Thursday, October 28, 2004

Two views of Saint Andrew's Cathedral

infra red007
Originally uploaded by Wahj.

I took these photographs a few years ago, my first experiment with infra-red film. I didn't even have a proper filter then - just a piece of red cellophane I'd stuck onto a cardboard frame, and held in front of the lens with one hand while shooting with the other.

Originally uploaded by Wahj.

As always, infra-red film lends something special to even the most ordinary of objects - the cathedral seems to glow, and the tree stump has a strange edge to it, something about the way the contrast works.

Both these were taken with my Voigtlander and its trusty 15mm Heliar lens - one of the film cameras I mentioned in an earlier post. For some time I thought about buying this camera, which would effectively allow me to use my existing lenses (3 very fine ones - the 15mm Heliar, the 75mm Skopar, and the 50mm Heliar) on a digital camera, but the price is completely out of my range. We're seriously eyeing the Nikon D70 though ...
Following a link from T's blog led me to this personality test:

Wackiness: 60/100
Rationality: 60/100
Constructiveness: 100/100
Leadership: 60/100

You are a WRCL--Wacky Rational Constructive Leader. This makes you a Golden God.

You think fast and have a smart mouth, and you are a hoot to your friends and razorwire to your enemies. You hold a grudge like a brass ring. You crackle.

Although you have a leader's personality, you often choose not to lead, as leaders stray too far from their audience. You probably weren't very popular in high school--the joke's on them!

You may be a rock star.

Of the 48389 people who have taken this quiz since tracking began (8/17/2004), 7 % are this type.

Well, rockstar that I apparently am, I've been having an amazing dreary day. The highlight was finally finding out what was on that roll of slide film I discovered some days ago. Turned out to some rather old shots of our cats, all underexposed, and badly processed to boot.

This comes from discovering than my favourite photo developer has gone completely digital, and no longer develops film. Without rehashing the film versus digital debate, I'd just like to say that this poses a real worry to me: I have a good collection of film cameras that I like using, and when your old stalwarts no longer stock medium format film, you start to wonder when the day will come when film developing will be the province of a few speciality shops. Black and whites I can develop on my own, but my guess is that in a few years time, I might have to get my developers and fixers off the internet, along with my film.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Joy of Durians

Met up with my army buddies for a durian feast tonight. Drove down to Geylang, bought a bunch of durians, and went down to the beach. Just like the old days (the old days being 7 years old by now) when we used to do the same thing. It was great just hanging out with the guys, and reminiscing about the good old days, and it was scary to think that we're old enough to start reminiscing about good old days, but it was great just because it was durians and the beach, and sitting on the grass and eating with our hands and fingers.

Durians being what they are, of course, later on in the car (my dear wife having come to pick me up, with Tym and Terse in tow)(what alliteration!) a single burp from me brought an instant reaction from the ladies, and the immediate winding down of windows, which was strangely satisfying to me in a naughty sort of way. = )

Monday may have been shitty, but the durians more than made up for it in the end. I go to bed a with a contented tummy, having fulfilled my yearly durian quota, and looking forward fondly to next year's binge.

Monday, October 25, 2004

An Unexpected Visitor

The rain this morning has driven a swift to roost on the window ledge just next to my cubicle. I had to balance precariously on a chair to see it (it's on the upper of two ledges) but it was there, perched and hunched up, waiting for the weather to break.

A nice companion for a Monday morning, both of us trying to weather out our respective storms. Judging by the skies though, his weather will break before mine does ... = )

In the meantime (as in, "not work-related matters") my current reading list (as in "books I've bought but have yet to finish reading") has expanded to include Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, a novel whose initial attraction for both K and I was it's all-black cover. Yes, very superficial, I know, but in our defence, can I add that the antique/antiquated font on the cover was equally intriguing? No? Not a sufficient excuse? Err, OK - how about this: it's a novel about English magicians ...and has a bit about the Peninsular War (the Napoleonic wargames connection, see) ... and has nice drawings inside. It also comes in an all-white cover, though I have yet to determine any substantial difference in content between the two. And it's thick - massively so.

