Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Let's Rock: Highlights

Well, it started when we joined the YCA Chorus for the first project this year, where we sang for the Kingdom Hearts show. That was awesome, as the last time we sang with an orchestra was for the Lord of the Rings Symphony (9 years ago!).

Then YCA Chorus participated in the SoundBridge Festival, which was hectic with only one month to prepare.

Then straight after that was to prepare for Let’s Rock, a performance featuring the KLPac Symphonic Band with conductor Kevin Christensen, Bihzhu, Fuad Alhabshi, Nick Davis, a 4-man band consisting of Loh Ui Li (the superwoman who arranged all the songs for this concert), Wafi, Kamal and Ruvi.

So, memories:
- Let’s Rock rehearsals were maintained on Sundays to avoid clashing with YKLS rehearsals on Mondays, which we didn’t like because usually our Sundays are for, ah, other commitments.

- Thankfully the songs were familiar songs from the 90s, and songs we have already performed for YKLS Rocks. Only had to make sure we didn’t mess it up with the YKLS Rocks arrangement.

- How we had to translate HoppĂ­polla in order to memorise it.

- The first rehearsal of the symphonic orchestra with Ui Li and Kevin Christensen at KLPac Indicine, where Serene, Yen Peng, Simon and us were just ‘keypoh’-ing to listen to the band play (and recording them so we have a better reference to sing to). And when it came to Zephyr Song, Kevin turned to us all and said he can’t hear us sing, thus giving us permission to sing along and making it known that we won’t be disrupting band rehearsal by doing so...and so in the recordings that followed we all could be heard singing (and probably a bit shiok sendiri as well), sans sopranos.

- Everyone packed into Studio 5 at KLPac. The noise level!

- Choreography - very simple. Ian cannot dance, so if Ian can do it, we can do it! Except due to sound balancing, most choreography had to be cut down so we can stick close to the mics.

- And when we had to stick close to the mics: during the Friday night show sound check, Cason, who is on our right, exclaims, "I ate durian today!" It's a good thing we actually like durian. Then again this could be revenge for us having Skippy's pizza with loads and loads of diced garlic in oil before bump-in on the 28th.

- More on choreography: at one point during bump-in we overheard Su-San saying “OK, later we cannot lose to the other side!” Given the men stood at the back on higher platforms, this led us to observe that (for songs where no choreography was set) the girls on the left half were doing one thing while the girls on the right were doing another. 'Cooperative Competition' kot.

- YKLS members shared the Have A Good Show tradition outside the changing rooms, and then Ian shared both the passing-the-energy and the Have A Good Show ritual to everyone involved in this production. Band members were rather unsure what to expect at first, what will this bunch of excited flers do to me ah why want to hold hand hold hand... to some old members it felt like energy was only going one direction ‘cos some others may not know what to do what’s going on.

- Have a good show also had one-thirds of the members bouncing and screaming HAVE A GOOD SHOW while others stayed rooted to the ground. There was no bouncing into the centre of the ring as well because all the band member’s music stands and instruments were in the way.

- Bihzhu’s excellent effort at learning everyone’s name. Considering we can work with our choir members for one whole production and even come show dates we may look at someone and not know their name.

- Note to self: Imprint Conan O'Brien.

- Progressions from concert day 1 to day 3:
“Think about what the song means when you want to do choreography,” says Ian. “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is about war.” Day 1, muka serius sikit, tried not to make body language look too joyful. Day 3, everyone’s doing the step-left-step-right fun times backup singer dance.
The band! Day 1 still seated professional musicians. Day 3 waving instruments in the air and even one point standing to rock!
Something Just Like This: Day 1 bopping to the beat, Day 3 jumping on the platforms eff all if it breaks.
The audience: oh wow the audience was totally awesome for all three days. But it got wilder and wilder still each day!

- We learn about Caltex mamak. Actually not sure if we’ve been there before (we suspect we might have gone once before back in 2008 for Breakin’ It Down but don’t really remember). This time we learn not only it’s decently priced for the portions you get served, most of the dishes are past our spice tolerance. And then there’s the apom special.

- We didn’t take many photos this round to post for social media, and even less so taking with everyone. The guys weren’t as active as the girls in taking photos too so there will be less to see compared to YKLS Rocks.

- Serene is another superwoman - after an already energetic performance on Friday and Saturday night, she then continues with her singing gig after that until 1am.

