Self Confidence

“Confidence comes from discipline and training.”
-Robert Kiyosaki

I consider myself a pretty confident person. With the right people, I tend to become over confident, arrogant and loud, but that’s only because I’m extremely comfortable around them. I know that even if I go a little overboard, they wouldn’t seriously hold it against me (right?). At most, they’ll let me know if I’ve offended them and I’d just apologize. It’s not a big deal. But I wouldn’t behave so outlandishly amongst people I don’t know well.

I saw this video a few months ago and it has become my go to video whenever I need a confidence booster. Sometimes I’d watch it just before I go to bed, and sometimes I’d play it just because I felt like it. Each time, I’d feel as if my confidence was renewed, like a pep talk. It’s awesome.

Last Saturday, I went down to the Bedok Maze to do some parkour and freerunning training. And I got my front flip back! Other than my handspring, I haven’t been practicing any of my flips (webster, back flip, wall flip, etc) in the last few months because I haven’t been able or interested to go to Gymkraft to train and I hadn’t dared to do any flips outside because most of the time, I train alone. There’s no one around to spot me or help me if I injure myself.

So the few months of not practicing has left me rusty. I thought I couldn’t muster the courage to do the flip, let alone land it. But I did, so I guess it was more of me getting my confidence back, rather than the technique. It’s very satisfying to know that I still have the skill and all I had to do was renew my confidence.

By the way, the video shows the actual first front flip I did. I failed the next two (landed on my feet, but dropped onto my butt), but I edited them out. After that I forced myself to do another four successful front flips before I allowed myself to go home. I managed to do them all without failing anymore, although I did land awkwardly on the third flip and almost fell.

The last training session I had before this one was at Botanic Gardens with my friend Mark and his friend, Tomo. We started learning tricking together and after that session I vowed that I would teach myself to master an aerial (a cartwheel without using your hands).

I alternated my front flips with aerial practices. I can’t get my hands fully off the floor yet, but I did manage to start getting the kick up before my hands touch the ground. Now I have the springing momentum from the initial kick and I’m landing with my hands first. Slowly, bit by bit, I will force myself to hold my hands back later and later until I start landing feet first.

It’s more than a little scary to actually see the ground and nothing more than momentum is keeping you in the air. I always feel like if I don’t put my hands down, I’d land on my face. As of now, I probably can land on my feet, but I would definitely twist my ankle. I can feel my self getting higher with each kick though, so with enough practice, I will eventually kick hard enough to get height and rotational speed to land feet first.

I’m writing this on Sunday, after dance practice in the morning, and my whole body is aching, especially my left hamstring (I kick off with my right leg).

For my front flip and improved aerial practices, I rewarded myself with a cup of froyo, using my loyalty card to get it for free XD

01 Froyo Reward

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Five

Click here for Chapter Four

“I have a bad feeling about this. I mean, they say it’s a research lab. Does that mean the experiment on people?” muttered Haley.

“Always the cheerful one, aren’t you, Hales?”

Haley and I stood outside MIND, which loomed somewhat creepily over us. The welcome sign on the gate seemed cheery enough and the building itself wasn’t dilapidated, but still, knowing that this was a psychiatric hospital gave us chills. The gate itself looked like it could be part of a horror flick. There was a short path from the gate to the building it looked like a typical garden in front, but we didn’t see anyone at all.

“Your dad wants you to bring him to a loony bin?”

“Dad said Professor Michael could help him. He seemed nice enough when I called. At least, his assistant was. Besides, we’re just here to check him out and make sure he can actually help my dad.”

“Yeah, well, I still don’t like this place,” Haley grumbled.

“Thanks for coming with me Hales.”

Haley sniffed noncommitedly as I took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer beside the gate. After a beat, the gate unlatched and opened outwards on it’s own with a creak. We automatically took a step back and Haley grabbed my arm.

“I told you this place was creepy!” Haley hissed. I couldn’t argue with that.

Just as we were about to step in, a girl popped into view from behind the wall beside the gate with a chuckle.

“That gets the visitors every time!” She giggled happily as she pushed the gate open wider to let us come through.

