Monday, December 28, 2009

G10 vs Taiwan

Cicada skin - I had to rest the camera on the micro ferns of the tree to get a stable shot

As a person who has taken to attempting to capture moments and sights that I wish to share with others in a single frame of visual data, I naturally want a power-packed capturing device that can deal with my every whim and fancy. That is, a camera that can work with my strange capturing angles, not-so-stable hands, sitting on every conceivable type of surface that can support its weight without corroding into a smoking puddle...

Obviously, any half-assed photographer in this day and age would think of a DSLR as his ideal companion. Whatever extra trouble one had to deal with carrying a fundamentally heavier and bulkier camera, carrying multiple lenses on a trip and having to change them as and when a shot requires it, I was prepared to do. Or even better, having a big-arse all-in-one lens that I had to fix on everytime I pulled out the camera, and disassemble everytime I packed it back in. As long as I could jump from having my lens precariously near to a steaming bowl of soup to bringing a brightly-colored bird into frame from 25o metres away in an instant, what's that bit of trouble?

The result of snapping that stupid duck over and over for 5 minutes

But then I thought wow. I may be ready to do all that in a photographer's quest for the perfect shot, but when one is on travel where virtually everything is new, good shots don't wait to be taken. I know I am not ready to deal with multiple lenses (and definitely not ready to try to explain how the portrait lens I loaned rolled down a highway slope into the river), and so a very powerful point-and-shoot camera came to mind. Nicole sealed the deal by recommending that I get the G10 from Canon Singapore.


Which I did. I guess I'm to blame partly for getting it done only the day before I was due to fly off for Taiwan, while I was still working in camp. But I have to say, it takes an awful lack of professionalism to miss out an entire charging pack when sending a review unit to someone. If I hadn't gotten it at the last second from a friend, this review would definitely not have happened.

The challenge which I found quite perversely fun was that I needed to know how to operate this camera intimately by the time I walked out of the immigration checkpoint at Taiwan. I needed to know what it could do, what it could do well and under what conditions, what it simply could not do, and most importantly, what it could not do well under XYZ conditions, and if there was anything doable to make the situation better. That gave me less than 6 hours travelling from Singapore to Taiwan (including a transfer at HK which was more frantic walking than anything else) to consume the relevant parts of the very thick manual.

The very first shot I captured... mistakenly at 2MP.

As expected of a bridge camera, the G10 matches the relatively compact size and ease of operatability of any simple point-and-shoot camera, with the complex options that photographers who know what they want will undoubtedly want in their camera. I say they are complex not because the options are many, but because striking a balance between these few options require knowledge of each individual factor, and how they will work and clash with each other.

Capturing on almost auto settings - Ming Chih Recreation Area

As an amateur photographer more interested in versatility and swift efficient captures of single-opportunity shots, I am quite comfortable leaving most of the settings on auto mode (ISO, white balance, contrasting, anti-shake, aperture, shutter speed). This however is not to be confused as using the auto mode setting on the camera, because the camera's intelligence simply cannot yet be trusted to automatically work out the type of shot I'm going for.

Having used a very basic model of Panasonic Lumix as my usual digital camera, I am disappointed to see that there aren't as many scene settings in the G10. Sure, the potentials of the camera are aimed towards knowledgeable photographers in mind, but scene settings nevertheless provide for a quick jump to the appropriate settings in the quest for that perfect shot. Honestly, I'm starting to tire of going on about grabbing that perfect shot before it disappears forever, but there really is no escape from it. And if general photographers are willing to sacrifice the power of a DSLR for a jack of all trades prosumer camera, then you better make sure that Jack really knows alot of trades.

Foliage scene mode enhances green and produces stunning images as these

And speaking of recording, I was puzzled to find that this camera only records in 4:3 aspect ratio. With the international standard of 3:2 ratios for higher level photography, and the increasingly common use of widescreen monitors nowadays, I would have expected this of a far lesser camera. In fact even my Lumix has it. And I know that it's not because they are not aware of this, because they actually have a 3:2 ratio guide for you to crop your images later. What the hell for? It's more of a burden to me because I get the ratio but I know that the parts beyond the black markings are going to be recorded anyway. So why put it there in the first place?

One thing I'm very thankful for in this camera is the custom settings, marked on the dial as C1 and C2. In these two modes every single detail is at your disposal. You work your way through settings like your focus type (there's Flexizone, where you define your focusing point in every shot - awesome for macro), flash output power, white balance of course, and when you were finished, you save this settings in the mode of your choice, and everytime you turned on the camera or returned to that mode from some other setting, these settings that you have so carefully specified will be returned to you. I was surprised to accidentally learn one day that even the zoom is included in the settings. I had switched the ND filter on for the day, which is what I usually do to get a more vibrant image with less chance of overexposing as long as there is adequate natural light (cloudy sometimes doesn't cut it). I must have zoomed to test that the ND was doing its work, and saved it that way, and when I turned the camera on again later, I was puzzled at first to find the zoom lens stretching almost all the way out. For my needs, what I found useful was to set C2 to be my default photo taking function, and having the exact settings for C1 with the macro function turned on. It's hard to think of more ideal methods for that sought-after jump between near and far.

Flexizone focus in action - point A the sign and point B the strawberry (which was delicious btw)

A bad point I should mention about the macro function is that it cannot handle zoom very well. Yes, macro is supposed to be near and you aren't supposed to zoom, but there's always that particular shot where you can't get too close to your subject so you have to use the zoom to bring it closer. And the shakes the come from zooming in macro aren't pretty at all.

Success using macro + zoom after many frustrated attempts.

Another highlight of the G10 would definitely have to be it's scroll wheel. A firm grip on any camera is fundamental to getting even the simplest of shots, and that really only leaves your thumbs free to manipulate your camera on the fly. The scroll wheel naturally can only run through the various settings of one function at a time (eg ISO, or SCN mode, or shutter speed), but it still manages to solve a big part of this problem. It's abit low on the camera for my thumb to circulate smoothly without shifting the grip of the rest of my hand, but the ideal space for the wheel is taken up by the wonderfully large screen, which I would give priority to any day.

Angled flash = bad images. Sorry cl0udi3 you're still fab to me :P

Speaking of ideal spaces, the biggest image sensor in the world won't be able to prevent the obvious result of a side-installed flash. Subjects taken at sharp angles will be jarringly illuminated from one side. Given the fact that the optical viewfinder is a separate mechanism from the otherwise awesome lens and real honestly seems to serve little more purpose than to make you feel pro, I do feel that the center top of the camera would have served far better as the space to put the flash. Studying the camera as I type, I find that the telescope of the lens shouldn't get in the way of the illumination, but if I'm wrong, do correct me (or else what the hell, make the camera abit higher lah).

Night shots are the real test of any camera's prowess, and it's a pity that the G10 only serves to be half a step up from your average point and shoot. However, the adjustability of ISO up to 3200, shutter speed up to 15 seconds, and aperture up to 8.0 does give the photographer a significant increase in probability of getting a good night shot. On this count I depended more on the luck of getting shots right, as I only have basic knowledge of these factors.

Good nightshot

Awful grainy nightshot

Surprisingly good performance of long exposure... after some serious scrolling

Another point about the G10 that I had a hard time dealing with is the exposure compensation. I find it great that this is about the only setting independent from saving and actually has a whole dial dedicated to it because it is meant to be variant to every shot. But I do think something else is going on in there that I can't control, and the problem is everytime I shoot towards the sky, either the sky gets overexposed and is just a bright mass, with vivid colors of ground objects, or else the light intake is brought down, and the sky is distinguishable with the awful trade off of silhouetted ground objects. Makes for artistic shots sometimes, but definitely not wanted all the time.

Overexposed sky and underexposed foreground

Lastly, the fundamental of startup time. The Sony T10, the Lumix I have, the Olympus that my family had as our very first digital camera in like 2004 or 2005 had great start up times. Any of these cameras could literally match up to a person saying "Power. Focus. Capture." at average reading speed. That's slightly less than 2 seconds. You have to wait for the G10 to power on because you perform the focus, which takes slightly longer, and then capture. That takes almost double the time, something I definitely find undesirable in an otherwise powerful camera.

I've described the shortcomings on the G10 in more detail than its good points. But that does not in any way mean that its bad points outweigh its good points. On the contrary its good points trump the bad points to no end. But bad points deserve to be mapped out in detail so that anyone who intends to purchase one knows full well what they're getting into. I certainly know what I am getting into, and depending on more detailed comparisons in the future, a G10 or G11 will be mine by mid 2010.