- Though there’s no cast party, we all (singers) ended up heading to Uncle Don’s Hartamas to celebrate the end of the production. And ended up singing the Let’s Rock medleys, Disney songs (there was a request from another table for Lion King), Michael Jackson songs (also requested from same other table), and Christmas songs until near 2am. We don’t know which tag they used, we do know it’s on Insta Stories somewhere possibly...

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Nexus Experiment

So at the start of the year we had managed to snag ourself a second-hand Nexus 5 to play about with the Android OS, because we've always been curious to experience the OS. You would think given the number of phones out there running all manner of Android, getting a cheap low-end phone just to play about with would be easy, but it's been quite the headache because:
1. Our preference to experience stock Android and not some skinned version;
2. All the talk on specs makes us wonder how badly certain apps (especially games) would perform on a lower end phone;
3. Which version of Android will it be running, considering that it may get updates to the newer versions of Android (probably be stuck at Marshmallow);
4. How cheap is cheap compared to what we want from points 1 and 2.

So it was a stroke of luck when we came across a second-hand section at DirectD PJ, and so thought, why not? We'll try it for a couple of months and then if we get freaked out by how Google tracks everything we'll stop using the phone. We're also not replacing our iPhone with the Nexus, but using it as a secondary phone, because we're too tied into the Apple ecosystem. Universal apps and iCloud Photos syncing on all our devices meant photo editing and music creation for choir work is a breeze, so it isn't as easy to 

Side note: Maxis's Multi-Sim 1 Line isn't as it used to be anymore, where you can choose which phone to receive calls and texts and switch at any time using a hash code, now there's just a primary phone that receive calls and texts, while all sims have access to data. Well making data calls would still work, but we find it slightly limits the purpose of having multiple sims.

Verdict?

  • We like Google Now and the suggested cards of articles to read. Tried using one of the popular launchers available only to find ourself going back to the Google Now launcher.
  • We're made more away on how Google tracks our locations (because notifications pop up to confirm if we've been to a place), even when we have the Google Maps app closed.
  • Google Assistant's voice recognition is super.
  • Because spec-wise it isn't that great, we rarely use the camera and Google Photos (which we also rarely upload personal stuff). Our surprise seeing a loading bar (that isn't part of the app UI) whenever we start Ascension also puts a dampener at using it to play games.
  • It's great for Google Maps and Uber because we save battery on our main iPhone.
  • We think because it's a Nexus running stock Android, it still runs smoothly (again, never tried more intensive apps).
  • Material Design is nice, but the way text gets cramped in Google Maps when there's a long name is a bit jarring.
We suppose why it didn't see more use than we'd expect is because the apps we do use (Pixelmator, ForScore, Notion) are already paid for from the App Store, we don't use Google Photos (the privacy issue), and because Whatsapp only works on one device at a time, the silly bugger. Also likely because when we use Google's stuff (GMail, Docs) it's on a desktop.

This Nexus phone is also quite unfortunate somewhat - to keep it handy we did not get a casing for it, only to have it fall to the ground twice. Once on a laminated floor screen first, resulting in a long line across the screen, and once more on the asphalt causing it to be a bit more beat up than usual.

After 10+ months we're finally ending the Nexus Experiment, we're calling it off. We're switching the sim over to our old iPhone 5, because iOS 11 has been horrible on battery life so a second device for battery-intensive stuff right now is a good idea still.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

YKLS Rocks: Highlights


Our director, Ian, always tells us to remember how we feel and treasure the memories of the moments during the production and there were definitely some good ones when we joined back this year:

The best memory we have? When both groups finally get to view what each has done in terms of choreography and arrangement for the Sing-Off songs. For Mr Brightside, Kathleen started flirting with all men, and the shocking reveal that Justin was her beau had our jaw dropping.

Other stuff...

During the twice weekly rehearsals, it was split to have the directors work with Rockabye Baby on Monday and Undecided on Wednesdays. Except due to time constraints, the other group usually heads upstairs to rehearse and figure choreography. Or in one case for Undecided, to sit down, chitchat and eat salted egg yolk fish skin snacks.

When Ui Li first joined in rehearsals to play the piano (after the second half group songs were nearly finalised), the Undecideds were sitting near the piano. Except we weren't really sitting, a bunch of us (especially Serene) were up and jumping and rocking to Viva La Vida and Mr Brightside.

Rachael's initial rock band name!

