Thursday, May 29

State Of Flux

Today was a weird day. I woke up at 4 am, for some indeterminable reason my sleeping cycle has gone to shit. I'll go to sleep at the usual time, between 10 pm to 12 am, and wake up at 4 am. This has never happened before, but okay, I can deal with it by napping. So I stayed awake until around 10 am, took about 45 minutes to nap, then went out to meet friends for lunch.

I met them and hanging out I felt a degree of awkwardness, or to put it more precisely; I felt disconnected from them. I don't know if it was in my head or it was due to the fact that the three of them know each other well, yet I've only met them recently. Either way the feeling of disconnect persisted and I wasn't as outgoing as I usually am. I did notice feeling especially full after eating lunch, and then sick after a combination of hot rock melon milk tea with lychee jelly and cookies. After spending a good six hours hanging out with them, I rushed home hoping to join some dancing classes. I've finally decided to take up partner dancing classes such as salsa, bachata and ballroom which are offered by a school opposite my flat. Yet I found that the school is closed the rest of the week, argh! So suffering defeat, I hung out at home for a bit before heading to meet friends at a bar.

There, yet again, I ran into trouble. That disconnect was there, worse than before, and my interactions were very mechanical and forced. People didn't react well to my presence and conversation would die. I started to feel shit. My energy and passion weren't there. Then over an hour after arriving, around the time I wanted to leave and go home, my energy returned. Suddenly I was lively, talkative and enjoying myself. I noticed people responding and enjoying my company a lot more. But I have to ask myself; why?

Why was my social interactions stunted for most of the day? Why did I feel disconnected and mechanical? Why did it suddenly change so late in the day? Was it because I was tired from my fucked up sleeping? Was it because I felt queasy from what I ate? I don't know. Its worrying that my social skills can fluctuate so much.

I hope this doesn't happen again.

Wednesday, May 28

No Touching!

One thing I learned while at uni was to introduce more physical touching with friends. Prior to that I would only physically interact with my family, play fighting, hugging, high fiving etc. I struggled to translate that physical closeness to outside my family. At uni I started to change and incorporate more physical contact with people. A simple, but important part of that was greetings. Shake hands with guy friends, hug female friends. Pats and high fives also work. It's something I've always tried to incorporate since then, to physical greet those I care about.

Recently however, I've found myself greeting people insincerely. I've met several girls through Couch Surfing who expect you to hug them, even if they have displayed no interest in talking to you. I've met guys who did the same. At first I played along with it, to fit in with the social veneer; 'Wow, look at me, I'm so friendly and open just like the rest of you!'. But no more.

When I hug a girl, or shake your hand I mean it as a sincere gesture. It means I like you and your company, that I consider you a friend. However if you are somebody that clearly has no interest in being my friend, or talking to me, why the fuck would I sully and degrade my own standards? Bugger you and your attempts to appear friendly. So from now on, if I don't like you, then no physical greeting, you'll get a "Hey" and that's it. 

Tuesday, May 27

Food Review: Blue Elephant

Cuisine: Thai
Price: $30 a main course
Location: 237 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland
Website: http://www.blueelephant.co.nz/

Blue Elephant ranks as one of TripAdvisors best restaurants in Auckland, so looking for an Asian treat, I went there with friends. The restaurant is located in trendy Parnell and the d├ęcor of Blue Elephant matches; simple yet refined. The restaurant had a cosy atmosphere and the staff were extremely friendly.

We decided to order four dishes; the beef green curry, chicken cashew nuts, sweet chilli fish and Blue Elephant spicy crispy pork. Rice is ordered per person and is unlimited. We also considered the set menu for $45 per person, which also sounded great. The dishes came promptly and we dug in with glee.



The beef green curry was presented beautifully. However it was obvious that it wasn't truly authentic Thai with native vegetables, such as carrot and broccoli, making up the bulk of the dish. The curry itself tasted great and was extremely moorish, some of us enjoying just the curry sauce with rice. The sauce was rich, with a nice subtlety of flavours.

Monday, May 26

Too Good To Be True

Over the last couple of weeks I've been interviewing for a promising job. The position: product executive for mobile (e.g. apps). The work place was literally five minutes walk from my flat and it was a global company, with a cool work space and fun employees.
I had three interviews; two of which were with a HR lady and my would be boss (product manager), the third with the global product manager. On Friday, after meeting with the global product manager, I left my final interview being told I was on the "short, short list". I was hopeful and optimistic that I would be employed and the changes it would bring to my life.
Unfortunately I was called today and told I wasn't what they were looking for. Apparently the global product manager wanted somebody who had mobile experience (I have none). To soften the blow I was told I presented well.

To say I am disappointed would be an understatement. I had high hopes of finally getting my life started in New Zealand. I guess I've already managed to move past this stumbling block and I'm looking forwards, to what I need to do. To keep myself happy, fulfilled and find employment I need to:
  • Send electronic heartfelt cards to friends in Singapore, after the physical ones I posted never arrived
  • Arrange meet ups with friends for later in the week
  • Check out MeetUp.com and see if there are any cool groups I can socialise with
  • Apply for jobs (though at this point I only see one suitable position)
  • Write up a couple of blog posts on good eating experiences I've had

Thursday, May 22

Lost In Transit

Over a month ago I sent several letters to friends and loved ones in Singapore. I had carefully picked each card to send, linking the art to a quirk of that person or experience we shared. I took the time to compose heart felt words, first writing drafts so my words would read fluently. I sent them away anticipating the replies from those people.

