2016 – A year in gaming

With the year almost over, it’s a good time to recap what games I’ve been playing so far and my thoughts about them.

January – March

Played: Elder Scrolls Online (PS4)

I picked up ESO in December and couldn’t stop playing for a couple months. As I might’ve written before I’m not a MMO player, and surprisingly it’s been a fun learning curve for me to learn to play with others. Coming from Skyrim I enjoyed the PVE a lot, managed to finish the main story and went post-completion to get Cadwell’s Silver. I was at Veteran 12 and midway through getting Cadwell’s Gold when I stopped playing regularly, because after hundreds of hours the quests sort of become tedious and I can’t even remember who’s who. I’m talking about the Daggerfall Covenant main story, after finishing the Aldmeri Dominion and Ebonheart Pact stories it’s starting to get a bit much of the same, and PVP doesn’t really interest me. Well, in short I had to take a break from too much ESO, and I was highly distracted by Witcher 3!

Retired: Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (PS4)

I loved this game, coming from the monotonous AC 1 (eat, sleep, kill, repeat) this was a game I could enjoy, the missions were interesting and engaging, the difficulty was just right (maybe a little too easy?) and the sea combat/exploration was the aspect I enjoyed the most. I just felt like sailing all day and being a bad ass pirate and forget the main story altogether. It was great while it lasted, but I had to dedicate more time to beating ESO, so I’m only about 50% done. I really do intend to get back and finish the game someday…

April

Played: Witcher 3 (PS4)

I love, love this game. I got it on Christmas and it’s been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to start, so I finally went all in on April and I realized I should’ve started sooner. Witcher 3 is great! I’m not an old time Witcher plan, only played Witcher 1 in 2014 and skipped 2 altogether (there’s no Steam port for Mac and I don’t own an XBOX), but somehow the charming universe, extensive lore, and the unique characters drew me in. Playing this game felt like delving into a fully fleshed fantasy universe not unlike LOTR. Awesome storyline, fast-paced battle system, a huge world to explore, and for once the side missions doesn’t suck as much as other RPG games. For me this is the standard that Elder Scrolls 6 should be and Bethesda better take note 😀

The base game alone consumed my spare time for a good 2 months. When I finished the main story I was left wanting more. I am seriously thinking of getting Blood and Wine once I’m finished with FFXV.

May

Played: Life is Strange (PS4)
Playing LIS was an experience I won’t forget. I marathoned episode 1-5 in a week and I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t do it any other way. The storyline was so engaging, and each episode would end with unanswered questions, cliffhangers and what ifs. (Remember episode 3?) I figured waiting between episodes to be released would be too much pain!

There’s so many good things about the game, the story, the game mechanics, the characters, and the art style. Playing this has inspired me to draw and paint again regularly, so I gotta thank Square Enix and Dontnod for that.

 June

Played: Dragon Age Origins (PS3)

I always wanted to get into the DA franchise and I’m glad I finally did. The bad:The battle system. Origins was hard as ***k, I regularly get my party wiped by normal mobs (why!) and it does nothing for my pride as a veteran gamer. And oh, the blocky graphics and long load times. But why should I complain? It’s an older game. The good: Everything else. Great storyline, universe, lore (ended up reading all the codexes!), so many likeable characters. Origins was a good investment of my time, but I’m not sure if I’m gonna play again…

Here’s my full review of the game.

July

Played: Dragon Age II (PS3)

Everyone’s been hating on DA II but I loved the game. Sure, the dungeons are repetitive and you ended up replaying the same area over and over – but there’s an explanation for that – this game spans over different periods of time! Sure the game is short, (beaten it in 2 weeks time) and it doesn’t have a large open world map. Of course, because it’s not about a band of guys uniting allies all over to save the world, but it’s a personal story about Hawke and friends, and his/her life journey from nobody to a hero. That’s the premise of the story and that’s why I enjoyed it. Get over it guys, and just appreciate everything else DA II has to offer.

Played: Dragon Age Inquisition (PS4)

DA:I was the game I enjoyed most out of all 3. It is a long-ish game but I enjoyed playing it so much, going through 100+ hours was a breeze.For me, this time around the creators (EA/Bioware) have done a lot of things right. I liked most of the characters, loved how they almost always have interesting random dialogue and interactions.This is something the team has always done right since Origins. I enjoyed the romance aspect of the game – gone is the mechanism from DA: O where you have to buy stuff to please your potential partner – this time it’s a lot more challenging to win someone over, and I found it quite interesting.  The storyline missions were interesting, especially the longer missions (Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts, What Pride Has Wrought). The open world is extensive and full of random areas to explore. You have no idea that you’d turn a corner and boom, there’s a huge dragon ready to wipe your party’s butt. That sort of thing. Lastly I’m also loving the customisation aspect where you can craft unique weapons and gear from enemy drops, and redecorate your castle, all of that makes sidequests/fetch quests less of a chore.

