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

Learn – Chapter Three

Click here for Chapter Two

Throwing on my jacket, I grabbed a cookie and stuffed another couple into my pockets as I left the house to visit my father in the hospital.

Dad left to help in the cold war about eight years ago. He wasn’t supposed to tell us anything about it, but there’s no hiding surface thoughts in this family. Shortly after he got activated, we all knew he had to go and there was no way to stop it.

He was one of the best spies in our country. With his mindshifting, he was able to siphon off a lot of crucial information. He was an expert in blending in and also seemed to learn anything he put his mind to. I don’t just mean that in the way parents use to motivate their children. I mean that he could learn anything, and in an unnaturally short span of time, too.

Dad could master any skill he wanted to, but languages seemed to be his forte. It was always so fun going on family holidays because he’d just use his mindshifting to pick up the local language and/or dialects there. In a day, he’d learn how to order food, say please and thank you and ask for the toilet. The next day he’d be able to ask for directions in the local tongue. In about a week, he’d be conversing like a local himself.

Dad would share his whatever he learnt with my sisters and I. We didn’t pick it up as easily as he did, but we were able to get the gist of each language. At the very least, we were able to ask for help if we needed it. Although we shared information mind to mind, Mum would sometimes join in and we’d teach her the old fashioned way. She wasn’t totally useless as you might think. Once she’d learnt enough of the language, she could really become a shrewd bargainer.

As I walked away from my house, I lifted the hood of my jacket over my head and stuffed my hands into my pockets, taking them out only to have a bite of cookie. I was focused on Dad and I didn’t want to be distracted by another stranger’s relationship woes.

Half an hour later, I stood in front of the hospital where my dad was warded. My sisters visted Dad everyday after school, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Being here always made me feel angry and frustrated. I took a deep breath and stepped inside.

I hate hospitals. It’s partly because there’s always a lot of people with problems but it’s more because it’s cold and depressing. The smell of disinfectant wafted towards me as the glass doors slid open to let me in.

Dad was warded on the fifth floor. That’s where they keep all the patients in comatose. Although I hate all hospitals in general, I actually kind of like it there; it’s quiet, not quite serene, but it would do. There are never a lot of people, just the nurses going on their rounds and sometimes family members of the patients.

I pushed open the door to Dad’s room and padded in. There was no one else in the room but Dad and his roommate, both lying in their beds, each attached to machines monitoring their vital signs. I took a seat beside Dad but didn’t touch him yet.

“Hi Dad,” I whispered. “I’ve missed you.”

I closed my eyes, steeled myself and put my hand on his arm. Instantly, I shifted. Usually, I could feel Dad shift back into me, as I can feel my sisters when we touch. But ever since Dad was brought back in a coma, we couldn’t feel him shift back. It was like he was trapped, and I guess that makes sense. He could still receive information from his senses, so he could still hear and feel me if I would talk to him or touch him. That was how we communicated. I would speak out loud and he’d hear me, then he would think his response and I’d “hear” him.

But that was only during his lucid moments. Most of the time his thoughts were all jumbled up. Sometimes it wasn’t even his thoughts. See, in addition to mindshifting, Dad also was able to “consume” the minds of others. Their consciousnesses, if you will. My sisters and I didn’t even know he could do that until the first time Dad had a lucid moment and told us about it. That was about a week after he returned. It’s been almost three months now, and he’s still been struggling.

According to Dad, in order to consume a mind, the person would have to willingly be pulled, or would have to be in a near-death or unconscious state, such that Dad would be able to forcibly pull that person’s mind into his own. He would also “download” all the memories and experiences of that person and after some processing, Dad would be able to retrieve the information he needed. Normally, he would only be able to obtain surface thoughts through mindshifting and verbal prompts, but sometimes the information he needed would be so huge that the bits that floated into the person’s mind he was shifted into wouldn’t be enough. Depending on the age of the person, Dad would need some time to process and reorder all the memories, deleting any unnecessary information. The older the person, the longer it would take to extract all the memories he needed, since there was more information to process. Once that was done, he’d let the consciousness fade and die by cutting off the energy and nutrients. All his victims had died after he pulled their consciousness, so once he lets a consciousness fade, it’s gone forever.

