Monday, December 26, 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Cat Whisperer

Irascible

The Cat Whisperer is a pet shop in Katong you should visit just to see the cats who wander freely through the place. My wife and I went there to get cat food and some Christmas presents for the cats (they got a new scratching post and a water fountain), and I spent nearly the entire time just photographing the gorgeous cats, like the irascible looking fellow above (doing his best imitation of an English bulldog!) and the cute one below, who couldn't stop sticking his tongue out ...

tongue

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Feeding the Fish

feeding fish

Two more photographs from our recent trip to Bali: my wife feeding the fish at Alila Manggis, and the fish feeding frenzy that resulted.

fish feeding

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Monday, December 19, 2005

"Iffy the Great Explorer"



or: "What the heck are you doing up there?!?!"

Iffy loves to explore and climb, which has led to her being trapped in high places before. This time round, my wife was clearing out some shelves in our wardrobe and discovered that Iffy had jumped all the way to the top shelf when she wasn't looking. Our intrepid explorer cat perched there like a Hillary or a Tenzing Norgay for a few minutes before we evicted her and carried her down to less rarefied territory.

I love the look on Twinkle's face (she's the cat on the step-ladder looking up) as she stares at Iffy. This image was stiched together from 12 different shots.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

The warm blanket of domesticity

domesticity
domesticity

Holidays are nice, but there's nothing like the comfort of your own bed, and a warm cat to share it with.

We've been back in Singapore a day, and it's raining here like it was raining there. It seems the rain follows us. No matter - with three cats around the house, there's no lack of company to curl up in bed with on a rainy morning ...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Three Worlds

Three Worlds
Three Worlds - a homage to M.C. Escher

I took this photo thinking of an M.C. Escher print, Three Worlds. One of the few photos I've been happy with from the start. The original infra-red shot was split into two layers, with one layer pushed for detail in the pond, the other for detail in the leaves, and the two layers merged for the final image.

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Days by the beach

Alila Manggis is the beach-side counterpart to Alila Ubud. Or perhaps I should say "sea-side", since there's more of a rocky shore than a beach. Speaking to one of the staff, who has been here for 8 years, I found out that there used to be a beach here, but over the course of time, more and more rocks have been washed onshore by the waves, creating the rocky shoreline you see now. He believes the rocks come from the two rivers that empty into the bay which the beach faces.

The sound of the waves crashing onto the pebbles is one thing, but the sound they make as they pull back is a rustling, soft crackling noise that I found very soothing. I spent a good half hour squatting by the beach recording video of the waves: later, played back on a loop on the iBook, they provided the perfect backdrop to an afternoon nap.


K and I were delighted to make friends with our first cat in Bali (plenty of stray dogs in sight, but not a single cat spotted except this one), a slim dark-coated cat. One of the waiters told us that the cat had been with him as long as he had worked here, and he was only a little kitten then. It took hours of coaxing and teasing before we earned his trust (all this without the bribery of food either), but eventually he let us stroke him. K took some excellent photos of him (the net connection here is not too stable, so that pic will take some time to upload).

The daily rain has meant that we've not got any sun-tanning done at all. I've spent most of the time taking photographs, reading books on the Wars of the Roses, doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles.

Gardener

I took these photos of the gardener as he cut a patch of the lawn by hand, with nothing but a sickle, a broom and a trash bag. It took him hours, but he cleared quite a patch by the end of it. I shot about 6-7 photos of him over the course of a few minutes, and overlaid them on each other to give a sense of his movement.

water lilies

The restaurant here is surrounded by a moat, filled with water lilies (or lotuses: I can't recall the difference - though given that this is Asia, they ought to be lotuses) and carp, and since we spend hours at breakfast, lunch and dinner (there being nothing much else to do) I've taken quite a few photos here. This one was composited from two shots, the left in normal colour, the right in infra-red.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A romantic breakfast (repeated)

A romantic breakfast for two

This is our 4th wedding anniversary and since the hotel had a "Romantic Breakfast" advertised, we thought we'd go for that this morning.