I'm taking this book slowly, since I'm still ploughing through the Alexander book, and also since I'm taking it as an opportunity to delve into yet another new area of research for me - English traditions of magic. I still halfway through Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter (sample chapter here) which draws deeply from folklore and traditional beliefs about Faerie and such, and I've always been fascinated with the Elizabethan mathematician/magician/astronomer/astrologer (these Renaissance men just couldn't keep their interests segregated) John Dee , who has his own appreciation society, it seems. I like their little "resume" of him - in addition to being
"the first to apply Euclidean geometry to navigation; built the instruments to
apply Euclid; trained the first great navigators; developed the maps; charted
the Northeast and Northwest Passages",

he also apparently
"Put a hex on the Spanish Armada which is why there was bad weather and
England won."

Nice breadth of work experience, eh? = ) Which also nicely brings us back to the weather, which is what we began this post with, and which signals that I should get back to work.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Sky Captain

K and I managed to watch Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow last night - our first movie for a long time. Suprisingly good - I think Sky Captain is an example of a movie that works in its own seif contained way. Within it's own universe (and it goes a long way to re-creating the look and feel of a post war black and white movie) it looks and feels like a perfectly good movie. Good clean fun as well - something between a comic book and an old movie.

A few things disturb this well-crafted verisimilitude though - the camera flash in the Nepalese mine is distinctly out of place, and I have to get a closer look at the tactical markings on the P40 - I don't think they actually read "polly" reflected in water - upside-down maybe, but not reflected. Other than that, tremendously enjoyable. Of course, the first thing that came to mind walking out of the cinema was that somewhere in the world, someone is making 1/72 scale models of the robots and airplanes from that movie. The second thought? - "It must be mine!" = )

Friday, October 22, 2004

Black cat at Boat Quay

black cat at boat quay, originally uploaded by Wahj.

It's the kind of day where I want to be somewhere else. The kind of grey, quiet, gloomy, peaceful afternoon where one should ideally be either (a) in bed or (b) out walking and taking photographs. Neither will happen, since I have as much work on my table as I lack the motivation to do it, so it'll be a longish Friday afternoon.

This photo was taken on the same kind of day, so a look at the background will give you an idea of the weather and mood as I'm writing this. The black cat is real: the others are all part of a sculpture that can be found on one end of Cavenagh Bridge. This particular black cat can often be found posing next to his inanimate kin: perhaps he feels some kind of affinity to them, or perhaps he's aware of how photogenic he looks to tourists! One thing though: this photo was taken some time ago, and with the way they've been culling cats, there's no guarantee that he's still alive. I haven't been back there for a while, and I'm almost afraid to look, for fear that he won't be there anymore.

The camera is an old Ensign Selfix* that Ron found for me (from, of all places, Iran), and I must say it has the most wonderful bokeh (explained here). I don't use it as often as I should, but I'm going so much into digital now that I hardly ever use my film cameras anymore ...

* couldn't find a link to an accurate photo: the camera I have is very similar to the model in the photo, but it's the Selfix 16-20 with a proper viewfinder, rather than the fold-up ones.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Twangers and Balls

A colleague sent me this link today, and I laughed my head off. This must be the boldest, most daring and blatant use of innuendo I've ever seen - and on a children's programme! I used to watch this one as a kid ... kinda makes things clear now ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


phillips street temple, originally uploaded by Wahj.

My blog post titles are becoming more literal and blandly descriptive. My cough/sore throat/flu transmorgrified itself into a monstrous migraine yesterday, that pulsed horribly with each cough, and kept me in pain throughout. I went in to work today, despite still being on MC, and I had to leave after lunch to see the doctor's. My main worry was dengue, but the doctor just gave me some painkillers. I suppose they'll have to do for the moment.

All of which has nothing to do with the photo, and vice versa, but there it is. Or there they both are. Or something.

Monday, October 18, 2004


mop, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Since Flickr seems to be meeting my photo needs better than Fotolog, I've begun to transfer most of my photos from one to the other, though I'll still keep my Fotolog active.

Here's one photo that I previously posted on my Fotolog. This was taken on a photo-trip in Chinatown, where each of us chose a colour theme to shoot by. Mine was blue, and though this photo isn't the best example of it, I liked it because of the way the cracks in the wall resemble forks of lightning, and the funny abstract look the clothes line and the mop take on in this photo.