Avatar 3D: How a good movie is put together

Yesterday, I went to watch the much screamed about Avatar, in its much screamed about 3D version. The awesome crowd of friends who invited me along - DK, Justin, Justin, Ivy, Gina and Mohan - would I think have heeded my demands of watching at Cathay (cos GV is so tween, Shaw equipment is so budget, and Lido is for DOM) but for the fact that they stopped screening Avatar 3D on Thursday or something (and wtf just checked and they're showing again, maybe everyone rushed to book tickets online making it slow). So for all my bitching, GV is without doubt the next best cinema around so there we went. And at least we went to GV Vivo, which again is without doubt the best GV venue in the whole of Singapore. And closest to my house as well.

I donned the 3D glasses, and apart from a few irritated adjustments, because I had specs and that made the 3D glasses sit on the middle of my nose like an uncle's glasses, I felt no need to take it off because of the fantastic new technology that doesn't give most people headaches like the older jarring red-blue ones used to (listen to Simply Geek Ep1 plug over at Tech65 plug for an interesting discussion on this and its future plug).

When the movie ended, I pulled the glasses off and found myself taking in deeper breaths than before, astounded that a whole three hours had passed like that.

So what is a good film? Like so many other questions attempting to define a positive example that a sensible majority can agree upon, the answer cannot be pegged to a single example, because idiosyncrasy can never be avoided in the quest for ultimate perfection. In that case "What is the good film?" cannot be answered. But Avatar will definitely serve well as one example of a good movie.

The story on its own isn't much to sing and dance about. As so succinctly summarized by DK, it's Pocahontas 2154AD. I say it's Pocahontas with Star Wars effects and a Lion King soundtrack. But anyway, it's nothing new. Nothing particularly bad, mind you. A plot by my rules can hardly ever be bad in its most basic form - it's the fleshing out of it that is always screwed up and over.

Before I go on about the effects, one very important point to the success of the movie is plot progression. This is how the rollercoaster ride is designed, how the adventure tour is composed. Some stories are like bullet trains - see see look wow bam kapow slash ugh blood spray sex what slap betrayal love make up make out end. Alot of things are presented, and nothing gets to the audiences' head. Some other stories are the scenic monorail rides - this here is the Quadridangus Corcilipeptus leaf, it first appeared in 2484BC, has 628 distinct veins, and ranks #38 in the chart of foliage green intensity. It gives you anything and everything in excruciating detail, and most people are drooling right after this here is the...

Avatar shows how to do plot progression well. Starting off at a decent pace, giving you a hell of a speed demon ride through action sequences, and where necessary, slowing to a near stop to let you experience the beauty of the details that would most certainly have been lost on you if you had even been cruising past it. The effort that comes from good storytelling (something I absolutely can't do because I belong to the monorail side) involves the audience member in the making of the story - one becomes part of the story journeying with the protagonist or antagonist as it unfolds, and one's emotions are being lent to the forming of the story. And that is what people describe as being sucked into the story.

Speaking of getting sucked into the story, I heard that the 3D effects weren't originally part of the equation. If you don't already know, I am an unabashed graphics whore. And if for nothing else, I would watch almost anything just to wait for good graphics sequences. Prime examples - Speed Racer and The Spirit. This is the first time I've seen 3D being used to such an extent, to its current commercial limits even. The level of depth and realism it extends to the movie just makes the best of all previous attempts seem childish and slipshod. And until I get myself a copy of the 2D version, I probably can't say this in all certainty. But I am going to say it anyway that with or without the 3D effects, this is the first time in my history of watching special effects that a movie has actually trumped a Star Wars climatic battle sequence (to qualify, modern trilogy, not classic). That said, just because it pwned Star Wars doesn't mean that Mr Lucas isn't involved in it. I know for a fact from catching the credits that Skywalker Sound was involved in Avatar, and I would be more surprised if Industrial Light and Magic was in no way involved in the making of this, once again, awesome show.

What makes a great movie? Plot. Plot progression. Emotions. Well carved characters. Good actors. Filmography. Videography. Symbolism. These are the classic factors of a great movie. Avatar may not have half these elements, but how are we to look to the future, when we are staring at the old school all the time? The progression of time and culture may have rendered some of these factors unimportant, and given weight to new and novel factors. And as far as that is concerned, Avatar takes the big juicy steak home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SG Blogosphere 2009 Most Talked About Event

Last year it was Rinaz and Cart's wedding. Next year it will be... well something.

This year, the topic that wins the recognition of being the one that generated the most intense chatter is...


DK's Christmas Bearbear bag.

What can I say? Fate deals cruel hands. It's the shitty part of her job. But sometimes right, she deals it in such a way that the resultant situation makes it into the top ten funniest moments of all who were there to witness.

In all honestly, even I would have wanted the bear (it's awfully cute and of reasonably good make) if not for the lousy fact that it was a bag. I wonder who was the genius who saw this perfect product and went "Nope not enough let's slit a hole in the back of his neck and add straps to him that way he will be even more appealing."

Well, win some lose some.

And below is the torture we all put DK through for your utter viewing pleasure. I have to say, it does look so much better in Youtube HD.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Micro Pantry

I talked about it on Twitter. And here's the result. Feels really nice to have something like that. Now it's just how to stop the other three monsters raiding it.

Thanks to Justin for advice on the mini tray. What? I'm indecisive and I make good use of my friends' presences.


Turmoil

If anyone still reads this (and I guess this line is used on 76% of blogs), I'm sure it isn't the first time you have seen something like this. Damn well won't be the last.

There are so many things going on in my mind right now. There have been for weeks now, and they've been gradually building up until it's two sides on my brain on opposite cliffs bickering endlessly with each other at the top of their lungs.

At the very fundamentals of it, I guess hardly anybody can insist that lying is good. The question is whether or not it is not bad. Because let's face it. A liar of average skills get away with 80% of his lies. Those who get away with 92% are or will be world-class poker players. Those who get away with 95% become politicians. And those who get away with 98% of their lies will be recruited into secret service. The other 1.9% can be trained or induced somehow.

Lying to someone you don't want to see hurt solves the immediate problem. The more facts you have on your side, the less you have to work to sufficiently color the truth. By the way, lying about a sexual affair doesn't fall in my book under "lying to not hurt". But you don't need a malicious person to burst your carefully created bubble. People absolutely unaware of the situation say things and bomb, Hindenberg. While I have to say shamefacedly that lying comes quite naturally to me as a survival instinct in today's world, I can't but stop and consider if it really is worth it at all. I don't have all the time in the world. Goodness knows I'm hoping for 26 hours a day. But should I take the time to sit down and try my best to break the truth gently? Because even if it works for my conscience, and I know I'll feel pretty damn good after the hard part is over, I most likely won't be fair to any of the other parties involved in the complex situation that birthed the white lie. That of course, makes x bad parties, as opposed to x+1 bad parties if the truth is uncovered. If you think being the bad person trumps possibly getting implicated in the whole deal, which in all morality does, that's only your choice to make. But for such an emotionally-driven person as me who likes to look and look again at both sides, it's another endless debate, and unless the benefits highly outweigh the ease of a lie, I would almost surely flow with the latter as a default response, and that, I think you will expect, does nothing in the world to move this eternal question forward.

And then there is that debate with religion. You will find that most modern Christians correct one when asked and say that "Christianity isn't a religion it's a relationship". So there lies my answer, I'm well aware of that but I still have to say religion for the sake of clarity, I can't be saying there's that debate with The Relationship, and then you read and find out its about God not my girlfriend and go the hell why is it a relationship with God and et cetera.

Anyway, God.

I haven't been to church now, for about a year. And as you are wondering, my definition of "been to church" doesn't count sporadic visits.

"Have you been exercising?"
"Yes, I ran for 10 minutes in the gym yesterday."
"And?"
"And I...... sweat. What?"

Being to church simply means going whenever you possibly can. There are a score of micro reasons why I stopped, but really, why fill another foot of space with those? Long and short, I just lost the passion to go - the fire, that wanting. And why would we want to go to church? Fundamentally, to get in touch with God. As I learnt from my church, recharging your spiritual batteries, satisfying yourself and consequently others around you. And by the way, I am one who believes that religion and science perfectly compliment each other. It seems like a weak convenient excuse, but I do really believe that religion plugs that gaps that science can't fill, and science is slowly but surely uncovering the reasons of religion. Science shouldn't regard religion as superstitious tosh, and neither should religion regard science as faux-logic (fauxgic?) made to disprove religion. But back to God. Sorry, digression seems to be hardwired into me.

