Oh give me a break!

Okay I’m going to stop writing for a while. It’s time for another break from blogging. I think it’s a combination of several factors. I’m struggling to write, even with writing prompts. I keep having to force myself to write, and I don’t think that’s a good sign. I also feel like I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew, with work, learning iOS app programming and now doing a new Excel VBA project with a couple of friends. Also, I’ve started to grow a tummy, so I need some time to work on my fitness and get back in athletic shape again.

This past week was kinda the breaking point for me, because I came down with a very bad stomach bug since last Sunday. I kept getting diarrhoea and watery stool and, while I felt fine in every other aspect of my health, I was more lethargic than usual. I did have a lot of fun making crappy puns and being the butt of my own jokes though. I don’t know what’s wrong with me and this stupid bug. At least, I hope it’s just a bug and not a tapeworm or some scary parasite like that. I was supposed to start my Soylent experiment last Friday and I when I got sick on Sunday night, I’d hoped that I would’ve recovered in a day or two. I never expected it to drag on for more than a week. At least yesterday I finally showed some signs of recovery; I went to the toilet less often and when I did, sometimes I just needed to fart. XD Over the last week, I learnt the hard way never to trust my farts and never to ignore the bubbling sensation in my intestines. Call it a gut feeling.

Ah well. Some posts will pop up now and again during my break, but they’ll only be the birthday posts. I don’t know how long I’ll be away from my three times a week schedule, but I’ll still write stories for my friends’ birthdays. I do have a few more cool concepts to write about, which I’m bouncing off Mark. Every time I talk to him about my ideas, we always result in more details or even better concepts. Very productive.

On the topic of productivity, yesterday was one of the laziest days I’ve had. Other than writing this post, I didn’t do anything productive at all. Stayed at home the whole day. I couldn’t go to dance practice in the morning because I felt I needed to be near a toilet at all times. I tell myself I just need to rest, but honestly I really could have done more than play games, watch The Mentalist and sleep the whole day. I really had no motivation to do anything more.

To be honest, I’ve also been feeling a bit depressed. Like, not suicidal depressed or even stressed depressed. I just feel like my level of happiness and satisfaction with myself is below average and I need to get them up again. Being “eternally” happy is a big part of my identity, so I guess it’s time for a little soul searching again. Also, apparently I’m not interesting enough. I’ve been playing around with online dating apps like LOLA, OkCupid and LunchClick, and so far all the girls I’ve talked to don’t seem to find me interesting enough to continue a conversation after a while. Since the common denominator is me, I must be the problem. I’ve faced a lot of rejection from girls before, and it doesn’t affect me anymore. Like Ted Mosby, sometimes you just gotta put your heart out there again and again and again. But not being interesting enough is kind of a new problem for me.

My resilience and unusually quick rate of recovery (both physically and mentally) are also large parts of my identity, so between the week-long stomach bug and this new thing of “not being interesting enough”, I’m feeling more than a little lost.

The last reason I want to stop writing for a while is because I want to read. I want to take a back seat and be entertained by other authors, rather than create my own stories for my own entertainment. It gets a little tiring after a while and I applaud those really awesome writers who write really awesome books. I know how tough it is to stick to a story after the original concept seems to have lost it’s appeal and you just have to plod on through. Sigh.

I promise I’ll be back again, don’t worry. Then again, nobody ever worries about this anyway.

-Jace

Emotional Response

This is dedicated to my friend Michelle for her birthday today. Happy birthday!

Present day
Heartless. Cold. Inhuman. Monster. Charlie had heard it all before, but made no difference. There were jobs to be done and anyone failing to do their’s would be fired. Charlie’s job was to do make sure others shaped up or shipped out.

The man sitting across Charlie was close to tears. She tried to feel something for him – sorrow, pity, regret, anything – she really did but, as usual, nothing. Logically, this was the right thing to do for the company. Purge anyone who hinders the organization, like this guy. Sloppy, careless and often late to work, she’d given him many chances and warnings in the past. Now, Charlie had no choice but to fire him as he’d become a liability to the company.

“No, please! I’ve been working three jobs, which is only just enough to pay the bills and feed my family. I need this job,” he begged.

“But you’re not contributing. You keep making mistakes. It was tolerable when they were just small errors, but now you’re costing the company money instead of helping to make it,” she replied dispassionately. Charlie looked at his employee file on her desk and continued, “It says here you have three kids. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Did you think you were able to support a family this large with skills you had?”

“Well… My wife and I love kids and my youngest just… sort of happened,” he replied wearily.

“That just shows me that you lack foresight, make poor choices and you’re on a downward spiral that this company has no obligation to follow you into,” Charlie shot back. “You’ve become a liability and you’re showing no signs of improving. I’m sorry, we have to let you go.” Charlie snapped her employee file shut with an air of finality.

“You’re cruel,” he said.

“No. I’m efficient,” Charlie replied calmly.

Charlie got up and left the room, leaving the man in his misery. As she shut the door, she inhaled deeply, the tension in her head finally ebbing away.