Yes, it’s very sick and twisted and cruel. But necessary. That’s what made him one of the best. But it’s also what put him in a coma. Dad told us he had tried to consume four minds at once and was knocked out by the sheer information overload. While Dad was down, the four minds had run loose in Dad’s head, causing a lot of mental damage. Dad was only just able to imprison them, but maintaining four mental prisons as well as feeding them took a lot out of him, not to mention all the information he had to process and the repairs he had to make to his mind. We were lucky Dad still even remembered us.

The twins were right: Dad did feel weaker. When Dad told us about the other minds, my sisters decided to document all the memories of the people he had consumed. In the three months he’d been here, Dad had faded two minds, both non-shifters. Of the two that he kept, one we discovered had been a shifter himself, and the other one had a weird mental shield. We had no information about that guy except that he was a male enemy and that it hurt Dad every time he tried to break the shield. Dad calls him the Historian. I can’t even find a wall to hit in Haley; it’s like she’s invisible or camouflaged, whereas the Historian’s wall was obvious and painful.

The other mind Dad had taken was a guy called Lucas. Lucas was a fighter. It was hard for Dad to process his memories because Lucas would keep struggling against the mental prison and did his best to overload Dad again by pushing more memories to Dad.

“Dad?” I asked cautiously.

Hey Zacko, he replied warily. Looked like Dad was lucid. Lucas must have been regaining his energy to fight Dad again. I could feel Dad systematically sorting out the memories as fast as he could.

How’s your mother? he inquired.

“Worried about you. As are all of us,” I replied. “Ally and Anna came by earlier today, but they told me you couldn’t talk to them.”

Dad gave a mental sigh. Yes, Lucas is still being a pest, he muttered. He was playing it cool, but I could feel him slipping.

I’m about to fade him, he informed me. I haven’t got everything I needed, but I can’t keep him around any longer.

“Good,” I said. “Wake up. Come back to us. We all miss you, especially Mum.”

Not yet.

Although the Historian’s shield hurt Dad when he tried to attack it, the Historian himself had been quiet, so Dad saw no reason to fade him yet. Besides, he needed to process the Historian’s memories, so he just left a mental prison dome around the Historian, shield and all.

“Still no peep?” I asked.

None, he replied with a little suspicion. I don’t think I will be returning soon. Tell your mother and sisters I love them.

“I will,” I promised.

Suddenly, I felt the whole room shake. I broke contact with Dad and my eyes snapped open. I glanced around quickly, but nothing was off with the room. I frowned. Then I realized, the tremor had come from within Dad. I quickly put my hand on his arm again.

No, Zack! Get out! he shouted at me. The Historian’s shield was pulsating outwards, each time shaking Dad’s surrounding prison. Each clash between shield and prison wall resulted in the shaking sensation. As the shield expanded and contracted, Dad’s prison wall cracked, crumbled and finally shattered. The shield continued to expand towards Lucas and shattered Lucas’ prison. As the shield moved over Lucas’ consciousness, I felt Lucas himself fade.

Then the shield started expanding towards me.

Dad was doing his best to form a prison around the growing shield but the Historian just kept expanding, easily smashing through Dad’s feeble attempts.

Go! Dad yelled at me.

I snatched my hand away, but not before I felt Dad mentally wrap himself in his own mental prison. I jerked back so hard that I toppled over in my chair and hit the ground with a thump.

I rolled over and pushed myself up just as a nurse came rushing in to find out what was going on.

“Sorry, sorry, I just fell over,” I told her, embarrassed. The nurse helped me pick up the chair and set it right.

“Zacko,” I heard a voice rasp from behind me. I turned to see that Dad’s eyes had opened.

But that was not my father I saw staring back at me.

Click here for Chapter Four

-Jace

Epic Rap Battles of History

EPIC RAP BATTLES OF HISTORYYYYYYYY!!!

Okay yeah I’m a huge fan. I’ve watched every single rap battle ever since I found them. And I’ve memorized a few of them too. So far, I’ve got down Adam VS Eve, Master Chief VS Leonidas, Michael Jackson VS Elvis Presley, Bill Gates VS Steve Jobs and Turtles VS Artists.

What? I had some free time. *shrug*

Okay okay, I practice while I’m in the shower. #bathroomrapper

I’m really good, but it seems like the guys in the other shower stalls don’t always agree with me. Hmph. :\

Is it sad that I ERB myself?

