Tag Archives: skyrim

Keeping me Weird

Hi everyone!

Man, didn’t mean to drop off the face of the earth, but I had two (well, maybe one) good reasons!

First of all, once again jobless. Despite the hope I’d be asked to continue at that supermarket I did a Christmas contract for, I’ve not heard a lick of a word from them. But perhaps that is a good thing! Perhaps this is a sign from On High that I should get off my butt and submit (yet again) applications more relevant to my degree and work experience.

In the meantime, what have I been doing ever since I finished my novel?

Skyrim.

Yes, this fantasy video game has utterly swept me into its snowy world and done a damn good job of helping me forget the pain/depression of losing a stable means of income. But I would also be fooling myself. If I wanted to, I could always go back to that dishwasher stint, or head out there and perform the same old rituals of the (job) hunt.

I just chose not to. For over a month and a half, I chose to – for once – have FUN. I chose to lose myself in Skyrim. And oh, has the obsession been sweet.

God, this is a beautiful, beautiful game. Words just can’t describe it. These past few weeks, I felt like I could do anything – slay dragons, wrestle giants to the ground, and tackle most obstacles merely by poking it with a sword and castle-sized stones. No messy job hunts. To earn money, all I had to do was to raid tombs and rob the dead, or help a girl find love in a small town, or reunite ghostly lovers searching for each other on an ancient battlefield.

I could go on and on about the game, but let’s just say that Skyrim is the reason I disappeared from Facebook and much of social life, leading people to actually wonder what happened to me! In fact, I played this game so much the fingers of my right hand swelled up, requiring me to drastically realise that, okay, perhaps I should ease back on the 12-hour, bladder-tightening gaming sessions.

But in the end, when it comes to my prospects, it’s just as Paolo Roy says about unemployment: I have to figure out how to live on my own terms.

Hack and Polish

It has not all been fun and games! I have actually started the editing process for my novel. This requires me to print it all out, as having it on paper makes it much easier for me to spot the minute and structural details I should fix.

And what a whopper the novel turned out to be! At 14-font and single space, the manuscript was a murder weapon-worthy 258 pages.

With my muse dragon, Fangthorn, and Fuzzy Red Hat of Inspiration.

Now that I gave myself a month to let the novel ‘rest’, I could start rereading with a fresh mind.

Good news, at least. So far I’ve gone through three-quarters of the manuscript and it isn’t as bad as I thought it was. There are two, three chapters that need serious reworking but otherwise…it could work. I just need to get to the ending before I can get down to the serious rewriting.

PLANE HOPPING

But there is, also, another reason I’ve not bothered job hunting the past month. February is when I fly to Texas for an exciting month-long vacation I planned half a year ago. And after a whale of preparations, I am finally here!

Austin's motto, seen on a colourful row of T-shirts at the airport.

That’s right. I’m in the US of A, and so far my holiday is fantastic 😀

I’m come across a customs official who tawks ta me in dat distinctive Brooklyn accent, spotted people in Amish-like robes, and eavesdropped on Americans who chatter straight out of all those US telly programmes I grew up on back in good old Malaysia.

It’s a surreal feeling, and I must stop acting like such a tourist and stopping every five steps to take photographs! I have a feeling people will not look too kindly to me stalking them with a camera.

But hey, at least I brought my homework – the manuscript which I saved on my thumb drive and plan to edit when I get some free time at night.

And in case people are wondering: No, this vacation will be, for once happily, Skyrim-free.

Will update soon, I hope! 😀

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Depression, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Role-Playing Game, Skyrim, State of Mind, Triumph, Work, Writing

Understanding a Little Better, or Day 26 NaNoWriMo

I should have remembered word travels fast.

The only person I’d told was the restaurant manager. But it didn’t take long for the kitchen staff to wander in my direction while I hovered somewhat uncomfortably over the too-low sink, my hands flying over dishes that hectic Saturday night. My last night there, for a while.

It started with: “Would you like this pancake?” one of the girls asked me in Mandarin, by the grilling stove. “I’m afraid it’s a little burned but it should still be good.”

I smiled. I’d love to have it. This was the same girl who’s passed me a mandarin orange and once a Hershey chocolate – both welcome little surprises in the midst of intense dishwashing.

Then one of the cooks passed by my sink and chirped, “So where are you going?”

I said I had a temporary Christmas job at this supermarket. When I told them the name, they said, “Wah! Can I still apply?”

“Any more jobs for me?”

“I should apply!” one of the newer cooks said, a lanky handsome bloke peering in on the chicken in the deep fryer.