I'm not exactly happy that I'm not attending church regularly. Certainly, while we're here, I'm glad I don't have to deal with the pressures of doing so against my obvious will. But that by no means indicate that I'm glad to be away. It's not a very good feeling to be away from it all, to know that there is love and hope and peace happening in that one supernatural place, and you aren't part of it. And as you learn, these things aren't a jump-in experience. Or they rarely are. Just because you feel like it doesn't mean you're gonna get in the spirit of the Lord. I jump and sing and shout and scream. I feel nothing deep down where it really matters after all the loud noise is over. It just doesn't work that way. You can't expect to have in on the sweets and berries whenever you please. That's why we call it a relationship, because in a religion, I am sorry but unrepentant to say, you more or less can.

This really isn't helped by the fact that I am of the opinion that since the God I believe in does not believe in forcing people's hands into doing things, believer or not, and also that especially since I have confessed my belief in Him and His unparalleled powers, he is watching over me like only God can. And that there will be a time and place when I one day either experience the fire once more, or my soul would just cave in from all the worldly pressures and would bring me back to church. Long short, that I don't have to force myself in any way to go to church. That in time, when it is my time, I will go back to attending church without effort, or at least not minding the effort, because I did sacrifice quite abit serving and attending church last time, all of which I did not mind at all, I suppose because I wanted to do what I did. But I get impatient. When is my time? It's been over a year. How much more can I afford before my life goes in to the ditches? Am I getting this all wrong? Do I really need all that maddening effort after all? But that doesn't make sense, my church taught me it didn't work that way. Did I get the teachings wrong all this time? Is my church wrong? Heart vs church - where do you suppose God connects to, if it's a relationship? So the heart wins?

See for yourself. How many question marks there are, as opposed to periods. I suppose that would sum up my life now. Maybe I'm just going through what everyone at 21 goes through to varying extents (I obviously get to have the strong end of it). I can feel myself slowly going rancid, as far as the rules of judgment are concerned. I'm doing awful things, the very same terrible things I despise as base when being done to me. And all this with the realization that I'm free as a believer of the finished work of Jesus Christ from the condemnation that inevitably comes from breaking these rules. Imagine if that was still that case. I think I would totally empathize if you decided to just end it right now. Honestly why add more crap to your long list?

I wonder if I have to do this self-exorcism, this catharsis, as a sort of routine quarterly defragmentation (go read up Wikipedia if you don't know what I'm talking about). As far as computers are concerned the only way I solved that was... well I didn't solve it myself, the problem disappeared along with quite a few others when I made the jump to Apple OS X. And I guess that's what I have to do with my life. Completely reorganize the way things are computed in my mind. Perhaps I've found this elusive operating system in Christianity.

The remaining problem then, is how to install it. Good night.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fault

Three days back my family walked into the lift of our condo block to see a piece of paper stuck onto that space in the elevator where you normally would see the certificate of operatability. It looked like a laser color printed page with this picture.


I'm sure most of you have seen it. It's the latest in thing among kids, called the swave board. Very innovative I must say. But back to the notice. Here's roughly what it said:
Until a few days ago, my daughter was the proud owner of a swave board. I'm sure you have seen this, alot of kids have it. But my daughter found her swave board missing a few days ago. I do hope any parent will notice if their child brings back a swave board that isn't theirs, and I trust you will return it to the management office who will then pass it back to us. Yours sincerely one very annoyed parents and one very upset child!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She (or he) did actually put about that amount of exclamation marks.

If someone pasted this in your lift, what would your reaction be?

If I had a pen with me I would have written somewhere on the page "That's entirely your own problem not ours".

I do think that this came from a Caucasian parent. I'm not saying that Caucasians are idiots, or that Chinese wouldn't do the same, but this is quite the nature of Caucasians, and should I say Asians naturally don't do this. Because really, how is it our fault if you didn't teach your kids to take care of their possessions, or if they just don't? What, you gonna leave your ATM PIN number in the open and put up notices suing the world for your loss of cash? How irresponsible is that? I don't think it matters if you are white or yellow skinned, I'm sure anyone who is even remotely educated can agree that no one else is going to take care of your stuff if you aren't bothered yourself (except for your parents maybe and they won't last forever), and certainly no one in his right mind will be willing to take responsibility for the loss of others' properties.

Sure, you can say it's their culture. But newsflash: you're in Singapore now, so act like it. Don't come act all high and bitchy on us and expect someone with eye slits a conical hat and goatee to grovel at your door saying "Hohhh we izu sorry muchu pleazu." I wiru smack you face bitsu.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Music and Dance

I sense a ramble coming on.

Just had the thought about how people constantly compare the good old days of music to the "trash of today". Classical aficionados frowned upon jazzing wailers, jazzing wailers frowned upon guitar-wielding rockers, guitar-wielding rockers frowned upon disco dancers, disco dancers frowned upon 90s poppers, 90s poppers frowned upon techno bobbers.

At this rate, I am almost certain of the day when our generation reminisces nostalgically about the "good old days of Crazy Frog".
"Tell me 'bout it, music never was the same after that age was it?"
"Everything sounds like a lightsaber battle nowadays."
"Fucked up."

The truth is, our lives are just really long photographs, exposed for 80 years to create the most amazing image ever seen. But a photograph is after all only a single capture of a particular time, whether it's 10 milliseconds or 10 decades. It won't move with the fourth dimension, and so similarly, to oversimplify it, it is very hard for us to do so as well. The speed of the advancement of technologies today has helped us get more used and be more open to constant (if rather irritating) changes in cultures, paradigms, norms and... well unnorms. But we will have to accept that because of the numerous influences we have been so deeply steeped in through our lives, there will be some changes that will unsettle us, even if it's only for awhile. And we also have to accept that just as we rebelled against our parents by secretly listening to rock, metal, techno, rap or R&B, future generations will be wholly convinced of their love of whatever trend comes up from the ground, and short of leaving our kids to slowly rot, we must try as much not to interfere with it, for who are we to say what is good art and what is not? And after all, how will you advance but by breaking boundaries and comfort zones?

Just don't play your crap on my expensive sound system. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Generation Zero

You probably know by now that for every NSF whose pay was supposed to come in at the stroke of midnight of the 10th of October 2009 did not get it until a (arguably) harrowing 18 hours later.

I woke up today to angry tweets and FB statuses. I was myself quite aptly pissed too - payroll is a clockwork procedure. Surely such a simple process can be easily automated. How the hell can such a huge screw up happen?

There are plenty of arguments and counter-arguments, but what I wish to discuss is this. If such a problem occurred to NSFs as little as 3 years ago, I don't think there would have been as much noise and panic. Everyone yesterday was broke and worried. There were some pretty strong reactions, to the tune of "how do you want us to give our lives in war when in peace you can't even get a simple payroll done on time", to "we stay and slog in camp so much and come out to find that we don't even have our pay on time for fuck", to "O MY HOW AM I GONNA PARTAAAAAY WHEN I HAVE NO MONAAAAAYYY".

But my fellow esteemed paid prisoners, let's back up abit now. Whatever happened to the concept savings? Contingencies? Reserves? Our lives are so planned by the hair of our income that when it doesn't come in smack on time, our lives are brought to a screeching halt, or worse, thrown right off the cliff. It seems to be common sense to everyone else except those in our years that we should save some money for situations such as this. Is this a trend we should start worrying about? Wait no scrap that, it shouldn't even be a question. This is a trend we should be worrying about. If this isn't immediately curbed, we could be facing a whole generation of loanshark-plagued young men. Let's not kid ourselves for one moment that when we get a "proper job" we'll get "decent pay" and won't comparatively spend that much. If you spend 95% of your income, you're spending 95% whether its 95 cents or $950. You are still leaving yourself with that same negligible margin to fall back on. While it's definitely arguable what a safe margin is, I'm quite willing to argue that 5% is nowhere near it, wherever it may be.

For starters, those of you with iPhones and iPod Touches can download this useful app. More than anything else it does the math and the logging for you - the onus is still greatly on you to key in every single transaction, deposit or withdrawal, to get an accurate track. If you can't find the right app for your device, you can always go back to the good old days of collecting receipts and entering them into an Excel spreadsheet when you get home. That I'll tell you from experience is even harder to keep up than having a balance sheet follow you around in your phone or iPod.

