Tuesday, 28 February 2012

BLOG -- Recap of February

So, I wouldn't really consider this an actual blog. I'm just recapping what I've experienced this month (whatever I haven't blogged about yet), and what I'm currently experiencing with not much detail on anything. It's more for me to think, Oh yeah, that's what I did this month. If anybody is curious on my thoughts on anything that I mention, please go ahead and ask. Some things I know I will blog about -- others I just won't consider because of time and other priorities. Buuuut -- I do my best to make the time to respond to others.

Outings/Events in February: 
- Attended the 15th anniversary of an anime club I went to during my University years (I was also an executive at that club, but no need to get into that, lol)

- Met up with some of my old friends (x5) -- really nice and fun times!

- Pranked one of my team mates on his last day. It wasn't my best prank, but I'm glad I gave him some kind of send-off, so he can remember us, haha.

- Did Winterlicious with my sister and her fiance for one restaurant.

- Checked out the Icefest ice sculptures at Yorkville. It was really cool, and cold. My fingers were pretty frozen by the end.

- (cafe place) Snakes & Lattes -- a fun boardgame-centric place!
- (restaurant) Ouzeri (restaurant -- for Winterlicious) -- the food was really good and filling.
- (restaurant) Eggsmart -- don't really remember much -- too busy talking with my friend, lol
- (restaurant) Messini Authentic Gyros -- really crowded, but good food.
- (restaurant) The Keg Steakhouse & Bar -- fancy place with good food.
- (burger joint) K.O. Burgers -- decent poutine, but their specialty are their burgers.
- (restaurant) New Generation -- this is a sushi place.

- (Anime): Elemental Gelade (for the 2nd time) -- I still love it as much as when I first watched it.
- (TV series): Harsh Realm -- I think if this series was produced in this time, when gaming is more "deeply rooted" and "widely accepted", it would have lasted for much longer than three episodes. I think it had potential, somewhat.
- (Movie): Kung Fu Hustle (for the 4th time)
- (Movie): Nurse Betty (for the 2nd time)
- (Movie): Dangerous Minds (for the 2nd time)
- (Movie): Step Up (for the 5th+ time)

- (PS2): Shining Tears -- If I could, I would spend tons of hours on this, leveling up all my characters. Pretty long game, but more or less enjoyable.

- (Novel): No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai -- It's a light, complex, depressing read. I may blog about this one day.
- (Manga): Lychee Light Club by Usamaru Furuya -- Will definitely blog about this one day. It's good, but very disturbing and sad.

Playing (not all at once):
- (PS3): Record of Agarest War Zero
- (DS): Luminous Arc 2 
- (DS): Professor Layton and the Last Spector
- (GBA): B-Daman (I'm going through my GBA collection, to see what games I want to keep)
- (PSP): Hatsune Miku (first game)
- (PSP): Persona
- (Wii): Fortune Street

- (Anime): Black Lagoon
- (Anime): Neon Genesis Evangelion (yes... I have never watched this series before. Surprised?) 
- (Anime): iDOLM@STER: The Animation (Don't fully understand it since I'm watching it without English subs, but whatever)

- (Manga): Yakitate!! Japan by Takashi Hashiguchi
- (Manga): No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya
- (Manga): Strawberry Panic by Sakurako Kimino + Takuminamuchi

That's it for February! I'll still try to keep with my blogging schedule and write an actual blog before the end of this week. Here are some random photos from this month:

 A game we played at Snakes & Lattes (K2).

 The prank I played on my co-worker's last day.

 The food I had at Messini Authentic Gyros.

A screenshot of Shining Tears (Ignore the "SONY" at the bottom of the pic).

 One of the ice sculptures at the Icefest.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

BLOG -- Is There a Point to "Auto Features" in Video Games?

