Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cavalock and The Biennial Boys' Weekend Getaway

It was time for us guys' biennial event where we head to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend of Magic Grand Prix gaming and feasting. Damn, who knew I would be flying this often this year for gaming events. Flew in on Friday afternoon and all seven of us were so dog hungry when we checked in at Sunway Pyramid new west wing that we immediately chowed down at a nearby ramen joint, Hokkaido Ramen. Yah, our first meal in KL was Japanese ramen?!? Well, it's really just a quick bite to tie us over until ...

... three hours later when we finally had our full-fledged nasi kandar. Same place just across the street from the convention hall as well as exact same table as our last trip. Too much food too soon? Never!!!

Finally got to catch up on the entire run of Netflix's Luke Cage during the trip too. Excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's usually during such instances that I get to watch and read all me downloads over the last couple weeks. The series kinda reminded me of back in the old family house when me and my late uncle would watch TV shows and we would refer to all the black actors as negros. Reckon it was fine back then but no longer "permissible" in this age of politically correctness.

We also managed to catch the latest Jack Reacher and Tim's Burton's Miss Peregrine (Yay! Eva Green!) at the local theatre. Yup, neatly censored by the Malaysians as expected. But I guess we didn't really mind since the tickets were almost half the price of what we would be paying back home. Seriously, everything's cheaper there.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cavalock and The Solo Gaming Experience

It's a rare afternoon that I get to set up such a rewarding solo boardgame session in my tiny apartment. The baker-at-home was at one of her regular baking lessons at ABC Cooking Studio and I had a couple of (rare) hours free so why not. Well, you can savour the close-to-perfect culinary result below. Matcha swiss roll just like what you expect to find in one them fancy Japanese patisseries. Anyway, back to analog gaming. So I got my copy of the Elder Sign expansion Omens of Ice earlier this year and haven't had a chance to play it until now.

Based on H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, Elder Sign is a board game that can also be played solo as well as with up to 8 players. It's a co-operative horror boardgame set around the turn of the 20th century where you and other players help each other defeat different ancient horrors from destroying mankind or just your sanity.

"Twenty years ago, during the Klondike Gold Rush, over a hundred thousand prospectors traveled deep into the Alaskan territory. Most of them perished in the ice, a few got rich, and some awoke terrible, ancient evils. Now, down in usually temperate Arkham, the winds are blowing harder and colder than ever before. The Miskatonic has frozen over. Some people complain of insatiable hunger and sometimes the newspapers even report cannibalism. You know all too well that the Ancient Ones are causing the weather and hunger, but this time you cannot fight them from within the Arkham Museum, or even out on Arkham’s streets. You must brave the brutal conditions that killed thousands of prospectors, and fight ferocious creatures from this world and others, or else the cold, hunger, and ice will devastate humanity.
Omens of Ice takes you and your fellow investigators on a treacherous journey into the Alaskan wildernesses, where you must solve the mysteries of three terrible new Ancient Ones. Whether you choose to travel in summer or are forced to go in winter’s dark, at every step you’ll face terrible perils, from the port of Anchorage to the forest paths and mountain passes of the interior. You must constantly fight not only wild animals and ravenous monsters, but frostbite, starvation, and the madness that befalls many who enter this frozen, isolated, white world."

Now as you can see, it's a pretty big set for one-man game and that's cos I was playing three different characters. Each with unique skills and abilities so you got to each one to handle or solve different adventures before it all culminates in the final fight against an Ancient One. 
The beauty of Omens of Ice is that it's the most thematic horror game I have ever played. It's like an hour and a half long. It starts off deceptively easy at as you begin at base camp and in town where small victories are not that difficult to achieve. There are always at least six different adventure cards on the table. Each card sets the mood and there's this ever mounting tension as each turn brings more dangers as well as supplies and weapons that the characters can use later. You replace each adventure card that you successfully solve or defeat. Then once they think are ready, they'll leave the camp and venture through the snow and meet the Ancient One. 

And since I'm controlling three characters, it's quite a lot to manage but it's fun! I have to an eye on each individual stamina and sanity levels and also the group's winter supply. Like I said, It's very thematic, well, I can't say it's realistic since I have never been to the Arctic.

There's so much to be said about playing boardgames by yourself. It's vastly different from playing a video game. This here is a total immersion experience. Everything's tactile. You are moving multiple little pieces, rolling dice and figuring what to do next. Trying to survive. Nothing else matters. You really gotta concentrate and it's almost exhilarating as you lose yourself to the game. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cavalock and The Shameless Photo Book Plug

One project that I have been working for the last few months is finally out of the bag. Published by Marshall Cavendish (big thank you to Justin, Melvin and everyone else who worked on it), it's a photo book featuring wildlife photos taken by my 83-year-old Dad. There are over 250 color photos of birds across Singapore and in addition to pictures, each chapter also offers a candid view of his routines.