This was what it looked like when we got there - the table set up for the two of us amidst a circle of standing stones, overlooking a lush valley. Absolutely beautiful - I'll let the picture speak for itself.

Then it started to rain, and that was the end of that! We tried moving to a nearby pavilion for a while, but quickly became mosquito bait, and decided to beat a hasty retreat.

The hotel staff were nice enough to set up the whole thing in our room, so that's where we eventually had our romantic breakfast for two - strawberries and cream, bananas and chocolate, and more bananas ...

Romantic breakfast for two, redux

(flickr photoset here.)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A short walk

Boulder
boulder

Morning was spent on a very short walk round the neighbouring countryside. We had a chance to see the landscaped grounds of the hotel, beautiful in a manicured sort of way, with random bits of sculpture tastefully thrown in here and there - a few sculpted boulders, a ring of standing stones, a balinese shrine ... sort of New Age meets rural animism.

Outside the hotel grounds, our walk was ducks, paddy fields, more ducks, more paddy fields, cute ducklings - and one sighting of a stray dog making off with a duckling. Or a very large frog, which I prefer to believe, for my own peace of mind. A very, very large frog. I took so many pictures of the ducks, all of which, in retrospect and upon review, were horrible, hence the lack of duck photos here. The terraced paddy fields were nice, though not as spectacular as the ones you always see in tourisy brochures.

Paddy field IR
paddy field, infra-red

Besides ducks, living or dead, we also spotted this truly psychedelic spider. Don't know what species he is, but someone needs to tell him he's overdressed for the party.

spider
spider

On our way back, one of the farmers we passed by asked me to take a photo of him, which I did. Getting his address to send the photo on proved to be a bit of a challenge, but K's bahasa melayu proved adequate to the task. I'll have to remember to print the photo and send it to the hotel, whose staff have agreed to send the photo on to him.

palm tree moss
palm tree and moss

I've started a flickr set for the pictures from this trip, which can be found here.

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Bali, Day Two

Late to rise today, which meant that we missed the sunrise. Reading Tym's comments on the previous entry, I thought I should post some pictures of the room.

The aforementioned iPod mini is in the middle of frame here, just behind the pillows, docked to the Altec Lansing speakers.

room

The doors on either side of the bed lead out to the back garden,

back garden

where you can find ...

oudoor shower

... the shower, all open air and everything. It's nice to have nature so close to you - a bit too close to have it right there when you're showering and all (but hey). The garden/shower area has high walls for privacy, but is a bit gloomy as a result, as you can see - feels like one is staring from the bottom of a well.

Three Fronds of Fern 3

The pool here deserves its own set of photos: a truly spectacular view, with a drop right to the paddy fields. I haven't quite figured out how to take a good shot of it yet, but will try again tomorrow.

pool IR

I've started a flickr set for the pictures from this trip, which can be found here.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Bali once more

cloud, wing, land, sea 3

K and I are in Bali again. Photograph taken from the plane as we landed, infrared filter on a Nikon D70.

The Alila Ubud hotel is by far the poshest place we've ever stayed in. This holiday is a bit dear, but we are celebrating our anniversary here, so we're spending a bit more than usual. It's also our first, long holiday in a few years.

Our room here has a little private garden in front, and a lovely open air shower in the back: since it was raining when we got here, we had the strange experience of showering in the open, with rain pouring all around ... a bit redundant one might suppose, but still a pleasant and delightful experience. Everything about this place has the well-thought out feel of a good resort, from the choice of soap (liked it so much, already bought a set from the gift shop), to the iPod mini in each room that comes preloaded with a selection of music and plugged into a set of Altec Lansing speakers.