Not sure if there’s ever going to be a DA 4, but if it’s announced I’d be buying a day one edition.

August

Played: Mass Effect 1 (PS3)

Had to retire at 10 hours because I couldn’t stand driving around in the Mako. It’s such a shame because I know ME is a good game and I wanted to do a trilogy run. Maybe one day I’ll gather enough courage to try steering the Mako again.

Played: Beyond Two Souls (PS3), The Last of Us (PS4), Until Dawn (PS4)

After my failed run of ME1, I took a break from playing long games and I played 3 shorter games in succession, which were Beyond Two Souls, The Last of Us and Until Dawn, and I think all of them were great in their own ways.

Beyond Two Souls has an interesting storyline narrated in a nonlinear fashion. What’s interesting is since the story was told in short episodes, you had to progress the story for all these jumbled episodes to make sense next to each other in a coherent timeline. The gameplay is different from anything else I’ve played, I think it’s a fresh approach and I enjoyed it.

I had fun with The Last of Us, didn’t think that I would because I’m a bad shooter. It was frustrating having to survive with limited ammo, etc but I managed to pull myself through with blood, sweat and tears. The captivating visuals drew me in, the whole atmosphere of a post apocalyptic, semi abandoned world is just so awesome, and I just wanted to know more of Joel and Ellie’s story that I wouldn’t mind getting bitten by zombies over and over again. Oh, and by the time I’ve beaten the game I was semi-good at shooting.

Until Dawn was OK. I haven’t played any horror/shocker game for awhile, the reason being I just couldn’t handle jumpscares, and this game did a good job at that, building suspense after suspense and scares you when you expect it the least. My poor heart. Finished one playthrough in 3 days, but I don’t think I’d be replaying anytime soon.

September

Played/retired: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (PS4)

My playthrough of AC: Syndicate was great while it lasts. It’s lovely to see London in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and to be involved in history changing events. The two main characters were OK. Couldn’t relate much to the story, though. Are we the bad guys? Are we the good guys? I always enjoyed going back to the Assassins’ universe where a lot of the gameplay mechanism is familiar from the previous AC games, making it less of a learning curve. I managed to get to about 70% completion before I got sort of bored/distracted by the next game on my laundry list… Silly me.

Retired: Final Fantasy Type 0 HD (PS4)
This game looks interesting but I just couldn’t get into the mechanics – couldn’t figure out the battle mechanism, etc. Would be easier to just watch someone’s playthrough on Youtube.

October

Played: Gravity Rush (PS4)

Great game! While the graphics leave much to be desired, I loved the characters, story and the overall comic book style treatment. The gameplay/warping mechanism takes some time to get used to but once you get it down, it’s very enjoyable. Too bad it’s a little short. I can’t wait for GR 2 to be released next year!

November

Played: GTA 5 (PS3), GTA 4 (PS3)

For some reason I got into GTA 5 three years late. Does it matter? Maybe. But as they say, better late than never. GTA 5 occupied most of my spare time in November. I finished the main story with 76% completion or something. It was so fun maybe I’ll get the remastered PS4 version and do a 100% completion for the OCD completionist in me. Best part: The soundtrack! When i’m driving around in real life sometimes I could hear all the songs from Non Stop Pop playing in my head…

I started GTA4 late November, but I got really, really distracted when my much anticipated copy of FFXV shipped in… but I could say that I liked the main character so far, I think Niko’s backstory and character is interesting, so maybe I’ll get back to it later next year.

December

Played: Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

I’ve been playing FFXV on and off for the last 3 weeks. I’m 30 hours in and I’m nowhere near finishing the game so I couldn’t write a proper review, but here’s my impression so far…

The good: Not grindy (you get lots of AP and XP just by doing regular quests and random encounters, huge open world, cooking system that is actually useful because you get stat buffs through food, fishing system/mini game that’s a lot of fun, the mechanism of leveling up through camping/staying at inns, which for once gives me motivation to end the day, camp and hang out with my buddies.