Anyway, I love ERB because they’re so creative with their words. Not only do they rhyme, they follow the character’s style very closely. It’s really entertaining the way they stay true to the character and rap well at the same time.

I tell you, if history lessons were taught this way, I’d be very interested in history. It’s fun to just watch the characters battle, but if you truly understand each character’s quirks and habits, you really appreciate it a lot more. Captain Kirk has an obvious style, but I’m not familiar with him. I’m sure that if I was a Trekkie I’d be laughing my ass off.

Another example is Master Chief VS Leonidas. I was partway through learning this rap when I watched 300 again. I watched it because I had the sequel and I needed to watch it in order (because I’m a completist). They were awesome shows and I finally understood the reference by Master Chief when he said “you will not enjoy this, but it will be over quickly”. I love these small references that are obvious only to true fans of the characters.

There have been some female rappers on ERB (Adam VS Eve, Sarah Palin VS Lady Gaga, Cleopatra VS Marilyn Monroe and Miley Cyrus VS Joan of Arc) but I don’t think the actresses chosen were really good. Except for Eve, Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga, the rest lacked….. attitude. My favourite is Eve because she was played by Jenna Marbles, someone I know has attitude. That’s the kind of rapper ERB needs.

It’s very interesting to see different styles of rapping by different characters, not only the differences in each character’s own style, but also the differences in rap styles chosen to blend with each character.

So far there are three seasons for ERB. Here’s the playlists for Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3. Enjoy!

I can’t wait for Season 4 to start!

-Jace

50 Words of Grey

Last week, I finally finished reading 50 Shades of Grey for the first time.

Honestly I didn’t find it as exciting as it was hyped up to be. The erotic scenes were pretty unspectacular; I’ve read better scenes in non-romance novels. Okay yeah, each scene was still a turn on, but they weren’t what I expected, especially from an erotic romance novel. Perhaps my expectations were higher. Ah well.

But the thing that intrigued me the most was the sheer power of E L James’ vocabulary. She used so many words that I didn’t recognize. I felt like I had to have a dictionary or thesaurus with me as I read the book. Since I didn’t have one of those handy in camp and I didn’t want to waste data on my phone, I just took note of the foreign words and their contexts so I could look them up later.

I found a total of 24 new words. And that’s just in the first book. As of this writing, I’m halfway through book two and I’ve already found 12 new words, not including the original 24. I might actually use some of these new words in my own writing projects.

Me, with my larger-than-the-average-Singaporean’s vocabulary, struggling to understand these words! Imagine just how many words others would have to look up? Words like ‘profligate’ and ‘acquiesce’ were alien to me, although I could guess at their meanings from the context.

(Just FYI, ‘profligate’ means wasteful and ‘acquiesce’ means to accept reluctantly)

Incidentally, I came across a new phrase from one of blogs I follow: Purple Prose. Urban Dictionary defines Purple Prose as ‘a term used to describe literature where the writing is unnecessarily flowery’. And while 50 Shades isn’t overly purple, the writing is quite flowery. I feel that some of these advanced words needn’t have been used. When there are too many unfamiliar words, it really turns the reader off, especially if the plot is as boring as this one. Yeah I said it. 50 Shades of Grey is boring. The only thing that carries it are the erotic scenes.

(I’m fully aware this started off as fanfic from Twilight, so I didn’t expect much plot-wise)

I don’t think this is worth reading again, but I had to read the trilogy at least once so I could form my own opinions instead of just listening to other’s talk about it.

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Two

Click here for Chapter One

“Mum?” I called out as I unlocked the front door to my house.

“In the kitchen!” she yelled back at me. I kicked off my shoes and stowed them away in the cupboard before following the delicious smell of baking cookies. That meant my best friend was here. Before I even enter the kitchen, I hollered, “Hi Haley!”

Haley is my best friend and neighbour ever since she and her mother moved in next door when I was twelve. She’s a year older than I, but we click really well and that, in itself, is weird. She isn’t my best friend because I know her every thought and always understand where she’s coming from. Heck, I could be anyone’s best friend if that was just the reason. No, she’s my best friend because I can’t shift into her mind. It’s weird. She’s the only person I’ve met that I can’t shift into, voluntarily or involuntarily. The first time we shook hands I got so confused because I just saw her as she was, through my own eyes.

She and my mum both know about my mindshifting ability, though they can’t do it themselves.