* * * * * *

15 years ago
Charlie lay in her bed and stared at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. She listened to her parents argue, as they did on most nights. She was intelligent for her age and understood most of what was happening. She wondered when they were going to tell her.

In front of Charlie, they acted sweet and caring to each other and to her, but Charlie knew they had issues. She wasn’t exactly sure what they were or how she could help resolve them, and her parents would just brush her off each time she asked.

Her parents voices drifted up to her again. They got a little louder until finally, Charlie heard a door slam and there was silence. She liked the quietness. It was peaceful and calm. Charlie turned over in her bed and fell asleep.

* * * * * *

Present day
Back in her home office, Charlie sat down and opened her desk drawer. She picked up an employee file – the file of man she’d just fired earlier that day – and slotted it in the drawer, behind numerous other files. Files of people who had worked in the company, up until she’d paid them a visit. Charlie ran her finger over the files, remembering and relishing the memories that they brought back.

Charlie laid back in her chair and closed her eyes, enjoying the serenity of her sanctuary. She lived alone, ever since her father had passed away last year. She missed him, missed taking care of him. At least her life had purpose then.

Without opening her eyes, Charlie opened another drawer, smaller than the first, and reached into it. Her slender fingers found a little velvet box and she picked it up. Her eyes still closed, Charlie nudged open the box, revealing a beautiful, very old-looking ring. It had a silver band and had a large oval shaped gem set on top. She never wore the ring, preferring to keep it safe in her home than risk losing it.

After her father died, Charlie had inherited this ring. It was a family heirloom, passed down for many generations. Charlie was a pragmatist. Everything she owned was practical and up to date. If an item had outlived it’s purpose, she sold it, threw it away, or gave it to someone else. Charlie kept nothing of sentimental value to her. She looked at the ring.

Well, almost nothing.

* * * * * *

15 years ago
Something was wrong. Charlie had yet to fully awaken, but she knew something was off. She opened her eyes.

Sunlight streamed into the window. Charlie could hear the bustling of traffic outside. She looked at the clock and saw she’d overslept by about an hour. She frowned, puzzled. Usually her mother would wake her up and get her ready for school. Charlie kicked off the blankets and went to investigate.

“Mum?” Charlie called as she padded to her parents’ bedroom and knocked on the door. There was no answer.

“Mummy?” Charlie called out again and knocked harder. She heard the bed springs groan as her mother got out of bed. The bedroom door opened and –

“Dad?” Charlie said, confused. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work? Where’s Mum?” Charlie peered around her father to look into the room, but her mother wasn’t in bed.

“She’s gone, kiddo,” her father told her sleepily and rubbed his face.

“Gone where?” Charlie asked. “She’s supposed to take me to school. When is she coming back?”

Charlie’s father scooped her up into his arms, took her inside the bedroom and sat her on the bed. He knelt down so he was at her eye level. Charlie saw that his eyes were red.

“Your mother’s gone. She left us. Last night. She’s not coming back.”

* * * * * *

Present day
The phone started ringing, breaking the tranquility. Charlie despised that machine, but she knew it was a necessity. She sighed, put down her fork and got up to answer it.

“Hello?” Charlie greeted.

“Charlotte?” a vaguely familiar female voice responded. Charlie froze. Nobody called her Charlotte. She’d been Charlie ever since her mother walked out on her and that name had finally died with her father.

“It’s Charlie,” she replied frostily. “Who is this?” she demanded.

“Charlotte, dear, don’t you recognize your own mother?”

Charlie remained silent. Part of her knew the caller was her mother, but the other part didn’t want to deal with it. She’d placed all her memories of her mother into a mental box and locked it far away in the darkest corner of her mind, never to be opened again.

“Charlotte?” her mother called out tentatively. “Just hear me out. Please. I know you’re there, dear, and I know you’re angry. You have every right to be. I’m sorry I left you and your father all those years ago. It’s just that, when I found out… well, I couldn’t bear it. I was weak.”

Charlie still hadn’t said a word, but she wasn’t angry. She felt nothing but emptiness inside her. Actually, she was a little curious now. What had her mother found out that caused her to abandon them? Charlie heard her mother sigh.

“The reason I’m calling is to talk about Dad. I know he died, but I only just read the letter he left for me. I couldn’t bear to open it until now and after reading it, I knew I had to find a way to contact you. I know this is a long shot, but would you meet me? Please? It’s about the ring he left you. You do have it, right?”

Charlie saw no point in denying she had it and now her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

“I’m not giving it to you, if that’s what you’re asking,” Charlie warned her.

“Oh no, dear, I don’t want it. You need it, but you don’t know what it does or why Dad only gave it to you now.”

“And I suppose you do?” Charlie asked, her interest now fully piqued.

“Yes. And I’ll tell you. I’ll show you. If you’ll meet up with me… Charlie.”

Charlie paused.

“Okay.”

* * * * * *

11 years ago
“Daddy,” Charlie nudged her father, who was sleeping on the sofa. “Dad, wake up.” Her father groaned and waved his hands at her.