Well, two weeks ago, I had a somewhat lengthy, geeky conversation with a friend about auto features in video games. Some video games (usually ones with a turn-based battle system, but there are other games, too) have an auto feature that when turned on, the game's A.I. will control your character(s) and pretty much "play" some aspect of the game for you.

This conversation came about because of a game I'm currently playing (I will blog about it whenever I finish it). I'm personally not a fan of the game's battle system (though I don't mind it from time to time), but I enjoy seeing the characters interact with each other. I had resolved to just suck it up until I realized that it had an auto battle feature. I turned it on, and haven't agonized over playing another battle since.

Now, my friend also played this game, but stopped very early because he also didn't like the battle system. I told him about the auto battle feature and we went back and forth, discussing the validity of auto features in video games. This blog will cover a few of the pros and cons of auto features in video games (well, whatever we came up with).

My Personal Standing
I will never say that every game should have some kind of auto feature. For many games, it's just not necessary. But there are some games that I think would benefit with an auto feature, if the developers want to keep every aspect intact (even when it sucks). I also believe in this: if there is an auto feature available -- especially an auto battle feature -- the game's A.I. absolutely cannot be as efficient as a real person playing. There has to be some risk involved when using an auto feature. If there isn't any risk involved... then really... what's the point of the developers even creating that part of the game to begin with?

For Auto Features in Video Games
Lack of Time
These days, Time is against me. I have so little free time because of work and other priorities (unfortunately video gaming isn't always on the top of my to-do list these days). With auto features, I can have the game "progressing" while I'm doing other things (like eating and blogging -- yes, I have a game running on auto battles right now). And I'd be able to put my time to really playing the game (like boss battles, battles I want to fight, seeing the story, etc.).

To Experience Nice Stories in Horrible Gameplay
Not every game has that perfect unison of an awesome story and gameplay to match. Often, one outweighs the other. If story outweighs gameplay considerably, then some kind of auto feature would be beneficial -- to at least give a choice to those who would play that game only to see the story.

Remove the "Fluff" From Role-Playing Games [RPGS] (related to Lack of Time)
Need to level-grind and item-farm because the developers made the boss way too difficult, and made some ingredients for something-making (items, weapons, magic, etc.) way too rare (like maybe a drop rate of 0.02% from an enemy that only appears 0.01% of the time)? Unless it's quick and/or fun, I generally find battling enemies for the sole purpose of leveling my characters quite... not fun. For me, leveling up has to be the aftermath of some other objective (like capturing demons/monsters, stealing items, becoming more efficient, etc.). Rare item-farming is just a sad, annoying, frustrating experience. 

Some Games With an Auto Feature:
Auto Battles:
-Persona 1 [PS1/PSP]
-Persona 2: Innocent Sin [PS1/PSP]
-Record of Agarest War Zero [PS3]
-Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey [DS]

Other Auto Features:
-Catherine [PS3] -- You can skip the puzzle stages completely if you've received a gold trophy scoring before.
-Fortune Street [Wii] -- You can have the A.I. take over your character whenever you want (in case you're at a friend's house and you have to go before the match is over)
-iDOLM@STER 2 [PS3] -- You can skip the mini-games and have your idols do all the work in raising their stats and performing in lives/concerts.

Game That I Think Could Have Used an Auto Feature:
Magna Carta: Tears of Blood [PS2] -- This game... I hear it has a great story. I've tried playing it years ago. 60 hours in, I find out that I'm only about halfway through... The battle system, while unique, is horrible, long, and at times unforgiving. Every enemy battle, even if done perfectly, would take about 5 minutes, and there are a lot of enemies in this game. Seriously, I can go on ranting (I may one day). I may continue the game if I ever feel especially patient and masochistic, even though I don't remember everything that happened in my first 60 hours of gameplay.

Against Auto Features in Video Games
Removes Sense of Accomplishment
There is absolutely no way to have bragging rights to a game with an auto feature. I mean, how would you be able to prove that you achieved whatever you did legitimately, without using the auto feature (depending on the accomplishment)? 

