Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Age of the iPad

I am lying now on the grass in my garden under the sky. Gentle wind is blowing and it is cooling. Dolby my dog kept disturbing me, sniffing my hair, trying to sip my can of beer and inviting me to play with him. This dog is hyperactive.

This post is to wax lyrical on the iPad. Needless to say, I am typing this on the iPad connected via the Wifi. I did not buy the 3G version because there is no need. Not to mention the extra monthly cost for the data plan.

Honestly, I was skeptical about the iPad when it was launched. Another fad, another selfish gadget, another toy to show off just to tell the world that one is in trend and hip. I was still rather skeptical until the day I bought it. I actually thought of getting it for my mom to play games on since she loves playing games. As for me, I can’t imagine much use of it.

To say the least, I prefer reading real magazines and I read either the Economist or BusinessWeek every morning during breakfast. I read real books because to me reading a book is more than just reading the lines. I love the smell of the book that I am holding in my hand. I like to flip the book forward and backward and peek at what is coming etc. etc. I read news on my laptop when I reach the office. I do not really know how the iPad wil change these habits. In fact, until now, I am still doing the same routine every day.

But what then is iPad’s value add to my life? For a start, I realize that I do not turn my home base iMac as often anymore. I can do all my web browsing, Facebooking, emailing all on the iPad and it feels great to do that. The size of the iPad and of course it’s touchscreen technology makes the experience such an easy and enjoyable one. Unless I need to do something heavier or there is something I really need to use Flash to watch or I want to play games, I no longer needed to turn on that giant.

What more, with Apps like QuickOffice Connect, GoodReader, Dropbox, Evernote all installed, I can even use the iPad if I need to do some simple office stuffs.

Of course there are the BBC and CNN apps that I have installed to catch up with some news if I felt like it.

Talking about office work, I have been using the Moleskine notebooks to write things down for the past few years. Moleskine has great and simple design which I admire and enjoyed using. However, I feel it will now be replaced by the iPad again thanks to the Penultimate app and the Pogo Sketch stylus. Note taking using them is such a breeze. With Wifi everywhere and cloud technology, I bring with me not only my ‘digital Moleskine’, I am bringing along with me the files and minutes that I need which I have already stored in the cloud. It is just so convenient and logical.

Another thing that I really like about this gadget is that I can load movies I wanted to watch but cannot find the time or for whatever reasons and take them with me when I travel or whenever I am free. Yes, there is not much storage space but there is enough space there to store several movies. And the screen resolution is good. It is easy to rip and sync movies between the iMac and the iPad. You just need to have Ripit and Handbrake installed and iTunes will do the rest.

I have watched Naruse’s FLOWING this way as well as re-watching BEFORE SUNSET, which I truly enjoyed and also as a homage, some years ago, tried to retrace the lead characters’ track in the movie starting from Shakespeare and Company itself, after purchasing a copy of Hemingway’s THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and get that “Kilometer Zero” chop as a souvenir since THE MOVABLE FEAST, one of my very favourite books, is not in stock. Needless to say, the attempt to trace the whole route from Shakespeare & Co to the coffee shop failed.

Add on to this the current app that I am using to write this blog post, I am free and easy. No longer bound to the desk or have to carry that bulky Notebook around (still I will much prefer the iPad to the Macbook Air although the MBA is also sweet). And add to this, some games to play and some pigs to aim at when I am bored or when I wanted to take a break, and at only about RM1,500 (no need the 3G), this superb tool is great value for money.

Nice, isn’t it?

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Games I am Keeping

In response to Hiew’s comments in the post below, here are the games that I will be keeping for various reasons, but mostly that they are being played very often. Some of the games are not really “high-brow” games especially compared to some of the games that I am selling such as Goa and Princes of Florence, for example, or from well known designers such as Martin Wallace. I do keep some of his games but unlike movies where I am an auteur person, I do not follow games based on the designer although knowing who the designer is do trigger me to investigate the game.

Many of the games that I keep are easy to play games that do not require like 6 hours to complete. They offer interesting game play, some tough decisions and interaction between players. Some of the games are good to get non-gamers in. And some of the games such as 1856 are long and complex games but I like it too much I would just like to keep it even though I play it only once or twice a year.