“That place has long hours, you know!” the girl at the grilling stove agreed.

Lanky sighed, stirring the chicken. “Ahhh, all I know is cooking anyway.”

I’m used to being in my own little world when I do the dishwashing. While my mind passes the time lately by replaying Skyrim theme music over and over, I’d be conscious of the cooks bustling around the kitchen and bantering with each other in Cantonese.

During less hectic moments, more than one would always burst into song. I can never understand the words, but I could tell by the way the boys poured emotion into the soft, wistful words that it would be something about love, about finding that Someone to end their loneliness. The best Chinese ballads usually are.

Then when I had about an hour to go on my shift, one of them again wanders in on me. Alan is a longtime restaurant staffer who usually does waiter duties. When the orders come flying in however, he’s been known to step into the kitchen and whip up a mean stirfry.  He’s also cocky and cheeky, and I’ve learnt to take everything he says with a pinch of salt.

Two weeks ago, he must have seen how much I was struggling with the dishes, back when I had yet to develop a system for doing it efficiently. He’d said in English, “Aiyah, come! I help you! Very easy! Very fast!” And he proceeded to demolish the mountain of dishes while I watched…and learned.

That night when I was about to leave, Alan had said, “Hey! You owe me ten pounds! I helped you!”

“I’ll give you a foot massage later!” I’d retorted, playing along with the jest to the amusement of the kitchen staff.

But the next week I baked brownies for Alan and other restaurant people, as thanks and also to spread some goodwill among the staff. The manager – who’s worked in an Italian restaurant and baked cakes for them before – paid me the highest compliment when he said the brownies were beautiful and evenly cooked.

Alan, however, said: “Your cake, ah, not good! Not enough chocolate! Put milk in next time. You still owe me ten pound, ah, I help you!”

“He’s just joking,” the manager told me later. I nodded. It’s how Alan is. Alan, in my mind at least, exemplifies what many Cantonese are like – rough and gruff but actually possessing deep layers of kindness inside.

Last night, Alan again said, “Come, I help you!”

I didn’t really have many dishes left to wash, but I let him anyway. He did the soaping while I rinsed and put away the drying plates. And he fell to talking. Boy, could he talk, jabbering in an amusing spatter of English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Malay.

“My Malay not very good, let’s practise!” said the boy from Seremban, Malaysia. I wandered away to put away the dishes and came back to find him reenacting how he might order something in a typical Malaysian coffee shop. It translates to something like: “Hello, I’d like to order your roti canai, kopi ping and–what’s chicken wings again? Can you give me discount? Thank you, good bye…”

“You are very funny,” I said in English.

“I not funny, but I’m funny! You know what I mean?”

“That you’re kay poh chee?” I deadpanned. I don’t think he heard me calling him a busybody.

Then for some reason we got to talking about his time in school, which made me realise that I knew very little about him or even what age he was. He looked like a teenager but acted like a world-weary veteran of the restaurant scene.

“My Malay teacher, ah, I ask him if I can pass this test. He say, Caaaaan! I can pass with flying colours! Flying colours all red down the paper! Then when exam time came, I got 100 percent mark. You know what I do? When I pass up the papers, I put ten ringgit money there for the teacher, all pass!”

Then he started giggling and chatting with the other cooks in Cantonese, saying certain choice (and I suspect raunchy) words that made one nearby waitress – who was from China – blink and quickly tell me in English, “You don’t need to know what he said!”

Alan, back to me while he heaped in another pile of dishes, “In my school, there was one Indian girl. She, ah, the most beautiful girl in class! Everything she do, she do better than me. I get B, she get A. I get A, she get A plus! My school got a tennis team and we only need her, one!”

My leaving was with relatively little fanfare. The kitchen staff had whipped up some “really nice” dishes for supper, said the restaurant manager, which I suspected was because of me. However because I was given some extra greasy grilles to wash, I didn’t have time to sit down at the table with them. They made sure however to pack me a takeaway before I had to rush for the bus.

“Keep in touch,” the manager said to me. “Just give us a call if you want to come back.”

I nodded.

NaNoWriMo wordcount

43000 / 50000 words. 86% done!

To recap: my mission this month of November – to do NaNoWriMo novel by day, my other Malaysian novel by night, and blog about something vaguely interesting every day of November.

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Filed under Books, Fantasy, Food, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Skyrim, State of Mind, Triumph, Work, Writing

Writing Reminders to Self, or Day 18 NaNoWriMo

30039 / 50000 words. 60% done!

I’m already 30,000 words into my YA novel for NaNoWriMo, and I am starting to get a little nervous.