Removes "Playing" Aspect/What's the Point
It is very arguable (and this is the strongest point) that if the game's A.I. is controlling your characters, then you're technically not playing the game at all. That defeats the very purpose of a game: to be played and experienced by somebody.

Some Games That I Think Are Fine Without Auto Features:
-Demon's Souls [PS3]
-Devil Survivor [DS]
-Valkyria Chronicles [PS3]
-Any rhythm game
-Any high-energy beat-em up game

Well... where do you stand? If you have any points for or against auto features in video games that I haven't listed, please let me know. While I lean more towards for auto features, I can also see things from the other side: auto-ing anything is more or less watching a video game, not playing it. But is it worth it? To spend that time to play for the sake of playing, when you may not enjoy certain aspects of it? Especially if those aspects can be done with the game's A.I.? Hmmm...

Oh, yeah. Thanks for reading! XD

Sunday, 19 February 2012

BLOG (PERSONAL) -- Me and My Old Poetry (maybe v.1)

Well... this is sort of a cop-out blog. I'm still kind of recovering from last week's blog. Seriously... re-playing/re-living my past 5 relationships (about 8 year's worth of my life) wasn't all that fun. I was planning to blog about this one day -- I just didn't think it would be this soon. I also have to do stuff for work after this blog, so I don't have that much time either.

Pretty much, I'll be sharing some of my old poetry, talking about whatever comes to mind about those particular pieces. I'm aware that many people actually don't care much for poetry (at least, the people I know), so I won't be surprised if nobody reads this or my poetry. I don't exactly go out of my way to read poetry, either (though I do for song lyrics), though I've listened to some really neat and deep poetry readings on Youtube (will link to a few at the end of this blog).

My Poetry History
My first poem -- or rather -- the earliest poem I have is from 1993 (When I was in Grade 4). It was a poem about the colour Blue. It was a stupid poem that rhymed (not saying that rhyming poetry sucks -- mine just did). I went on to write more stupid poetry that rhymed. I even wrote them for my friends! And my guy friends! When I read them now, I'm so embarrassed, wondering, Oh my... what were my guy friends thinking when I wrote poetry for them?! I thought I was being a friend. 

I started experimenting a bit more in Middle School, trying other forms of poetry. A lot of them surrounded the theme of heartache and freedom. Then in high school, I wrote about different issues, in different styles sometimes. I still wrote about heartache sometimes, and sometimes they rhymed, but in such a "raw" way -- my choice of words were soooo different when I wrote "raw" poetry (after thinking about it, I think the better description for this is angst, haha). I found it really neat.

Even though it's so embarrassing to read my old, stupid poetry, I'm really happy that I have them -- I always find it neat to get a glimpse of how I might have seen the world all those years ago -- what was important to me then -- what I struggled with then -- if the current me and the past me saw things differently, or if our viewpoints are still the same.

The poetry I'm going to share are going to be from my high school years (no real angsty stuff this time).

Date Written: Saturday March 13, 1999 [Grade 9]

Who am I?

I am a spectator, not a doer.
I am a coward, not a hero.
I am my own, yet no one knows.
I am nothing.
I am a follower, not a leader.
I am a phantom, not a figure.
I'm alive, yet no one knows.
I am not nothing.

I am an artist; no one knows.
My heart is pretty; no one sees.
I'm full of colour; no one cares.
I've no identity.
I have a character; no one heeds.
I have a voice; no one hears.
I have a mind; no one believes.
To them I'm nobody.

I am a loser, not a winner.
I am deserted, not included.
I am lost and no one knows...
That I'm real.

Who am I?
Who cares?

My Thoughts
I don't have much to say about this. I think it's just me reflecting on my shyness and quiet nature and the kind of, err, consequences of it -- that many people end up never seeing the real me and just forget about me. Whenever I think about my shy and quiet nature, I think of something that a student teacher told me in Grade 7: "You're selfish. You keep your qualities hidden from the world. You keep yourself all to yourself." Those words have always struck a chord with me -- it was such a unique line of thought. And nobody had ever called me selfish for that specific reason.