More of my previously flogged photos will appear in the next few days.

Sick at home

It started on Friday. I woke up in the middle of the night coughing and choking, fluid in my lungs. Saturday morning I was coughing, and my throat was sore and inflamed. By Saturday afternoon I had a fever. Sunday morning I felt terrible, and last night, I finally went to see a doctor.

The funny thing was that I found out I knew the doctor at the 24-hour clinic - an old friend from Delta company back in my OCS days, way back in '92. He was standing in for the regular doctor (who obviously has to find someone to stand in, especially on weekends, when he's running a 24-hr clinic) and I spent about 15 minutes just talking to him, never mind the consultation.

The upshot is I got some antibiotics, some cough syrup, and two days MC (though I'll probably go back to work tomorrow: can't let the work pile up too much, and I'm starting to feel better already).

I suspect this throat infection has something to do with the haze that's in the air. It was so bad last night that it looked like fog - visibility was easily down to 150-200m at night, and the air smelled of burning. The other possible culprit would be the kids I invigilated on Friday - since most of them were recovering from illnesses, it's likely I caught it from one of them. Most probable is that both these two contributed - the poor air quality probably weakened or inflamed my lungs, and the kids were the source of whatever virus or germ that started this illness.

I'm gonna spend the rest of today either in bed, reading Robin Lane Fox's Alexander, (mine's the "movie tie-in" version, with Colin Farell on the cover. retch, but it was the only version available at the time) or painting some more figures. Keep the windows shut and the bad air out, and I should be ok by tomorrow morning.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Was watching 'Hackers' on TV last night, and the scene when the hackers were drooling over a laptop with a 28.8kps modem really rammed home the fact that we've come a long way since 1995. The other thing is how young Angelina Jolie looks, and how much less pneumatic she looked in 1995.

Spent this morning in a reforestation plot - complusory community involvement project from work. Not too bad an experience: I learned that the vines that smother most of our forests are called Smilax. Bloody thorny things, as I recall from reservists, but at least I know what to call them now. We spent the morning clearing a small patch of jungle of as many Smilaxes as we could, armed with snippers and gloves, the logic (as the people from National Parks explained) being that this would save the newly planted saplings from being strangled. I half suspect we probably trampled and killed a few saplings as well, given that there were 20 of us in an area about the size of a tennis court, but it's the thought that counts. Really.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Stop the bandwagon, I want to get on!

You know BK, the bandwagon must be getting crowded by now. = )

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Interestingly, one change of answer - Yo Yo Ma instead of Bruce Springsteen - gives me this:

Known as the only one who can control Josh Lyman, she answers to his every bellow. She has a thing for Yo-Yo Ma, philately, and Josh... but won't act on it. Although hired on the Bartlet Campaign by pure luck, Donnatella has now proven herself to be a valuable asset.

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Friday roundup

Returned to the primary school today to administer test to students, - sorry, pupils - who were absent on Tuesday (see previous post), and had a much better time of it - smaller group, and these were sick on Tues, so they must've been recovering, and hence less ebullient, energetic, and everywhere.

In other news, the replacement wedding ring has been engraved, collected, and is on my finger, so I can fondle it gloatingly and whisper "preciousssss" in my best Andy Sirkus voice. This one's one size smaller than its predecessor, so it should stay on snugly until my knuckles swell in arthritic agony and I can no longer wear it.

For those with an interest in painting and collecting miniatures, I've recently put up some photos of my Trojan War 28mm figures on my other blog. This is my first attempt at large scale painting of 28mm figures (I normally do 15mms:cheaper, easier, faster - smaller, yes, but what's not to like?) and I'm finding quite it an expensive proposition. My dream of a 2000 point Warhammer Ancient Battles Mycenean/Trojan War army has already been downsized to a 1000-pointer given how much these things cost.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Poor devils and funny eggs

More thoughts from today:

I've always wondered about the English translation for what Chinese call foreigners. It's usually translated as "foreign devils", and if you know Chinese, the word in use doesn't actually concord with "devil" quite that well - it's variously used to cover English words like "ghost', and "spirits", and I've always thought "foreign devils" didn't quite match.
Well, today in the taxi, I suddenly realised that there is an English usage of "devils" that matches the Chinese word - in the expression "That poor devil", when referring to some poor sod. Why did this come to mind? Well, through a long-winded process of strange association, primarily sparked off by hearing on the taxi's radio some chinese singer attempting a Monroe-esque "Happy Birthday", only she kept saying "Happy Burstday".