So here is the list together with the reason why I am keeping them:

1. 1856 – part of the 18xx series which I truly admire. A superb economic game with great mechanics. Long game but worthwhile. Gives me a great feeling each time I play it.

2. 1860 – part of the 18xx fetish. Haha.

3. Age of Empires III – simple game with some tough decisions. Nice miniatures. Good mechanics.

4. Age of Steam – a rather complex game but very satisfying. Cut-throat. One of the train games I will always play if time does not allow an 18xx game.

5. Agricola and its expansions – cute bits. Good theme. Not hard to learn but put in the cards, the game can be complex and decisions agonizing. Scales very well in terms of players and complexity and the various types of cards make this game very re-playable.

6. Battlestar Gallactica and its expansion – Good and very fun game. Lots of player interaction. The hidden cylon mechanics provide most of the fun to this otherwise quite dry game. But the hidden cylon mechanic alone and the fun derived from it made this a keeper.

7. Brass – another superb Martin Wallace game besides Age of Steam that I am keeping. This is a really, really good game. Each time I play it, I enjoyed it immensely. I am keeping this even though I play online at the turn-based server.

8. Caylus – like Age of Empires and Agricola, this is a worker placement game but this one is at the pinnacle. The mechanics is classy. The game is classy. Good player interaction and very “euro” feel. If I want to play an “euro worker placement game”, this is the game I will think about.

9. Diplomacy – Matured. Evil. Can play 7 people. Real. What a great design this is.

10. Endeavor – Although the mechanics is similar to a few games such as Puerto Rico and Goa, worker placement and all, this game is fast, beautiful and pull everything together nicely and neatly. Our group enjoy this game a lot and whenever we think of a fast and good game, this game inevitably gets mentioned.

11. Le Havre and its expansion – lots of bits, tough decisions. Actually this game did not get a lot of play time from my group but I personally like it because of its design. Perhaps I have some personal liking for micro-management of things, getting this and this so that I can get that, and after getting that, I can therefore score how many points etc.

12. Indonesia – This also does not get a lot of game time but like 1856, I love the mechanics, I like fiddling with bits (perhaps is a reason why I like Le Havre too). And I love economic games which this game provides so amply. A wonderful, wonderful game. I wish I can play more of it but like 1856, the long game time is a problem.

13. Die Macher – One of the favourite of our group. Everytime there is an election or by-election, we want to play it. Have played it many times now and each time, it was fun and engaging, and the game after-taste is something to be savoured.

14. Puerto Rico – classic euro. Choices. Optimization. This game plays fast, provide meaningful actions and decisions. Open information game.

15. The Settlers of Catan – My wife’s favourite game. I don’t really think it’s that good but as a game to introduce people to play or to play a light game with family and friends, this game is good. Given a choice, I will not automatically want to play this game. It is good with the Cities and Knights expansion but since I am not a fan of this game, I am not keeping that expansion and I keep this base game purely for playing a light game (actually, I am more happy and feel that using the Agricola family game to introduce players to the game is more effective).

16. Shogun – If we want to play a war-like game, it will be shogun. Interesting mechanics, attractive components. Well designed. One of our group’s favourites.

17. Sid Meier’s Civilization (2010 edition) – Good civilization building game although it can get lengthy. But interesting game and scratch that civilization building itch in us.

18. Stone Age – easy to understand mechanics. Interesting game for casual gamers. Fast. My brothers and sisters love this game and requested it to be played repeatedly during CNY. Definitely great family game.

19. Through the Ages – one of the best card driven games I have played. In my opinion, a much better civilization game compared to Sid Meier’s Civilization above. But it is a long game and not very popular with our group. I would want to play this game more often. I admire its design and gameplay.

20. Ticket to Ride – Great family game. My mom likes it. My wife likes it (maybe because she won by a mile!). Great for casual gamers. I am keeping it for that purpose only.

21. Twilight Struggle – One of the best games out there. I really like this game. Those that I played with love this game too. Superb design. The only game I rate that is near to Go. Delightful, interesting, rewarding.

22. Wealth of Nations and its expansions – This game is one of the better economic games out there. Great player interaction as well. Each time I play this game, I feel really nice. Not with the War Cloud expansion though. I didn’t think this game needed that expansion. The base game alone feels cut-throat enough. One of the jewels out there.