As I've written in past blogs, I am still quite shy, quiet, and now awkward. But around my friends, I'd like to think they see that side of me as well as every other side of -- my weird thoughts, my bizarre sense of humour, my loudness -- everything. I try not to hold back with them.

Date Written: Thursday November 4, 1999 [Grade 10]

My sight, they sharpen.
My taste, they broaden.
My hearing, they diversify.

My problems, they minimize.
My mind, they challenge.
My strength, they offer.

My joys, they share.
My dreams, they encourage.
My life, they enrich.

Their hearts, I value.
Their lives, I treasure.
Their departures, I deplore.

Immaculate jewels --
My friends.
My Thoughts
I don't think this needs any more elaboration. That's how I felt back then and it hasn't changed. I think I can safely say that it will never change.

Date Written: Monday January 7, 2002 [Grade 12]

Don't call me good,
For I am not just good.
Don't call me evil,
For I am not just evil.
Don't say I'm this,
For I am not just this.
Don't say I'm that,
For I am not just that.

You expect nothing of me,
But for one quality
You think will never change.
Have you ever stepped in the same river twice?

If I lose that one quality,
Will you think less of me?
Expect nothing of me at last?
See me for all the qualities I have?

Please call me human,
For I am nothing but human.

My Thoughts
This is something I was really big on back then, and I still am now. The idea of being labelled -- of others thinking you're one thing and then expecting that one thing from you -- I think it's restrictive. An individual's personality or tastes will never be fully seen when that happens. And then when you don't live up to that one expectation, then you're no longer acknowledged, as if you possessed no other worthy qualities.

Labelling and expectations can also lead to one of my biggest pet peeves: making assumptions. I hate it when people make assumptions of me; more if they're negative assumptions; much more if they act on those assumptions without ever asking me for clarification. 

I think this blog may end up being much longer if I get really into this, so I'll try to sum up why labelling/expectations/assumptions bother me a lot: When you're labelled, when people make certain expectations of you, you will be included for what matches what they think of you -- but you may be EXcluded from what they think will be a mismatch, even if that might not be true. You'll miss out -- on exposures, events, something -- because you weren't labelled that way -- because they didn't have those expectations of you. And of course, you won't be fully acknowledged, because they just don't see all of you.

Youtube Poetry Readings
Well, it's poetry slam. And it's poetry from Taylor Mali, a well-known slam poet. Thanks for reading my blog. Next week's blog will hopefully more "normal", lol.

"What Teachers Make"
It's very inspirational. I love it.

"The The Impotence of Proofreading."
Really, really funny.

"Entire Act of Sorrow"
This one is really sad and depressing, but done well.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

BLOG (PERSONAL) -- Me and My Past Relationships

Well, here is my long and boring blog. I'll be blogging about my past relationships. Strangely, over the years, I have never written about my relationships on a whole. I've written journal entries here and there (I still do), but I think my consistent journal-writing stopped when I started getting into relationships. Sometimes I was so happy that I'd want to write about it, but sometimes I was so unhappy that I never wanted to leave a record of such thoughts. To make sure I wouldn't figure out exactly when I was unhappy (because I would wonder and notice such things if given the chance), I stopped journal-writing almost completely. I remember writing something that I considered so negative that I stapled the pages together.

Of course, I won't mention any names, and I will blog about my relationships out of order. I will also throw in a fake relationship. I doubt anybody would really be interested in this blog, but I have to do this -- to at least protect their identities somewhat. If any of my friends read this, I hope they won't be able to tell at all who I'm talking about ('cept my sister and maybe my past boyfriends), because I try my best not to talk about my relationship troubles to anybody ('cept my sister). If my friends are also friends with my boyfriend, I never want to put them in a position where they may even think they have to choose sides. It's not fair.