We stared at her. She was pretty and petite, about a head shorter than Haley and I. She had a mischievous grin, two pigtails coming out of the back of her head of her platinum blonde hair that bounced every time she took a step, and she was dressed in a white uniform with the MIND logo over her left breast pocket. She had black eyeliner, black nail polish and black platform shoes. She couldn’t be more than 20 years old.

And she had a really nice laugh.

“Come in, come in! You must be Zack,” she beamed and extended her hand towards me. I took it and was surprised by a firm handshake.

Immediately, all my worry and anxiety left me. I felt relaxed and refreshed instead. I was looking at myself through her eyes and getting bits of thoughts here and there. I could feel her bubbliness and I was aware that she was making a conscious effort to do… something. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but it was definitely affecting my mood positively.

My eyes widened in shock as I finally registered her consciousness in my head. My sudden change in emotions had momentarily caught me off guard and I hadn’t felt her entering my mind. She was a shifter! The first shifter I’ve actually met outside of my family! Her name was…

“Monique!” I said as I recognized her as Professor Michael’s assistant, the girl I talked to when I called beforehand.

Monique mentally acknowledged the use of her name and my awareness of who and what she was, then let go of my hand. All the positive feelings I felt took a noticeable dip as my worry for my Dad and whatever unknown things I’d find in MIND returned. She definitely did something to me, but as far as I could tell, it wasn’t harmful.

I realized she must have felt my attraction towards her and flushed.

“Hello, Hales,” Monique turned her thousand megawatt smile at Haley and offered her hand as well.

“Um… my name is Haley,” Haley replied coolly. Monique’s smile faltered. No one but I called her Hales. As they shook hands, Monique’s brow furrowed when she realized that she couldn’t shift into Haley at all.

“Hales, Monique is a shifter too. She’s just being friendly,” I told Haley. Haley’s eye widened in surprise and then understanding.

Monique closed the gate and we started walking up towards the building.

“What did you do to me?” I asked Monique.

Monique turned to me and smiled brightly again.

“I’m an Empath,” she said simply, as if that explained everything. There was a pause.

“What’s an Empath?” asked Haley.

“Okay, normally I wouldn’t tell this to a regular person, but you seem to be aware of our existence and I suspect you aren’t a regular person at all. I can control and change the emotions of other people through touch.”

“Excuse me,” Haley replied indignantly. “I am a regular person. And I didn’t feel you do anything to me.”

“Nope, you’re not regular. And I didn’t do anything to you because I couldn’t. You’re shielded, but not in the conventional way Historians are. It’s like you’re mentally invisible. You’re definitely one of us, though I’m not sure what exactly you are. Perhaps a sub category of the Historian class…?” Monique trailed off.

Haley and I exchanged looks at the word “Historian”.

“What do you know about the Historian?” I asked quickly. We were inside the building and climbing a staircase to the next level.

“Um.. perhaps I’d better let the Professor answer your questions,” Monique said, a little nervously.

We stood outside a door with a label that said “Professor Adam Michael – Head and Founder”. Monique opened the door without knocking, stepped through and held the door open for us. There was no one else in the room.

“Professor!” Monique sang out.

I took a quick glance around the room. It looked like a typical office. A desk with a swivel chair, a bookshelf on the right wall and a window on the left.

“Hmm… He’s not here,” Monique pouted. “Why don’t you two take a seat and I’ll go find him?” Monique gestured to the two chairs in front of the desk. We obliged and Monique disappeared through the door we entered by, shutting it as she bounced out.

Haley and I sat in silence. My mind was whirling with the new information. Empaths, Historians, a new shifter. What was this place?

“So… She’s pretty,” Haley teased and nudged me.

“Shut up, Hales,” I replied, although I couldn’t prevent a goofy grin from forming on my face.

***

In the adjacent room, a man was watching a live video feed from a camera hidden on the bookshelf in Professor Michael’s office. He watched as Monique directed the two visitors to their seats and left the room. A few seconds later, the door behind him opened and Monique entered quietly.

“Sir, they’re in,” she said to him.

“Yes, I can see that. Report,” he commanded. He extended his hand towards Monique without looking away from the screen. Monique moved closer and placed her hand in his.