I have two more games coming my way, i.e. Automobile and Shipyard, which should arrive tomorrow. I suspect these two are keepers but I will have to try it out with the group and see how these goes.

I may sell off Le Havre and Sid Meier’s Civilization from this list in the near future though.


Filed under Board Game

Restructuring and Change

As the first step in restructuring my life, I will be selling off many of my boardgames, saving those only that I think I will play more often with my friends and my family, or some that I would just like to keep despite having low play rate. There is no point for me to keep those games that I will only play perhaps once, twice or thrice a year. I would gladly sell them off to other interested people who can now buy them a lot cheaper and at good quality, since I take very good care of the boardgames and also that many of them are seldom played more than 3 times.

I would like to sell all of them at as a bundle package. There are 42 games in this list and I will be willing to let them go as a package for RM6,000. As a matter of fact, I will be very much reluctant to sell piecemeal as I will be bound to be left with some games that I cannot get rid of (although all the games in this list are really, really good games…just that I do not have the time to do justice to them now) but I am willing to break the parcel up to smaller bits of perhaps 10 games each, but the games in each parcel will be determined by me and the average price of course will be higher than if you buy the whole lot of 42 games. Just let me know what games you are interested in and I will parcel them for you and discuss about the price.

The game list are as follows:

1 At the Gates of Loyang (2009)
2 Axis & Allies 1942 Edition (2009)
3 A Brief History of the World (2009)
4 Catan: Cities & Knights (1998)
5 Chicago Express (2008)
6 Citadels (2000)
7 Confucius (2008)
8 Container (2007)
9 Container: The Second Shipment (2008)
10 Cyclades (2009)
11 Dominant Species (2010)
12 Founding Fathers (2010)
13 Genoa (2001)
14 Goa (2004)
15 El Grande (1995)
16 Hansa Teutonica (2009)
17 Homesteaders (2009)
18 Imperial 2030 (2009)
19 In the Year of the Dragon (2007)
20 Inca Empire (2010)
21 Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-? (2010)
22 Liberté (2001)
23 Perikles (2006)
24 Power Grid (2004)
25 Power Struggle (2009)
26 The Princes of Florence (2000)
27 Race for the Galaxy (2007)
28 Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium (2009)
29 Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm (2008)
30 The Republic of Rome (1990)
31 Rise of Empires (2009)
32 The Scepter of Zavandor (2004)
33 Steam (2009)
34 Steam Barons (2009)
35 Struggle of Empires (2004)
36 Tide of Iron (2007)
37 Tigris & Euphrates (1997)
38 Tinners’ Trail (2008)
39 Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (2005)
40 Twilight Imperium (Third Edition): Shattered Empire (2006)
41 Warlords of Europe (2010)
42 Wasabi! (2008)

You can drop me a mail at hdoong at yahoo dot com for offer and discussion. If there are more than one offer, then the highest bidder will be the winner.



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Finding the Soul

Inspired by a good friend’s status update on Facebook where, inspired perhaps by the movie he saw, was saying he was looking for his Soul. I have been asking this and some other questions at various points in my life too and his update in turn inspired me to write this post, on what I thought on the subject matter. Not that I am an expert or anything but if at all, just inquisitive and would just like to share a thought or two, perhaps just for the fun of it, because, ultimately, I believe we won’t really find an answer to that question of a Soul.

When we talk about the Soul, it is inevitable that it is closely linked to Religion for without religion, there is no need for a Soul. The purpose for the existence of a Soul is many-fold but the most important of all is that this Soul transcends our physical existence, and thus is something eternal. In a way, it is a great concept because our existence do not end with the expiry of our physical being and as such, so are the rewards and punishments for the acts we have done in this world via our physical existence. It satisfy our need to have an eternal life, to be greater than just current mere existence, as well as a great carrot and stick mechanism to make sure that we behave. It is the great Santa Claus for Mankind.

For all these, therefore, Mankind needs to keep his/her Soul clean and pure in order to live a blameless life, and thus reaps eternal rewards when the Savior rides in the rainbow from the sky and such. This is the most simplistic way to look at it.