The other thing that happened was I finally tried one of those Seng Choon instant eggs that Tym has blogged about. Her blog wasn't actually the first time I'd heard of them: during reservists, one of my men had sung high praises of these eggs as a substitute for combat rations (the infantryman's perpetual quest is always for better food).

To be precise, he opined that you could put a naked woman, and these eggs, in front of him and he would choose these eggs. It wasn't phrased so politely, of course, but phrased far more eloquently and convincingly - well, you had to be there to hear him, and I'm not going to reprint verbatim what he said.

Now, with a recommendation like that, one has to try these things, so I picked one up at the 7-11. Verdict? Naked woman wins by a long, long margin over rubbery eggs. The taste isn't all that bad - artificial flavourings cover a multitude of sins - but the texture is like eating rubber when you bite into the "white" and sand when you hit the "yolk".

Better yet, give me good old real eggs anyday ...

Shut up and sit down

I was at a primary school this morning to administer an English proficiency test, something part of a long-term study we're conducting on English language proficiency. Thank god I don't have to teach in Primary school.

They (Primary Two kids) were a barely controllable mass of energy and restlessness. I now know why my Primary school teachers were such tyrants - they had to be. Within minutes, I felt the words "Shut up and sit down" waiting at the tip of my tongue. In the space of 1 hour, I began to use time-honoured and much-hated tag questions that I normally reserved for the worst of my students:

  • "Is there something interesting outside of that window?"
  • "How difficult can it be to sit down and keep quiet, hmmm?"
  • "Which part of 'Sit down and keep quiet' did you not understand?"
  • "What did I say? WHAT did I say? Hmmm? That's right: if you've completed your test, just sit down and wait"

Thankfully, one of the school's teachers dropped in from time to time to look in. Her methods were more direct:

  • "YOU!" glare
Spent the remainder of the morning clearing my email which has piled up in my absence. The secret, I've discovered, is to start from the more recent ones, after which you can delete anything which has been superceded by subsequent decision or action. It still took me till 1pm to do this, but after which I left the office to claim my half-day off.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Damn you Salazar ... damn you!

I haven't yet mentioned the worst thing that happened to me in this reservists training. I lost my wedding ring.

Since I got married, I have worn my wedding ring always and everywhere, and that includes on field training in reservists. I've never had a problem with it, and I've never even come close to losing it. This time, I even decided to take some precautions: I taped over the rings (I wear - wore - my wedding band and another ring on the same hand, a celtic design that I bought in Boston which served as an ad hoc engagement ring for me). It was a blue Finding Nemo plaster (oh cursed plaster). In retrospect, it was probably the plaster that did it - the slick surface of the plaster was probably more slippery than the rings would've been on their own, and sometime after getting off the helicopter and assembling at the start line for the mission, I realised that my rings were gone.

I can't really describe how incredibly downcast and demoralised I felt. Even before the mission started, there was a sense of disaster, a stroke of ill-luck. I felt like a complete idiot - the kind that could lose his wedding ring, for gawd's sake. I cursed myself for not putting the thing on a chain (a thought which had come to me before, and which I should've acted on).

That night, in the short span of time we had before the mission started, I went back along the trail several times trying to look for it - a hopeless task since it was dark and I couldn't use a torchlight. I held on to the hope that I could come back after the whole thing and look for it again, even though, as my CSM put it to me very rightly, it would be like looking for a needle in a needlestack. The missing ring haunted me for the next one and a half days.