We haven't explored much of the place yet, having arrived late in the afternoon, after an hour long car ride (preceded by a sleepless night of last-minute packing), just in time to catch the daily dose of the rainy season, which therefore by the inexorable logic of things lead us straight to an afternoon nap. Which is a nice way to say we collapsed in exhaustion and slept through the rest of the day. We've just had a late dinner of strange (though not unpleasant) fusion style food, and I've discovered that the hotel lobby and the restaurant have wireless connection, hence the blogging.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Twinkle and her Ball

Twinkle and the Ball

Twinkle, caught in a rare moment of stillness as she played with her ball on the bed.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

The view from the top

The view from the top

This is best viewed in its original size - though the file will take some time to load.

I climbed up to the highest vantage point in my building and took this panorama of the surrounding. It's funny how I've spent 3 years working here without realising what a great view there is from the top.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cosplayers at Gamecon1

Some candid shots of the costumed fun going on at Gamecon1 over the weekend.

LOTR Cosplay
"Aren't you a little short for a Gondorian?"


Starwars RPG
"Err, let's see ... that's an attack of opportunity for using a ranged weapon in a threatened zone ..."

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

KL at Dawn

Kuala Lumpur Morning

K and I just got back from Gamecon1 at Kuala Lumpur. We didn't get to see much of KL itself, being stuck in the convention hall all day, and the rest of the time shopping for Christmas presents in the aptly named Megamall. In fact, I think we barely breathed KL's air in the 2 days we were there.

What struck me about KL was that it moves at a different - slower - pace than Singapore. The attrition of the traffic jams, the more relaxed pace at which people move, are all a bit alien to the Singaporean need for efficiency.

The other thing that struck me was that people (as in, the service industry) are, in general, more polite, and nicer. Genuinely nicer. There are the usual share of grouchy, curt, and rude people - but then again, you get those in Singapore as well, and there are less fake smiles going around.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Surprise, surprise

A few days back, I got a surprise package in the mail (see here for explanation) - a free sample of miniatures from a guy in Hong Kong, for participating in a caption contest.

The real surprise, however, was the extra packaging the envelope came in:


"Re-packed Mail Item"? "damaged while in transit"? Eyebrows were raised. Closer inspection revealed this small tear in the envelope on the front:

Judging by the crease marks, someone pinched the envelope to make a small tear in it. The contents were not damaged in anyway at all (phew!) - here's a picture of the very cool "Terror-cotta Warrior Zombies!!" (the exclamation marks seem almost compulsory).

Terracotta Zombies!

I must confess: the first thought that came to my mind was the suspicion that someone had torn a hole in the envelope in order to check the contents. The tear is quite small, so if this was the case, a probe of some sort would have had to be inserted to check the contents. If so, I can only imagine the surprise of the person coming face to face with that in the midst of the envelope. = )

I'll be off in KL for the weekend, attending Gamecon. We're setting up a little exhibition of historical wargaming, and I've spent the past 3 days painting like mad to get the figures ready, leaving me little time for photography. Hopefully, I'll find some time in KL to do so, or at least photograph my very first games convention.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

New Sheets + Cats = The Inevitable

New Sheets
(view it large here)

We changed the bed sheets today. The cats, of course, immediately claimed the bed for themselves. Something about freshly laundered linen draws them like heat-seeking missles to a hot engine.

Twinkle (top left) was rolling on the bed in the ecstatic bliss of a cat who has found fresh laundry to roll in. Iffy (bottom left) was content to lie down and quietly groom. Patch (right) comported herself in the typical manner of the eldest sibling, and settled down to enjoy the new sheets with a dignified air.

Looks like I'll have to fight the cats for space to sleep in tonight.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Christmas Decor

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations along Orchard Road - a composite of two photos, the left taken in infra-red, the right in normal colour.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

World Cyber Games Singapore

WCG

The WCG Grand Finals are being held in Singapore this year - which makes this a sort of jubilee bonus year for gamers here, what with the Cyberathletes Pro League being held here a few months earlier. I stitched together the photo above to try and give a sense of how large the gaming arena is, and how many people there were. Between this and the Sexpo (the other major event being held over the weekend), this was definitely the more exciting event: K and I went from the waste of time that was Sexpo directly to WCG, and the difference was startling (read K's post about it here).

