Beautiful Pisa

Cart and I were in Pisa during the weekend for mission day – an Ingress event where you explore a town, hack on specific portals to create missions for your profile, like this one :

And when you think of Pisa, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The leaning tower, of course. But like many others, before this trip, I thought that there wasn’t that much things to see apart from the tower.

But as we walked through the areas, as suggested from the missions, I saw that quite a number of things that I thought was interesting.

Like this small church which we saw right next to the river, with the white and grey stones and the statues on the top, which made it look unique – I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

I really find this door interesting, with the heads facing right towards you, which to me, is reminiscent of something from the Game of Thrones.

There is a river passing through Pisa, and sights like these is what makes me think that I’m definitely in Europe – the shape of the buildings as well as the mountain behind it.

It was such a lovely day, and coupled with the beautiful early autumn temperature, it made a very pleasant walk.

And at length, we reached the heart of Pisa, the Piazza del duomo and it’s such a magnificent sight.

The buildings look so pristine and majestic, and it’s easy to feel inspired here.

P.s. If you’re interested, I made a Pisa Instastory so you can watch little videos of my trip there 🙂

A new mobile player in town

In Italy, there are a number of mobile services, the most popular ones are namely Tre, Tim and Vodafone which has been dominant for a long time.

I’ve been on Tre since the first time that I’ve migrated in Rome (around 9 years already!) But they are increasingly expensive considering that when I first started, it was 5 euro. Now, the last plan that I had with them was 11 euro a month for 8 GB of data and an additional 1 euro to have the LTE option.

However in Italy, there are new players in the market – namely Ho Mobile and Iliad. At this point of writing,  you can get at least 40 GB a month with unlimited calls and texts for about 8 euro.

So Cart decided to hop on Iliad while I got a Ho Mobile sim card. It was pretty easy to do – all I needed to do was to sign up and insert the documentation and then go to any of their list of partners (almost always there is one in a newspaper kiosk next to the metro) to pay and collect the sim card.

rinaz.net Ho Mobile

Porting my number to Ho Mobile was straightforward too – I followed the instructions on the app, and in about two days, I was able to use my number as before.

Woah, this is the first time that I ever get to play with so much data. I’ve been extremely frivolous at playing Ingress while playing Spotify at the same time  (both of which consumes a lot of data) and I still have

I get 40 GB of data and unlimited calls and unlimited texts. It’s been really challenging to try to finish the 40 GB. And so far, I’ve been extremely frivolous – playing ingress while listening to spotify at the same time (both of which consumes a lot of data) and I still have more than 30 GB of data left over to use in 15 days.

rinaz.net Ho Mobile

So far Ho Mobile has been good. With the amount of data that I have, sometimes I think it’s even possible to get rid of the home wifi altogether. And because Ho Mobile uses the Vodafone network (which is supposed to be the fastest in Italy) upload and download speed is decent.

The only small qualm that I have is that in some areas, especially in crowded places, Ho Mobile is significantly slow. When playing ingress in the centre for example, it takes a frustratingly long time for me to deploy because of the lag.

Also, I’m not really liking the limited amount of data that I get when travelling to other European countries – I can only use up 2.5 GB (while Cart can use 3 GB on his Iliad) which is fine for a couple of days but will be an issue if I want to stay outside of Italy for a week or more.

But apart from that, Ho Mobile has been decent and recently has been increasing their plan for an additional 10 GB … not sure if it’s really such a sweet deal since 40 GB already so challenging to consume! Lets see how it goes.

Adventures with Synfig

As you’ve noticed, I haven’t been creating my cartoon strips for a long time. That’s because I’ve been having issues with the software which I used for drawing ever since I’ve reformatted my laptop after getting hit by a malware time ago.

It took a while to find a suitable software to replace that but for now, I’ve been settling on Inkscape – an open source vector graphic. The drawing tools are notably different compared to Adobe Flash – especially the part where you could easily subtract shapes and pull out curves directly from the native shapes. So my first drawing, looked quite rudimentary.

rinaz.net Inkscape

(Oh yucks!)