I still seem to be in Act One, as it were, and I haven’t even booted the hero out the door on his Grand Quest yet! Am I spending too much time (and words) on set-up? Shouldn’t there be some action and adventure right now before readers start muttering, “I’m growing old reading this!”

I had a (now laughable) image of myself nicely wrapping this short tale by the 50,001th word.

Then I relax, because I remember that:

  1. I’m writing this novel mainly for myself. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a fun experiment, and by butter, I will take as much time as as I want!
  2. The Three or Five Act Structure guideline which scriptwriters and novelists are so fond of is just that – a guideline. I shouldn’t be a slave to it, although it is a useful tool to keep me on track.
  3. This post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy world I’m creating is a bit more elaborate – and convoluted – than I expected, and the setting is a key part of the plot. Hence why I’m taking a bit more time with it. At the same time, I know I must resist worldbuilder’s disease – that temptation to shove the world down the reader’s throats!
  4. The hero is stuck in a building where he is not only surrounded by allies, but antagonists who keep messing with him. As far as conflict goes, I’m fairly comfortable I’m keeping him on his toes.
  5. The novel is also a personal journey of the hero and his relationship/friendship with this other character. This relationship is tricky and needs to be explored in depth…before I tear them apart and toss the hero into the maws of the dragon 😀

So there! I am fairly satisfied everything’s on track, although I now realise there’s no way this story is finishing at the 50k mark. The only thing I need to remember is that this ‘hero’ of mine needs to change and develop by the end of the tale – he has to be different from what he was at the beginning.

Woohoo!

I got my laptop back with a new hard drive, rescued my writing notes, reinstalled all my critical programmes, and most important of all, I found that my computer has the requirements to play Skyrim. WOOHOO!

Not only that, a friend promised to give me this game if I manage to finish the first draft of my other Malaysian novel by Christmas! Oh to play a computer game again!

Yeeeeeess, I waaaaaaaaants it, my precious…

This song is gorgeous. It kept playing in my head while I was doing my kitchen job. Which, let me tell you, makes for epic dishwashing.

Still waiting on the outcome of two job interviews. Getting anxious. God, please let me have money! I was a (fairly) good person this year!

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My Ode to Spam, or Day 9 NaNoWriMo

Couldn’t make my word count yesterday. I was so sleepy I could only achieve some 300 words last night.

I swear, it had something to do with the fact that firstly, I slept the day before at 10.30am (my fault), only to be awakened two hours later by the gorgeous, maddening smell somewhere of frying spam.

Yes, Spam.

Malaysians also call it luncheon meat. But apparently according to my friend Alison, luncheon meat in Scotland is more luxurious, whereas spam is just “things with gristle in them”. Euw.

I have such fond memories of spam! I used to fry luncheon meat with tobasco sauce, front and back, then make a sandwich with mustard and more tobasco sauce. The fumes of cooking tobasco sauce would smack into your face like a freight train of chilli shipments. A spam sandwich is seriously awesome with butter, but luncheon meat is juicy even without. Mmmmmn.

We’ve eaten spam with anything! Chopped into cubes for fried rice, fried it with eggs… heck, some creative people have even made sushi out of it. How wonderful is that?

I would so eat that.

Inspired, I shall now compose my ode – well, more like haiku since poetry is not my thing – to SPAM.

Oh Spam how sinful

you sing, hot with buttered bread 

and cholesterol.

Grieving for Skyrim

Tomorrow, 11.11.11, Skyrim releases into the world, and I can only weep. I have literally waited months and months for this video game that would make up for Dragon Age 2 as the ultimate computer RPG.

But come tomorrow, I won’t be one of those bloodthirsty fans getting it, simply because I can’t afford it yet.

Again Skyrim joins the long list – Dragon Age 2, Fallout New Vegas, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Mass Effect 2 and Witcher 2 – of video games I am waiting patiently to play. Like a piranha waiting for that fat tourist who’s just prematurely peeled off his foot scab to dip toes into the Amazon river.

Not only is Skyrim ridiculously expensive at launch time, but I’ve told myself I will only allow myself to play the games when I’ve finished the Malaysian novel. And I’m so close! I can sense blood in the water!

Let’s see, which will I play first… Ooh, decisions, decisions.. Probably Fallout New Vegas, first, at least until the price for Skyrim drops.

Skyrimmmmm.

Right. Should get back to the writing. Ahem, carry on.

14374 / 50000 words. 29% done!

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Deus Ex, Dragon Age, Fallout, Family, Fantasy, Food, Malaysia, Mass Effect, Novel, Procrastination, Skyrim, State of Mind, Witcher, Writing

Fire, or Day 6 NaNoWriMo

I had a weird dream the other night.