“Zack-Zack!” Haley greeted me as she always does. She’s been calling me that ever since she found out my mum used to do that when I was a child. My parents brilliantly named me Zachary Isaac. Ha ha.

I grabbed a cookie off the cooling rack and took a huge bite. Mmm… Chocolate chip, my favourite. Mindshifting always leaves me hungry for sugar and mum knows it. She poured me a glass of milk, which I accepted gratefully and started dunking the rest of my cookie.

Gotta love mum.

“So what was it this time?” Haley inquired, nibbling on a cookie herself. I gave them a brief rundown on what happened at the cafe.

“I just wish people would just talk to each other more,” I complained as I finished my story.

“Well, not everyone is as blessed as you are,” mum reminded me. I sighed.

“Awww, that’s so sweet, what you did! You should be proud of yourself, Zack,” Haley mock swooned. “You’re like a romantic superhero!” She’d been quiet the whole time I was recounting my tale. That’s what I love about her; she knows how to listen.

“Yeah, saving the world one uncommunicative couple at a time. Woohoo.”

I’m not a superhero. I’m not a good person and I don’t want to be. It’s only because I’m exceptionally curious to find out about other people’s lives that I bother at all. I have a personal bugbear with people who don’t communicate with each other, so I always feel compelled to fix relationship problems.

“You don’t have to save everyone, you know,” Mum said as she tousled my hair. I shifted into her mind for a moment. As usual, she’s worried about Dad. She was also thinking about the twins, who were supposed to be home by now.

“Hey, it’s almost four, where are your sisters?” Haley echoed my mother’s thoughts.

As if on cue, my twin sisters Allison and Annabelle entered the kitchen at the same time and greeted all of us in unison. They turn 17 this year, 6 years younger than I, and we’re very tight. We have been, ever since my dad had to leave for the war and I’ve had to help take care of my family.

Ally and Anna can mindshift too, but they don’t interfere with other people’s lives as much as I do. We suspect our abilities were passed down from our father, but both our paternal grandparents passed away before I was born, and dad was an only child. How convenient.

Interestingly enough, they’re also telepathic. They can communicate with each other mind to mind. I think it’s a twin thing. They used to have to be in skin contact to mindspeak, but recently they’ve been able to move short distances away from each other and still retain mental contact.

This telepathy is nothing more than two people mindshifting to each other and then thinking what they want to say. One person thinks what they want and the other person “hears” or feels her thoughts and emotions, then responds. As far as we know, only the three of us can mindshift, and thus mindspeak. We can’t project our thoughts to another person, so there’s no mindspeaking with a non-shifter.

And now the twins have a new trick. It’s so unfair.

They each took a cookie and Anna touched my hand. It’s our little ritual; we update each other on our day without speaking a word. Since they’re both always in contact with each other, only one of the twins has to be in skin contact with me to swap updates. Mum and Haley waited patiently for a few seconds.

Ally and Anna each gave Mum a kiss then went up to their room.

“They stayed back a bit to finish their school project. Yes, those guys are still hitting on them. No, the twins can handle them. They also went to visit Dad. He’s no worse, but no better either. Dad sends his love,” I reported to Mum as they leave.

Mum nodded her acknowledgement without comment.

“You know, it’s still freaky how you guys do that,” Haley muttered.

“You know, it’s still freaky how you’re still shielded,” I threw back. Even the twins can’t shift into Haley.

“Thank goodness for that!” she said. “You’re so not welcome in my private thoughts.”

“I don’t need to be in your head to know what you’re thinking, Hales.”

“Oh really? What am I thinking now?” She challenged me.

“You’re thinking about having another cookie,” I said with confidence. I broke off a large chunk of my cookie and stuffed it into her mouth.

“You know me so well,” she mumbled through a mouthful of cookie and rolled her eyes at me.

***

After Haley left, I went up to my sisters’ room and knocked on their door.

“Come in,” they chimed in unison.

“Okay I covered for you guys. What’s up with Dad?” I asked as I closed the door.

The twins are sitting at their computers, updating our notes on Dad. I put my hand on Ally’s arm.

Dad’s thoughts are getting more erratic. He’s still in a coma, but his thoughts are more jumbled and fragmented. We could only get a bits of thoughts and flashes of memories. He couldn’t even talk to us today.

I felt their sorrow, and a bit of fear.

What’s happening to him?