“I made breakfast, Dad. C’mon, share pancakes with me,” Charlie wafted the smell of pancakes from the plate she was holding. Her father sniffed, opened his eyes and smiled at her. He sat up and moaned as the hangover hit him.

“Here, Dad, I made pancakes and scrambled eggs. They’ll help to absorb the alcohol. You’ve got that meeting thing today, don’t you?” Charlie’s father looked at his watch.

“Right, yes. Thanks kiddo,” he said appreciatively. Charlie helped her father off the sofa and onto a chair, where he started on his breakfast.

“Don’t eat so fast, Dad!” Charlie exclaimed, smacking him playfully on his arm. “Relax, I prepared your suit and the documents you need for your presentation already, so that you could sleep longer and wouldn’t have to rush. Your shoes and socks are at the door and I made sure that the car has a full tank.”

Charlie’s father slowed down and looked at her with admiration.

“You just think of everything, don’t you?”

“Of course. If you don’t do your job, we won’t have money. If we have no money, I don’t get to buy myself pretty things,” Charlie said airily. “I’m just looking out for myself.”

The two of them stared at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing together.

* * * * * *

Present day
“Charlotte! I mean, Charlie, dear. My, you’ve grown,” Charlie’s mother tried to hug her.

“That’s usually what happens when you don’t see someone for 15 years. They grow,” Charlie replied, holding her mother at arm’s length. “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

“You brought your father’s ring?”

Charlie nodded.

“Good. Before I tell you what it does, I need to tell you about your father and what kind of man he was.”

“I didn’t come here to hear you talk bad about Dad. He was a good man. Not perfect, but a better parent than you were,” Charlie glared at her mother. Charlie’s mother faltered.

“I guess I deserve that. I don’t disagree with you. He was a good man,” she said. “But what you didn’t know about him was that he was a psychopath. I didn’t find out until a few years after you were born. That’s when our fights started.”

“No, Dad wasn’t a murderer. I don’t believe it and I don’t think I want to hear anymore,” Charlie got up to leave.

“Charlotte – Charlie – wait! I never said he killed anyone. You misunderstand. Please, sit,” Charlie’s mother waited for her to sit back down. “A psychopath isn’t necessary a killer. A psychopath, by definition, is someone devoid of emotion. Someone like you.”

Charlie looked at her sharply. Charlie knew she was different, knew what she was and, over the years, she had learnt to conceal it and blend in with the social environment. Sometimes, her emptiness was useful, allowing her to make difficult choices based purely on logic, which made her perfect at her job.

“Your father told me when you were eleven years old. He knew what he was and he knew what you were. At first, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe I’d married one psychopath and given birth to another. We had many arguments over that. Do you know why I loved your father? It was because he seemed to know exactly what I needed, almost as if he could read my mind. He knew when I was sad or angry and always gave me the right thing to make me feel better, whether it was a hug, words of reassurance or ice cream. I always felt safe, well taken care of. Pampered, to an extent. I wondered what I did to deserve such a sensitive man.

Then one night he explained it to me. I’d questioned why, since he was a psychopath, he was able to empathize with me. Was it all fake? A trick he’d learned over the course of his life? Then he showed me his ring. The ring allowed him to feel the emotions of others, which was why he was able to tell what I was feeling with undeniable accuracy. He didn’t have emotions of his own, but the ring let him use the emotions of others. What I saw in him was always a reflection of myself.”

Charlie scoffed. “You think I believe in magic?” she asked. “There’s no such thing. Besides, if the ring helped him, why didn’t he tell me about it himself, or give it to me to use?”

“He was too reliant on it and he didn’t want you to be like him. He also believed he could raise you to live a normal life without the ring’s help. I… disagreed. I was scared. Living with two psychopaths under the same roof was too much for me, so I ran away. If you don’t believe me, put on the ring now.”

Charlie hesitated. All her life, she just wanted to be normal. What her mother was offering was too good to be true. On the other hand, there was no harm in proving her wrong. Charlie slipped the ring onto her index finger and looked at her mother expectantly.

“See? Nothi-” Charlie gasped as her mother grabbed her hand and held on tight. Waves of unfamiliar emotions washed over her. Guilt, regret, sorrow and a bit of fear crashed again and again in pulses through her body. Charlie snatched her hand back. When the connection broke, Charlie was aware that she had tears running down her face. She had never cried before.

Charlie’s mother looked at her and patiently waited for her to recover. Neither of them said a word, just staring at each other in silence. The silence calmed Charlie and, after a while, she reached out her hand to her mother, who reached out to her as well. Charlie braced herself.

Instead of a rush of her mother’s emotions, it had diminished to a steady flow. All the feelings were still there, but Charlie was now aware of one more. It was warm and soothing and safe.

For the first time in her life, Charlie actually felt her mother’s love.