I have blogged bout some of his pictures here. He only started taking them about four years ago after me Mom passed away. Well, the book is now available at Kinokuniya at S$26.75 before member discount. If you like looking at some really neat photos of local birds and find out where you can find them in Singapore, do grab a copy! Although according to me Dad some of the birds have deserted several areas already. Like the ducks in our World Heritage Botanic Gardens, me Dad says they are all gone now.

I also wanna thank my friend Imp who wrote a little something about the book. I'm so glad she enjoyed it. What else can I say about the book? It's a labor of love, I learnt a lot putting it together with the wonderful folks at Marshall Cavendish and I hope everyone enjoys it too.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cavalock and The Dinner Party Puzzlement

So on Saturday night, I was at a little intimate dinner party at my friend's apartment and it got me thinking about the idea or 'culture' of dinner parties here. I guess it's something we don't see a lot of, I mean folks here still meet up for dinner but it's usually for a birthday party or watching a football match or some group event like reunions, and it's almost always at a restaurant or zi char joint. I imagine for Singaporeans here there's got to be an important enough reason to meet up otherwise why bother and cooking dinner at home is too much of a hassle? Nothing wrong with that of cos. Most people I know don't really meet up at a friend's place, enjoy a full home-cooked meal together then just sitting at the dinner table and talking about stuff. All right, maybe a lot of people actually do dinner parties and I just don't get invited? Hah!

Anyway, I think dinner parties are fun and the subsequent dinner conversations are often really memorable. Cos usually there'll be dinner guests that you'll be meeting for the first time. Well, our hostess is from the F&B industry and naturally we were treated to a fantastic spread that night. The pesto pasta (or is it pasta pesto?) was amazing. She bought it while in Milan and the Italian chef who recommended it claimed that the handmade pasta was one of the most popular ones in the city. Its twisty little shape makes it ideal for pesto.

We had some devious boozy ice-cream too. Served in these beautiful vintage Babycham glasses. I actually had a set of those from the old family home but I threw them away! You can see from the last picture below (yes, I snapped a pix before tossing them into the trash bag), the logos are quite worn out and I don't think anyone would actually want them. Fortunately my friend got her set from someone else.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Cavalock and The Early Halloween Homage

Ever since that Michelin Star fiasco that denied me my neighbourhood comfort food, I have been on a  little quest scouring nearby eateries for some cheap and good meals. And I believe I found a pretty decent replacement for now. A Thai hawker stall inside Golden Mile Complex serving various Thai dishes including pork collar rice which is slowly growing on me. It's on the first floor between the Thai supermarket and the overhead bridge opening. Stall sells coconut ice-cream too. So if you are into fat chewy porky ...er... pork bits, this is good. Yah, that's a very generous serving of white rice. Little too much for me.

Don't celebrate Halloween. Never have but since it's around the corner. I came up with this short poem a couple days ago.

What The Children See 

I remember the warmth, I remember the cold
The seasons come, the seasons go
Who still stands in the shadows?
Only the children know

They pass me in the hall, they never hear my screams
There is no one near when I cry and blaspheme 
They play in the room with the colorful toys, so chaste so carefree
From the corner of their eyes, I know the children can see me

What has become of me, only the darkness remembers
The questions are forgotten, the answers lost in slumber
Nothing left but mere ashes, bones and a tooth
Bless the children for they see not the truth

They hear my whispers, they slither in the dark
The flesh I grasp, they leave a pretty mark
I recite the eldrith vows so ancient, foul and appalling
Under their blanklets they hide, the children all silent and cowering 

Doors open in the dead of the night, stairs creak with no one is sight
It has been too long since they had guests overnight
After the dread comes the chill so wicked and grim 
The time has come for the children to scream

See their lithe bodies fly across the room, little limbs ever flailing
Down the stairs the parents wait, huddled together and loudly wailing
Along comes a man of the cloth, clutching his silver cross
If he knew what the children saw, all his prayers will be at a loss

I wonder whatever could have caused him to abondon all hope
Was it my twenty scratches that sent him fleeing down the slope
It's time for the sun to rise, I believe someone must pay the price
A new day dawns, a parent or a child, who shall make a sacrifice?

Now they see me in every mirror, standing so silent and solemn 
How they beg me to leave, their open pleads I scorn and condemn
All their precious are packed and ready to leave, if only they had time to grieve
Other children will one day come, will they be the ones I finally forgive?