It was meant to take two weeks at most for the cards to arrive, now its been six. Chances are the post men, somewhere along the chain, fucked things up. I'm pissed off and there is nothing I can do about it. I'm also disappointed after putting in so much effort, that nobody will get to read what I wrote. 

For some of these people I’ll end up typing and sending them my thoughts. It’s not quite as romantic, but at least I can guarantee they will read them this time.

Tuesday, May 20

Confessional

I've been going to church, or at least Christian events for the last few weeks. I'm not a Christian, nor do I believe in any gods, so why would I go to such an event? It’s been for three reasons. One is the social element; I'm always keen to meet new people especially since I've moved to a new city. Another aspect is that I'm fascinated by how other people think and how they justify their beliefs. The last reason is that we are provided dinner with salad, main course and dessert. I'm hard pressed to turn down such an abundance of delicious food, especially when I'm not earning money. Last night, for instance, we were served roast lamb and beef, roast potatoes, kumera and pumpkin and an Asian salad. For desert some sort of pie. It was utterly fantastic and even after I went back for seconds, there was still plenty of food left over! Oh, one other motivation, church girls are cute.

Last night was noteworthy for something else. Some of us started asking some hard questions, which I felt the speaker didn't answer well. Essentially we were told that if you accept Jesus you will go to heaven, if not then hell. But an unborn child or somebody that has never been exposed to Christianity could never accept Jesus. Yet these people would be condemned.

I cannot believe that a God is loving and just, if he would condemn unborn children to hell for not believing in him. I'm still looking forward to next week, to hear whether this can be explained. Also MORE FOOD.

Sunday, May 18

A Retrospective On My Elder Scrolls Experience: Morrowind

My experience with the critically acclaimed Elder Scrolls series was somewhat unusual. I started with Oblivion, it being my first true open world and Western RPG. I then moved onto Morrowind, before playing Skyrim. In my last post I detailed my experiences with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. At the time I had only been exposed to JRPGs which tended to be linear, with non existant moral choices or freedom to explore. When I bought and played Oblivion on a whim, it blew my mind and exposed me to what RPGs could be. Oblivion was a beautiful experience, though as time went on I realised it wasn't without significant faults. After being drawn into one Elder Scrolls game I wanted more.

The year was 2009 and looking to expand my Elder Scrolls experience I decided to pick up The Elders Scrolls III: Morrowind. Morrowind was released in 2002 and was the first step in bringing the Elder Scrolls series into the forefront of WRPGs. I'd read about people's experiences and many considered it far superior to Oblivion as well as one of the best RPGs ever. Naturally I was curious about how Oblivions predecessor would play, especially seven years after its release date.

I was made aware of graphic overhauls that existed which would significantly improve the visuals of the now dated looking Morrowind, so after installing the game I decided to start there. Comparing the before and after was impressive, Morrowind perhaps looked even better than Oblivion.

After modding the graphics look as good as Oblivion's, if not better

Since it was my first play through I decided to leave the rest of the game intact and mod no further. The opening of Morrowind was far briefer than Oblivion and for that I was thankful. Within 10 minutes I was in a small village and start on my journey through the land. As mentioned in my Oblivion retrospective one of my favourite ways to play RPGs is as a thief. I steal, I strike from the shadows, I fighting battles on my terms. So one of the first things I did in Morrowind was attempt to steal valuables from the town. To my dismay I realised that your success in stealing isn't decided by your skill in environmental awareness, but instead entirely based on your Sneak skill. It didn't matter if you tried to steal right in front of somebody, or behind their backs everything was decided by this dice roll. NPC's didn't even have day cycles which meant they didn't go to bed and leave me the opportunity to steal. This was my first encounter with the stat focused gameplay of Morrowind, as opposed to the more action focused gameplay of Oblivion.

Saturday, May 17

Because I'm Happy

In the last few days life has been good, and more importantly my mental attitude has improved significantly. I've not been unhappy but there has been a noticeable malaise in my day to day life. I think there are a few events that have given me renewed vigour.

First off reducing my drinking seems to have relieved a burden. It almost feels like I was forcing myself to drink, and by stopping drinking I seem to have gained a healthier attitude towards alcohol. It's also given me significantly more financial freedom as I'm not burning money on drink any more. Today I bought this beautiful specimen with the money that would have otherwise gone on booze.


Secondly I've had a very successful interview (I'm currently unemployed) and have been invited back for another interview. Moreover I've been given a problem by the interviewer to solve. I now have an important project to work on, the consequences of which could change my life significantly. I can visualise in my head being hired and working in this company. If successful it would mean the end to my pauper lifestyle. When you are unemployed the constant scrimping and saving mind set is tiring. I can't hang out with friends, and drink or eat, as much as I would like. I can't update my threadbare wardrobe, where most of my clothes are years old. I can't read the books I want to. I can't take up the martial arts or dancing classes that my body craves. I can't buy the ingredients I want so I can indulge in cooking.