-Jace

Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease

Last Saturday, I went to the Dragons of Tarkir (DTK) prerelease at Games Haven (GH), sponsoring my two friends Nicholas and Malcolm two flights each, so I have a total of six flights worth of cards. I must have forgotten to a post for Fate Reforged (FRF), but I can’t remember if it was because nothing very exciting happened, or I was just plain lazy. Probably combination of both.

Anyway, DRAGONS!

So the three of us went two flights each, allowing us to play all five Dragonlord broods and one extra. I picked Dromoka because Malcolm said the D-20 was the nicest looking dice. All the Dragonlords more or less were hovering around the same price, so it didn’t make much difference.

01 Dromoka Dice
See, it really does look nice.

02 Circle of Dice
Clockwise from top: Ojutai, Silumgar, Kolaghan, Atarka and Dromoka.

Look, it’s the Circle of Dice.

But let’s back up a little. I’d lost touch with Magic, having not followed all the articles since CNY. I’d forgotten that Wizards had brought forward the release date of DTK to allow it to have more time in the Standard format before the new rotation structure takes effect.

This meant I was extremely surprised when Malcolm messaged me on Sunday night, just under a week before the prerelease. I was supposed to be working that day, so I had to use my only off day I had stored and I had been saving that for a Sunday where no one from the other shift wanted to swap duties with me. See, I want my Sundays for dance practice, and I’d already successfully swapped all the Sundays from March. Ah well, applying an off day on Saturday means I have six days of break time.

So I hadn’t done my research. I’d picked Dromoka as the extra purely on what Malcolm told me, because I thought I’d be able to play Abzan colours, quite forgetting that Wizards said that DTK wouldn’t be a wedge block. It turned out to be an ally coloured block with a Dragonlord for each ally colour pair.

Dromoka was Green-White. And I’m a blue player. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that I lost that entire flight of matches. I eventually ended up with a sub-par Grixis coloured deck, or Anti-Dromoka colours. I really don’t like green. I kidded that this was what playing Hearthstone so much got me.

Flight Two was when things started getting interesting. I played Silumgar (Blue-Black), or Dimir colours, which was totally up my ally. I had a really good pool as well, managing to get Tasigur, the Golden Fang from the single FRF pack, as well as a whole bunch of useful Exploit creatures.

Right from the start I knew I wanted to play some form of control. I mean, the creatures were just so awesome for Exploit, and exploiting said creatures would fill up my graveyard to power out Tasigur.

I have a bad habit of creating “Limited EDH decks”, because I almost always play more than 40 cards. I tried to restrict myself when I played Dromoka, I honestly did, but I still made a 42-card deck. And it gets worse. I added in two more cards and another land when I changed it to Grixis colours. But the Silumgar pool gave me all the reason I needed to make a large deck that can self mill with Tasigur.

So I did just that.

03 Draw Package
I mean, come on, look at the sweet draw I had. I managed to cast Vulturous Aven exploiting Youthful Scholar several times, which drew me four cards and left a 2/3 flying body behind. Very sweet.

04 Exploit Package05 Exploit Fodder
Exploiters and their fodder

It’s worth noting that the Exploiters can exploit themselves, although I never once did that with this deck. In the first flight, I had two Sidisi’s Faithful, which I sometimes used as a Sorcery-speed Unsummon. Too bad I didn’t get any in this pool, but my deck was awesome enough already.

Also worth nothing is that Exploit is optional. Sometimes I just played a Qarsi Sadist early with no exploitation, just to have an early blocker on the field. And I never regretted doing that. Draining two life is sweet and all, but having a blocker saved me more life than if I’d waited to drain with it. Besides, I have recursion. I could always get it back and drain with it in the late game.

I had a suite of Counterspells, Removal and cards to slow the game down, so naturally I drifted to a late game Blue-Black control deck. I ended up with 49 cards in total.

06 Conterspells and Removal07 Early Game Stalling

I did eventually dip into green because I had some mana fixing and also green opened me up to a whole bunch of sideboard removal.

08 Mana Fixing09 Green Additions

Those were the only two cards I main boarded. The Den Protector I put in because I had a sub-theme of recurring things from my graveyard. Also, the Den Protector could be played without Green Mana and provided more fodder for exploitation. Hunt the Weak was just another awesome piece of removal that combo-ed with my Deathtouchers, creatures with death triggers and high toughness creatures.

Sideboard-wise, I had more specific removal, which I could swap out my counterspells for.

10 Sideboard

Self-Inflicted Wound was awesome for me and won me a whole match. My opponent had enchanted Ojutai Exemplars with Battle Mastery and another aura, then hit me for 12 damage, leaving me at five life. On my turn, I top deck-ed this card and managed to stabilize long enough to win.

I think the one mistake I made was putting this card main board.
11 Solo Kia

I thought that between the Exploiters and trading my creatures one-for-one, I’d be able to make a Loner situation. Turns out, that never happened when I had this card in hand. Never cast it and finally decided to get rid of it after the second round.