I've already said this once, but I'll say it again: this blog will be long and boring. I'm really writing this for myself. My exes will probably want to stay away from this blog -- it's quite depressing and may bring back old wounds. You have been warned.

The Very Beginning
I had my first relationship in my last year of high school. I find it very ironic that that's when I got into my first relationship. Before the school year even started, I told myself, This is my last year -- I have to focus on school. I will not like anybody this year

Years before, I was drawing the conclusion that maybe Love didn't exist at all -- or rather, True Love. A love that lasts forever. I couldn't understand how two individuals, among a population of over a billion, could both look to each other and share the same kind of feeling for each other. It seems almost impossible. I mean, how would each of them know? That what they feel is love that will last? That that person is the one? Now I don't think that -- I think it's possible... or at least, I have hope for it. I want to believe in such a love.

Timeline (roughly)
#1 -- November 2002 - January 2003
My song for him: "Thank You for Loving Me" -- Bon Jovi

#2 -- January 2003 - June 2003 (I remember random students calling me a player because of this)
My song for him: "Crucify My Love" -- X-Japan

#3 -- September 2003 - February 2004
My song for him: Not telling

#4 -- September 25, 2004 - December 27, 2008
My song for him: "Dreaming of You" -- Selena

#5 -- April 1st, 2009 - July/September 2011
My songs for him: "All That I Needed" -- Jeremy Budd + "Bizarre Love Triangle" -- Frente

Aspects That I Put Up with That I Won't Ever Put Up with Again
- Smoking
- Drug-use
- Guy liking somebody else
- An affair relationship

Just to re-iterate, these relationships will be blogged out of order. 
"Relationship A" will NOT equal #1 in my timeline.

Relationship A
I sacrificed a lot for this guy. My parents were threatening to disown me, and I was willing to give up almost everything for him. I saw it as me standing up for him/fighting for him. Because I loved him. And I wanted to show him that the world could be bright and positive. And that he could experience that brightness and positivity as well. I was truly off in my own world -- I was so happy.

In the very beginning, it was like a dream -- magic, romance, tons of affection. Later on, though, it changed. The magic was gone. The romance was gone. Affection was reduced to the bare minimum. To me, it seemed like that was the only thing that changed in his life -- how he interacted with me. His interactions with his friends, other people -- other things that he did on his own time -- nothing else seemed to change. I began to wonder, Is it me? Later on, I started to think, Is there someone else? 

I became needy and dependent. And jealous. I talked about it with him multiple times, especially about the lack of affection. After a talk, things would improve. But after a while, they went back to how it was. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I would have to try to take the initiative. At that same time, though, I couldn't fully appreciate his actions since they were only responses to my actions. So more talks ensued. And the same cycles continued. Eventually, after a confrontation about a serious issue, he broke up with me.

Relationship B
This relationship was a mistake. And I'll tell you why: I never really liked him. I'm not proud of this, being in a relationship where I didn't like the guy. At the time, I thought This guy's too cute for me. This relationship won't last. But right now, it looks like he needs me. So I'll be with him until he doesn't need me anymore. He'll find somebody better-looking than me and he'll leave. Well, he never broke up with me, so I had to (do I sound heartless?).

Early on in the relationship, there were a few issues that stood out to me. One was his display of affection. He was all for showing huge displays of romantic affection in front of others (like when we're hanging out with friends), but he never showed such actions when we were alone. It made me wonder, Was our relationship just for show? Despite his non-romantic nature when we were alone, he still expressed an interest in something -- something I wasn't willing to give so early in the relationship. He also did something that told me I could not trust him. And this all happened within the first few weeks of the relationship.

Because I did not really like him, I started liking somebody else... while I was with him. That's when I knew I had to break up with him. Will NEVER get into a relationship like this again.