He’s one of us, probably of the Mimic class. I felt no shield, no emotional manipulation and there was no mental structure of any kind. Untrained, and a lot of potential. He calls it Mindshifting, which sounds better than “ConExing”, if you ask me, Monique huffed. He called me a “shifter”. I can’t enter the girl – Haley – but it’s not because she has a shield; she seems to be invisible. Could she be a variant of the Historian class? Monique informed him, sharing her memories.

It’s possible.

He dropped Monique’s hand without further explanation and steepled his fingers together. They both watched the video feed and the sounds from the other room came through clearly.

“So… She’s pretty,” the girl called Haley was saying.

“Shut up, Hales,” the boy smiled reluctantly.

The man glanced at Monique and raised an eyebrow. She blushed, and he turned back to the screen.

“Is there anything else you need, sir?”

“No, thank you. Tell Dax he can go in.”

Monique nodded and left. A few minutes later, the man watched on his screen as Dax entered the room and greeted the guests.

Click here for Chapter Six

-Jace

Yo ho yo ho a Private’s life for me

As an NSF, I don’t get a salary. I get an allowance. It’s not much, but I’m still able to save some cash. Some of my friends wonder how I manage to spend so little while it’s barely enough for them, so I’m going to share how I budget my cash out for each month.

First, I don’t have a girlfriend, which is both a happy and sad thing for me. Cue mixed reactions.

WARNING: Math Ahead!

Okay seriously. *puts on serious face*

I’m a Private in the SAF, which means I’m drawing the lowest pay possible: $480 a month. I do get an extra $100 for Combat Allowance because I’m in a combat vocation.

Let’s start with my fixed expenses. I have my insurance which is $39.20 a month. (Hmm… I really should look to lowering this to the cheapest tier.) I also pay for my own phone bill, which is about $46 a month. Those are the only two bills I pay right now. I stay in camp most of the week, so meals and lodging are provided, and I still come back home to my parents, so most meals and lodging are also provided. XD

Anyway, that gives me a starting sum of $494.80. The three basic things anyone needs to budget for is food, lodgings and transport. Since my lodgings are taken care of 24/7, I only have to take care of my food and transport.

Personally, I like to use the $5 Subway meal as a guide, because it feels best as an average. Most of my meals in a coffee shop or hawker center are less than $5, so by using Subway’s price, I can roughly average out more expensive meals or snacks. Also, I don’t mind eating the Egg Mayo, Ham or Cold Cut Trio sandwich several days in a row.

To be conservative, I assume I will add on a cookie for every meal, meaning that my meals are $6 each. Given that I stay in camp from Sunday night to Friday afternoon, I will need dinner on Friday, and three meals for every Saturday and Sunday. That’s seven meals a week and if I take every month to have four and a half weekends, I’ll need 31.5 meals. Hmmm, let’s round that up to 35 meals a month, to cater for Night Outs, holidays, snacks. That would be a maximum of $210 a month.

Of course, I don’t spend that much since I sometimes have home cooked meals. But if I did, that would leave me with $284.80.

The cost of my train ride from camp back home every bookout is almost $2. So every week, I have to spend a minimum of $4 each weekend. Again, multiplying that by the four and a half weekends a month, I’ll need $18 just for transport. I’m not forgetting my weekend activities, so I’ll triple that, just to be conservative, which gives me $54 for transport a month. I think that’s a pretty respectable number, even by normal working people’s standards.

So that gives me $230.80 left to save. I save at least 39.8% of my allowance every month.

Seriously guys, it’s not that difficult, even with a girlfriend.

-Jace

Cafe Fest 2014

Two days ago, Song and I went to the Cafe Fest, which was a two day event beside Marina Bay Sands. If Song hadn’t asked me to go, I would not have bothered about it at all, let alone be aware of it. I’m not a hardcore fan of cafes, although I do love me a good cup of joe. But I thought, what the hey, I’d just follow Song wherever he went. Besides, we wanted to do something together to celebrate nearly exactly one year left in NS. I’ll ORD Sep 4 next year, while Song will be out five days after me, on Sep 11.