We cannot let this lifestyle attitude take over us. It will ruin our lives, our families, and quite possibly, our nation. Or even worse, foreign employees who know what they're doing will bear the weight of the Singaporean economy on their shoulders, and shift it around their way. If you have so much time to complain about foreign talent, then don't let them get your job.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Troublesome Touch

So if you don't already know, I got myself the latest 32GB iPod Touch. It was late by the time I got back, and I thought to myself, my word, I'm gonna have to stay up all night at this rate with the hundreds of apps I'm gonna fill my iPod with.

About 5min after plugging my iPod into my computer for the first time, realization hit me.

I don't know where to start on the App Store.

So I enlisted the help of some Touch-owning friends, chiefly Daniel because the rest said something to the effect of "Just download games lor." Thanks guys.

One thing I noticed though, is that without 3G or GPS, a huge huge number of apps are almost useless, unless you have some reliable WiFi. Which I don't in camp. I am really REALLY tempted to get M1's MiFi, except that it charges on Micro USB, and I don't wanna risk the people up there finding fault with a mini-to-micro USB converter cable. Plus it will cost me. But FINALLY. WIFI IN CAMP. I AM MY OWN MASTERRRRRR!

Here are some useful apps I've found so far.

If you don't already know, 1-Click Wireless@SG is a must have for Touch users, to ease the trouble of logging into WSG hotspots. Facebook and eBuddy are pretty standard apps too, but alternative mobile IM apps are Fring and Palringo.

The best guitar tuner you can find for free is the... well Guitar Tuner app. It only gives you the pitch of standard-tuned strings, but since there is no in-built mic in the Touch, there really isn't a point paying for chromatic tuners. Some of which are really good, by the way, if you have an iPhone. And while we're on the subject of guitars, the Planet Waves Chordmaster application looks to be one of the best chord guides you will find for free. The paid version will give you access to variable positions of the chords, but I think the free version is more than enough.

There's an app for possibly the most famous currency conversion site, XE.com, and it saves conversion rates so even without connectivity you can get a rough gauge of how much X costs in your local currency or vice versa.

The Holy Bible app by LifeChurch.tv looks to be the best with select downloadable versions and much more versions available subject to WiFi or 3G. And while we are on reading, here's the most useful app that I have discovered by myself so far.

Wattpad is an app for the e-book repository of the same name. There are classic and self-authored works there, and if you search hard enough, you might also find what you want.

Hint hint.

Video Converting for the Mac

Back when I was still on a Windows PC, the (in?)famous Super C (if you need me to point you to this link then you also need me to tell you that the download link is at the bottom of the page) converter solved all my video converting needs. It was old, it was clunky, and complicated, but to me, it represented a world of choices I guess even some of the best paid applications won't provide. And more importantly, it supported batch conversion, so that be it 2 files or 20, I could get the gears running with less than 10 mouse clicks, and go to sleep knowing everything will be nice and done in the morning (unless, you know, Windows crashes or something). And since then I'd always maintained that the ability to batch convert be one of the factors of my ideal video converter.

Thankfully, when I got onto my Mac, I was so busy making up for the time I'd lost in camp that video conversion was just about the last thing on my mind. Additionally I was getting really audiophilish, and the tracks in my Creative ZEN were mostly either MP3s at 320kbps, or WAVs at 1411kbps. You can just imagine the amount of space it took up, so that I had to be extremely picky about what music went into my player, much less videos. Later, I got my 16GB SDHC card, but the memory card expansion was so terrible on the Creative that I just gave up after awhile.

So now, after the 2009 Apple iPod keynote, I've gotten myself a 32GB iPod Touch! And yes in case you're wondering, it feels good to succumb to the dark side. Really really good.

We'll talk about that in another post.

It was after that that I started searching in earnest again for a good video converter for the Mac. But good unrestricted free software on Windows was hard to find, much less for Macs. By the way, I hear from my friends that they use Any Video Converter nowadays.

I did a Byte of the Week once with Tech65 on Handbrake, one of the leading free converters in the Mac world. And yes it's great, almost as great as Super. But it's missing my most important criterion.

Batch conversion.

Or rather, it's idea of batch conversion is adding files one by one by one configuring each conversion one by one by one, and then clicking the "Start Converting" button when you're done adding to the queue.

Seriously guys. WTF.

But no really. Other than that it's a great converting software. Probably the best.

Then I realise I've had it under my nose all along.

I have been using Vuze, or The Application Formerly Known as Azureus, for torrenting on my Mac. Sadly it seems that the best of these kind of free software are all cross-platform developments - both Vuze and Handbrake are such software. The best thing about the latest versions of Vuze is that you can format your files for sharing to other devices. Without Windows Media Center involved one inch, I have watched in amazement as full HD video streamed right out through my Xbox 360 (connected to my home network, as is my MBP) to my HDTV. Similarly, Vuze auto-converts videos to an Apple device of your choice, and copies it to iTunes after the conversion is done, where it will be ready for you to copy or sync with your device. If you are using a PS3, PSP, or TiVo, Vuze will also work for you. Best of all? Drag, drop, and select the device you want to format your videos for, and the rest will be done for you while you rest easy.

My only qualm about this converter is that all the settings are preset, with no noticeable option to change them. While this is best for the masses who aren't quite so familiar with conversion concepts and technologies, I find an audio bitrate of 64kbps appalling. It's like hearing people talk through a funnel. So if there was a file where I really wanted the audio quality preserved, or at least set at a compression I'm alright with, then I will use Handbrake for that one file. It has device presets too, so I for instance can click on the iPod Touch preset, then manually tweak the audio bitrate settings from there.

Alright, hope this helped.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Baybeats Day 3

Right, this will have to be plain text for now till Blogger wakes up it's idea. Or maybe my Mac. But I'm calling Blogger on this.

So my army mates and I went to catch the last day of Baybeats. I with another was quite heartbroken that we couldn't go on Friday because we already had our churascurra dinner, which meant we missed The Great Spy Experiment and West Grand Boulevard. Of course the only band I remotely knew on day 3 was Anberlin, and only because my friend wanted to go there specifically for them. Don't matter. I got their discography already. ^^

So we meet abit earlier to makan, and ended up... quite predictably when you're around guys, at Carl's Jr. SAFRA card saved the day, I ordered the new Western Bacon Thickburger, very nice if abit dry, and the discounted large upsize meal is still 45c cheaper than the normal undiscounted meal ($13.50, probably the most expensive burger on the list at the moment).

We originally wanted to catch Anberlin's acoustic set at 7, but we arrived quite on the dot, which meant that we couldn't even see the stage. I decided that we should give up watch it, and also because I just don't like this kind of music (hardcore) on acoustics. No, just no. It sounded awfully pop-rock, and the hundreds of girls singing along to every single word of the song didn't help lift that image. I herded my friends (we take turns leading the pack) to the venue dedicated to the heavier acts, the Outdoor Theatre, redubbed The Powerhouse for the festival.

The next band up was at 7.30, and a band that by pure virtue of its name attracted me - Velvette Vendetta from Hong Kong. We heard the sound check and we though 'Oh hell this is gonna be rockin.' We didn't know it would be that rocking - turned out to be metal. Not that it mattered to us, although things got quite steadily more cheesy as the set went on. The vox did that raspy metal voice and went "Dis is da Pawahaus, so I wanna see some fuckin pawahhhhh.' And his falsetto... dude go watch more BeeGees vids kay? Still, I thought they were ok. Their riffs were solid, and everyone was decently skilled.

Now I must confess we weren't very optimistic about the next band up, Singapore's Zero Sequence. We were sitting by the water and talking about what next. "Local band leh, don't feel like watching." "Yeah sia..." Still, we didn't come all the way down to a music festival to not see bands play, so we duly took our places up front sometime before the set was scheduled to start. We saw a whole rack of like 10 basses and guitars, and wondered whose it was, and whether it was Zero Sequence's (turned out to be Anberlin's). And I joked that it was just like a Singaporean band to have all this awesome equipment (the combined SRPs of the instruments might have gotten you a small car overseas) and shitty music. Zero Sequence started and because I didn't even have a clue that I was listening to a progressive rock band, I wondered what the hell they were doing (some atmospheric keyboard and tapping on the guitar that made some doobldy-duba-dana-dibi-dunun). And then the distortion kicked in and the blast that roared from the amps was so heavy my eyebrows went straight up. This dude came out in a Reaper costume, hooded, and shredded the shit out of his guitar, and unveiled himself and started singing. I was there, unable to clap because I was holding the Zoom H2 recorder reeling everything in, and all I could do was nod my head approvingly like some ambitious father, when the singer held a high note, and the power that suddenly resonated throughout the whole venue shocked the shit out of everyone, and my friend and I stared at each other stunned as the crowd started wooting appreciatively. And my otherwise great recording was nearly ruined by this CBK who tried to Superman on me and my friend. I think we shrugged him right off, but my recording got abit muffled after that.