The bad: Fetch quests. FFXV has lots of these. Find X item, kill X monster, return to quest giver. Of course you don’t have to do all of them side quests, but sometimes I would pick up the quest accidentally and my inner OCD just couldn’t leave them unchecked on my quest list.

I’m only in Chapter 5 and I’m in no hurry to beat the game, so I can’t complain much about the story pacing that’s pissing everyone else off… so we’ll see about that.

Well, that pretty much sums it up, thanks for reading and stay tuned for 2017… I think I’d still be playing FFXV 🙂

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A strange, cautionary tale of how to order bespoke shoes online

This rather long post is part rant, part complaint, and part in-depth report on the long, grueling, ridiculous process of ordering bespoke shoes in Indonesia.

I ordered my boat shoes on May 20, 2012.
I finally get the shoes I (sort of) wanted on January 28, 2013.

It took 8 months, and countless text/facebook/instant messages and quite a lot of phone calls that never gets through. Figuratively speaking, it took so long that if I were pregnant on May I would’ve already given birth by now, but fortunately I’m not pregnant. Ha!

Anyway, here’s a detailed rundown on what happened within the previous 8 months.

May 2012

I love, love boat shoes. You may call them deck shoes, too. I like how they’re tailored and casual at the same time, and you can dress up or dress down with them and still look neat and nice. They last longer than a pair of Toms, and look better than a pair of Crocs. Unfortunately the nice ones sold in stores in Indonesia are all in guys’ size (40 european and bigger) while my feet is a 38 1/2 european size (6 UK women’s, 8 US women’s). People. Can’t you see that a girl needs her quality boat shoes too?

So I’m stuck with 2 options, ordering online from overseas or ordering a custom one locally.

Sperry and Sebago makes really nice boat shoes, but I’m not looking forward to the astronomical shipment fees and added import taxes, since it’s likely that my order will exceed US$50 and therefore legible for import tax. No, I’m a cheapskate.So I resorted to ordering custom shoes online.

Enter the vendor. Let’s keep the vendor anonymous for his reputation’s sake. He sells custom shoes through Facebook. In his FB online shop, he has many albums of shoes from well known shoe brands that he can “replicate” to 99% likeness, at a fraction of the real cost. That’s what he claimed. I ordered a custom once with him in 2010 and it turned out well, so I thought, why not?

So I messaged him and sent him a picture from one of his FB albums. It’s a Sebago, something like this. And his version would only cost me $25 + $1.50 postage. SCORE. Ahh, Sebagos are so nice! (They cost $100+ though)

url(picture nabbed from lowyat.net)

I specifically told him “Hi pls make me this style in DARK RED and make all the laces WHITE in size 39 in genuine leather pls”. He replied: “Ok, once you transfer the cost, it will take 3 weeks and we’ll send the shoes to you.” I was so ecstatic because I’m about to have a genuine leather, Sebago deck shoes replica for $25!… NOT

June 2012

About 2-3 weeks has passed, and as promised, the shoe delivery arrived in the mail.

Wow, I was taken aback. Firstly, it’s BROWN, not RED as I ordered. Second, all the laces are also BROWN! I specifically said WHITE. Well the build quality was quite nice, though it’s not quite close to the real Sebago in terms of details and style. Anyway… I was so upset I didn’t take any pictures of the shoes, instead I texted the seller immediately:

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Translation: Y SHOE NOT RED AND WHITE!!1 DO NOT WANT SHOE!!!

And this is what I got in reply:

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Translation:
Vendor (in blue): Dude, that’s maroon, not brown. That’s the shade of maroon in GENUINE LEATHER. *facepalm emoticon*.
Amel (in white): But I sent u reference picture for color!

To make a long story short, the vendor agreed to have me send the shoe back (at my own cost!) and he will replace the laces with white, but there’s nothing I can do about the brown leather color, because he insisted that it’s RED. Ha! The next day, I mailed the shoes all the way back to Solo, where the vendor is located…

July 2012

A month has passed, and my replacement!shoes has not arrived. I was starting to get anxious. Did my delivery made it to Solo in time? Did he managed to fix the laces in time? So I shot another text message…

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Translation: Where the hell is my shoes? U told me u will fix them! I want them naooo!1

Bummer! The text message was not delivered by the network! That could only mean, it’s a dead number. That’s quite normal in Indonesia because everyone except me because I have common sense changes their mobile phone number all the time without a care in the world… So i messaged the seller in FB. Twice. And no response. Then a few days later, the vendor wrote this in his FB wall:

Screen shot 2012-07-22 at 7.33.09 PM

Translation: Just info: Our shop’s Blackberry with the phone number 08*** **** **** is currently in repair. All orders have already been shipped to the customers. We apologize for not contacting you individually. Please message us for orders. We are open for orders this coming Tuesday.