Financially, I think I did okay. Six flights means 36 booster packs, which is equivalent to buying a whole booster box. I won a total of ten packs, which I sold for $4 each, so I essentially paid $140 for 36 boosters, which is about the price of one whole box.

Plus bonus dice, bonus promos and fun. Very well worth it.

-Jace

Ingress – Land of … Mission Series

This was the second mission series I’ve done, which was created by Yi Hong (chikidi28). As I understand it, he took inspiration from Naruto. I’m not a Naruto fan, so I don’t understand the reference, but the missions do form a nice row of six badges. There’s no particular sequence to the mission series, so the missions can be completed in any way you want to (cue song from Journey XD).

After the 8-hour Uniquely Singapore mission series (which took twice as long as previously estimated), Dad decided to split these six missions into several different trips over a few days, so that we could spend more time collecting unique hacks and captures, as well as smashing smurf portals. I decided to write each mission as we did it, so here’s our experience in chronological order. Mission notes are at the start of each mission log.

15 Feb 2015 – Land of Iron
Mission Notes:
– This mission consists of hacking eight portals in any order. That’s it.
– All portals are around Raffles MRT.
– The portals are in a circuit, so it doesn’t matter where you start. (Exit E is a good start point IMO)
– Can be done in 10-15 minutes; 5 mins if you just blow through.

My dad (Crossbow88) and I did this mission with Joel (xhans). Dad had printed out a map of the area and divided it into several sections. We started by hacking, smashing and capturing portals around Raffles area first (each one of us taking a different sector), before moving in to actually do the mission. The point was so kinda mark out which areas we’d already captured and to give each player and equal chance to capture portals, so as to not step on one another’s toes. Dad also designated the actual mission area to be no-man’s-land, where the portals were available for any of us to take.

I spent more time glyph hacking and doing max value captures in my sector (self flipping Resonators L1 through L8, deploying two mods per portal and creating stacked fields), so I only managed to capture about ten or so new portals before heading off to do the mission. Also, when I started, I smashed portals and built them up only to Level 4 so that I could farm Level 4 resonators. This made me slower than the other two, even though Dad dropped me off first.

22 Feb 2015 – Land of Earth and Land of Wind
Mission Notes:
– Land of Earth is at Bukit Batok. You can start at the MRT, like we did. It takes about 30-40mins if you go fast.
– Land of Earth requires a few capturing/upgrading portal waypoints, so note those.
– Land of Wind is at Buona Vista. This mission is more of a circuit, but it’s a very long walk. Took us more than an hour, but then again we were capturing and fielding.
– Land of Wind portals were all hacking waypoints (I think) except one visiting waypoint and one capture/upgrade portal waypoint.
– Both missions can be completed in any order.

Dad and I did these mission with Joel again and Bukit Batok turned out to be a mission of medium difficulty. Dad parked at the public carpark opposite the MRT station and we started from there after a quick toilet break and picture.

01 Joel, Daddy and I at Bukit Batok MRT

Although we started at Bukit Batok MRT station, it wasn’t a perfect route. There were a few portals on the west side of the station, not too far, that we snagged before moving eastwards. There was at least one capture/upgrade waypoint there. I was faster than the other two, so I snapped up most (if not all) of the unclaimed portals. Ended up netting 19 new unique captures over this whole mission.

There were more portals on the east side of the station they were spread further apart, that was a bit of a walk. Since the whole place was mostly green (meaning few unique captures), Dad had decided to blitz this mission and focus on the Land of Wind mission in Buona Vista, which was mostly blue.

The Land of Earth mission ended somewhere at Bukit Batok East CC about 40mins later, then Joel spotted a cluster of uncaptured portals on a hill near the Church of St Mary of the Angels. We raced to capture them and I stole about seven from him, while he only got two XD Because of our detour, we were late back to the car, so we had less time for smashing and capturing portals in Buona Vista and the Land of Wind mission.

Like I mentioned in the notes above, the Land of Wind mission is more or less a circuit, so if you start from Buona Vista MRT, it doesn’t matter which way you go, you should end up near the station again. I recommend spending some time fielding, as there’s a really nice cluster of portals at the south corner of The Star Vista (the shopping mall beside BV MRT station) where you can just sit by the fountain and reach all four, forming a very easy stack. Those portals are part of the mission anyway, and if you want to extend it to a third stack (which you should), the next nearest waypoint portal is a perfect extension point.

If you want to spend time capturing portals, I suggest you start from Buona Vista MRT and go anti-clockwise, capture the easy stack I mentioned, then spend the rest of your time taking portals at the Biopolis area. On a Sunday, it’s nice and quiet with nobody there to disturb you at all and not much traffic to look out for. More importantly, it’s very densely populated with portals for the taking. Make sure you’re fully stocked on items, or farm the area before smashing.