Monday, October 03, 2016

Cavalock and The Cross-Border Coconut Overdose

Since my last escapade across the border a week ago, I realised my SIM card still had a couple of days worth of data plan in it so naturally we decided it's time to head back to Tijuana Johor Bahru! This time, with an active data plan means we get to Google Map our way a little further into the city. Living on the edge!!!

Once in Tijuana Johor Bahru, we left the familiar malls behind, took a walk on the wild side outside and passed some very ugly hookers on the sidewalk (really), crossed the first main road, then headed to their version of Little India. Lunch was all of the above for less than S$7. Really! Two generous bowls of pork noodles, delicious roast pork and roast chicken drumstick. After that extremely satisfying meal, we ventured deeper into the city, cutting through traffic and diving into narrow alleyways.

Good ol' Google Maps soon led us to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and the back of a very long line of people queuing at the famous Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory, with their traditional 100-year-old wood oven. We were't in the mood for any long queues under the blazing sun that Tuesday afternoon so instead of their popular banana cakes, we went for their tasty coconut buns instead. Looking at the queue, I'm always amazed at the number of young and old Singaporeans finding their way to Tijuana Johor Bahru on a busy work day. Seriously people, that's why our productivity is going down the toilet! :P

Still on the subject of coconuts, our next stop was this little hipster coconut-themed cafe called Nuts About Coconuts around the corner. Hey, you just can't go wrong with coconuts right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cavalock and The September Step Back

Oh wow, time really kinda flies when you are ... sorta ... having fun. I may have left the rat race but September has been almost back-to-back full of activities. I am still trying my best to play all the games I bought at Gen Con last month. Fortunately all the games I bought and played so far have been amazing. I think the only game left unplayed is the social deduction game Codenames Pictures. So if anyone wants to play that, just let me know. It's really shines if you are playing in a big group, at least six people. Seriously, why aren't more people playing board games?!?

Anyway, birthday lunch earlier this month at Odette was as good as I expected it to be. That was fantastic. The recent Speech Bubble exhibition at the National Library on local comic books had a few of my comic books on display. I mean, original local comic books that I wrote a lifetime ago. Something I'll always be proud of no matter what. Then a couple weekends ago, I was at Marina Bay Sands attending the local Comic Convention that led to an impromptu 1km dash to capture Lapras. I simply followed the mass of zombies to Gardens by the Bay and found the blue critter. The crowd is crazy! It was like some kinda smartphone-wielding zombie apocalypse!

This past week was pretty memorable too. A couple days in sleepy Sri, Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur just like the last time. I'm really starting to like this quiet little town. Cheap and good is the only way to describe my less than S$3 breakfast of delicious pork kway teow soup at the no-fuss alley way hawker stall. Lots of fatsssss, not something we ever see back home. I wonder what kinda health warnings he'll have to display at his stall if he's in Singapore.

Finally did some exploring around the neighbourhood after that and immediately spotted where my lunch later was gonna be, Been too long since I had some good ol' nasi kandar. Less than S$4 for that mountain-of-madness-on-a-plate. Then less than three hours after I landed back home, it was time for The Magnificent Seven movie with the guys, followed by a madcap midnight car ride across the island to catch you-know-what. Was simply too exhausted from the KL trip so I dropped out halfway but happy with my first Blastoise and Lickitung. *Whew*

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cavalock and The Classic Diner Yearning

It's the weekend and a month since I got back from the U.S. and a part of me is really missing the cheap, sinful meals that were so readily available there. A couple of years ago when we were in Indianapolis for Gen Con, our regular breakfast was this bagel joint but it's gone now and it's taken by ... (wait for it)... a gym! Fortunately our Gen Con hotel this year was nearer to the local Steak 'n Shake diner. Yah, it looks just like one them classic American diners you see on TV and in the movies. Right down to the grizzled waitresses calling folks 'honey'. Well, that's where we settled most of our breakfasts and the occasional dinner, they are open 24 hours.

I miss the above greasy breakfast plate so much. Probably not the healthiest thing to have in the morning but it's so sinfully good plus a hot cup of joe. There's also the extremely tempting 'all-you-can-eat' pancakes for only USD3.99. The burger I had for dinner was pretty good too except for the fries. The salt and vinegar fries I had was perhaps the saltiest pile of fries I had ever shoved into my mouth! Besides that unfortunate experience, their garlic burger is really fantastic too if you like garlic as much as I do.