Dressing room burns by Tristan:
Simon Chong: Tristan, how do you say, "Welcome to the YKLS 15th Anniversary concert?"
Tristan: We say it in English.
Simon: NO. NOOOOO.

- and another time when Justin came in with a wet plastic bag -

Us: But why is the bag wet?
Justin: I washed it because it was sticky with banana sap earlier. The bag's still good, so...
Us: Ah, going to reuse the bag la.
Tristan: Why, Justin? Are you in financial trouble?

Hmmm again as in earlier productions, we take a fair bit of photos and videos early on in the year (although mainly to be used for promoting on social media), but come actual showtime to the end we sort of fatigue out and so don't really have much behind-the-scenes photos during bump-in/post-show or even cast party. While during these time we'll see loads by other members.

The rock songs chosen by Serene and Justin to be played pre-concert during the group rituals - just like how in prior productions the sound tech would play pop songs and Lex would even do choreography as it it was a Zumba class.

'Passing the energy' this year not as Morse code crazy as it was during Illuminations! Phew.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Pros and Cons

Talk about timing.

When iOS 11 public beta launched to the public, we thought, "Hey, why not try it on our iPad mini 3 since we don't really use it as a daily driver. Plus iOS 11 is meant for the iPad rather."

And so we did. Did it with eyes open that there may be crashes, battery drainage, etc.

And what with our timing, after installing the public beta, our iPad usage increased. Not because of the added productivity iOS 11 brings - drag and drop doesn't work with all apps yet and the iPad mini 3 doesn't have split screen - but because of universal apps and choir.

Yeah choir.

We decided to splurge on Notion to create midis of the songs we're learning (as reference to practise our parts), because being able to do it anywhere on the iPad rather than having to do it when we're in front of our PC had a certain appeal. While it took a bit of learning what we can do on Notion and its limitations, we're happy enough to be using it quite a fair bit.

So long as it didn't crash. And if it did, fingers crossed it saved most of our work.

And asides from midis, we've been helping out with photo editing as well. And for that, we have Pixelmator.

(Here we take a moment to really regret installing iOS 11, as we no longer can use Photoshop Touch - our go to app for photo editing on the iPad. Honestly the level of control we had when tracing the outlines of people with a stylus on the iPad was so much better than magnetic tracing using a mouse.)

For the most part, Pixelmator does a great job. Took a lot more figuring out where things were and how it works, but for simple edits it was great. iCloud syncing meant we can work on either iPad, iPhone or on the Mac (we bought the Mac version as well because it was so much more affordable compared to Photoshop!).

And then there's Pages for taking notes. Prettier than Google Docs.

But we're not sure if it's the processing power of the iPad mini 3, or the bugginess of iOS 11, or a combination of both but there were times when doing any sort of work would feel like our iPad isn't able to cope until it resets. And even when it doesn't feel like a memory issue, photo editing can sometimes be a tad...slow.

Such that it's got us itchy for the iPad Pro 10.5".

We've tried the Smart Keyboard and it feels comfortably spaced enough for us to touch type. And there's the Apple Pencil. Both which would be useful.

Overall this adds up to a bill of RM4k which makes us think more than twice actually. Considering we are also curious about the new iPhone 8/iPhone Pro/iPhone Edition which would prob be RM5k++.

We know, if we do consider seriously the iPad Pro, the moment we get it...the choir production will be over and there won't be much heavy use by then -_-"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Making the Switch

When Nintendo first announced the Nintendo Switch with a teaser, it ticked all the boxes of what we wanted to match our gaming style - portability. Given how we don't really sit in front of a telly (nor have one in our bedroom), we couldn't justify a PS4 even though there are some titles we were interested in: Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, Rise of the Tomb Raider, probably could start the Uncharted series...don't think we'll try out Dark Souls though. Even our games from Steam and Good Old Games have been rather dormant, sigh. Most of our gaming is done on the iPhone and 3DS because we can play anywhere (especially in bed), and the days of playing on a PS2 or a Wii are long gone...

So the Switch teaser got us excited as it not only connects to a telly for a bigger screen experience but you can bring it anywhere! Size-wise it looks between a 3DS and an iPad mini, which is great because we rarely use the iPad for consistent gaming (gosh we haven't continued Grim Fandango in ages...). We even had a rough idea of our setup - the dock can go to the Chief's pad, where there's less competition for the telly, and we can get another cable for the Switch to charge it wherever we are like with all our devices.