But I think I’m starting to get used to it, and try to improve and am looking forward to publish my cartoon strips again. It’s a huge pity though that I have to start from scratch all over – the characters, the background, the props and over 4 years of drawing, since I can’t use my old software and I don’t know of anything else that can open a .fla file. Feels daunting, but one day at a time.

In the meanwhile, I also downloaded a couple of other open source software like Krita and synfig just in case I needed it. Not sure if I’ll be playing much with krita, since I don’t have a drawing tablet but animations has interested me for for a while. So Synfig is a nice software to have.

You know, I’ve been feeling profoundly sad, especially since I came back from Singapore slightly over a week ago so I try to keep my mind busy.

So far synfig has been a good distraction. I was randomly playing with it earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised to see that it could import svg, which is a native inkscape picture.

(Although now I think it’s easier to import images as a .png instead which Inkscape is able to do anyway)

rinaz.net Synfig Studio

Even though I have a little bit of experience with animation using Flash, oh boy. This software has a pretty steep learning curve. It isn’t intuitive for a first time user – it took a long while for me just to understand how to move a shape, because you had to grab the green node because you can’t drag directly using the left click.

Fortunately, synfig has a series of video tutorial which I went through and now I have a slightly better understanding of it and feel quite motivated to do a very simple animation. And here it is!

It’s not perfect and there are a few adjustments that I’ve done since uploading like hair and the strumming arm. A couple of things to take note :

  • Synfig only imports .wav as audio. Recording audio on my mobile phone is in a .m4a format. Which means that I had to take time to convert the recording.
  • When rendering, I can only export as .avi as a video format
  • The rendering DOES NOT export the audio together in the video. Which means that I have to use a separate video editing software to combine them together.
  • I use Adobe Premiere Elements to edit my videos. It does not import in a .avi format. Which means that I had to take time to convert it into .mpg

Wow, it’s extremely time consuming. Plus you don’t have a clue about the estimated time when your video will be finished. And it’s especially frustrating when the finished product isn’t what you expect it to be. Like how it renders the images outside of the bounding box. So you have to do it all over again. And again if it still doesn’t come out the way you like. And again …

rinaz.net

Nevertheless, despite all the hair pulling and the frustration. I’ve been enjoying myself. I’ve still a lot to learn. I doubt that I’d be doing this on a regular basis, but it has been an interesting challenge so far.

Quick updates

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog and I thought that I would just update with a few things that’s happening over here.

Schools in Italy has closed for the summer about a week ago, so I’m a little bit freer – so I’ve been filling up my time playing ingress and trying to pick up Inkscape – Flash has been giving me issues, which is why I haven’t been making any cartoons for the longest time.

The pity is, that I can’t convert any of my past works so I pretty much have to start from the very beginning which is a very daunting to me.

But inkscape has been interesting to use so far, I still have a lot to learn but I think I’ll get there eventually.

We celebrated Hari Raya last Friday – it was very low key affair, since it’s not a recognised holiday here in Italy. This year’s fast has been a tough one – with the heatwave that has been going on here … not to mention also that the days are long during the summer, compared to how it is in Singapore. I felt completely lethargic and I wanted to do was just to sleep. Preferably in a tub full of cold body lotion.

(On the other hand, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight which is always a source of cheap thrills for me)

Nevertheless, I’ve been busying myself with flamenco – our recital is coming up next week … And this week we’re meeting for practise almost every day. My goodness!

I’ve someone asking me if I’m feeling nervous, and to be honest, I haven’t really thought about it till then! I don’t want to think too much about it right now, and just focus on the choreography. Don’t want to freak myself up especially since I’ve been placed in front.

The thing is, it isn’t my first time performing – I did quite a number of recitals when I was in school – I was in the choir for some years and then for a short time I did Malay dance. I don’t remember feeling nervous because the way that I dealt with stage fright was quite easy. I just took off my glasses. Nothing freaked me since I couldn’t see anything. Also, it was at school, and there was no one there I wanted to impress, so I’m pretty much over it 😛

Anyway, I’m sure that everything will go fine. I’ll update you all on how it goes!