However, at another level, the Soul serves as a great concept in our current worldly life. What I meant is the Soul gives us strength to face the trials and tribulations of life, which we will face inevitably. Without this strength, it is hard to get on day after day in the face of adversity and set-backs. Everyone needs to have a certain pillar to draw strength from and this Soul is a great power provider. The Soul provides a sense of security and comfort, a certain peace. In short, the Soul radiates very positive energy when the owner of the soul believes his/her Soul is clean and pure. And as everyone knows, positive energy begets positive energy and good things will start to happen in one’s life.

But the ultimate question is, does the Soul really exist or is it just a concept stemming from our own psychological needs? Do the Soul really reside in our body and then leave us (to reincarnate or go to Heaven or Hell or wherever) when our physical being expires or is it just a creation of our mind, which will cease to exist when our physical existence expires? Or is the Soul just a form of energy that is within us and when we expire, this energy leaves us and transform into another form of energy, since energy cannot be created nor destroyed? And if it is an energy, how is this energy different from other forms of energy such as heat and electricity?

Since time immemorial, Mankind is actually quite a humble species in that they acknowledge that they are not in full control of all the elements in the world that we live in. As such, they worship the gods of sea, wind, sun, tree, stone, etc. etc. in the hope that they will favor them and thus give them good luck and make their life easier. From hunter-gatherer related gods, mankind progressed into agriculture related gods as they progressed from hunter-gatherers to farmers. As societies becomes more and more complex, various higher level gods are imagined until the ultimate “realization” of the one God. Then there are no other gods but God.

With the creations of gods, the creation of the Soul is inevitable as Mankind begins to ask what they are made of, where they come from and where they will go hereafter. As societies becomes bigger and bigger, rules and regulations need to be established to govern the society as close monitoring is no longer possible as societies became bigger. And when it grew bigger still, some sort of remote control monitoring system needs to be in place so that everyone do good and bad guys are punished, their crime recorded by invisible eyes up above. And for those who got away from punishments in this life, there is comfort in knowing that the criminal will be punished even if his physical existence expired in this world. That was really great comforting thoughts and encouraged everyone to behave.

However, in Buddhism, at least the Theravada tradition, they do not believe in the existence of the Soul as Gautama Buddha reportedly asked his disciples wherefore the Soul resides in the body. But the idea of transcendental punishment and rewards is still present in the Buddhistic philosophy via the theory of Karma where good deeds are rewarded with good rewards or good reincarnations, etc. And the subject of this reincarnation is again, to me at least, not substantiated with logical arguments. And asked about all these things that humans cannot logically understand and perceive, the Buddha just simply said that we do not need to know. Notice that He did not say yes or no.

Perhaps like Kant said, transcendental ideas are by nature not understandable by human beings simply because it transcends our understanding and the capacity of our brain power. It is fruitless and meaningless to talk about it and the only way to work on it is to have faith in it. This is perhaps true and is perhaps why early Chinese philosophers such as Confucius and Lao Tzu did not talk about the Soul, but merely the Way (or Tao) of Heaven. And here it also gets interesting when the concept of God first started as Shang-di (Heavenly King) to Tien (Heaven). Perhaps from one God whose image is like Human and all powerful to a Concept of Heaven only. Not until Buddhism made a big impact in China did they have again the idea of human-like gods.

So, coming back to this concept of Soul and it’s relevance in our modern and future society. There is no doubt in my mind that the idea that a real Soul exist and resides in our body and will move on after we die is an important idea and I think billions of people in world live and believe in its existence. However, to each their own, some people also do not believe at all in it and lives a purely existential life. But what I believe is that the “Soul” is a culmination of our own self-inquiry into the nature of our own beings. Our philosophy and world-view, a way and guide for us to live and face the trial and tribulations of life. A philosophical concept attained purely by self-reflection and meditation, from study of self and others, from the exploration and learning of the world around us. And thus building character and self confidence and strength to live a blameless life, to face problems, to have the ability and wisdom to appreciate our own life, family, friends and the world surrounding us, to live a good and happy life, hopefully benefiting and also learning from everyone who comes into contact with us, if possible contribute to the betterment of Mankind and finally, the wisdom and ability to be able to let go.

Hmmm… well, there goes my lunch time.


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