Cheebye.

After the set was over, we immediately went to the CD booth and purchased their CD. I wanted to be a cheap bastard and kope the CD from my friend after he'd ripped it, but I decided to buy one myself in the end, and as I called for one more copy please, the guy turned around and pulled a stack out of a box, and taped to my copy of the CD was a guitar pick.

I dunno why my friends were so miffed. One's a bassist and the most musical thing the other one does is...... headbang. Or well, headbob. Lol I'm so bad. But SERIOUSLY!

We went to find our other friends at the chillout stage (no drums bass or distortion bleh) because our other group of friends were quite bewildered as to how one could even be attracted to such noise ("It's good noise kay!" I reasoned.)

Seems quite obvious but I think I'll mention for archive's sake that it had rained previously, just a couple of hours before the festival got into full swing in fact, and the result was that the grungy gravel/sand ground at the Powerhouse turned into a messy gravel/mud pit. And thanks to the fucking cocksters who just want to jump into the fray of moshing and push shove punch and kick anyone within arm's reach, our shoes were covered with a fine layer of mud by the time we reunited with our friends. Needless to say with crowds and typical SG weather it got humid, and we were quite happy to listen to ukeleles and soothing rings of acoustics while enjoying some aircon. It got clear though, that the artiste performing was the type that had a message to tell the world, and either had no lyrical artistry or didn't bother with it, with the result of quite a dry performance. So even the other guys who had ducked away from the noise joined us in going back to the Powerhouse to give The Ambassadors from the Phillipines a chance. They hung out right at the back while we moved up front, although we din get too far because we arrived just in time again. Being further away meant no close up shots of the band, but it meant that we got better (but louder) sound because we were within the speakers' targetted firing range.

Right well anyway, long story short, Ambassadors, sound like Switchfoot, pop-rockers obsessed with seeing people mosh in circles squares and pentafostigonals. I enjoyed it only because it was live. Atmosphere seriously lowers your standards. Although we had alot of fun watching would-be bodysurfers failing the crap out of themselves. They always get raised in the air by their friends, triumphant look on their faces (I'm floating muthafuckas!) and then the next moment nobody bothers catching them so they plunge right down into the crowd. Sad. Sad but funny. Should have videoed that shit.

Quite amazingly, a quite a big bunch of people made their way out of the venue after the band took their leave. I'd have though everyone would be kiasu and sit through a band they knew shit about just to wait for the famous band from halfway round the world. But we needn't have worried about that. The crowd really started coming in just then, and we found ourselves inevitably sandwiched. Having already experienced the crazy moshers earlier and fully expecting them later, we tried as much to move to the side without kicking ourselves out of the venue. At the end, we could have stood smack in the center for all we cared, because latecomers who couldn't get to the moshing area barrelled their way through anyway. About halfway through amidst the full blast of the speakers (we were sidelined right into direct range of the speakers) I heard my ears start ringing. I should mention for those who don't know that I have ears particularly sensitive to high pitches, which is why if you're the type to notice I always go for warmer sounding audio equipment. I quickly dug my Ultimate Ears out and plugged them on - I had absolutely forgotten to bring my concert earplugs in the typical rush out of the house.

So how was it then? I'm not one to belittle experiences, good or bad, so I'll say it was a great eye-opener being almost in the center of a mosh pit. I was tempted to the point of twitching arms to join in and push back, but seeing as that was utterly pointless in enjoying the music the most I did was dig into my position and not get shoved forward or back. I also found out that the moshers who subscribe to the kind of music that is Anberlin are royal idiots who just want to slap someone hard in the face without having to face repercussions. Metalhead moshers are a different thing - they follow the etiquettes set by the largest music festivals in the world. But this... I don't wanna say la, but you know the people. Miffs me abit that I'm also listening to the same music as them, but well, I'm not gonna ditch something I love because someone else is spoiling the image am I? So yeah, Baybeats was great, even though I only attended the last day. Hopefully Great Spy and West Grand will be back next year so I can see them live (still haven't got their CDs sia). And more importantly, hopefully my friends and I wouldn't have gotten too busy with work or studies to take time out to enjoy these precious moments of life.

Anyway, those bodysurfers. You surf surf 20m from your friends and finally land on earth again. Then? Headbang alone ah? Weird not eh?

Links and photos coming up, soon as Blogger sorts itself out.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Spirit of Adventure

No I just borrowed the name. The Up post will have to wait. And YES O HAI I IZ BACK FROM HIATUZ I CAN HAZ PAGEVIEWZ?

I just thought I should blog about this fantastic evening. It's not actually fantastic, for the most part, but the absolutely positive feelings I'm floating about in right now just leads me to describe it as such.

It started when I was watching Pushing Daisies at 3.30pm. My aunt IMed and asked if I wanted to go out. I said yes I would like to go to Vivo, which is the nearest mall to my place, but I also had an almost unrelated itch to go there.

So alright we set 4.30 as the time to meet at the carpark downstairs (oh yes my aunt and my family have units in the same condo. Convenient, since we're practically stuck together since forever). While strolling over to her car I saw her walking in and out and around the car and was immediately hit with a very strong "Something's very wrong" aura. True enough, her car refused to start, but not just that, everytime she turned the ignition, a horrible rattle crackled out of her engine area, as if some metallic lizard got it's tail wound in the gears. And now we shall pause to fleetingly entertain that possibility.






Okay. Freaky wasn't it?

I smart-guessed that it wasn't a flat battery like my aunt thought. It had every indication of one - dim headlights and flickering dashboard - but the engine rattle somehow put that thought out of my head. So calls were made and we went upstairs to her unit and I did the usual IT support routine. Oh no I'm not resentful or tired of it. I actually like to be of use, sometimes. While I was watching abit of Bleach, the tow guy reached and she went down. I got a call soon instructing me to shut off everything, lock up and bring her purse down. The guy had come and deemed it to be an exhausted, and not flat battery, and simply jumpstarted the car back to life. He'd told my aunt that a slow drive to Vivo City should be sufficient to recharge it, a statement I quite rightly doubted when she told me, but if you threatened to slowly buzzsaw me in half from groin up you would end up having to do it because I don't know about car intestines for shit, so I just accepted it lor.

As we settled into our parking lot at Vivo I told my aunt we should try restarting it then to see whether it really worked, but she saw no point to it, and I quite strangely saw little point in pushing my suggestion. But it's probably better that we didn't do so, even though we should have, because I do think that if we have the result would not have allowed us to have as good an evening as what followed. Blissfully unbothered about the state of a car essentially brought back from the (temporary) dead, we headed straight for Akashi, a Japanese restaurant stuck in my head forever because when the first branch opened at Citylink my aunt ordered ootoro, the quintessentially Japanese fatty tuna belly, and brought the bill from what should have been just over a hundred to a ball-shrinking $300+.

Akashi did not open with the aim of being a budget restaurant for desperadoes to get their Jap fix, I'll say that first. I think it is just about the best upper-middle class restaurant to go to. It will not come cheap, but you won't walk away feeling unsatisfied. The salmon sashimi was 5 slices of centimetre-thick springy softness, its natural fresh taste amplified by soya sauce. The seaweed wrapping and fried skin of the salmon skin makimono (rolled-sliced sushi) was unbelievably crunchy. The broiled seabream head... well I can't speak much for it because it's not really to my taste, being cooked in sweet gingery sauce, but it was well-done, I can at least say. And the yaki-niku I ordered. Oh my frigediricking God.

Loads of onions, and not just to cover up for lack of beef strips, swimming in a huge load of sauce, with a side of shredded salad. Only in one other place have I had something as heavenly as this, and it wasn't in Japan. It was at SIM, at the Japanese stall before the fucking idiots calling themselves management did not renew their contract and they moved to who knows where (no it's not Akashi la. Close but different). And that was like what, $3.50. We paid about 20 bucks for this order, though granted it had good miso soup (always with that slightly burnt taste), watermelon, pickles, some black pepper salmon ball thingy, and rice. It was utterly fantastic re-living the wonderful memories I had with my friends eating that yakiniku.