So we've gotten our Nintendo Switch and started playing Breath of the Wild, and...

...this game, coupled with the Switch, is sapping our life.

With the previous portables like the 3DS and iOS games, the games we play there are designed for short bouts of gaming (doing a quest in Monster Hunter, some rounds in Street Fighter IV, a quick game of Magic Puzzle Quest...) so the stops allow you to call it quits after a while.

Not so with the Breath of the Wild. The open world means explore wherever you like and however you like: that mountain looks interesting? Climb it. Suspicious looking rock formation in the distance? Let's go check it out. Probably get distracted by the Shiekah Sensor going off and end up trying to hunt for the hidden shrine instead.

And the next thing you know the sun is rising.

"OK, better not play tomor-, tonight. Need to catch up on lost sleep."

Come night time..."Hmm let's play a short while lah, we forgot all about that rock formation. Finish exploring that bit then tutup."

Oh look the sun is rising again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chores A-Side Effect

Given we have a long weekend, it was time to buck up and finish our Christmas decorating. This year we're missing the enthusiasm to decorate and have only made do with the main Christmas tree in the living room - no wreath in matching colours, no additional Christmas decor sprinkled all over the place.

So, today's plan was to at least have the Christmas wreath up on the front door grille.


Only...if it was as straightforward as that.

First up, remove the decoration currently on the door grille. This has been up for most of the year, so the grille's all dusty. And rusty too... So. Remove the plastic wrapped around the grille's (to prevent the decorations from scratching the grille). Wash the grille (Daiso's range of microfibre cloth with plastic handles make the job a bit easier), then spray some WD40 on.

Let it air, while cutting up new plastic sheets (we use book wrappers) to cover the grille (because the wreath has a wire base).

Next up, the main door and the door frame itself. A year of dust has been caught on the door and frame (since we get the wind blowing into the front of the house - the porch is littered with leaves every day ugh), so we've to wipe all that off.

OK now that the grille's dry, wrap up the grille bars that will be in contact with the wreath. Tape them up, and it's time to hang the wreath and decorate.

That part is pretty straightforward. We'd already set aside the ornaments meant for the wreath so it's just a matter of randomly hanging it about.

Now throughout all this we've been walking in and out of the house, and it's been very dusty so we'd to keep washing our feet every now and then because we do not plan to mop up today. Still, this meant the toilet's wet and we notice it's been a while since it's been washed.

Get the bleach, get the plastic broom, a quick scrub, and we're done.

Christmas decorating? 15 minutes.

Associated chores? 2 hours.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cumulative Upkeep

We have so many games to play, and a fair few of them have daily check-in rewards or timers (due to their nature of being free-to-play) that it's sometimes ridiculous how much time we've to check in the games now.

But then most of the games are entertaining, which is why we still play them.

At this moment we have:
  • Tiny Tower (started replaying since their 5th Anniversary Update)
  • Pokemon Go (now with the daily rewards)
  • Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest
  • Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World
Tiny Tower doesn't take much upkeep, so long as we check in once a day and tap to launch fireworks. Pokemon Go is a bit more challenging as we ought to get to a Pokestop at least once a day - we missed it once and now our Pokemon caught and Pokestop check-in streaks are 2 days apart.

The biggest culprits now are Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest and Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World - these two games seem to eat into a bulk of our time now. With Fantastic Beasts, while we are limited by the amount of energy available, the energy recharges fairly fast that we can play every hour or so if we wanted to. As as for MtG Puzzle Quest? It can be endlessly engrossing as the game model keeps giving you freebies. It doesn't really lock away any cards from you i.e. pay to obtain rare cards, although it is slower when getting them through the in-game events or challenges or daily rewards.

That means we actually do end up spending a few hours in a day playing these games. Looking at the games right now, we're likely to stop Tiny Tower once we've built all the floors, and Fantastic Beasts when we've finished all the cases.

Pokemon? Hah. Just heard there's going to be an update with more Pokemons.

MtG Puzzle Quest? Even worse. This is the most Magic we've played (Magic Duels is just hogging up space on our iPad), because the quick game time works for us (hey, match-3). The gameplay flavour does match the card game mechanic and flavour (like colourless mana being colourless gems and how the Eldrazi interact with them).

The only way we're going to wean off these two games is if we have no Internet access at all for a good period of time.