I’m gonna start by saying I didn’t really enjoy it much. It’s not that I hated it, but I guess you could say…. it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Okay I liked the food we had there, and Song’s company, but I think the event wasn’t all that I thought it would be, so I felt it was a waste of my time and money.

01 Cafefest Redemption

We had to pay $25 for regular passes, so I bought two for both Song and I. Turns out, the passes don’t do much besides give you $0.50 to $1 off most items the twelve cafes were offering. The goodie bags we received weren’t that exciting either. The best thing we got in there was a water bottle. The rest of the items were flyers and a voucher book. I was pretty excited about that at first, until I found out that the vouchers were all for grooming services like waxing and eyebrow trimming and massages and manicures. -.-

02 Oreo Milkshake

I decided to start off with a standard Oreo milkshake from Cake Love. It was priced at $6, 10 cents more expensive than a milkshake from Carl’s Junior, but it turned out to be almost exactly the same. Since I had the cafe pass, I got $1 off. Woohoo. I think a milkshake from Carl’s Junior is better because it comes with whipped cream. I can’t complain much about the milkshake though; it WAS a good milkshake.

03 Mocha

04 Chocolate Muffin

Song and I didn’t have lunch because our plan was to keep snacking from late morning to early afternoon on sweet treats and coffee. We didn’t like the crowd of the festival so we moved away a little. There was a van from Coffee Bandits nearby, but it didn’t seem to be part of the festival. I got myself a chocolate muffin and a mocha for “lunch” anyway.

I learnt that mocha was a mix of chocolate and coffee. Interesting.

The meal was actually pretty decent and filling. The muffin was warm and gooey, all round chocolatey goodness, though not something I’d kill for. We sat by the river for a bit while I consumed my lunch and pondered how we were gonna kill the rest of the afternoon until dinner.

We ended up taking a bus to Little India to our favourite chicken wing rice stall and having an early dinner at 4pm.

At the time of this writing, I’ve just received a notification from Song about Cafe Fest giving us some sort of compensation for people who only came on Saturday and not Sunday. I’ve already sent off an email to request for the compensation, as per the instructions, so now I’m waiting to see what compensation we’ll get. I doubt it’s gonna be cash, although vouchers to the cafes that came down would make some sense.

Might not be totally wasted after all.

8 Sep 2pm Edit: Wow it seems I was too lenient on my judgement of the festival, since I put it down to just me not being a cafe person. There’s a lot of unhappiness on the FB Page, a good summary and a sassy article. It even made the news!

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Four

Click here for Chapter Three

“I have good news and bad news,” I told Anna over the phone. “The good news is that Dad’s awake.”

“He’s awake?!” Annabelle shrieked with joy. I heard Allison shriek in the background at the same time Annabelle did. I rolled my eyes. Twins.

“SHHH! Anna!” I hissed. “I said I have bad news too. Dad’s awake, but it’s not Dad.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, come down to the hospital and I’ll show you. But don’t tell Mum yet. I don’t want her to worry.”

“Too late. She heard us.”

I groaned. It was going to be harder explaining to Mum.

“Fine, all three of you should come then,” I sighed.

“Okay! We’ll be there in ten,” Anna said brightly.

I hung up and peeked back into Dad’s room. He was asleep again. It had been about half an hour since he awoke, rasping my name, before falling back asleep a few minutes later. Dad hadn’t responded to any stimuli, but the doctor said that it was normal for a comatose patient to gradually recover, sometimes coming awake only for a few minutes at a time. The waking moments would slowly lengthen as the patient – Dad – recovers. Apart from the obvious, the doctor had proclaimed Dad to be in good health and ought to be able to make a full recovery.

I hadn’t touched him since he woke up.

As I waited for the rest of my family to arrive, I pondered what had happened in Dad’s mind. I started with what I was sure of. Three of Dad’s four prisoners had been faded, the last one being the Historian. I was sure that what I saw wasn’t Dad himself. The way he had looked at me, plus the fact that Dad had wrapped himself in his own prison had convinced me of that. That meant that the Historian was in control of Dad’s body. I wasn’t sure if the Historian’s expanding shield had destroyed the prison walls and faded Dad or not, but I maintained the hope that Dad was alive and still in there somewhere.