Ah, I see. That’s quite a letdown, seeing that I’ve been trying to contact him for a few weeks now… also I think it’s not that hard to get another phone number/handset while the usual one is being repaired, what a lame excuse! Bummer! Such third world mentality… Anyway I better stop complaining now and go on with the story. So I decided to wait on good faith and hope my shoes will turn up eventually…

July 22, no news on my shoes… So I shot another message on his FB:

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Translation:
Amel: Please check your text, FB inbox, and your Blackberry messenger sir

Vendor: OK we’ve just gotten back online

Amel: I have been waiting quite awhile for your updates, please respond.

What kind of phone repair takes 3 weeks? If I were unable to use my phone and usual mobile number for more than 1 week, I would get super anxious like it’s the end of the world and lose my mind… but it turned out some people just would not care at all! Anyway, more waiting ensues…

August 2012

Lebaran (Eid) came and went. Still no shoes, or news. I’ve gotten sick and tired of waiting already… so I called his number(s). No reply. In desperation I shot a text… also a FB message. Alas, no reply!!! At this point I was quite sure my lovely red brown shoes deal has gone down the toilet (or sat forgotten in storage somewhere in Solo)

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Translation: Dude it’s been super difficult to contact you, please take care of this matter professionally, I just wanted confirmation whether you’ve send my shoes or not.

September 2012

OMG, after a long wait, I finally got news! I sent a BlackBerry instant message (with the same content as above) and the vendor replied! I was so over the moon happy! It’s like hearing back from your favorite band or Hollywood actor or your unavailable but oh-so-adorable secret crush or whatever. The conversation went like this:

Me: Dude what happened to my shoes!!1 I thought you were gonna fix em and send em back to me?

Vendor: Sorry, I FORGOT about your order and my phone was dead for over a month maybe your order got lost and misplaced. My bad.

Me: Say whaaat?

Me: That’s not how you treat a customer! You promised 3 weeks delivery time didn’t you?

Vendor: Yes and I did delivered your shoes in 2 weeks’ time last time

Me: But you gave me the wrong shoe!!1 Now can you make it 2 weeks time this time? Can I trust you?

Vendor: OK I won’t be late again, we will work on your order ASAP

Me: Thank you. (Well you better get started soon, or I’m gonna go all RAGE!1 on you)

October 2012

No shoes. I almost gave up already so I think I didn’t bother texting the vendor.

November 2012

OH MY.

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Translation:
Me: Where is my shoesssssss! 2 weeks ago you said it will be done by now.

Me: I’ve been waiting since July. I’ve texted you 1000 times also. Please take care of this ASAP. You’re wasting my time.

Vendor: I’m terribly sorry but every time I checked, my workshop guy said that he’d forgotten to do your order (!!!) Now I feel bad for you

Me: (WELL YOU SHOULD!) Okay then please remind your workshop guy. Kthxbye

Vendor: Sure, it is only a minor fix anyway, I will remind him and let you know.

December 2012

Getting a little bit desperate here aren’t we… (I know it’s just $25 but it’s my right!)

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Translation:
Me: Where is my shoeeee (Starting to sound like a broken record now)

Me: Can I call your workshop guy myself? Can I get his number? It doesn’t seem to be working with you reminding him. It’s been going for months now. I’m sorry.

Vendor: It’s not yet done, he kept telling me he’s gonna do it soon, we apologize, please be patient for a little while longer.

Me: I’m gonna wait until the New Year, then you have two options: Refund my money, or send the shoe AS IS without any repairs. Thank you.

In retrospect, I sounded very much like a bitch… but I couldn’t help it… He had it coming!

January 2013

Finally, a progress towards my happy ending! On January 21 I texted the vendor for the 1000th time:

Me: Where is my shoeesss (exhausted tone) I want my shoes or my refund please…

Me: I have your address, name, bank details etc, I could sue you but let’s play nice…. If you can’t fix my shoes just return it AS IS and I will shut up and stop bothering you…

Vendor: Ah, I finally can update you. My workshop guy is working on your order. He damaged your shoe while repairing the laces (!!!) so he’s making you a new replacement pair now with white laces. Yay.