6 Mar 2015 – Land of Fire
Mission Notes:
– All waypoints are in Tampines area and they can be completed in any order.
– 10+ portals, all either hacking waypoints or capture/upgrade portal waypoints
– The portals are all spread out pretty far apart from one another, so some form of transport is recommended. You will literally travel almost the whole of Tampines.
– If you go with more than three people, prepare ADA/Jarvis viruses; some capture/upgrade portals are nearly Level 8

My dad and I did this mission together, just the two of us. Since most of the portals were spread pretty far apart, we couldn’t just park somewhere and walk, so I directed him to portal after portal. My dad drove and we were able to hit most of the portals without getting out of the car. For the portals that weren’t accessible from the car, there were parking spots nearby, so we could just pop out, hack and flip the portal, then move on.

Almost all the portals that we hit were green, so we didn’t need to spend time attacking and capturing. Rather, we took the time to flip each other’s resonators, so that we could increase our resonator deploy count, gain 65AP per deployment and reduce our inventory. We kept glyph hacking, so our inventory kept refilling itself.

Glpyh hacking really presents a happy problem. The more you hack, the more you want to play to use up your inventory. But the more you play, the more you’re tempted to glyph hack. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s a good way to keep us all playing Ingress.

Very clever, Niantic. Very clever.

Anyway, there was one portal that required a capture or upgrade and it was a Level 7 portal with two R7s and six R8s, just enough for my dad and I to deploy R8s and clear the waypoint. If we had one more person, we’d have needed to ADA the portal, which would have been a perfectly good waste of a fully modded and well linked EP8. So if you want to complete this mission, do take note of these sort of portals, especially if you’re on the right side Enlightened side, because the Enlightened agents in Tampines are very active and organized. It’s probably best to go alone, or with two others at most.

Even with a car, we took about an hour plus to finish the entire mission, including the time we took to glyph hack and flip resonators.

15 Mar 2015 – Land of Lightning
Mission Notes:
– All waypoints are in Yishun area around Yishun MRT and they can be completed in any order.
– 15 portals, mostly hacking waypoints but at least 5 are capture/upgrade portal waypoints
– If you arrive by MRT, finish the west side portals (Portals 1-13-12-15, see Mission Map below) before crossing to portal 14 and working your way back up to Yishun MRT station. This way it forms a circuit.
– The original Yishun bus interchange is closed for now because of a new condo being built I think, so you might have to sneak in somehow to get a few of the portals (Portals 9-10-11)
– Takes about 1.5 hours on foot, some form of light transport (bike, skates) is recommended
– The northern portals are a little annoying because there’s a lot of human traffic, but once you go south of Portal 9, the number of people reduces drastically because it’s mostly park areas.

It was just Dad and I again for this mission. We’d intended to finish off this mission and the last one at Seng Kang in one shot without smashing and capturing any smurf portals, because Yishun was mostly green and also because the next mission series we’re gonna do (Perdition Road) is at Seng Kang. Unfortunately, we ran into some problems with this mission.

At the second last portal we hit (Rain Garden) my dad’s GPS went haywire, making him jump everywhere but on top of the portal we needed. This was a capture/upgrade waypoint, so even if he did manage to drift within range, there was no guarantee that he’d stay long enough to upgrade one of my resonators. In the end, he skipped the portal, saying that he’d come back another day and finish it, which he did a few days later with no problems. Weird.

I had no problems at all, but we ended up spending half an hour there, with me capturing and farming the nearby portals. I netted 25 unique captures with this mission XD

Dad’s device is a Samsung. I forget which model, but as far as I’m concerned, Samsung is the Apple of the Android world. Also, while I was doing research on which smartphone to get, a friend of my told me she’d been having problems with Samsung devices, so that immediately raised a huge red flag for me. (Aside: Huh. I was looking for a post I did which explained why I chose to buy the Sony Z1 over anything else, but I realised I never actually wrote one.)

Anyway, let’s forget about electronic devices; this post is about missions!

This mission was a great opportunity to use Niantic’s new Mission Map feature. This is what it looks like:
02 Land of Lightning Mission Overview

The waypoints can be completed in any order, so the numbers are just the portal positions. Dad and I completed it top down, starting with Portal 4, moving down to Portal 15 before walking to Portal 14 (the one where Dad had GPS problems) and finally ending with Portal 7. The distance between Portals 14 and 15 was about 1km. Thanks, Yi Hong, I got my weekly route march in with this mission.

So yeah, the distance is quite long, so use a bike or skates. Best not to do it in the day time like we did, because of the heat and also because the brightness of the sun increases the need for a bright screen, thus draining a lot of power and you risk overheating your device.

22 Mar 2015 – Land of Water
Mission Notes:
– All waypoints in the Seng Kang area, not around Seng Kang MRT, but within walking distance
– Three Capture/Upgrade, One Visit and the rest are Hack waypoints and can be completed in any order
– Finished it in just under an hour. Didn’t really blitz this, but we also didn’t stop often. Most of the waypoints can be completed without breaking stride.
– SengKang MRT is just south of waypoints, 2, 3 and 4.