However I don't think spending abundantly is a good thing, I've always hated wasting money and impractical spending. I'm a saver. But when you are unemployed, too much of what you want is unreachable due to the lack of monetary resources. This especially jarring for me after being employed in Singapore, where I was able to do everything I wanted and still save 20% of my salary.

Thirdly I had a great Friday night with karaoke. I've never done karaoke and was keen to try it out with some of the Singaporean friends I've made in Auckland. The night started out very late. I originally wanted to meet at 9 pm, but we put it back to 10 pm, and by the time we started it was 11 pm. I spent the first hour or so hanging out with a Singaporean girl whom I initially took for shy. She opened up and I enjoyed our conversation. Once every one finally arrived there was slight awkwardness, since many of us didn't know each other. This awkwardness would quickly pass once we began singing.

I was nervous about singing, since I've always considered myself an awful vocalist and never sung in public. But I took up the mic on the 1st song and enthusiastically got right into it. As I've found time and time again in life, things are never that bad and the right attitude is important. I still feel I sung terribly but my friends were laughing and clapping as I sung. I couldn't help but join in the laughter, laughing at yourself is an important skill. I was having lots of fun, even if I was horribly off key. I also got to know some of the people there better and left with more friends than when I arrived.

So to sum things up, less drinking, great job opportunity and karaoke have helped me feel  more happy and fulfilled.

Friday, May 16

An End To Drinking?

The face of alcoholism
It’s now been over a year since I left Scotland. Over a year since I left the ‘drink to get drunk’ culture, where I would drink the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine on a night out. I would have a fantastic time getting drunk, talking with friends, dancing, listening to ear pounding music and flirting with girls. I would never get a hang over which meant I never experienced the painful, nauseating, morning after effects of heavy drinking. Alcohol is also relatively cheap in the UK, with bar beer as low as $3 and a bottle of wine $10. The low cost of alcohol meant I could get very drunk with as little as $30.

So this week, over 365 days since I left Scotland, I realised that I’d been looking to recreate those drunken times, and I'd so far been unsuccessful. When I was working in Singapore alcohol prices were so expensive that I mostly gave up on drinking. A single bar beer was $16. At those rates it would take me over $100 to get as drunk as I would in Scotland. I also found myself lacking the larger friend circle that getting wasted benefited from. So I essentially became a non-drinker and mainly hung out with a small group of friends.

After Singapore I moved to New Zealand, and what an opportunity! Beer was typically $6, and I could pick up wine for $10. During my first few weeks in New Zealand I went to Couch Surfing bar meet ups and got extremely drunk, consuming drinks in the double digits. But I still found something lacking. The people at Couch Surfing weren't looking to get wasted like I was, so after spending $60 a night I realised that this wasn't what I sought.

In the last month I stopped binge drinking and instead decided to limit myself to $20 a night, which can buy a reasonable 4-6 beers. I soon realised that I didn't get any enjoyment from being only slightly drunk. In fact one night after consuming 5 beers and one pizza, I realised I wasn't drunk at all and essentially wasted $15 on beer. So when the alcohol at bars was too weak for my tastes, what was I to do?


Thursday, May 15

Food Review: Little Sheep Hot Pot

Cuisine: Hot Pot/Chinese
Price: $30 per person
Location: 27 Cross St, Newton, Auckland
Website: N/A



Little Sheep Hot Pot is conveniently located near the top of Queen’s Street, and not wanting to trouble my friends with travel, I chose to eat there. The result was an enjoyable, but rather average hot pot experience.
The restaurant is clean and spaced out, a marked difference from traditional hot pot joints I've been which are often cramped and dirty. There were only a few other diners that Saturday and it continued to be quiet throughout the night. I felt it was a bit empty and soulless without the merry making din of others.

There were 2 staff that night and both seemed overwhelmed by the demands of us few diners. We had to wait longer than necessary for items like tea, food and drinks. The menu was confusingly partially Chinese, though all the important dishes were in English. All the staples of hot pot were accounted for like beef, fish balls, bean curd skin and cabbage.

The portions were pretty generous and we ate with glee. The spicy soup and pork soup both tasted good, and only got better as the night continued. Unfortunately a noticeable number of dishes came out still frozen, this was definitely not the freshest fare. At the end of the night we were stuffed and very satisfied with the meal.

Little Sheep Hot Pot offers an average hot pot experience. It’s not flash, or great quality, but you’ll still enjoy a good meal and its central location makes it convenient.

6/10

Monday, May 12

A Blog Post A Day?

I had a suggestion from a friend, that I should write a blog post a day and share my personal thoughts more. My original intention for this blog was to write informative pieces. I love food, so it made sense to write restaurant reviews.

Currently I have no other 'projects' that I'm working on, and I'm looking for work, so I need something to focus on. Something that will improve a measurable skill and I will enjoy. So writing a post a day doesn't sound like a bad idea. Maybe I'll also start the 100 days of happiness idea on Instagram.

So this is day number one, more exciting posts to come I promise.