I'm sentimental. Suck it.

After a completely satisfying meal (what did I tell you right) and copious amounts of burnt rice tea (the waitress, who like the rest of her colleagues was nice, knowledgeable, prompt, and most of all sincere, didn't get it when I asked for brown tea in Mandarin, but I realised shortly after that brown tea, or more correctly, Japanese tea with bits of burnt rice to give that lovely and kinda addictive nutty flavor, was their default tea. And that's saying alot because rice tea is rather expensive), sorry that was a long aside, our first stop was the Nat Geo store, which I can't help but think is much more of a museum than anything else. Honestly why would anyone by any sort of clothing from there at a very premium price? Well, insanely rich fans of Nat Geo maybe but is that really enough to sustain such a beautiful store? We proceeded from there to look for a thumbdrive and earphones. I'd only moments before recommended Sonic Gear Earpump to my aunt as we strolled through Best Denki when she mentioned she was looking for new earphones. It's what I've been recommending everybody asking me. Crossroads are still good but they're abit ex for the casual user and has an audiophilish kind of audio signature. Sonic Gear's signature suits modern music and ears accustomed to such music much better. Quite like vintage distortion versus modern distortion, my dear guitarist friends, whoever you may be. So my aunt got the Earpump Pro ($50) and I got the original Earpump ($30) for my mommy's upcoming birthday. Because really, there is a thin line between looking down on people's hearing and people who just aren't as bothered with hearing 2000Hz in all its resonating clarity as they are with comfort. A thin line, but one that definitely exists.

We then proceeded to the true aim of our hike across Vivo - Page One bookstore. Seeing nothing in the bestseller shelf (briefly tempted by the new novel from White Tiger author Aravind Adiga but I don't like hardcover. Anymore) I drifted to the magazine section to do my usual browse for gaming mags, but none of the relevant mags (which is to say only two or three) was interesting enough to make me pay $17, so I moved on down to the music section, from which I ended up picking two mags, one of which featured my second favorite guitarist Jimi Hendrix (first is Albert King) and the other of which featured Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and "How THE YARDBIRDS changed rock forever", and both sporting juicy looking CDs, so after considering which one or the other to get I gave in to that nagging thought which essentially said "Fuck it get both." The CDs turned out to be just as juicy as they looked. Also, I floated down to the stationery section, and got myself a Uniball Jetstream Premier, a pen with promising ergonomics, excellent smoothness and a brilliant blue ink (and also a brilliant price tag of 10 bucks. Better work well and long dammit) when who should I meet but Singapore's favorite Hi There Kitty, Daphne! Just as I was about to make my mind up to pay, I was halted in my tracks by a beautiful hardcover book (I only don't like hardcover novels because I get so many of them) called The Advertising Concept Book, by Thames and Hudson. I was stuck for so long on whether to spend another $60 on it, until I went to look for my aunt who said "Don't, the price may go down later."

And so I saved myself 60 bucks. For now. And that's why you shouldn't shop alone. Try your best not to, at any rate.

We walk back to the car, time and money well spent, but not before I get myself a Coffee Bean Ulimate, which is essentially ice blended mocha on crack and a dash of speed. Try it sometime, but it's not for the caffeine-faint hearted.

"Well let's hope it works," my aunt said, turning the ignition.

Quite expectedly, the death rattle wasn't followed by a painful silence as my aunt swiftly swore. The next tow guy that came 40min later explained that it probably was a dead battery, but that new Borneo Motors cars can't just work on car-to-car jumping because the voltage was different and this to that may cause that to happen to this leading to that possibly making this that and that this an' cor blimey tha'll cost ye thousands, not hundreds, miss. I mean goodness how much shit can you come up with? I'm not calling bluff, I'm just saying why can't this world be a better place where everyone tells you the unshaded truth?

Oh I know. Because we're humans. 'Cause nothin' lasts forever in the cold November rain. Hard to be free as a bird now, these days. Honestly, everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the grave. And I'm about to break.

Good for you if you fully understood that. Or did you?

Anyway my aunt instructed him to tow the car away. Before that while we were waiting her iPhone ran low on battery, so she had to call... whoever again to change the contact number to mine.

So then we walk back up to take a cab back, but my aunt swears again after looking at the taxi queue. She must take cabs alot. Like, ALOT, because I take cabs half the time and I didn't even notice the atrocious queue at 11pm until she pointed it out, 75m away. So we change course for the bus stop, and my aunt didn't bring her EZ-link card and didn't have enough coins, but luckily I had just enough to combine with what she had (2 10c and 2 5c) to make $1.40.

And yes. SBS accepts 5c coins. How sweet.

On the way back I ask to see her iPhone because I've long suspected that the Maps uses cellular triangulation instead of GPS, and was wondering how to activate the GPS if possible. So I was playing around in her options, and was explaining to her about Internet tethering when...

We missed our bus stop. By two stops.

Luckily, the bus stops were near each other, so it wasn't that bad. My aunt was tired, but it felt like a carefree midnight stroll back to me.

And that is that. An evening that should have left me in emotions equating to the storm of the century but instead inspiring me to finally blog again with this long winded tale of misfortune. The moral of the story?

Always have jumper cables ready in your car. Always. You could be next.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Daring



I think this appeals specially to people educated in any form of psychology. And that includes people like me, a Communications student, who studied interpersonal interactions, body language, signs, among other things.

I read this from Seth Godin's blog, one of the few people I follow in order to build my knowledge in the communications, marketing and PR industries.

People have to be more thick-skinned, I think. I know I'm definitely not one. Yet. I don't even want to tell people when they're wrong, speak up when people need to hear, or shout when I have to. But look at the people watching guy #1. You can hear laughter in the recording. These same people who are amused by your insane ideas will be marvelling over your brilliance when it turns wildy popular. Either that or they'll be one of those bastards who go "Pfft I knew from the start, you mean you didn't?"

Seriously, this group of people, fuck you in advance kay?

Maybe I should start dancing at music festivals. Might give me more guts for my crazy ideas in the future.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Impempe Yomlingo

Last Saturday I went to watch the acclaimed African adaptation of Mozart's timeless opera The Magic Flute, otherwise known in snottier circles as Die Zauberflote.

It was unique, it was inventive, but I felt what made the production really shine was the vibrance and energy that seemed to radiate from these people naturally, as a cultural trait. Perhaps I'm ignorantly wrong, but it seems poignant that this radiance should be born out of a response to the sadness they have suffered all these years.

I should be looking for African music soon.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Complete High Definition Xbox Experience

Many of my recent sighs have been due to this issue, and now that I've found the solution to it, I just thought that I should share it with everyone. I didn't discover it mind you, but I doubt enough people know about it.

Otherwise I would have. Hee.

Presently, the deal is this. If you want HD video and surround sound output from your Xbox, ie. the full home theatre gaming experience, you either use component cables to wire the video out to your HDTV, and the optical output to wire to your home theatre system, or you wire a HDMI cable into your home theatre, and HDMI out from your home theatre console to input video into the TV. The problem is, component cables do anything but give you HD quality video, the available cables only give stereo, and HDMI in/out home theatre amps/consoles are not cheap. At least 2k.

One thing about my father is that even though he is very thrifty, when he wants to get something that would contribute to either bringing the family together (the home theatre for example will sit everyone down for a good movie together), he can splurge amounts of money even I find amazing. So cost would probably not have been an issue. The issue with him was that he was adamant about not having cables run across our hall, an inevitability for the rear speakers if a complete wired system is used. Understandable, because it poses a very very great danger for wires or even conduits to be lying smack across the hall, which we freely cross to get to the balcony, or my parents' favorite ironing spot. But it nevertheless grates on my audiophile ears. Wireless, knn! All the amps I've seen supporting HDMI in/out are wired systems, and none of the wireless systems I've seen support HDMI in/out. Oh de pain.

Here's the thing, companies will be set fire to if they release a HDTV without HDMI inputs, and most home theatre systems north of $800 (USD600) will have an audio optical input.

As if by fate, searching up on Xbox optical cable led me to this Youtube video.



All this genius does is pry off the plastic casing surrounding the component/composite/audio/optical port (and also just quite incidentally blocking the HDMI port) and suddenly there is space to fit both in together. So now I have my HDMI video output and my 5.1 optical audio output. Not the neatest solution, but it's a hack, and I don't believe in keeping things neat when one hacks. My dad just purchased the Sony DAV-FZ900 sound system after I ran a torturing test on it at the Wisma Atria Sony store and grilled the assistant, who thankfully knew his stuff.