Mission Overview
03 Land of Water Mission Overview

This was a pretty quick mission, I felt, since we didn’t stop much. We’d decided not to focus on smashing and capturing and instead concentrate on the mission itself. We only took portals that were easy to destroy and I netted 46 new captures, I think. I only kept dropping R1s, R4s, R5s and R6s because I had a surplus of those and never bothered to fully deploy a portal. I let my dad do that then just linked whatever I could.

We parked at a multi-storey carpark beside Compassvale Primary (somewhere between Portals 10 and 12), then started the mission. We hit waypoints 12-11-13-10, then moved to portal 4 and completed the rest in a clockwise direction. Note that the northernmost three portals are in a cluster of other portals, so you might want to spend some time capturing and/or linking up the place.

After we finished, we started on the Perdition Road mission series. Moving on immediately to this series was why we hadn’t focused on smashing and capturing. And just two missions in, we were trapped by the heavy rain.

Very apt, seeing as we just completed Land of Water. By the time we got back to the car after completing the third mission, we were drenched and our shoes were soaked.

Thanks a lot, chikidi28.

And here’s what the whole series looks like.

04 Mission Complete

-Jace

Title

Oh no.

I’m feeling it again. That downward spiral of playing game after game after game. Once again these games are piling up until one day I’m going to explode and delete them all. I’m barely keeping up with maintaining my blog. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to talk about (I have many, thanks to the daily prompts), it’s just that I’ve been so lazy.

See, I’ve been so lazy I can’t even be bothered to think of a quip for a title now.

What? If Megan Trainor can do it, so can I, so there.

Anyway. I’ve been wasting so much time during my off days instead of doing useful stuff like programming or writing or running. Even doing research on card prices for Magic would be better than the dumb games I’m playing. Okay, not dumb. Just time consuming.

Hearthstone. Oh man I’m addicted to this game. Every time I return home after two days of work, playing it one of the first things I do. Because I can accumulate up to three daily quests, I usually spend my time playing until I finish all the quests I’ve accumulated. If I’m lucky, the quests will overlap and I can finish them in half the time I would have needed, but that doesn’t happen very often and so I end up spending three to four hours playing. I guess it’s my fix for Magic, because Hearthstone is essentially the dumbed-down and free version.

Hearthstone is my number one major time waster at home and the only reason I play at home is because I can’t do so in the guardroom during my off duty hours. Speaking of which, mobile games are starting to creep back into my life again. Ascension, Crossy Road, Mobfish and Scramble are just some of the mobile apps I’ve downloaded to pass the time.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not read a single storybook this year.

During our off hours, we’ve been playing board games in the guardroom as well. Risk and Mastermind seem to have become our go-to games during stand-down times and Risk games last well into the night. Now I spend more time playing games than I watching movies.

What the heck am I doing with my life -.-

Apart from Magic, Ingress is the only game I don’t regret playing because it makes me walk. Doing the missions also gives me topics to blog about. I’m currently writing about mission series that I do with my Dad and some other players which are part reflection and part instructional for other players to follow. We’re almost done with our second mission series, which we’ll finish this Sunday. Finally! That post had been sitting in draft mode for almost two months.

Speaking of exercise, I haven’t done much besides weekly dance sessions, semi-daily pull-ups (so far I’m only back at 15 pull-ups in a row) and short 1.5km runs during my working days. I’m doing my best to do some intensive exercise at least once a week, whether it be as strenuous as a hard hour of parkour training, or as relaxing as a three hour Ingress mission.

Sigh.

I think I’ll give myself til the end of March to get over this, then delete all the minor games on my phone and bring some books to read in the guardroom.

-Jace

Prompt – Study Abroad

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Study Abroad.”

Prompt: “If you were asked to spend a year living in a different location, where would you choose and why?

Mmm… Good question. One that I’ve been pondering over myself for some time now. I know that someday, in order for me to build my digital fortress, I’m going to have to migrate to a country where I can buy a plot of land and start pimping it out. I don’t know exactly where yet, but I have a few places I’d like to check out, and perhaps studying abroad may be one option for me to do just that.

But where to go? I’ll do a process of elimination, so let’s start with where I don’t want to go. First, I’ll need to be somewhere where English is widely understood. This means that most Asian, African and South American countries are out. I seriously have a language barrier with any non-English language.

Wanna know how I survived my three month internship in Japan? I didn’t talk to anyone. At least, not in Japanese. For three months, I didn’t have my hair cut because I didn’t dare walk into a barber shop. That was the longest I’ve ever let my hair grow out. At the supermarket, I almost always used the self checkout machine. Actually, I spent most of my time alone. Skating, parkour, watching movies, playing games.

It was lonely. It taught me to value the friends I have, which brings me to my second point: My friends have to be able to visit. I.e. it has to be somewhere accessible, as opposed to say, an island on Hawaii or somewhere in the Antarctic.

The countries that stand out to me now are, Canada, USA, Australia and Great Britain. Oh, I recently decided to eliminate Australia after a talk with one of my friends who’s studying there right now. Apparently, chicken is more expensive than pork or beef, and I can’t live without chicken. All my favourite dishes are chicken. Roast chicken, honey chicken, soy sauce chicken, honey chicken, steamed chicken… I think I might die in Australia.

