order):

Disposable Email

on Thursday, 10 November 2005
Ever been in situations where you need to use a valid email to register a service you'd only want to use once? Such as trial versions of software you're checking out, or registering for forums you just want to browse for answers once? These are times when you'd rather not give away your primary or secondary email addresses.

Mailinator has a good answer. Simply come up with any email address you want (15 characters max.) and use it for whatever purpose requires a valid email address. For example, "sendthistome@mailinator.com", or "whatyouwant123@mailinator.com". Once the email is sent, just go to the above website, and check your inbox using your randomly thought up email as the inbox name. Tada! Your email's right there.

The only drawback I can think of is that you'd probably not want sensitive information sent this way, since anyone could potentially think up the same "random" email as you did.

Lost Fingers, Hands, and Eyes

on Sunday, 6 November 2005
Each time the festive season rolls around, the daily news mostly includes an article or two of kids losing their sight, fingers, or the whole hand to playing with firecrackers. Some say these kids are naughty, peeling off all the wrappers and gathering the combustible gunpowder for one big bang, not knowing the danger they're in. Some say they are foolish, for naively holding lit firecrackers that didn't go off. These children will bear these scars for the rest of their lives...

Who is to blame? The government for not passing stricter laws? The police for not enforcing them and preventing the smuggling of firecrackers? Or the smugglers and traders who traffick in these goods? If they are to blame, then they only play a very minor role.

The primary offenders are the irresponsible parents who bought the firecrackers and jsut handed them to their children without even considering the consequences. How can they justify the handing of dangerous items to children who likely have no idea what causes all the sparks and loud bangs? How could they sit and chat away by themselves and leave the children to play with firecrackers unsupervised? Is it this behaviour that I find most puzzling. And it is these few irresponsible adults that deprive the newer generations of the joy of watching and lighting firecrackers during festive celebrations. How much more wonderful would these times be for children if only that small minority would learn better.

Big Bad Bus

on Tuesday, 11 October 2005
It took 5 minutes to find a parking space. It took 5 minutes to walk up to the office. 10 minutes to get from Midvalley to Hartamas. But 70 minutes to get from my house to Midvalley.

Stupid bus had to break down right under the bridge connecting Old Klang Road to the Jalan Syed Putra and Midvalley exits, reducing the already small 2-lane bottleneck joining 4 lanes to one lane. The backlog that simple breakdown caused probably stretched all the way to Sri Petaling for all I know, seeing as to how the section of the road in front of OUG was already packed when I came upon it. My foot is sore. I could've gone to Klang for breakfast and back and still be earlier.

Wedding Rings

on Wednesday, 5 October 2005
In case anyone's interested, and since I remembered neotrax's post on diamonds, I found a little primer on the wedding bands as well. More importantly, it talks about platinum versus white gold, and another on platinum wedding bands.

In summary of those links, here's are a few points which I think are interesting and rather significant:
  • A ton of platinum ore only produces about an ounce (~28.35 grams) of platinum.
  • Platinum is at least as strong as white gold, if not more.
  • Platinum 950/1000 means 95% platinum. The other 5% is alloyed for casting and shaping purposes so it doesn't matter. But do note that some are 900/1000 (90%) platinum.
  • White gold and yellow gold are the same metal, but different alloy.
  • Yellow gold is gold alloyed with copper, zinc, and silver.
  • White gold is gold alloyed with copper, zinc, and nickel.
  • 24 karat gold is 100% gold. Pure gold is actually quite soft, softer than silver. It scratches easily. 18 karat gold is about 75% gold, while 14 karat gold is about 58.33% gold. The less gold in it, the more scratch-resistant, but less "gold-looking".
  • A scratch on platinum or white gold is not an actual visible scratch. Platinum scratches causes furrows to build up on the metal, making it look frosted. Scratches on white gold actually removes metal, causing it to lose its whiteness and look yellow-ish.
  • Apparently, burnishing a platinum back to shine is actually cheaper than doing the same for white gold. Platinum burnishing involves pushing or flattening the built-up furrows. Burnishing white gold usually involves coating on a layer of Rhodium (white-ish metal), possibly every 2 to 3 years. Platinum will always be white.
  • Most interesting is that it tells of retailers biasing towards white gold due to reasons of economy. It makes more business sense to get rid of their white gold stock (since it's cheaper than platinum) than to order a new platinum band.