I hesitantly extended my hand to touch Dad’s arm, fully expecting a shift to happen, but I felt… nothing. Wait, not nothing. I felt a resistance, like the shield that the Historian had around himself while imprisoned in Dad’s mind. That confirmed my suspicions: the Historian was now in full control. I didn’t feel Dad’s presence at all.

I heard a knock on the door and looked up, pulling my hand away as I did so. My family was here. I got up and gave them all a hug, at the same time updating Anna and Ally on what had transpired in Dad’s mind. Anna pulled away to move to Dad’s side. She touched him, but shook her head. I knew that she, too, wouldn’t be able to get past the Historian’s shield.

Mum looked at us expectantly.

“Zack, you said your father was awake,” she said a little accusingly, gesturing to my sleeping father.

“Yes he was, but he fell back asleep. The doctor said it was normal for a recovering comatose person to have short waking moments.”

Mum moved over to Dad’s other side, sat down and shook him gently.

“Dear, are you awake?” she asked, her voice cracking at the end.

He didn’t respond. A tear slid down Mum’s cheek as she caressed his face. The twins and I took that as a cue to leave our parents alone together for a while. Once we were outside, Ally touched my arm.

Dad really was awake?

Yes. He awoke for a few minutes, called my name and fell back asleep. I shared the memory of Dad waking up and the moment I realized that wasn’t him behind his eyes.

Okay, we can’t get into Dad or sense him at all.

He’s still there. We have to find him. I insisted adamantly.

Yes, we do. But not now. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. Let’s go back and do some research. Besides, he’s resting. Attacking the shield might only hurt Dad.

I paused, knowing that logically that was the right thing to do, but also feeling the urge to just go back in and smash the barrier with the twin’s help.

Fine. I acquiesced.

We went back in to collect Mum before going home.

***

We explained to Mum what had happened, but she was reluctant to believe us. We hadn’t told her about Dad’s ability to consume minds before, so our tale about the Historian taking over Dad was just a little too far fetched for her. She just wanted Dad back, as did all of us.

In the days that followed, the twins and I took turns sitting beside Dad and monitor his condition, so that there at least one of us would be around whenever he woke up. I was there most of the time since the twins had school. Besides, I was due for a break on my job anyway. It was too far for Ally and Anna’s mental link, so we updated each other the old fashioned way: touch.

Dad still woke up intermittently, but each time I knew it wasn’t him. I tried quizzing the Historian about who he was, but he maintained that he was Dad. He probably had access to Dad’s memories so his act was quite convincing. If his eyes hadn’t betrayed him and I hadn’t experienced the Historian’s takeover of Dad first hand, I would have believed he really was my father. Also, the fact that I was still blocked from his mind kept me grounded.

It had been about a week after Dad woke up the first time. I was in my usual spot with my laptop, checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos and generally surfing the web. I hadn’t found much with regards to the Historian; I kept getting the definition of a historian, famous historians and the like.

Dad stirred. I looked up and saw that he was awake.

“Hi Dad,” I said.

“Hey Zacko,” he replied, just as Dad would, though he sounded strained.

I frowned. Something about that made me reach out and put my hand on his arm. Instead of encountering a giant wall, I felt Dad’s consciousness for the first time flowing back into me since he returned. Dad’s mind was quite spacious and for a moment I thought the Historian had disappeared. But no, I felt him and his wall, albeit smaller. Much smaller.

Dad?

I’m here, son.

What happ-

Zack, he interrupted. I don’t have much time. I’ve managed to temporarily block the Historian and regain control. Don’t know how long it will last, but you have to get me to Professor Michael at MIND. Got that?

Who’s that? I asked.

Someone who knows a lot more about our abilities and what we can do. He’ll explain everything to you, and hopefully he’ll be able to fix me, or at least, extract the information he needs.

The wall was pulsating outwards again. I had a thought.

Dad! How do we break the shield?

We don’t. He can’t hold the shield up indefinitely. Professor Michael should be able to do something about it, but in the meantime, don’t attack the shield.

Okay.

The pulses were getting stronger.

He’s recovering. I can’t keep him down anymore.

I know. I love you, Dad.

Love you too, Zacko. Remember, get me to MIND.