Can't wait!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cup Size

There. Got your attention.

On Wednesday evening my mates and I found ourselves at West Mall's Coffee Bean, making excellent use of my friend's expiring-today vouchers, when two ladies walked in. I didn't notice them immediately, because 1) it's not my nature to, and 2) my back was turned to the entrance. Only when my friend piped in Chinese "Hey, the one in pink's not bad." did I realize their presence. I said "I prefer the lady in pants." but I think the rest were too preoccupied checking Pinkerbell out to pick up on my comment.

"Hey, guess her cup size."
"Her what!"
"Guess her cup size."
"......B."
"That's not a B that's a small C."
"C."
"C."

"Hey," my friend said to another, "ten bucks if you ask her about her cup size."

And my friend actually started considering the proposition. I wasn't even going to entertain crazy thoughts without mention of a 3-figure offer, but my friend (yet another) said he would do it for 50 provided there was a girl in the group, so we'd at least not look like a bunch of dirty old men in horny 20 year old bodies, and I thought well that's reasonable. It's a blue note we're talking about after all. How many reds do you break on an average day?

We digressed for abit after that, talking about crazy things we've done (the dared friend got major horned at by a beng on his first on-the-road driving lesson, while making a right turn at a T-junction, and in mid-turn he let the car stall, asked the instructor to hang on, stepped out of the car, and went to tell the beng off for horning at a bloody big L-plate.) until just to make him do it, my friends chipped in to make the offer 60 bucks. He was seriously scratching his head now and wondering how to go about it. Honestly I have no problem throwing another twenty on the table. Plus I'm most probably paying to see my friend get whacked or screamed at or something equally mortifyingly entertaining. But something just held me back from supporting what my morals considered an utterly ungentlemanly act.

Or I'm scared of consequences. Whatever peels your potato.

My dear friend was still earnestly considering his speech, exit strategies, attack dodging techniques, preemptive measures, etc, and since one of the set conditions ws that the conversation should last, ie. no "What's your cup size?" "Fuck off." "Sure thing miss.", he asked for my advice on what to say because apparently "your ang moh very power one." I suggested stalling her comprehension with harder words.

"Pardon me there miss, but I was wondering, may I enquire as to the volumetric measurement of your bosoms?"

Even I would have taken a split second more to process such confounding language.

In the end, we decided that it would be best to boost his notoriety level another, since he was wearing an Army T-shirt, and I for one don't consider Detention Barracks a couple of months before ORD a particularly appealing situation to get into.

In trying to egg him into doing it, the guy who started the dare said, "Aiyah, just get her to tell you la. Say you won't remember it beyond tonight anyway."

"You know, I can't decide which is more insulting," I spluttered, "asking about her cup size or telling her you won't remember it past tonight."

Ah. Insane youth and beautiful naivety.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Problem with Homo Sapiens

I was shocked and disappointed when I heard about the civil war running behind the curtains, in my company. It's not my first time experiencing nasty politics, and I know there is therefore little reason why I should be so surprised at such revelations. For once too, I wasn't the lone idiot who turns out to be the last to know - my LCP colleagues were also stunned at the huge mess revealed.

It takes great control, for me at least, not to immediately go "Gosh what a fuck up." The cold cruel truth is that even though I trust my friend deeply (deeply enough), even if all he's said really happened, he is a single person, and a recount such as this of emotionally-stirring events can lead to potentially severe coloring (translation just in case: he may get biased).

The hard fact to swallow, but one nevertheless worth questioning, is whether it's all a big ass misunderstanding, or whether the people I have invested trust in and worked hard to understand and bond and click with are really whom I have perceived them to be. Or are they mere masks worn to hide a more sinister face? It may look deeply perceptive of me to ask these questions, but I assure you, it's all of no use when I'm an utter failure at satisfying these questions.

To the point of sacrificing a good bit of street-wisdom, I've tried to remain as believing of the prevailing goodness of the human race. As millions before you and me have miserably encountered, I am losing grip of that belief and slowly but surely starting to think that the human race has turned out to be the shittiest thing ever created. Such a pity - the beauty and love of God (whichever one you believe in) manifested in our creation, and we turn out to be intelligent arseholes. Sad despair gnaws at me now, threatening to consume part of my heart away. At a time like this I understand why the composer wrote "Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word; and the skies are not cloudy all day." What seemingly irrevocable disappointment you feel, as the full weight of those words dawn upon you.

I wish we don't have to dump hope like that to become adults. What am I supposed to do? Live on, heehee haha, and pretend not to notice the shit being flung all around me as long as it doesn't hit me? Oh wait, even better if when it hits you you clear your throat, wipe your face, and say "Aiyah is like that one la suck it up."

I wish humans would somehow understand each other. But apparently the world doesn't care to give a caterpillar's dick about wish.

Emo.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Friends and Family

I had planned a day out with my campmates at Sentosa tomorrow. A Sunday. I had forgotten about my father prebooking me half a week before to go fetch my aunt from the airport, and subsequently have dinner at some must-be-quite-expensive Jap restaurant at Central. I dropped Sentosa. For some reason this has dragged me down into the pits of depression. Almost back to the days when I felt that I had so little to live for, so little to look forward to, that I gorged myself with food, any food, anything remotely tasty (so no, I did not stuff my face with celery), so that I could at least enjoy the material tastes, if I couldn't indulge in ethereal pleasures. (Thing is when I was happy I also ate, so... not now though. I have a whole set of other things to occupy me now when I'm happy.)

It's just funny why I feel so bummed out over it. It's not like I made a hard choice. My father, who's learnt his lesson with our ways of worming out of these things, booked me early. Way before the first mention of a Sentosa day out. So by virtue of order, my father's booking wins hands-down. I'm at fault for double-booking myself with my friends.

And friends... maybe campmates is still a better word after all. I love my camp. Even with all the crap we're getting, I love my camp, my unit, my company, my bunk, and my colleagues. I laugh and quarrel with them, I gang up on others and get ganged up on, I share things with them and learn things from them. But there's hardly any connection I feel. Or rather, one minute we're running well together and the next minute a heavy oppressive aura separates us. Am I severely blind to something, some fault of mine that I'm not aware of? Something that makes me repulsive in an instant? I've been told by friends who understand me abit better that others feel that I give off an air of arrogance, as if I look down on others (I am a graduate in a sea of diplomas after all), as if I know everything under the damn sun. Well that is a fault of mine, I have this absolutely foolish habit of nodding and going "Ahhh yes yes." if I have so much as heard the name of the topic in question, and worry later about what exactly it is I know about it and what I don't (must be all the PRing I've done haha noooo that's so not true).

But yeah. Friends.

I'm tempted to say that I'd left my friends in university. But that is unfair because I've had three years with them. I'm only slowly crawling towards my first year of conscription, and I've hardly known my mates for more than 6 months. I know I should give them more time because something about me makes people take a much longer time to warm up to me.

Or maybe it's something about me that makes me naturally appeal to people as an all-purpose punching bag.

Why? If you know, I want you to tell me why. If for nothing else take it as a rant, a public rant, take it as getting back at me publicly (as public as this invisible footprint on the web gets) for whatever I've done to you to hurt you. Tell me if I'm meant to get along with one crowd and forced by life to mix with another. Tell me if my university has trained me to act like an idiot. Tell me if I just want attention. If at the end of the day all I'm looking for is recognition, a pat on the back, an inclusion.

Sometimes I feel that that's all I live for. I just want someone, whoever it is, to always be there, saying "good job", "nice one", "awesome", "so smart", "how did you do that?", "you're amazing", "why didn't I think of that?", "thank you Renhao". Really? After having existed for 20 years, read so much, seen so much, heard so much, known so much, is that all I want? Just someone to say oh wow you know everything? Or else company in which we can all live in our own little elite world slapping each other's backs?

Or is it just that I'm naturally resistant to the ways of the world? Am I a traditional soul at heart, in this physically young body?

My parents are a real unique breed, caught dead center between tradition and modernization. The same person who would fuck you upside down for sticking chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice can at the next moment be telling you how open he is to more than one religion under the same roof, provided proper respect is shown to the other's beliefs. You might have noticed, my dad is downright anal about family togetherness. As I grew up and as he saw it fit to tell me more, I slowly understood that his family, my mother's, and some of his friends' were ruthlessly torn apart by politics, lust, money, and alcohol. It was a situation he cautioned my brother and I from allowing to happen on pain of him coming back from the grave to haunt us (and I totally believe that if it was at all possible, he would do one that would beat Hollywood, Jollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood flat out).