WCG Panorama 2

Packrat and I went down this afternoon to gawk at the games and soak up the atmosphere. Packrat, I should say, is now officially now my bestest friend after he won a Razer Exactmat answering an audience quiz, and gave it to me since he already has one.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Now THAT'S what I call service

A while back I wrote about my frustration at my new Razer mouse not working after Apple updated OS X to 10.4.3. I sent an email to Razer to tell them what happened, and today, I received an email from them, with a driver attached, that fixed all the problems. Turnaround time: a mere 9 days.

Kudos to Razer for responding so quickly and well. My respect for this company has increased tremendously, seeing how they look after their customers. Not every company is like that. It made my day, and I thought I should mention this to balance out the frustrated post.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

SMS conversation with Ru

Of all the SMS conversations I've ever been in, the following series from Ru ranks as the weirdest.

Sometime yesterday afternoon.
Ru: Help! I'm stuck in Istanbul airport, my laptop won't start up. What to do?
Me: I can help you with the laptop, but not with being stuck in Ataturk airport.

General advice about laptops followed. I never did ask her why she was stranded in Turkey, but this is a 17 inch Powerbook we're talking about here - priorities.

A day later, I hear from her again
Ru: hey, my laptop is ok. seems it got switched on somehow during the flight. must have been the bloody turbulence when 1 of the aircraft engines died as well. thanks for your help yesterday!

At this point, all the other words blank out and all I see is aircraft engine died. Turns out her stopover in Istanbul was unplanned, due to said engine failure. Ru, safely in London by now, seems to have picked up a bit of pre-emptive stiff upper lip: when I asked her about the flight, her main complaint was that the food was horrible.

Me, I would've focused on the engine failure part more in my customer feedback form. I am officially now in awe of her garang-ness.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The biggest tree in the park

tree-IR-composite-D70
click here for large version

At last, a bright and sunny day.

I'd been waiting for a moment like this to try the D70 on infra-red again. As mentioned in a previous post, I've not been too happy with the way the D70 translates IR into colour. Unlike the Sony, which has a mode for shooting in IR, the D70 wasn't made to do so. Slapping an IR filter (a Hoya R72, in case T or Ru are interested) over it means a 9-stop slowdown in exposure. This means either shooting at ISO 1600 (noisy), or using wide apertures (problems with accuracy of focus) or very slow shutter speeds (blurred shots) - and sometimes all of them at once. The other main problem is that the moment the filter goes on, you can't see a thing anymore.

There's one solution to all of this - lots and lots of light, and so I've been waiting for a really bright sunny day to come along. I took the photos that make up the composite at about 6pm, right after work, when the light was slanting but still bright enough to illuminate the crown of the canopy. It's far from perfect - the individual shots vary in focus and clarity, because of all of the problems listed above, but as a whole, I really like the image - one of the few shots I've taken that I like.

I wanted to capture the sense of how large and expansive the tree was. Shooting from slightly downhill helped to give the feeling of the tree arching over you: it was also necessary because there were several people at the base of the tree who I wanted to leave out of the picture. I didn't want the building on the left or the crane on the right to be in the shot, but while stitching this together, I had second thoughts, and decided they added some context and scale. Finally, the black background, as seconded by the wife (whose taste I trust in these matters) seemed appropriate for the darker tones in this image.

It's probably best viewed large, so go on and click here.

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Late night at Mustafa's in Little India

On a restless Friday night, K and I decided to visit Mustafa's in Little India.
Mustafa's
Mustafa's

Over the past decade, Mustafa's has become quite the local institution - if you want to buy something, odds are they'll have it. They sell everything, and they sell it at 3am in the morning if you need it. We bought our DVD player from here a while back, and it was good bargain.