Me: After 100 excuses HOW CAN I TRUST YOU NOW? (spoken like a wife who’s been cheated on)

Vendor: It’s the truth! My workshop guy LIED to me. He kept telling me he forgot your order, because he won’t admit to me that he damaged the shoe and could not find the correct shade of leather to make a replacement. Now that we have the leather in stock, he’s finally doing your shoes. That’s the story.

Me: (After shaking my head in disbelief) Wow. I felt awful that I’ve been hassling you for like, forever, while in fact it’s your guy’s fault to blame. If so, then, please do replace my shoe with a new pair. And it doesn’t have to be the same exact shade of brown red.

Vendor: We have the same material, I will keep you updated and your shoe will be done over the weekend. I’m sorry for not updating you any sooner!

Me: Thank you for updating. Looking forward to my shoes now.  Kthxbye.

January 26: He texted me that my shoe is on the way. Wow. I am about to burst in tears of happiness…

January 28: My shoes has finally arrived. It’s not red, it might not be a Sebago, or even a replica, but it’s quite a looker, and a keeper…

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It’s here!

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At size 39 it’s a little too big, but I suppose they don’t do half sizes…

Verdict: I quite liked the shoes. It’s a nice shade of red brown, the leather is good quality, and it’s quite well made too. The only downside that it doesn’t have moc-toe stitching on the toe end like a real boat shoe should, and the vamp’s (upper surface that covers your foot) length is a bit too long for a boat shoe… Anyhow! It’s quite a steal for the price paid. I’m just not quite sure if 8 months is worth the wait…

Here’s how a real “moc-toe” front stitching should like. This is my favorite bargain find from a Brunswick goodwill shop, $13 brand new:

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Now that I’m done with all that ordeal, I finally have a pair of “boat shoes!” Though I’m still left wanting for a pair of RED shoes. Actually it’s OK that I’ve got brown shoes instead of red ones, so I can keep saving for my next Dr. Martens in red!

This is what I’ll get if I have money to spare: 3-hole 1461 Dr. Martens in Cherry Red.

Yep, you can’t have enough brown shoes. They go with everything. I will end this post with my favorite pair of boots… in brown. It’s a Dr. Martens knockoff I found in Chatuchak for 600 THB.

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These boots are made for walking, and kicking asses too…

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If you’re stil reading this, well, I thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next rant. Enjoy!

Swimming pool hopping, part 2: Pertamina Simprug

It was one sunny afternoon when I headed to the Pertamina pool in Simprug. This pool is only 15 minute drive from my house, it is quite convenient.  And entrance tickets only cost Rp. 20.000,- (that’s $2 for you folks), what a steal! So I thought, why not? I’d give it a try.

Maybe it will cure my drain phobia.

Getting there is quite straightforward. Take the Arteri road towards Permata Hijau, and the Pertamina Sports Complex should be after the Kebayoran Lama flyover on your left. After driving through the entrance gate, and past a few buildings, I turn right to see this. Ha.

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Pool was deserted at 2pm. No one was there, and no one was in the ticket box either, so I walked in and take a look around…

P1320846It’s quite a huge complex with 2 pools, 1 olympic size and 1 diving pool with towers. The whole complex looks like it was built in the late 80s and never been renovated since. It’s a strange, almost creepy, serene feeling, almost like seeing the scenery in Prypiat, that deserted post-Chernobyl town. (Not that I’ve been there myself!)

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Not going near the diving pools for now… I bet there’s a huge drain in there…. *shudder*

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View from the diving pool. This set-up looks similar to Senayan pool complex, but a little bit smaller. Note the bleachers and podium on the left.

After a few minutes, a middle aged man, smoking, wearing a sarung, walked towards me and I asked for one admission ticket. With ticket in hand, I located the changing rooms , get changed, and headed to the lockers. The lockers are rows of wooden cubicles about 50x50cm wide each. I was gonna put my stuff inside but wait… All the locker doors are open, and there’s no latch or locking mechanism. There’s no way I could leave my valuables there!

So I headed back to the entrance, wearing my swimsuit already, and asked the sarung guy “dude, I can’t lock the lockers, where am I supposed to leave my stuff?” He say, most people just leave their stuff around. It’s gonna be safe. (Yeah, right!!) I just smiled and nodded politely, and took a humiliating trip out to the carpark (it’s quite a distance) in my swimsuit, to put my stuff in the car! At least my purse, camera, and phone will be safe in there.