Relationship C
This relationship was, sadly, an affair. The guy had a girlfriend (long distance relationship) when we got together. He told me that he was going to break up with her, but he never did (will never get into a relationship like that again). While I was with him, though, I tried to be understanding and accepting of him -- listening to his troubles, trying to give him words of encouragement, trying to help him to see that he can have the strength to help himself.

Unfortunately, the effect of my words on him were like eating pieces of chocolate: sweet for those brief moments, and then gone. Almost everyday, on the phone, he would tell me things like "This relationship won't last", "You'll leave me", "I don't deserve you", "I don't have the strength to get through this", "There is nothing left of me to give..." By the end of each day, I was feeling emotionally drained... and this pained hopelessness, telling me over and over that I can't help him.

Relationship D
This guy put me through mental hell. He was unreliable -- he almost never meant what he said or he would have one opinion one day and another opinion another day. It made it very difficult to have discussions of anything -- or rather, it made it difficult for me to see where he stood for certain issues. But then, during times when I really needed him, he'd come through for me. And I loved him for that. He was also very accepting of me. My weaknesses -- my shortcomings -- my worries -- he accepted them all.

Because of that, I couldn't leave him. I kept thinking that I would never find another who would be so accepting of me. Whenever we talked about certain issues, he'd get offended and tell me that if I ever bring it up again, that the relationship would be over. That put me through a lot of emotional pain. When I'm with somebody, I'm with him with the hope that we would be together forever. All I saw from those interactions would be a future of uncertainty -- and restraint. Having to be careful all the time. Unable to voice certain concerns for fear of the relationship ending. Each day was almost colourless for me.

Close to the end, I thought, Somebody please save me from this... I just wasn't strong enough to leave him and be on my own. Soon after I made that plea, somebody did save me -- or rather... showed me that I could be on my own.

Relationship E
When I first got into this relationship, I was happy and joyful (I always am when starting a relationship), until I saw that he liked somebody else while liking me. It felt like my whole world was turned upside down. I only knew because I was able to pick up on it -- from the gestures and exchanges. I could tell right away that she was important to him. Some of my friends told me that it was normal for a guy to like somebody else while in a relationship, but I couldn't accept it -- it didn't make sense to me. I can only like/love one person at a time.

I became jealous right away, and I didn't like it. I didn't like myself for being in such a relationship. What I really wanted to do was break up with him and have him choose once and for all. Me being with him like that, I more or less felt like a 2nd choice -- because he liked her before he liked me -- and he still liked her while with me. For that time, I was very sad and depressed. I kept thinking such dark and negative thoughts -- and I knew it wasn't fair to her.

Something minor that bugged me in the beginning that became an issue with me later on was him acting/re-acting based off of other people's expectations of him. It really bothered me because I saw that as chains restricting him from doing things that he really wanted to do. This played a huge part in why I broke up with him. It may not seem like a big thing, but to me, it is. I mean, when it comes down to making big decisions, how would you make your decision? Based off of what you want? Or based off of what you think others want? I'm guilty of being so shy and quiet around unfamiliar people because I don't want to do/say something that others may not like. But when it comes to making decisions -- having opinions -- they are my own.

Relationship F
I thought, As long as we're together, we'll get through anything. To this guy, I showed him all of myself. If I had any thoughts or worries -- about myself or the relationship -- I never hid it from him. I was "naked" before him. As a result, I placed a lot of dependencies on him -- the constant hope/worry that my "naked" self would be accepted -- and I never realized it. If I was jealous of him and somebody, he'd know about it (once he made me jealous intentionally -- ugh). If I thought about the future and us, he'd know about it. Whenever I felt ignored while we were hanging out, he'd know about it. I was smothering him with too much...

The guy was going through some issues of his own as well, so he couldn't always be there for me. And sometimes his responses would hurt me. Whenever I was unhappy, I kept telling myself, I love him. He loves me. We'll get through this no matter what. Of course we shared some happy times. He was a really fun and funny guy to be around, though way too perverted.