Mustafa's is a departmental store in the old tradition. Forget about the aesthetics, pretty store displays, and fancy advertising campaigns of the Orchard Road stores. Mustafa's lives and breathes by price and quantity - they have it cheap, and they have lots of it, and that's all customers need to know. The store itself sprawls across several buildings now, having taken over what looks like a basement carpark in course of its expansion. Its innards are labyrinthine in complexity and warehouse-like in organisation - aisle upon crowded aisle, pressing customers against customers, often requiring you to go down two floors, cross several departments, and go up another two floors to get to what you're looking for (as we had to in our search for the camera department).

Not recommended for the claustrophobic, but no better place for the insomniac shopaholic.

Outside, the streets were dim and quiet when we left. The area around Mustafa's seems to be a mix of decay and re-growth - we saw spanking new electronics shops next to coffeeshops that looked like they'd not changed since the 60s, next to abandoned old buildings like this one below. Now recognisable only by the silhouette of its long removed signs, the Rasa Sayang Lounge has obviously seen better times. Different times as well - when the street it was on was a different kind of place.

the rasa sayang lounge
The Rasa Sayang Lounge

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Watching TV

Watching TV
Watching TV

One of those photographs that turned out even more surreal than it looked in real life. I liked the deep reds of the curtains, and pushed the colour when processing this image.

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Twinkle's nightmare


"Did you hear a squeak?"


"eek! rats! RATS!! help!!


"Oh no, wait - they're stuffed toys. Back to sleep then"

(I couldn't resist playing a prank on Twinkle as she lounged on our bed. Rats courtesy of Ikea.)

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Seletar Base 4: Parting shots

The last set of photographs from our Hari Raya jaunt around Seletar Base.

Church of the Epiphany
The Church of the Epiphany lies just outside the gates of the base. The sunlight was just beginning to catch the barbed wire fence when I took this photograph. The fence though, is the Church's, not the base's.

Hampstead Gardens
I posted earlier about how the street names in Seletar are all anachronistically English. This roadsign declaring "Hampstead Gardens" is about the least Hampstead-Gardens-like thing one could imagine, rusting away next to an ad hoc garbage dump.

sunset grill
Dinner was at Sunset Grill again, where we enjoyed a view of the runway and the sunset. The restaurant has become much more crowded than when we first came across it, but still retains much of the laid-back charm that so attracted us to it. The waiters are a bit more efficient (which means they're slightly more brusque - but it's understandable given the crowd) and a reservation is now usually needed beyond 6pm to ensure a table. The sunsets are still the same.

old lamp-post
This lamp-post seemed to sum up Seletar base - the slightly antiquated, almost Victorian look of the lamp-post, the barbed-wire in the background a reminder of the base's military past.

Parts 1, 2,and 3. An ongoing photoset can be found here.

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Seletar Base 3: Nature

I must confess that one reason why I like Seletar base so much is because it's slightly run-down.

When man lets his grip loosen on the land, nature steps in and reclaims some of it. Seletar base is old enough and neglected enough that it's become a little fuzzier and green around the edges, and if you look, you can see the jungle re-asserting itself.

big green leaves

My mother used to tell me that as a child growing up in a kampong (village), they would use these leaves as umbrellas when it rained. It's hard to get a sense of scale from the photograph, but each of these leaves is about a metre in length.

fallen branch and grass

I fear that one day someone will "develop" the civilian part of Seletar base. Development like that inevitably involves tearing down the old and replacing it with a condominium, or a row of new restaurants. One by one our little backwaters and ulu places get pulled into the twenty-first century, given a facelift, and returned to us unrecognisable. Seletar base has held out so long in part due to the military presence, and in part to its isolation, but on a small island like ours, eventually urban sprawl will reach there as well.

Lost feather

Parts 1, 2,and 4
An ongoing photoset can be found here.

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