Sidenote : Did I tell you guys that I’ll be in Singapore in August? Lets meet up! 🙂

An onyx guardian after 4 years

Hi everyone! I’ve waited for a while to write this post and the day has actually arrived. So why not grab a cup of tea as you read this.

rinaz.net Morticia drinking tea

I’ve finally reached 150 days.

For those of you who play ingress, there is this achievement called the guardian medal. And for those of you who don’t, why not give it a try to see if you like it. In theory this medal is simple to get. Capture a portal and keep it recharged for a certain amount of days – Bronze for 3 days, Silver for 10 days, Gold for 20 days … then the Platinum at 90 days and the Onyx at 150 days.

rinaz.net Ingress Guardian Onyx

But in reality, it’s one of the most frustrating, annoying medal to get especially towards the platinum and the onyx. Because even if you travel to the most remote, hard to reach portal, your opponents would magically know when, and go out of their way to break your portals. And it’s always the same people who does it at exactly 140+ days.

Oh wow! How do they know exactly when to break it?

Shia Labeouf Magic GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s magic!

The hypocritical situation would be, is when you capture your neighbourhood and as long as you keep it recharged, stays that way for about 4 months till someone who actually lives there decides to come out of his hibernation to break it.

#lazy

Earlier this year, the makers of Ingress, Niantic announced that they were implementing new rules – such as banning and terminating accounts of people who uses data scraping tools to hunt for guardian portals. While it did help decrease the amount of cheaters, it didn’t deter some of these people and instead they changed their gameplay to break these portals at around 135 days instead to avoid looking too obvious.

rinaz.net Ingress Guardian

(This portal behind me reached 148 days)

Eventually, Niantic decided to solve this issue by rewarding users who have 80 days and above with the Platinum (instead of 90) and 140 days and above with the Onyx (instead of 150) medals – on the unanticipated date of the second of April. Imagine the uproar if would be if it were on the first instead. 😂

Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised at my new medal. Even though I’ve been playing ingress since March 2014, I’ve eventually given up any hope of getting that particular achievement because I’m an active player, making me a good target. And each time without fail, any of my portals reaching 140+ days would get smashed.

Which is why I’ve waited for today for writing this post. Even though I’ve already had the medal for over a month now, it feels quite meaningful.

rinaz.net Ingress Guardian

I understand that that’s part of the gameplay – to break your opponent’s portal but waiting that long to smash it, is just bad sportsmanship.

Nevertheless, I’m thankful for my nice new medal – its a nice addition and has helped me in my global ranking. The next Onyx medals that I’m working on is the Engineer and the Liberator. That’ll take me several months to complete, but I’m in no rush.

Before I end this post, guess what happened to these guardian hunters? Ever since I’ve gotten my medals, I very rarely see them logging in. It’s as if they’ve given up completely. It’s kind of sad actually, all those time, fuel and effort and for what?

rinaz.net Rihanna twirls hair

Nyeh nyeh nyeh!

You can wear my baju kurong

So not too long ago, there was this American girl who wore a cheongsam for her prom. A cheongsam, as you know, is Chinese dress, usually made of cotton or silk and is designed to accentuate the female curves. It’s gorgeous, making it something that a lot of women, even non the Chinese, interested to wear them.

I think she looks cute in it, even if I would have styled the hair different and think the pose in the third picture looks awkward.

However, there was a guy who took offence to it, saying that it was inappropriate for her to wear it for prom. I get the feeling that the guy is being a troll, in the sense that he wants attention by spouting vitriol and doesn’t actually believe in what he is spouting.

Why would he? Even Chinese people in China doesn’t have an issue with it like how you see in the video below :

Personally for me, I think I’d be happy if someone was interested enough to wear my cultural outfits. In fact, I’d be proud for them to wear a beautiful Baju Kurong or a Kebaya to a nice event.