Realms of Evil Pantheon

For those who play D&D 3.0 and 3.5, and looking for a custom and very interesting evil-themed pantheon, I'd recommend these created by KingOfChaos in the forums of the Realms of Evil (more in D&D Links in the sidebar). Mature rating of course, in case you're offended by dark, but very creative, ideas. RPGers only I suppose.

For those who don't know, here's a quick overview: deities are divine beings in game worlds that grant power to their worshippers, who in turn channels the divine energy into spells and other abilities. Each deity is often aligned to particular theme, idea, or philosophy (termed portfolio), such as the sun, good, greed, nobility, etc. While there are hundreds and thousands of custom-designed deities for even more campaign worlds, this pantheon (a collection of deities) takes all portfolios traditionally aligned to good deities and twists them in a creative and diabolical way to fit an evil deity. Nice!

Realms of Evil Pantheon
  • Felmara - She of the Whip, Denier of Death, The Crippled Hand of Healing, Merciless Mother
  • Kromentar - Ruin of Knowledge, The Scar on Reality, The Overmind, The Master Liar
  • Marchion - The Father of Invention, Flesh Hater, Death’s Factory, Bonecrusher
  • Shevari - Mother of the Lost, Keeper of the Woods, The Dire Druid, The Killing Earth
  • Sinesstra - The Dark Lover, The Hand of Betrayal, Lady of Grief, Murdering Matron
  • Sorsancrot - The Winds of Death, Plague Lord of the Wind, The Fickle King, Traveler’s Bane
  • Zinraak - Nightkiller, The Grand Tyrant, Giver of Deserts, The Ashfather, Hunter of Shadows

Edit: The forum was moved. Updated the links.

Another one of those if-onlys

on Thursday, 22 September 2005
Sleepy, sleepy... ZZZZzzzzzzzz No time to sleep much.

Just the other day, my sis and I got into the topic of how some people would actually complain about there being nothing to do and feeling bored. It's been a loooooonnnggg while since we last had such a feeling. So we wondered whether the problem is with us or with them.

An idea hit me at the time, inspired by a recent advertisement of Celcom (Malaysian mobile communications services provider) promoting their latest service: the sharing of phone credit. You could actually request/send credit to/from someone else. Then I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to send and receive time...

Imagine if I could just request an extra hour or two from a friend of mine who has nothing better to do. When my friend accepts, time would suddenly slow down a bit for me, and speed up a bit for my friend. Everybody's happy. Sigh, if only.

Is it really just me that I have so many things I want to do, but simply no time to do them all?

Oh well, wishful thinking, I know. This is probably even more unlikely that my other wishful thinking: a pill that replaces the need for sleep. :P

Original Games

on Wednesday, 7 September 2005
Here I am looking for original games again. I've already bought a couple, but I plan on buying the original ones or games I really like, now that I can afford them once in a while. Problem is, it's really hard to find a good one.

I recently bought a Baldur's Gate 2 Collection box. It was a bit of a rip-off at RM169 and only containing 5 CDs. If they had included the manual and the map, it would've been fine. I wonder if the shop itself the one doing the packaging. Damn it. Having the manual and its assorted accessories is part of the reason for collecting original games.

Has anyone seen Neverwinter Nights and its expansions (two of them) being sold anywhere? It's really hard to find. The store in Sunway Pyramid says they don't carry it anymore. Sigh. Should I buy it from BioWare's store? I'd like to, but I hate our Malaysian customs, as digital media is not something they normally allow, which is why sites like Amazon don't ship to Malaysia. Sucks.

Anyone bought from PC Game before? I don't know, but it feels fishy. I'm just paranoid I guess, about a commercial website that has English problems. But then again, what local website doesn't have English problems? Even MPH's webstore does. But anyway, that site doesn't carry Neverwinter Nights anymore. It only carries new games. But I wouldn't have bought from there anyway. Doesn't have much of a customer confidence or customer feedback mechanisms.

Doing It

on Saturday, 3 September 2005
There are so many things I'd like to do, so many things I want to do. A colleague of mine said, "If you talk about it, you're not going to do it. Just do it."

I think that's very true. And I'm going to. I'll start with my worldbuilding project.