After the exercise was over, I borrowed a land rover and went back with a few guys to look for it. As it happened, there was other, military, equipment that was lost and needed finding, so I took the combined search party out. We found the lost military equipment where it had been dropped, but when we went back to the landing site to look for the ring ... well, imagine looking in an area the size of a football field, overgrown with grass and mimosa, and without metal detectors to help us. I'm very grateful to the 5 guys who helped me look, including my CSM, who was nursing a back injury, but almost an hour of concerted looking couldn't turn it up. It was, as my wife's students would write in their compositions, to no avail. To be honest with myself, even had the ring been on the landing site, the blast of the Chinook's rotors would've sent them flying off to god knows where.

So, if anyone happens to come across two rings taped together with a blue Finding Nemo plaster, drop me a line. The rings have immeasurable sentimental value. You'll recognise them: our names are engraved on the inside, and the wedding date 14th Dec as well.

In the meantime, I've just come back from the jewellers where a replacement ring has cost me $570. Ouch.

Damn you Salazar. Damn you.


doorways 1
Originally uploaded by Wahj.

Most of the temples in Angkor Wat are chambers within chambers, galleries and passageways leading from one courtyard to another. Temples like Preah Khan (where this shot was taken) for example, seem like a mass of doorways connected by courtyards, rather than the other way around.

doorways 2
Originally uploaded by Wahj.

This second one is from either Ta Prohm or Beng Melea: I can't remember which by now. There's a sense of mystery walking through these temples, and a little bit of awe. Preah Khan especially - it was getting dark as we walked through it, and the light was failing fast. There was the fear was getting lost in the temple and night falling, and being alone in a very, very eerie place.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Not all bad ...

As a first step to resuming normal blogging, here are some more tests and quizzes.

This site is certified 37% EVIL by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 63% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Charlie Company

Yesterday was the last official day of my in-camp training, and in some ways the most unpleasant day I've ever had in the army. I had to listen to a debrief where my battalion was criticised and critiqued in excruciating detail. In army lingo, I had to sit there for 7 hours while the assessors tore me several new arseholes.

It wasn't an unfair judgement: in many ways, the negative things they told us about the battalion were true, and were things we'd known or guessed at for a long time. It still hurts because this is my battalion, the same unit I've been with since 1996, and I know that we could have, should have, done better. It hurts even more because when we saw the assessment report, it was clear that my company had held up its end of the bargain - we performed the best of the 3 rifle companies. Not that we did extremely well: everyone screwed up, but Charlie company only failed one mission, and did creditably well for every other, but the rest of the battalion did worse, and as a whole the battalion's score was bad. It feels unfair because I know my men put in their best, given their limitations as reservists, and I know that we could have succeeded in our mission had HQ planned them better for us. It disturbed me so much I couldn't stop thinking about it the whole day.

To all the men of Charlie company, I salute you for a job well done in the past 3 weeks. No matter what other people say about the battalion, or of Charlie company, you know in your hearts what you are, and we know that Charlie remains the best company, and I'm grateful for the hard work you've put in for me over the years. I'm going to put aside thinking about this for a while, for my own peace of mind, but it's not over yet - we'll show them what we're made of next time.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

All curled up in bed

patch in bed
Originally uploaded by Wahj.
Patch doesn't do this anymore - the hyper-cute-Anne-Geddes-curled-up-furball-thingy she used to do as a kitten. Sigh.

Ah well, we'll always have the memories - and the photographs.


Caution sign
Originally uploaded by Wahj.
I've finally finished my in-camp training, so normal blogging will resume in a while. In the meantime, here are a few more photos, while I recover and slowly adjust back to normal civilian life.

This was taken from the passenger seat of our car while my wife was rounding a corner, on a day when I was practising panning with the digital camera.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

A slow day at the office

the office, 2, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Another old photo. This was taken some time back, and I think it captures that feeling of a slow, lazy day at work where nothing much is happening.

(I'm beginning to miss those days, what with the hectic schedule of reservists: on the other hand, I'm fairly certain that when I get back to work, it'll be just as crazy ...)

Patch falls asleep in front of the TV

patch chooses sleep over TV, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Blogging has been minimal this week, what with me being in camp for reservists and all. I'll be posting some of my older photos in the meantime.

This one was taken when Patch was still a wee kitten, and had the habit of falling asleep in our bed.