2.30 pm. After much drama, and a fair bit of sweating (and swearing) in the sun, finally I’m sitting by the water. The water is semi opaque… I can’t say murky but it’s definitely not clear. They’re refilling or recirculating the water, and it created ripples across the pool surface . I can’t see no drain. I mean like, dude, this is supposed to be a competition pool, but you can’t even see the black lines on the bottom of the pool! FAIL!

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I was gonna start at the shallow end, but then a group of guys (mas2) came into the pool and took over the shallow side… so there’s no choice but to start in the middle or the deep end, near the diving blocks. OMG. By this time, my heart was racing. The fear of drains was lurking at the back of my mind. I lowered myself onto the pool at the deep end. It has a 1.5m ledge on its edges, and I propped my feet there in the water… It felt strange. I haven’t swam in pools, in like, 3 years, since I got seriously tattooed.

I ducked my head underwater, searching for drains along the floor… but it’s so hard to see anything. I can’t even see the floor very clearly, save for the immediate bit under me and about 2m radius around me. It was terrifying, not knowing where the drains were… it’s gotta be somewhere here in the deep end of the pool.

After a few minutes I calmed myself down enough to do a few laps, taking half the pool length and back towards the diving block area, keeping myself close to the pool edges. All the while looking for drains. I could hear my heartbeat while underwater, it was beating really fast. I was scared and excited at the same time, knowing that I was either on the verge of breaking my phobia, or a panic attack, and worst of all I was by myself! I should’ve brought a friend!

At some stage, (I think about 5 laps) the fear got into me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I rushed towards the stairs, climbed out, and sat on one of the post-Chernobyl beach chairs, dripping, heaving and panting.

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I glanced at my G-Shock watch… I had spent a total of half hours in the mystery water! Success! Zero drain encounter! I smiled, thinking that it wasn’t too bad after all. I could definitely do this again. It was then I felt a sting on my toes…

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Crap, I must’ve cut myself while climbing out of the pool or something. Okay, that means it’s time to grab my stuff from the car, shower and go home…

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P1320838The showers are creepy and really old, there’s no bench to put your bag on, and as you can see, the curtain was torn. It’s cold shower only. What do you expect.

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I took another photo before it’s time to head back. Here’s my verdict:

Pros:
– Close to my house
– Cheap ticket price
– Not crowded

Cons:
– Water quality not so good
– Lockers are not secure
– Shitty changing room

Verdict: You get what you pay for. I might or might not go back there again, it’s undecided…

Shittiest Hotel Rooms, Part Two

Ah, a long overdue post, to follow Shittiest Hotel Rooms part one here.

2. Hotel Istana, Pekalongan.
Stayed in: July 2010.

It was work, a research road trip across Java,  that brought me to Pekalongan for the first time. Pekalongan is a small town in Central Java, known for its Batik and Batik culture. It’s a beautiful town, and we stayed a total of two nights, the first spent in this hotel.

When we got to town, it was late at night, and some government official’s wedding was on that night, there were a lot of out-of-town guests, so all the good hotels were fully booked, and that was how we ended up in this shithole of a hotel.

From the outside, it looks outdated but innocent enough. If I remember correctly, the hotel is rated 2 stars. I don’t know where those stars came from. Someone’s ass I suppose.

The VIP rooms were fully booked, so we (the 3 of us) had to settle with a deluxe room for (about) Rp. 250.000/night. What a steal! Yeah right! We were ushered up a cum-stained circular staircase, to a dusty, musty corridor, past some old men smoking in the corridor, and then down to our room. OK, I’m going to let the pictures speak on its own.

Walking into the room felt like taking a trip back in time. Way back to the seventies. There’s no bright lighting, all the lights are dim. The wallpaper were peeling, the ceiling mysteriously stained and cracked. Everything was dirty, dusty. I didn’t even bother to take pictures  of the cyan and blue tiled bathroom… I didn’t even bother to shower either, I was too horrified of the water turning into blood, just like in The Shining (or was it Psycho? duh!)

See the window? It faces straight to the highway. Everytime a 16-wheeler truck passed by, the whole building shook like a minor earthquake. And I get to sleep on the extra bed. Extra meant extra-creaky.  Luckily I was so tired that night, so I managed to get a few hours of sleep, thankfully without any strange ghostly disturbance… (I prayed really hard that night)

Look at the cabinet, straight out of a horror movie set. Oh look. I had 2 untattooed arms.

The morning after, I took some more pictures. Ah, the room looked slightly better in the sunlight. Notice the lopsided sofa! And the mysterious hole in the ceiling!

I went down to the lobby to get breakfast. It looked like a rich person’s living room back in the 80s.

