Gone Horribly Wrong

August 24, 2009

I mentioned in a previous post that I play Ragnarok Online.  Well, last night was one session that I’m sure going to remember for a while.

Conclave (my in-game guild of fellow casual gamers) decided to hold a Branch Party in celebration of our friend (Millia’Rage, the Assassin of my friend Laia Illyia) hitting level 99, meaning she was ready for Transcending.  For those who are not familiar with the term, a Branch Party is a gathering of friends who are there for the sole intent of ganking the random monsters that are summoned by a Branch item.  Normally people use a Dead Branch, which summons non-MVP, non-Boss monsters, but since this was a special occassion, our guildmaster, Jerrard/Soulfist decided to use a Bloody Branch, which summons a Boss Monster instead.  Now, for a casual guild of just about 6 or so active players, this might be an uphill battle at the very least, but the boss was confident that, with our luck, we’d just summon a Golden Thief Bug.

You’ll imagine how complete our surprise was when a Valkyrie Randgris popped out.

At first, we though that, with some smart use of terrain (we summoned in the first corridor of the Sunken Ship, which had a set of stairs and some walls to hide behind) we could take it down.  So I changed characters and used my Paladin, called my cousin, who used his Soul Linker, and had asked Lai to use her high priestess.

The technique to hunting Valkyrie Randgris is nominally simple, and we’ve watched it done many times by parties farming Valkyrie items before: have a Paladin (ideally equipped with the Paladin Battlegrounds set, which increases all non-Demihuman type damage, which I didn’t have) cast Reflect, rush into the mob of Valkyries (but still within range of the High Priestess’ Redemptio), while the Soul Linker rushes with the paladin.  The Soul Linker casts Eske on the boss Valkyrie, and the Paladin bodyblocks the boss and their mob.

It’s pretty much a suicide mission, as the Valks can take down a Paladin in about two hits, but believe me it’s as intended.  The Valkyries damage the paladin, the damage is reflected, and if you don’t think the 40% reflected damage isn’t much, the fact that it’s been multiplied four times by Eske, the damage adds up.  Of course, the Paladin and Linker get swamped, but this is where the High Priestess comes in: the High Priestess, secreted away in a corner the Valkyries can’t reach, but can still see the Paladin and Soul Linker, casts Redemptio.  The result?  The Paladin stands back up hopefully still in the middle of the Valkyries, casts Reflect again, gets killed (obviously), but still reflecting the damage back to the Valkyries, with the Soul Linker recasting Eske on Randgris when its effect wears out.  Rinse and repeat until the Valk is dead.  Simple, right?

Well, it seems that this ‘simple’ set of tactics still nearly broke our guild, as Redemptio apparently had a MASSIVE spellpoint cost.  Meaning that Lai’s high priestess had to be CONSTANTLY resupplied with SP-replenishing potions.

You might say that it didn’t really go as planned.

After an hour of rather frustrating lack of success, the guild called it a night, with the Valkyrie still running rampant, but I still couldn’t log out without taking it down, so I just waited a bit, and sure enough some other folks came on to help.  And, surprisingly, the fight ended VERY quickly.  Go figure.


What I’ve Been Watching during my Vacation

August 9, 2009

Supernatural Slice-Of Life: Natsume's Book of Friends and Mokke

Supernatural Slice-Of Life: Natsume's Book of Friends and Mokke

Aside from walking around and taking in the various sights of Singapore once again, I also took advantage of the the WiFi in the area me and my father were staying in to download and catch up on some series that I’ve wanted to watch, but never really had the time to while I was still working.  So I fired up my torrents for both seasons of Natsume Yuujin-Cho/夏目友人帳 (also known as Natsume’s Book of Friends, which I will use to refer to it from this point on), while I picked up where I last left off with Mokke/もっけ.

Both series are, at first glace, rather similar, dealing with the experiences of youth with the ability to see and interact with the supernatural beings, all set amidst the glorious scenery of the gradually-vanishing Japanese countryside.  In Natsume’s Book of Friends, we have Natsume Takashi, a quiet young man in what seems to be middle school or high school; in Mokke, we have a pair of sisters: reserved and yamato nadeshiko-lite Hibara Shizuru, who like Natsume is at middle-school or high-school in age, and her tomboyish younger sister Hibara Miyuki, four or five years her junior.