I dreamt I was taking a shower next to my laptop (yes, shower) when I accidentally splashed water on it. Smoke curled up from my precious laptop, and I realised it’d caught on fire. I couldn’t put out the tiny flame so I ran around trying to find an fire extinguisher.

When I found the extinguisher, it hit me that I wasn’t sure how to operate it. By the time help arrived, a quarter of my laptop had melted and was spitting sparks and smoke. All I could think about was waiting for it to cool down so I could press the On button; for some reason, I was fairly confident it would turn on, but I was mostly concerned for my DVD drive where the fire had started!

Even as I flitted around with anxiety, the dream part of me was thinking, “Thank God I saved my novels on Google Documents”.

(I wonder if Google pays for dream-related endorsements)

What does the dream mean? That I’m writing too much? That I should learn how to operate a damn extinguisher? That I’m forming an unhealthy attachment to my laptop – the one object I could not live without, my window to the world? The fire in my, er, loins?

Bridget Jones-like Dishwashing Update Ha. After display of female rage, the cooks have left me alone. Then again, this could be because it was Sunday night and the restaurant was dead. I like dead restaurants. Will never, ever, ask for an unnecessary utensil in a restaurant for as long as I live. Broken Plate Count: 0.

Another Update – Tonight was the first night I actually wore my winter coat beneath three layers of shirt. Together with my scarf and winter hat, I must have looked overdressed! Don’t care. Warmwarmwarm. My fingers were nearly too cold to type just now.

10320 / 50000 words. 21% done!

One fifth of the way! Woohoo!

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Why I’m glad Dragon Age 2 (partly) sucks

I’ve got a helluva lot of games I gotta play. I mean, seriously. Each time I tell myself I will play them as a reward once I finish my book, the list grows. And GROWS.

I was especially chomping at the bit this year to play Dragon Age 2, especially after the amazing (and time sapping) experience I had with Dragon Age: Origins.

DA:O had impressive writing, plot twists, and despite its flaws that epic touch which to me very few games achieve nowadays. It’s one of those games that actually had me tearing up at the end. Man, when I was faced with the critical choice of (SPOILER ALERT) having my character sacrifice himself at the bittersweet end, thereby abandoning my character’s lover to loneliness, I actually felt depressed for days afterwards. (END SPOILER)

This, from a person with the emotional expressiveness of a turnip. Damn you, Bioware, for making me care!

I became Dragon Age obsessed. I had to try out all the origins after completing my first playthrough. It made me replay the game as a wronged female noble (progressing) AND a dick of a male mage AND a kickass dwarf thief.

It made me fall in love with my companions, laugh at their pitch perfect banter…it made me believe they were alive, each and every one of them. I even paid money to buy the Dragon Age Ultimate Edition (which includes the game and a ridiculous amount of expansion packs both crappy and not), that to me is still so worth the price.

And heck, even now Leliana’s Song still gets me everytime ;P

So when I heard Dragon Age 2 was coming out, I was excited. I couldn’t wait. I jumped nearly every fucking hoop to get free game content. I religiously scoured the forums and websites to find out which of my male player companions would be the gay romanceable character ;P

I was jealous of the players who would get to play it first (since I’m too cheap to pay full price and would prefer to wait a few months when it is much more affordable ;P )

Then came the news that the game would be ‘revamped’ to have Mass Effect’s (annoying) conversation wheel.

And I got to play the demo. After the novelty wore off, I had to concede it was stylish and intriguing, sure. But I had misgivings playing a character who moved as if s/he was on mad monkey steroids during combat.

*Facepalm*

Now in an odd way, I have this warm little buzz in my shrivelled bitty heart that fans are griping about the dumbing down of Dragon Age 2.  Because it means the price will fall faster and I can get it for a low price 😀 Yes, I’m cheap (poor, and cheap).

I also find myself amused at the huge gap between critic and player opinion. I swear half the game reviewers must have been bribed or something, or had a gun stuck to their heads. How many games, according to metacritic, has a critic review rating of 82%, while users rate it 4.3 out of 10? And let’s not touch on outcries of Bioware employees supposedly writing positive reviews to bump up the ratings.

Notice that whatever people might say, I am still playing the game.

Come on, it’s Dragon Age. I’ll buy it, keep my expectations REAL low…and will likely have a blast.

In the meantime, here’s the other games – both old and new – I want to play / have yet to play:

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Filed under Computer Games, Deus Ex, Dragon Age, Fallout, Leisure, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Witcher