Tonight’s entertainment program. Yeah right.

The dining room. Looks like an abandoned nuclear demolition site…

Notice the strange black stuff on the table? It’s someone’s konde! Fresh off last night’s party!

After the breakfast, we decided that we’ve spent enough time in this miserable hotel, and checked out. I took one last picture of the cum-stained stairs. It must have been there since the 1970s or something.

Bye, Pekalongan! Next time I won’t be staying at this hotel, just so you know! This place totally creeped me out!

Watercolor Pencils Test

The Story
Oh, yay, payday! It’s shopping time!

Today at lunchtime I went to the nearest bookstore to get supplies. I realized that I need good watercolor-soluble pencils to do my flash art and stuff. I’ve only got itty bitty mini-sized 12 pack Faber Castell colored pencils – they’re mini sized travel color pencils, only 2″ (5cm) tall each and the color shades in the pack were kinda inadequate to do proper flash coloring with.

So I went to the art supply racks and came across some options for watercolor pencils. Faber-Castell sell the 12-pack for Rp. 25k-ish , the 24-pack for Rp. 36k,  the 36-pack, and the monstrous 48 pack for 93k… Aha, the moar colors, the better, I thought. But it turned out that the 36 and 48 pack has so many unnecessary colors that I wouldn’t even use, like 3 shades of pink, 6 shades of blue, metallics, and white (on a pack of watercolor pencils for F sake), so I put that back on the shelf and re-weigh my options.

That’s when I saw the stacks of Derwent pencils on the other rack… they claim to have like 5 different types of watercolor-soluble pencils on the brochure, but there’s only 2 on display and the shop helper offered me to test some…

The 12-pack cost Rp.133k (about $12) and the 24-pack, Rp 238k (About $22 which is kinda out of my price range!)

Upon first impression, this pencil blends much better than the Faber ones, and it came with a tin (while the Faber one came in a carboard box) so I thought, oh well, art supplies are an investment, so I decided to buy the 12-pack, despite over the Rp. 100k price difference. Also, I was curious what difference would it make to use artist-grade pencils over supposedly student grade ones.

The Test
So I got back to the office and eagerly started the test. I drew 12 circles for each color and each brand like so, and started coloring in separate shades like so.

Upon second impression, the Derwent pencils are smoother on the paper and easier to apply, while with the Faber you’d have to press a little harder to get a solid shading. Also I noticed that the Derwent pencils are a bit flakey – I got little bits of pencil lead dust falling off on the paper surface. The resulting Faber colors looked shiny on paper, while the Derwent looked matte…

Then I went on to put water on the colors. Here’s the result.

The result looked near-identical! LOL. (Click for larger image).

Well, actually there’s subtle differences, not really that noticeable. Since the Derwent was easier to apply, the gradation/shading is smoother all across. Colors are softer, while the Faber colors are more bright and saturated. The Derwent black dilutes into a cool, bluish grey, while the Faber black dilutes into a warmer grey. I dunno which one is better for traditional flash, I’d have to experiment on that…

I started another test, drawing strips that looked like a rainbow… For the bottom left test, I wet the paper first and shaded with the pencil on top.  On the bottom right, another comparison on how a particular color looks like before and after wash.

Again… if you look at the rainbow stripes, the difference is subtle, but if you nitpick like I did, you can somewhat see how the Faber colors are brighter but choppier, while the Derwent colors are smoother both in color tone and subtle gradation changes. When I was using my Faber set before, I had difficulties laying one color on top of another, because the resulting colored surface would be so waxy and slippery, and the paper won’t take in any more color. This is not the case with the Derwent pencils. It’s easy to lay one color on top of another.

On the bottom right test, I conclude that the Derwent has slightly more pigment content than the Faber, because with the same amount of color applied, I can cover more area with color. Ah well. There’s my justification for the extra Rp.100k spent! Will I recommend buying the pencils? Sure. But keep in mind for 3/4 of the price you can get like a 48-color set Faber Castell pencils. The choice is yours.

I’ll leave you with an inappropriate drawing of Me as Kuan Yin, done with pencil, markers and my Faber pencils. Enjoy.

5 things I hate about Blackberry

Warning: Long winded rant ahead.

So here I am, sitting on my bed at home on a fine Saturday night, because I can’t be f*cked to go out  cos I’ve just spent massive amounts of money fixing my car’s radiator and camera gear and I’ve run out of clean pants to wear …let’s just say I’m too lazy to go out and spend my just-transferred hard-earned monthly salary, ok?