It's something I'm confident I've taken to heart. Something that I will stay with me, and something that I will pass on to my children, if I have any.

I just needed to rant I guess. I originally wanted to write about me and the world, but I've complained so much about me that I probably can cut alot of that out and talk about the world in the other post.

I've had enough.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wifey

I finally did it.

After two years of testing how long I can press onto steel strings without shredding my fingers into ribbons of blood, I bought my first electric guitar.

Big deal. Well it is. I paid for it dammit. Every cent. It's a very nice classic tobacco burst finish with yellowed pickguard and peripherals to create the whole vintage feel. And yes. With this investment I have sealed my fate as a left-handed guitarist. It's a hard uphill battle, one that will end only when Fender begs me to collaborate with them to create the Fari signature lefty Strat. You might have noticed that I changed my profile pictures from my classic katana picture to a photoshoot with my new wifey. If you haven't, go to Twitter or Facebook or Plurk to feast your mortal eyes upon it.

My experience buying it, however, wasn't anywhere as pleasant. I bought my wifey from Davis Guitars, I guess the biggest shop at Peninsula Shopping Center.
*-* The remainder of this blog post has been labelled NC16 by the author in view of its bright and colorful vulgarities. Please leave now if you are an underage hissy who will weep at the mention of the word fuck. *-*

I went there late morning on Good Friday. GOOD FUCKING FRIDAY. It still wasn't open yet. So I went looking around (I think only one other shop was open... The one that sells J&D guitars la for those who know, I forget the store names).

By the time I was done Davis was open. And oh joy my wifey was there for the taking! So I asked to try it and was entertained by the uncle himself. When I was there one week earlier, I was trying it when he came by and asked, "How? Everything ok? Are you going to buy the guitar?" And I thought, well, that's some direct business making going on there. I said something like "I'll think about it." And he nodded and reached out. "May I?" I wondered what magic he was going to do to the guitar. A magic switch to make it sound super sweet?!

He unplugged the guitar and returned it to its rack.

I'm a bodoh when it comes to these kinda things, so even though I was quite shocked I just got up and left the store to find my other friend who was repairing his guitar somewhere else.

So back to Good Friday, I was the first and only customer in the store, and he pulled the same thing on me again. If I surprised him by answering "Yes I'll take it", he didn't show it. I was sold anyway, I just wanted to make sure it was in proper working condition.

While he was processing the transaction, I asked a burning question. I saw the various effects pedals on display all neatly wrapped in plastic, some with price tags on them, and found it really strange. "These pedals, they are second-hand?"

"NO NO NO. You want second hand you go to Cash Converters."

I was again taken aback, and a little bit amused (I assure you that bit wore off quite quickly). I was asking quite a noobie question, for lack of a better word, but I'm sure there is no need to react so indignantly. And rudely.

I told him that I wanted a gig bag, and also requested that he changed the strings to 10 gauge (I know that string changing is complimentary and did not ask for a free set of strings) because I didn't like the thinness of 9, and also that he lowered the action.

"Action-wise, I can lower it for you no problem. But the strings... you should play it for awhile first... Get yourself used to it before thinking about changing."
Puzzled... "These are 9 gauge right?"
"Yes 9 gauge."
"9 gauge is too thin for me. Could you change it to 10 gauge? I like the sound better."
"But these are new strings... quite new. It would be a waste to change it."

Now I was downright shocked. Advice is one thing, and of course I appreciate advice, especially from old birds like him. But 1) Why the heck be so roundabout about it, and 2) what motherfucking business of yours is it if I wish to change my strings every 12 hours? I wonder how many of you reading this would disagree, and not that it's wrong to, that getting an instrument is a rather intimate process. Perhaps that's why they're called wives, because we invest so much time and effort assessing, re-assessing and assessing again whether this instrument is the one for us. And even more so for me, a lefty, it's gets rather personal don't you think? And now after I've paid you for the guitar, you're telling me what I should or should not do with it? It was only after alot of insistence and a developing black face on my part that he relented and said "I could change for you, if you want, no problem." As if he was giving in to my petty request.

And by the way, earlier, I was staring at the huge variety of strings, wondering what to pick, and I asked "Any string set you can recommend for playing blues?"

"Oh no no no, blues is in the style of playing, nothing about the strings. You play this way, its called blues, the only difference in strings is its clarity, brightness, and tone."

Fine, I'll give that one to him la, but still, how rude.

Honestly, if not for the fact that I fell in love with everything about this guitar, I would have walked out of the store. Gee Davis isn't the only store in Peninsula selling lefties I saw at least 2 more. I just happened to like this particular guitar the best.

Apparently I'm not alone. My friend related a long story about how his friend had an even worse experience than me, but it is not my place to say it here, because it did not happen to me, nor was I there to witness it. Exclusive distributor? You see how long you can last with that, if you get enough people angry. I just think that customer service like that shouldn't have to be tolerated. Not in the best of economies, and certainly not in times like this.

What do you think? Have you had any similar experiences at Davis?

Susan Boyle's I Dreamt a Dream

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hopes were high and life worth living,
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid,
When dreams were made and used and wasted.
There was no ransom to be paid,
No song unsung, no wine untasted.

But the tigers come at night,
With their voices soft as thunder,
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dreams to shame

And still I dream he'll come to me
And we will live the years together!
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream
I dreamed.

My friend was right. Human appreciation is fickle. Scrap that. Human appreciation doesn't stretch beyond the skin. 36 years, since she started singing at 12, no one wanted her. Now she's gone for it. And now she's got it.

The song is particularly beautiful because it so poignantly describes her life so far. Perhaps that's why she could ace it.

I'm gunning for her to win this round.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Funeral - English

A number of you would have already seen this aired on TV. The only thing that stopped me from letting my tears roll down freely the first time I saw this was because I was watching it with about 15 other guys. Yes I'm a dude like that. But everytime I've seen this ad so far tears never fail to well up in my eyes. The start of the music halfway through the ad is the cue.

Wonderful imperfection. Yasmin Ahmad was probably the best PR decision for MCYS ever.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day from Tech65!

While Tech65 tried to pull an obvious joke, we didn't want to put something up that would really freak the sphere out. We have that kind of influence, we know. ;P

I'll take this opportunity, as I'm sure the others are in some form or another, to thank you all once again for your support. I wasn't kidding about one thing in the previous post. I have been living a bit of my dream, sharing my knowledge and thoughts with people, educating them and enriching their lives in that little way.

And for all the bitching we did yesterday, I think we actually do put up with alot from each other. The fact that we're still blazing strong thus far should be testament to the team's passion for technology and podcasting, one that we hope won't die out just yet.

Happy April Fool's 2009!

Update: Ok so a few of you did freak out after all. I thought we all made it quite obvious, but perhaps it's not that you're none too happy about. We're sorry. We still love each other, and you. :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Give Up

You can say I have been living my dream these two years. Somewhat. I get to share good things with people, whether they know me or not. And I get to teach.

Now all these are crumbling bit by bit, corner by corner, into routine dreariness. Forget it.  I'm not going to let things collapse on me. I'm not stupid. I'm not dumb. I will hang on for alot of things, but when I know it's going to hurt me in the end, I will pull out first. It's not like there's anything left for me to hang on to anyway.

This is the end. I've had enough.

I'm quitting Tech65.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Passion

I always seem to pick musical genres up from the most despised forms. I started on opera by listening to Russell Watson, hated by the community as a nasal-sounding wannabe. I discovered the joy/terror that was Stevie Ray Vaughan by playing his classic Pride and Joy on Guitar Hero On Tour. And yes I was totally pwned to the floor the first time I tried it. I found one of his Greatest Hits CD on sale for a measly amount at Gramophone, had the fortune of having a campmate with the same interest, and now I'm helplessly into blues.

I don't know how much of my circle knows but I'm quite used to acquiring my media via... unconventional means. And long story short, I came across this album that is now possibly the most listened on my Creative.

When I listen to this album, I don't see an accomplished artiste showing a relative newcomer to the scene who's boss, or even how to do this or that. Nor do I see the prodigious new kid on the block showing off to the old bird.

All I see are two people with a common blazing passion for the blues, coming together to let loose and enjoy themselves and spread the love of the genre. And the only thing that can beat a guitar battle where the one-upping never ends, is the beautiful collaboration you hear in this album where two artistes level up together and hit new heights.

Duet people. Don't duel.