I think right now Great Britain is my top choice, partly because I love the English accent. As far as I’m concerned, anything said with a British accent is automatically classy. I’ve been to London before, on a school trip, and (apart from the food) I quite liked it.

USA is a close second because I’d like to go study in MIT, or work in Microsoft, Google or Wizards of the Coast (WotC). Those aren’t hard goals on my bucket list as of now, just something to keep in mind. And Canada, well… because they speak English? I don’t have a particular affinity for Canada yet, except maybe one of my close friends might migrate there in future and I might or might not follow him.

So yeah, those three countries are where I’d like to go, perhaps not just for a year to study, but possibly to migrate to eventually.

-Jace

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

I found a new game a couple of weeks ago and it’s super fun. It’s called Ascension and it’s one of the most fun, replayable games I’ve ever played.

Ascension is a game for 2-4 players and each person starts with the same set of cards in their own deck. Throughout the game, they use the cards in their deck to gain resources (Runes and Power) in order to acquire better cards (obtained using Runes) or to defeat monsters (via Power) from the Central Deck, all the while working to gain as many Honor Points as possible. The game starts with a set number of points in the Honor Pool, which reduces each time a player gains Honor points, and is over when there are no more points in the pool. The aim of the game is to get the most Honor points of all players.

I actually came across this in one of the Digital Life segments from the newspaper, which was talking about fun apps to download. The article mentioned it was a fast paced, turn based deckbuilding game made by the top players of Magic: the Gathering, Pro Tour champions Justin Gary, Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler. It was released almost five years ago in physical form, but now it’s been made into a mobile game.

Immediately, I was interested and noted it down so that I could download the app when I returned home. It had all the elements of games I play. First, it was turn based strategy (TBS). I love TBS games (as opposed to real time strategy, or RTS) because I need the time to think and plan out my moves. Chess was one of the first strategic games I learnt in my childhood and while I didn’t like it much (it was “flat”, but I’ll talk about that later), it did get me interested in strategy games. It taught me the value of patience and planning ahead, although I think I was too young to fully appreciate it.

Ascension was also made by top players of Magic. A game made by the best players of another game I already play? Damn, it’s bound to be freaking awesome. If the newspaper article had said nothing else about the game, this would have been reason enough for me to go check it out. Also, being a free game on Google Play helped. XD

Ascension’s also self contained. All the pieces you need to play and win with are found within the game set, which you just have to purchase once. It’s not pay-to-win, like say, Magic, where, if you don’t have the funds to buy a Tier-One deck, you probably won’t get very far in a competition. What this means is that Ascension is based more on the skill of decision making and probability, rather than purchasing the best cards available. And I don’t mean buying cards with real money, I also mean using your resources in game to exchange for cards to add to your deck.

It’s very similar to Booster Drafting in Magic. Each person starts of with three booster packs, opens the first one, picks a card from it and passes the rest to the neighbour on his left while receiving a set of cards from his right, from which he takes his next card. This continues until all the cards have been picked, then the second pack is opened and the process repeats itself in the opposite direction. Finally, the third pack is opened and passed in the same direction as the first pack. Everyone forms a deck of at least 40 cards then they split into pairs to play a normal game of Magic. Although you still have to buy packs each time you play a round of Booster Draft, it’s more like Ascension than actual Magic, in that a lot of effort and value is put into the decision making part of the game, making it more skill based.

I mentioned above that I felt chess was “flat”. I meant that it was boring and one dimensional. There’s no lore behind the pieces and everything is literally black and white. I like Magic because of the stories and the philosophies of the colour pie. I mean, this was how I learnt about flavour. Ascension also has it’s own lore that I haven’t had time to delve into, but I will, eventually. Chess is also a game that, over time, becomes about pattern recognition, not so much skill. There is no “hidden” information; stuff that you don’t know for sure that your opponent has or doesn’t have. All the pieces and possible movements are available for all players to see (public information), whereas in Magic, you can guess what cards your opponent has in his hand or deck, but you can’t know for sure.

Of course, there’s a lot less hidden information in Ascension than there is in Magic, but the element is still there, and that appeals to me very strongly. The feeling of mystery and successfully being able to predict what your opponent will do with the information you have is a lot more satisfying.

Being a game that uses it’s pieces over and over, one might think that, like chess, it would also devolve into pattern recognition and, to a certain extent, that’s true. Magic is fun because each game is unique, so the feeling of anticipation and excitement is there. But Ascension does play out differently each time. There’s enough complexity to ensure that happens, even if you’re playing with the bots. I myself play a different strategy each time, or at least variations of the same strategy, so the element of replayability is there. Besides, there are expansion sets one could purchase to integrate with the core set. These expansions add in different cards as well as new mechanics to the game.

Get Ascension on the App Store or Google Play and come play with me! It’s free and comes with a tutorial, so you can learn at your own pace.

I promise not to kick your butt too hard :)

-Jace