When he broke up with me, I was very sad and depressed. I don't think I showed it to my friends, but at that point, I was seriously thinking of... well, ending my life. I couldn't do it directly. I had made a promise to somebody before that "I would never lift a finger to exact my death", and I like to make good on my promises whenever I can. So I was just reckless. If I could get away with not eating, I wouldn't. I was more reckless when crossing streets. I just wasn't careful at all whenever I was outside. Each day that passed was like an indescribable hell. 

Current Status + Reflections
Right now, I am single. And after blogging about these past relationships, I can see that I am not in a very good state to be with anybody right now.

Love is very important to me. I can say with certainty that without Love, I will always feel slightly incomplete (don't feel sorry for me). But being dependent and needy, smothering -- I don't think that's what it means to love. I'm glad that at least I now know why I've been like that through the years -- it all comes down to how I was raised. 

Ingrained in me were these thoughts as I grew up: "Don't waste somebody's time", "Once you're at a friend's place, you'll be a burden to your friend and their family", "You'll be a bother to your friends", etc., etc., the same words expressed over and over and in so many different ways. Though I don't think it showed, I had next-to-no self-value or self-worth. Always thinking I was a bother or a burden on somebody. Eventually, I thought, Love wouldn't think I was a bother. Love wouldn't think I was a burden. Love wouldn't think I was wasting its time. Love would accept me. And the rest is history.

Now, I'd like to say my state of mind is better -- or that it's getting better. I never realized it over the years, but I always valued myself. This time -- next time -- another time -- I want to be able to really treasure Love when it's there in front of me.

If you read all of this... um, well, thanks. And you're crazy! If you read all of this and you're one of my exes: if you're angry, feel free to tell me. Please don't beat me up, though.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

BLOG -- Happy Early Valentine's Day!

Happy early Valentine's Day! Every now and then, when I can afford the time and money, I like to follow the Japanese tradition of Valentine's Day. In Japan, the girl gives chocolate to the guy she likes. When the guy accepts the chocolates, it indicates to the girl that she might have a chance with him. I like the idea of it. Take the pressure off the guy, though quite nerve-wracking for the girl. The girl can also give chocolates to guy friends and co-workers. The chocolate can be store-bought or homemade. This past week, having a chance to see some guy friends I wouldn't get to see in a long time, I decided to "celebrate" Valentine's Day early and made chocolates last Sunday.

About me and Valentine's Day over the years (skip this if you're not interested)
I started following the Japanese tradition in my last year of high school. At first, not knowing anything about making chocolate and having a horrible internet connection, I bought them. And keeping to what I saw in anime series at that time, I only gave chocolates to the guy I liked. 

Two years later, I started trying to experiment: melting chocolate chips and pouring them into molds. Sometimes I would put sprinkles in them to get a different texture (although the chocolate would look kinda freaky with sprinkles sticking out). I even melted After Eight mint chocolates and spread the mixture in a bat-shaped cookie cutter (I was such a noob back then -- I still am, lol). It had a, um, burnt, minty taste. ><''

Then three years ago, I decided to actually search out a chocolate recipe, wanting to do something new. I found something that called for two packages of oreos, coarsely crushed. I didn't have a food processor of any sort, so I crushed those oreos with my hands. It sounds fun... but my fingers were very numb and achy at the end. I started to give chocolates to my guy friends and co-workers at that time as well (well, whoever I saw -- same as now, because I know I can't see everybody I want to see). I've always liked giving small gifts -- doing small things -- bringing a smile -- brightening their day just a little bit, if I could. That's just how I am.

Here's a pic of all the ingredients I used (except the soy sauce). This year's theme was Oreos.

I had three main chocolates in mind -- two new attempts, and an old recipe. One of the new attempts was an idea I had, and well, it was a total failure.