The powers of the protagonists seem to stem from their bloodline, with Natsume inheriting his ability to see, speak, and touch ayakashi (怪) or youkai (妖怪) from his grandmother (it is not mentioned if she is Natsume’s maternal or paternal grandmother, but given the surname I’m assuming it’s paternal) Natsume Reiko, though he seems to have inherited a few other traits as well, while Miyuki and Shizuru seemed to have gotten theirs from the grandfather, who they live with along with their grandmother.  There is an important difference between the powers of the protagonists of the two series however: the abilities Natsume inherited from Reiko are very powerful, surprising even practiced exorcists, allowing him to sometimes knock around some of the weaker youkai/ayakashi even with a  simple punch, while Shizuru and Miyuki’s abilities are relatively weak, limited to seeing, hearing, and speaking with youkai/ayakashi (for Shizuru) or hearing and being able to speak with (but unable to see) as well as being easily possessed (for Miyuki).

It is no wonder then that Natsume, while not being trained and particularly physically-impressive (indeed for higher-tier youkai he asks for aid from his bodyguard-come-irritant Madara, a powerful wolf-like spirit who seems to love spending more time in the shape of a maneki neko/招き猫), sometimes actually takes a more pro-active stance with regards to his interaction with youkai, whereas the sisters often have to ask for their grandfather’s aid with their supernatural troubles.

Interesting enough for all the trouble his past interactions with Youkai had caused prior to his acquisition of the eponymous Book of Friends (a very VERY thick diary filled with the names of all the youkai Reiko had bullied or defeated, subsequently granting her power of them) as an inheritance, Natsume creates strong friendships and bonds with some of the more benign spirits he interacts with in the course of returning the names of the very same youkai listed in the diary, his gentle nature making him reach out to them when another exorcist would have simply destroyed the youkai out of spite or duty.  The same cann0t really be said for Shizuru and Miyuki, barring one isolated incident with a kamaitachi.

It’s relatively light-hearted fun about growing up for the most part, though both series deal with some serious themes, in particular ostracism from one’s peers.  Y’see Natsume is a quiet loner for a very good reason: for most of his early childhood, he had been teased and bullied by the people around him because of his powers, being called a liar being able to see what other people can’t.  Where his grandmother Reiko reacted to such jibes and accusations by just ignoring them and having fun by herself anyway (one wonders how the heck she was even able to produce a family line that led to Natsume, though since she kept her surname one might assume that whatever relationship she formed never lasted), Natsume retreated emotionally inward, something not helped in the least by the fact that Natsume has spent most of his life (after the death of his parents) shuffling through the care of one distant relative after another, until he finally settled in with the kindly Fujiwaras (a couple distantly related to his father).  Likewise, the Hibara sisters seemed to have been sent to live with their grandparents by their mother for the fear of the ostracism that might occur if other people found out of their abilities; indeed for a good part of the series, the elder sister, Shizuru, muses on whether or not she would still be treated the same if her friends learned that she could see and speak with spirits.

Both series are worth a look for fans of more slower-paced anime.  They certainly need more love, I think.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

August 6, 2009

I was supposed to post this yesterday, as I was watching the final rites for the late former President Corazon Aquino on TFC, but the WiFi in the area wasn’t cooperating for some reason.

I was born during the Martial Law era ( to be precise, its ‘Bagong Lipunan’ phase), but grew up in the time that came afterwards, a good chunk of which was officiated over by President Aquino and her successor, President Ramos.  As such, I admit to being one of those young blowhards that take the freedoms we have today for granted.  I mean, my titos and titas, even my father and mother, have their own share of horror stories about how bad it was for people during Marcos’ regime, but they’re just that for us — stories.

I think it’s a testament to President Aquino that, for all the calamities, and coup attempts, and scandals that wracked her stay in office, the children that grew up during that time were never forced to relive the horrors that their elders had experienced.

I was around five years old when the EDSA uprising took place, and even then my memories of that time are fuzzy at the best of times, but when I watched the necrological services, the nearly eight-hour long funeral cortege from Manila Cathedral to President Aquino’s final resting place beside her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino… seing the yellow dresses, the tied yellow ribbons everywhere, the ‘L’ Laban signs waved around… the songs of those past years being sung…  I couldn’t help but tear up.  I’m not ashamed for doing so.  It’s a reminder of how bright everything seemed during that time, and how utterly screwed up the Philippines is right now.