He gave me the mental equivalent of ruffling my hair, then released whatever he had holding the Historian down. Dad’s consciousness retracted and the shield slammed back into place. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like my senses had been dulled.

I lifted my hand and opened my eyes. Turning back to my laptop, I started searching for Professor Michael. It was quite easy to find him online.

Professor Adam Michael was the head and founder of Michael’s Institute for the Disturbed, or MIND, a privately owned sanatorium and psychological research lab. He takes in any patient with a severe mental disorder and has published many research papers on his experiments and results.

I decided to pay him a visit.

Click here for Chapter Five

-Jace

Don’t be a Hiro

After the kicking session last Saturday, Mark and Tomo brought me to a place called The Original Little Hiro for lunch, formerly known as The Burger Shack. It’s a 7-10 minute walk from Botanic Gardens MRT station, along Bukit Timah road. It’s small but it wasn’t very crowded and it was mostly just Hwa Chong students.

I ordered a Chicken Karaage Ramen Burger which cost me $9.90 and I added $2.80 to make it a meal, which means to add on a soda and fries. This is what it looks like.

01 Ramen Burger

It’s really just two bundles of noodles fried on one side each. The fried noodles had an oily aftertaste (duh) that reminded me of hae mee, or fried prawn noodles. In between is a piece of fried chicken, lettuce and some egg mayo. The lettuce and egg mayo were exactly what I expected them to taste like, although I didn’t expect egg mayo at all, so that was a nice surprise. The fries weren’t bad, but they weren’t outstanding either. And I can’t complain about fried chicken. You can’t go wrong with fried chicken, unless you over or under cook it. This fried chicken was not horrible, but it doesn’t measure up against Mummy’s Honey Chicken.

02 Honey Chicken

Then again, nothing ever does, not even KFC.

But I don’t think it was worth that much. Perhaps it’s the novelty of the Ramen Burger. Heck, remember Rice Burgers from Mos Burger? I think Mos Burger still has those.

I would have been happy with just plain burger buns at a cheaper price, but since it was my first time there, I just followed what Tomo and Mark had ordered, only checking to make sure it was chicken. Out of the four choices of soda (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and 100+), I chose 100+ because we had just finished a very sweaty kicking session. While it was served with a cup of ice, the can itself wasn’t chilled, so it wasn’t very nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the meal on the whole; I just think that it was too expensive for me.

-Jace

Kick Starter

Last Saturday, a couple of friends and I started learning how to do kicks. Kick Tricking is a part of freerunning, but I never was really interested until now. My friend Mark showed me this webpage where I could learn kicks from, and invited me to start learning kicks with him.

We went to the Botanic Gardens to do kicks, along with Mark’s friend, Tomo. All you need to learn kicks is a patch of grass and an urge to be awesome.

I started watching the videos and decided to teach myself a tornado kick, because it looked the simplest to learn, yet cool to show off. I watched the video over and over and I think I finally got it. Mark took a video for me, but I’ll just show the freeze frames because I don’t want to upload a video.

01 Tornado Kick

02 Tornado Kick

03 Tornado Kick

Yeap, turns out I could already do it, it just didn’t feel right. The video helped me tune my kick until I felt comfortable. I had to remember to lean back and tuck my hands in, but other than that, my kick looked awesome. The problem that Mark and Tomo had was that they weren’t flexible enough. I was more flexible thanks to my gymnastics background, so it was easy for me to get height for the kick and keep my leg straight. More or less. We didn’t start of with kicks straight away. After our warm up, we started with rolls on the grass.

Protip: Bring an extra shirt.

I started doing cartwheels to lead up into an aerial, but I got bored after a while and didn’t dare attempt an aerial yet. I’ll keep working on that. However, I did manage to do a tornado kick on the opposite side, which was immensely satisfying.

Another basic kick that was recommended was the 360 Crescent Kick. I kept watching it over and over, but after learning the tornado kick, the 360 crescent just felt weird because I had to change my kicking leg. I didn’t even bother with the 540.

The next kick I’ll be aiming for after nailing my aerial would be the butterfly kick and the butterfly twist. I think the butterfly twist will be my first proper advanced kick.

Stay alive and kicking.

-Jace