The greatest challenge for me was trying to figure out what to make first -- what ingredients to use first so I wouldn't have to wash the same dishes over and over again (like if a recipe needs dry ingredients and wet ingredients and it doesn't matter how it's mixed, I'd want to measure the dry ingredients first and then the wet ingredients -- so I only need to wash the measuring cup once). To be honest, as much as I enjoy making chocolates and giving them, I was a little hesitant to even start -- because I know there would be a ton of dishes to wash. And once I start, I know that I'll keep at it until it's done, no matter how long it takes.

Chocolate #1: New Attempt (Failure)
Ingredients List:
-Jell-o pudding

The first thing I decided to make was the Jell-o pudding. It was cookies and cream flavoured, and it was easy enough to do.

You might wonder: Why is she making pudding? Well, because I had this crazy idea to make pudding-filled chocolate. A few years ago, I attempted actual jello-filled chocolate, and it was a challenge, but partially successful -- some people did get to try it out. Nobody (except me and my sister) got to try the pudding-filled chocolate this year -- every piece burst. ><

Total failure! :(

Chocolate #2: Mint Chocolate Cookie Crunch
Ingredients List:
-Rice Krispies
-Peppermint extract
Full list and instructions: Click!

This was the recipe I tried years ago that called for 2 packages of Oreos, coarsely crushed (my poor fingers). Well, this time, I was prepared.

Haha, take that!

Mixing the whole mixture was still difficult. For some reason, adding peppermint extract to chocolate makes the chocolate stiffer -- harder to mix. And I had to get the chocolate all over the rice krispies and Oreos before the chocolate dried. In the end I had to get help from my sister and her fiance, because my arms were just dying. It turned out quite well, though!

Chocolate #3: Oreo Squares
Ingredients List:
Full list and instructions: Click! [Scroll to the bottom for the recipe]

I stumbled upon this recipe by mistake. I was trying to find the recipe for the mint chocolate cookie crunch, but I forgot what it was called. So I searched on Google recipes oreo rice krispies, and the first hit was a link to a blog talking about Oreo Rice Krispies without rice krispies. I clicked on the link and the first thing I saw was a delicious-looking picture of three brownie-coloured squares stacked on top of each other with Oreos next to them. I knew right away that I had to make it. Basically, it's like making rice krispies squares, but substituting the rice krispies with Oreos.

I've only made rice krispies squares once in my life, so I was really nervous about making these. I might have put too many marshmallows in it -- I'm not sure. My sister and I really enjoyed them, though (which is why my friends and co-workers only got small pieces -- we wanted them for ourselves, lol...).

Chocolate #4: Mold Chocolate

This is the usual melting chocolates and pouring it into molds. I had to take some breather while making those other chocolates, lol. Almost nobody received this since I didn't make that many.

Ending Thoughts
Well, chocolate-making was fun, but also tiring. I'd say it took me about 5-6 hours with no real break in between. While the chocolate was melting in the microwave, I was washing whatever dishes I could. While waiting for chocolates to cool in the refrigerator, I was mixing that huge batch of chocolate, rice krispies, and coarsely crushed Oreos. When my sister and her fiance took over the mixing, I was pulsing more Oreos to get ready to make the Oreo squares. It was a non-stop chocolate venture!

As exhaustive as it was, though, seeing the smiles (and sometimes surprise) on my guy friends' and co-workers' faces made it all worth it, lol.

I'm gonna end this with a slightly random photo. Two years ago on Boxing Day, I bought an L plushie. Out of all the characters in Death Note, L is my favourite -- I totally LOVE his intelligence (he looks kinda dreamy, too, lol...). Well, I finally decided to get him a girlfriend.

Well, thanks for reading! Next week's blog will be long and boring. I'm gonna be blogging about love, lol. Don't know exactly what, but it will be related to love -- because next week will be Valentine's Day. I'll most likely be at home singing songs and playing video games. But yeah, next week's blog will be long and boring. And personal. So it may not be interesting to you.