Back in school, once a year, we were even encouraged to wear a different outfits for racial harmony day. A lot of of were excited for this day, because it was a chance for us to wear something different instead of our normal uniforms and it was fun exchanging and trying out outfits with each other. Racism would not even cross our minds as we don the clothes.

(My gosh, this picture was taken 20 years ago)

Why is it so bad that we wear other cultural outfits? I can understand with certain cultures, you need to be of a certain class to be able to wear them – like how it is for wearing the headdress for the Native American tribes.

But for the rest, we shouldn’t have to feel afraid to wear something beautiful, in case that someone would feel offended because we’d be misappropriating their culture.

Burn house beat mother

I mean, if you really want to be pissed off at cultural misappropriation, be pissed off at something that makes more sense – like someone who has never eaten rendang before, telling you how to cook rendang.

With that logic, I should just wear a sarong all year round, even when the temperature drops to minus zero degrees during the winter in Rome. I should stop wearing jeans because it’s only meant for cowboys and miners. And while I’m at it, I should stop learning to dance flamenco because I’m not Spanish, stop learning Italian because I’m not Italian and don’t eat sushi, burrito, paella and all the delicious food in the world.

What nonsense.

Visiting a Cat Cafe in Rome

Laura is an interesting person who I met by chance many years ago while participating in the Maratona di Roma. We’ve kept in touch through social media. She was in Rome earlier this year and we decided to catch up.

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

(Picture stolen from Laura)

Since she was game enough to try a vegan joint and loves cats, I decided to bring her to the cat cafe in Garbatella. I’ve never been here before and have always wanted to visit, so it was a good opportunity for the both of us.

Garbatella by itself is an interesting area, so many things to see here, easy to reach by the metro and full of colourful murals such as this one :

rinaz.net Porto Fluviale

Before you know it, we reached the cafe. From the outside, it looked quite unassuming. But when you get in, it looked so cosy and inviting, especially with their resident cats.

I’ve been to other cat cafe, but most of the cats there seemed anti social – shying away when you try to approach them. Which is understandable when you think about the number of guests who have tried to cuddle with them day after day. But the cats here were amazingly chill and adorable. They didn’t mind you cuddling with them.

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

Almost everywhere you turn, there would be something interesting to see, making this cafe extremely instagrammable.

Laura and I were quite hungry then, so we ordered the food which looked interesting. And between us, we had :

Tempura all’erba cipollina con maionese all’aceto balsamico e salsa spicy

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

Patatas Bravas

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

Dahl croccante su salsa pink raw allo zenzero

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

Riso rosso al mango cocco con broccoli e cavolfiore saltati al peperoncino e lime

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

(Picture stolen from Laura)

Mousse cake

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

The food here was delicious albeit on the pricey side with the price of each dish starting from 7 euro. But I guess it was okay for the once as a while treat. I especially liked Laura’s rice and would definitely get that the next time I’m there.

rinaz.net Romeow Cat Bistrot

And in the middle of our meal, I had an interesting talk with Laura – what she’s been up to, her ventures and what she’s been doing during her free time. I admire her in that she’s so courageous, being brave in travelling to different countries for example, and trying to set up her photography business.

If you haven’t seen her photographs, come and take a peek here. She’s very very good!

To end here is an instagram stories montage of our trip there 🙂

Romeow Cat Bistrot
Via Francesco Negri, 15, 00154 Roma

How I celebrated my birthday

First of August is my birthday! It was a fun filled day spent seeing the Yayoi Kusama Exhibition at the National Gallery Exhibition in Singapore. So much colours! It was a treat for the eyes!

Thank you so much for spending time with me! <3

Dinner at Gokul

While I was in Singapore, my cousin Emryl introduced me to Gokul – a vegetarian restaurant in Little India. The food there was so delicious, I’d definitely would love to go there again 🙂

Going back to Singapore

Here is a video-blog of my trip to Singapore last Summer, so it’s quite late but better late than never. It’s my first time going without Cart so, it feels very different.

This is part one, and the other parts will be uploaded as soon as humanly possible 😀