So what better time to bitch write about my dreaded Blackberry Gemini 8500, a year and 3+ months after I succumbed to peer pressure and bought it?

Granted, our relationship has had its ups and downs, but I’m sort of ready to call it quits and buy a new non-BB phone, if only my BB using friends would allow me. Le sigh.

Without further ado… and at the risk of sounding like a sociopath, here’s 5 issues I’m having with my Blackberry, a year later:

1. Broadcast messages
I was just chillin’ in between awake and asleep when all of a sudden my Blackberry buzzed aloud. Let’s hope it’s something important… NOT.

Oh shit, not another (two or three) pointless Broadcast messages!

Oh shit, it’s another  stupid “Test Contact” thing!

Here’s a fine example stolen somewhere from the internetz, in which the sender actually expects the recipient to re-broadcast the broadcast message, making it even more irrelevant!

RIM should totally have an option for the user to block Broadcast Messages. Granted, this BM thing is only slightly less annoying than Penis Enlargement spam emails you get from time to time… cos 99% of them is just so f*cking irrelevant!

If only the obsessive senders could see how many fucks I give about their BM? Zip, nothing, nada. I don’t give a f. Neither I will forward ur BM! FAIL.

2. Stupid illegible 4l4y BBM usernames

Yes! So you think you’re cool cos you have an unique BB Messenger username sprinkled with lame-ass illegible symbols? If only you know that I am able to permanently replace your totally illegible username (example: ×÷·.·´¯`·)»DJ_ØKO_ÇøÕL«(·´¯`·.·÷×), so that it reads as something like “Djoko, annoying fat ass second cousin once removed” on my BB? You’d be really sorry that you’re not using your real name as your BB Messenger name. FAIL, Mister.

3. Crappy Build Quality
You’ve heard it from elsewhere, friends who had to replace their trackballs, batteries, ever so often? Well, in my case, it’s that dreaded keytone thing. The flexible contact sheet that goes under your keypad. For the 14 months I’ve been using this Blackberry, I’ve had to replace this stupid thing twice, at Rp. 150k a pop, and nearly had to replace it for the third time… but then it fixed by itself. I have no further comments, just ask your Gemini-using friends.

My Sony Ericsson T610 was bought in 2002 and it’s still functioning at 100% as of today. Only more evidence that they don’t make phones like they use to. Boo.

4. Long-ass startup time
OK, I’m using BB Os 5 something (cbf’ed to check). My internal memory is nowhere near full (I always periodically delete emails, sms, etc, and I don’t install a lot of apps) and so is my external memory. Everytime I do a hard restart (battery pull) it took me somewhere between 10-12 minutes to start the BB again. It’s totally ridiculous… anyone can shed a light on this matter?

During that precious 12 minutes, I could’ve picked my nose, taken a shower, wrote a song, check my email, fb, call a friend and rant about it, and throw the BB to the wall, well you get the idea.

Try it for yourself! Do a battery pull, now!

5. You cannot go anonymous or invisible in BB Messenger
The dreaded messenger… Once it’s on, it’s on. You can set your status as “busy” but you can’t be “invisible”. You can “block” contacts, but they can see that you’ve blocked them and it’s kinda unpleasant to the receiving end, no?

I get it, people use the BB partly cos it’s super fast, and convenient. I like using it too, to an extent. Now this issue is a bit contradicting to issue #2 (stupid usernames), cos now I kinda know why they chose to use those silly usernames instead of their real name – sometimes you don’t wanna reveal too much info!

I hate it when strangers, friends of friends, or potential online buyers or sellers add me on the BB Messenger just like it’s nothing personal. You don’t just give out your PIN to anyone. I am a private person. I deservez teh privacy. I don’t really like chatting with strangers all the time on my phone. You can text me or email me, even add my Yahoo! Messenger, I’m fine with that. But not the PIN. Partly because I don’t know whether having you on my contact list will be beneficial or not for my well-being. Partly also because I don’t like the potential Broadcast Messages it will bring by adding even more contacts. I’ve had enough, thank you. My PIN is only for my friends and family.

Maybe I am nitpicking, but I don’t really care!

OK that’s 5 issues I’m having with the BB right now. I’m sure there’s more if I nitpick even more… you know I was gonna make this a 10-point list… but I’m too lazy. Your opinions?

Oh and BTW as soon as I have enough budgetz I am switching to an Androidz based phone, though I’d most likely still be using the BlackBerry for its BBM feature. FAIL!