President Aquino had earned her much-deserved rest, a beloved icon of hope.  But the fight she stood for continues, and might not really end for any of us young turks in the near future.  If any of us had an iota of her courage, her piety, her sheer belief in the good the Filipino people can accomplish…  Well, there might still be hope for us.

In The City of the Lion part 2

August 4, 2009

While it hasn’t really been a while since my last jog (in fact, I did a short run about a day prior to my flight to Singapore), it has been a while since I did a nearly nonstop run of more than three kilometers.  That’s one of the great things in Singapore, the ability for a single female to jog safely during the late afternoon hours up to the early evenings, which is not really possible in the Pasay area in the Philippines. Getting mugged is too much of a risk for one’s health.

The Ghim Moh area has a lot of places where one can go for a leisurely run, in particular a place on the riverbank… that I never really got the name of, though it’s frequented by many people for jogging and cycling.  It terminates near the Buona Vista MRT station though, so I guess that’s enough of a clue.

Dad and I are going out today for a walk downtown.  I’m taking a look at some of the locations that Stripey noted, and hopefully I can convince him to swing by them, especially in the Orchard Road area.

Update: Just got back from today’s little walkabout, and I’m frankly more than a little tired.  My dad and I got off at the intersection of Tang Lin Road, and walked past the British Council building, the US Embassy, and the Australian Embassy, before finally entering the Singapore Botanical Gardens, one of the local sights that my sister neglected to visit while she was here.

I think it was just past Noon when we started, but despite the hot sun blazing away above us, the walk through the Botanical Garden wasn’t that uncomfortable at all — in fact it was quite the opposite.  The fact that we were surrounded mostly by greenery probably contributed to the lack of discomfort as we traversed its periphery, and criss-crossed across its width, taking in some of the attractions, like the Swan Lake, the Ginger Garden, the Evolution Garden, and the Rain Forest Walk.  It’s one of the few instances that I wish I hadn’t forgotten the camera card reader, as we took a lot of photos, but could never share them (nor post any here on the blog)!  Boo.

After a nearly nonstop march through the Botanical Garden, my father and I stomped out towards Orchard Road.  Although I told dad that I wanted to take a look at the shopping centers that dotted its length, what I really wanted to visit was the Kinokuniya Main Store at the Takashimaya Shopping Center…  Which apparently was just across from Lucky Plaza.  I really wanted to avoid Lucky Plaza, as it was a Filipino Migrant’s nightmare at the best of days, so thankfully we just sped through its air conditioned lower levels on the way to Ngee Ann City.

I have to say, I was very surprised to learn that Kinokuniya occupied most of the third floor of the shopping center.  It’s not that big, but many of you would laugh at the fact that me and my father lost sight of each other within five minutes of our arrival at the store.  The arrangement of the shelves didn’t help at all, and I had to send an SMS message to my father when the beginning of a massive headache made itself felt, so we can head back to his apartment.  It’s really too bad, as I wanted to gawk at the long lines of Japanese media on display, but that’s for another day, I guess.

In the City of the Lion

August 3, 2009

Well, as strange as it might seem, I’m back in Singapore again for a week or so.  Although technically described as a ‘vacation’, the truth of the matter is my sister and father figured that getting out of the country would do me a world of more good than just sulking at home depressed staying in my room painting Space Marine vehicles and repainting my Tactical Squads.

The change of scenery is nice though, and despite the extremely cosmopolitan layout of Singapore, at least the island-state has no shortage of trees, which is a very pleasant change in my opinion.  It’s still a tad of a chore to try to relax though, as there’s the spectre of my joblessness that’s still hanging over my head, so along with my enforced ‘vacation’ I’m taking the time looking at the jobs on offer… which aren’t really that plentiful, given my narrow specialization and odd mix of degree versus actual work experience (Communications Degree-holder, but worked in Finance for more than three years?  HA!).  Plus, there is that little extra condition attached to many of the offers that the applicant must be either a Singapore national or a Permanent Resident card holder…

That aside, I’m planning on making the most of my stay in Singapore.  It’s really too bad that I won’t be around for National Day (on the 9th; my return flight is on the 7th) though.  Oh well.  At least I’ll get some walking done, and with the way Singapore is laid out, it’s much better to take in the various sights on foot anyway.

Which reminds me… Stripey from Hontou ni Taihen desu, in his infinite wisdom (*snerks*) has given me the locations of some of the bookstores he frequents.  The Kinokuniya Main store at Orchard Road might be worth a look, as well as the Bras Brasah complex.