We think his mind is overloading. He can’t repair his body and contain the minds he’s consumed at the same time anymore. They’re fighting him, and he’s losing.

Click here for Chapter Three

-Jace

I am a Pocket Master

I love pockets. It’s my one decision maker whenever I’m at a loss as to whether or not I should buy a bag or a pair of pants. Although, usually it’s mum who puts me in these situations.

I always ask two things when my mum asks if she should buy a shirt, pair or pants or bag for me: what colour and how many pockets? The colour part is easy; I just like solid colours and you can never go wrong with black. But the pockets part is the deal clincher for me.

Cargo pants have always been my thing. I don’t really like wearing shorts and I don’t wear shorts out in public often. Usually I always wear some form of long pants; track or cargo. The standard number of pockets a pair of cargo pants ought to have is six: two normal pockets, two butt pockets and two thigh side pockets. Any other pockets are a bonus to me. This is why I have never owned a pair of jeans. I have a lot of things to put in my pockets: wallet, mobile, coin/key pouch, notebook, inhaler and sometimes tissue paper. If I have a lot of pockets, then I don’t have to bring a bag when I go out. My track pants don’t have a lot of pockets, for obvious reasons, but I do have an elastic band with two pockets that I use to carry my inhaler and mobile when I go for a run or parkour session.

Although not a hard requirement for me, I do like when my pants pockets are just big enough to contain my items and nothing else. This means that my pocket will hold the object tightly against my leg and I can run at full speed if I need to without having it flopping about or worrying something will drop out.

I do love me a good bag though. Haversacks and sling-bags are my things, especially if they have lots of pockets. Backpacks are notorious for their pockets, hidden pockets and pockets within pockets. I can store ANYTHING. I remember this one time I was freaking out because I saw such a cool backpack that had about 30 pockets in total. I know; I counted.

May you always have deep pockets.

-Jace

Change is good

I’m going to make a drastic change to this blog. Instead of releasing a post every weekday at 12pm, I’m going to lower it down to at least three times a week; probably Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Let be clear: This is NOT me giving up. I still love writing and my stories such as the Minders Trilogy and the THE Series will still continue. They won’t even appear less frequently; no, they might appear more frequently, depending on my mood. At the very least, the Minders Trilogy will still be released one chapter every fortnight for now.

I’m doing this because I’ve run out of quality posts to write. I could feel this situation slowly creeping up on me week after week as I watched the number of scheduled posts go down. Sometimes the topic I want to write about just doesn’t have enough content or has no point for me to write. I’ve even stopped doing my skeletons because they’re so damn short that I can just remember what I want to say.

It’s been a good run so far and I repeat: I’m not quitting writing. I’m just slowing it down to a more sustainable level. I’ve realized that I’ve been so focused on churning out five posts a week that I’ve been watching the quality of my topics worsen. That really defeats the point of my blog, which is to help me practice writing articulate and quality posts. Not much has been happening lately too. I haven’t started any new personal projects, done anything blog worthy, or thought of any novel ideas.

Things change, so I must change as well. Looking back, I realize I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into writing over the weekends. That’s not a bad thing, but some weeks I want to just be lazy. I’ve recently caught up on my YouTube videos, but I’m still sixteen episodes behind on Running Man. Perhaps this slowing down will give me more topics to write about as ideas start forming in my head again.

I’ve discovered I work well under pressure. Time pressure. It’s the whole reason why I’ve maintained my blog thus far; I just have so little time to write over the weekends that I make it my number one priority to do so. But that only works when I’ve got solid topics I’m passionate enough to talk about. I’ve been coming up with more and more dud topics lately; topics that I’ve started writing, but realize that there’s not much to say, and then I scrap the whole thing altogether.

I may not even stick to three times a week. Perhaps on some weeks when exciting stuff happens, every day will have a post. It might not even be in a Monday-Wednesday-Friday format. I do need to have two consecutive days to release each THE story pair.

With regards to the Minders Trilogy, I might make it a weekly thing, instead of fortnightly, because my influx of ideas have mostly been about the story and the characters. Besides, it fulfills one of my three weekly posts, so if I do a THE story for the week, I’d have hit three posts already.

I think I’m going to start writing more posts in advance. I used to do that earlier this year when I had over 20 topics in draft; write several weeks in advance. I want to do that again, to give me the peace of mind when I miss a week or two.

Oh well, we’ll see how this works out.

-Jace