Topped dinner off with a nice cup of Oreo mint cookie milkshake. Well, would had been nice if it came in one them tall glasses like in the menu. They got all kinds of shakes to choose from. A diner experience ain't complete without a milkshake.

No trip to the U.S. is complete without grabbing this off their pharmacy shelves. The Downers  sleeping pills I picked up the last time were no longer around so I tried these instead. Yup! Really knocks you out like before. Once again, it says 'non-habit forming' on the box so you know it's definitely safe! ;)

Two years later, I still don't understand why we can't buy this off the shelf here in Singapore. If the authorities are afraid someone is gonna OD on it but you can OD on aspirin too right? If someone seriously wants to OD, that individual can OD on just about any other legal drug presently on sale in the market. So what's the real reason we can't find these Benzos on sale here? If you take a closer look, this new one is 50mg, twice the dosage of the last pack I bought two years ago.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Cavalock and The Cider Finder

Ever since I was a kid, I have always had a hard-on for cider, good ol' apple cider. I remember drinking so much of when I was less than 10 years old until I threw up and was subsequently banned from it. Yah, I didn't exactly have a typical childhood by local standards, something I really wasn't aware of until recently but that's another story for another day. Anyway the ban's been lifted for awhile now so imagine how excited I was when I spotted this at (where else?) Meidi-Ya supermarket last week. Not bad, packs a wee bit more punch than your regular apple jam.

I also had the opportunity to drop by The Beast recently and of cos, I couldn't resist a bottle of American Woodchuck Hard Cider. Cider from the U.S. is just so much better than those bottles of orc swill from Australia or the U.K. masquerading as apple cider.

And speaking of booze, here's an offer from Meidi-Ya that caught my attention. Foam-making gadgets for your beer are pretty common when I was in Japan. No idea how foamy a head you'll get but feel free to give it a shot if you are into Japanese beer.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Cavalock and The Random Breakfast Routine

It ain't exactly Breakfast at Tiffany's but I really enjoyed my breakfasts in New York. And if you are staying right next to Rockefeller Center, you just gotta drop by Bouchon Bakery. Went down for an early breakfast and it was as good as I had read and expected it to be. Was there when the door opened and there wasn't much of a crowd but I would expect it to be crowded later in the day. Couldn't really think of a better way to greet the day.

Since 2003, Bouchon Bakery has been Chef Thomas Keller’s unique take on a French boulangerie, offering sandwiches, quiches, soups, and salads, as well as a wide range of artisanal viennoiseries, confections, pastries, tarts, and cookies both French and American in influence.

I said it before, travelling alone in New York with (almost) no plans at all was a blast. When I wasn't having breakfast at Bouchon, I simply figured I'll eat at whatever place I walk up to that morning that I liked. Well, the Pret A Manger cafe was my pick while strolling down the avenue heading towards a McDonalds' while actively looking for a Dunkin' Donuts. Yah, breakfast can be as complicated as I want it to be. Sat by the glass window with my almond croissant, coffee and a tub of berries, just watching the morning office crowd go by. And of cos, WhatsApp-ing with people back in Singapore. Which reminds me, something I found out during this trip. Dunno how accurate it is but apparently if you are getting the T-Mobile SIM card in New York, it's gonna be more expensive there than getting it in other states. Or maybe just ask for the USD30 plan if they offer you a more expensive one, if that makes any sense.

My nights in NewYork were pretty straightforward. Afraid I didn't really had time to paint the town red if you know what I mean. A quick dinner then it's back to the hotel room before 8pm to (finally!) catch 'live' telecasts of WWE Monday Night Raw and Tuesday night's Smackdown Live. :)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cavalock and The Famers' Market Foray

A Farmers' Market in the middle of Rockefeller Center in New York City! As early as 8am, they were already setting up All right, I know the photos could've been a lot better with close-ups and all but I was absolutely enthralled by the fruits, veggies and home-baked goods. My only regret is after buying all them board games from Gen Con, I had no luggage space left for any of the fresh fruits and I don't trust myself or anyone else with hand carrying anything as fragile as a peach.

Well, I did managed to grab a small can of homemade maple syrup from the farmer's market for the baker-at-home. We haven't had a chance to try it yet so we'll see. 

So yah, my hotel was just across the road from Rockefeller Center. Great location with an equally impressive view right in the heart of it all. Came with a nice little balcony too but it might be ...er ... kinda pretentious to be out there. The photos below might appear claustrophobic, with the buildings so close to each other but it doesn't. In fact there's this closed vibrancy or vibe that just makes the city come alive, know what I'm saying?

Heh, a couple of other things I like about my room. In bed with a special visitor and they got a water cooler with empty bottles outside the room just for guests.