Monday, October 31, 2005

Smoke Series: Colour

s curve inverted

This next series of shots were an experiment in manipulating the colour of the images. All of them use a variation of the same technique: create multiple layers, each with one dominant colour, and selectively (and slowly) erase parts of each layer away to reveal the colours underneath.

Horsehead Nebula

This reminds me somewhat of the crayon drawings I did in kindergarten, where we applied thick layers of crayon, and scratched away parts of the waxy layer to reveal colours underneath.

incense

The funny structure you see in some of these shots is a funnel, which was used to direct the smoke. The image below shows an alternative version of the first image, without colour inversion.

s curve

Now that I've finally got the hang of this (I must admit half the reason I tried so hard was because it eluded me at first go, and I hate not getting it right) I'm going back to shooting IR for a while.

solar flares

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Brushstrokes

brushstrokes

When I was a child, my mother tried to teach me Chinese calligraphy. I practiced for a while, but soon lost touch. When I saw this photo begin to emerge in photo-editing, the first thing that came to my mind were the brushstrokes of calligraphy.

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Smoke, part 2

bluegrey

We don't normally "see" smoke. The minute particles that make up smoke are something that turn up in your photograph as an obstruction, as atmospheric haze, blocking the light you want, or sometimes creating spectacular sunsets. But it's the light you focus on, not the smoke.

red dragon

After 122 photos, spread over 3 days of trying, I've finally got images that I like. The lack of sharpness was solved by shooting at f8, and the noise was cleaned up by judicious use of a brush. I figured out that I didn't need backlighting - straight-on flash works perfectly fine (this I "figured out" by having my external flash fail to slave properly to the camera). The 3 step solution is now:

1) black background a fair distance away from source of smoke (helps smooth out the background, which you want as evenly black as possible)
2) set camera to f8, flash, manual focus on the smoke
3) processing: invert image, clean up background, adjust levels (I set the white point on the "grey-est" part of the background to make it even more evenly white), muck around with colour balance to get the tone you want. Sharpening is optional.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Smoke and Mirrors

I've been listening to one track on my iPod again and again for the past 4 days, and that's the cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Every so often, a song comes along that lifts you right up out of your doldrums and sets you free to be happy again, and this is one of them.

Smoke 1

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday night trying out this technique of photographing smoke that I picked up from a flickr group called artsmoke. (short summary: backlit smoke against a black background, invert colours in GIMP/Photoshop) It's a frustrating process: out of over a hundred photographs taken, only 3 were (barely) usable, and none of them come close to the ethereal beauty of the images some of these people have managed. The two biggest challenges: getting the background completely and evenly black, and reducing noise while retaining sharpness in the smoke plumes.It'll take me a long time to get this one right.

Smoke 3

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Oh for Autumn

Tree Veins 3

I've always been fascinated by the way tree branches resemble the branching veins in a human body, or the way rivers and streams branch and intertwine like tree branches. A friend once, in the course of explaining fractals to me, told me that the similarities were not a coincidence: there are only so many ways a course can diverge, so rivers resemble veins, and veins resemble trees.

Tree - Building - Sky

I took these photos at One North Park, which has finally opened to the public (well, at least someone has taken down the hoarding that blocked access - no doubt there'll be an "official" opening sometime later). Friday is the one day of the week that I get off work at 5.30pm, rather than 6pm, which means half an hour more of the best light in the day to shoot.

If only we had autumn. I remember autumn in the 3 years I spent in England - the light all low and golden and slanting, the trees every shade of colour you could want. Perfect for photography. Down here in the tropics, we're clinging one degree above the equator, and the only really beautiful light is at sunset.

I always thought autumn was one gigantic, prolonged sunset that took several months to complete. I don't miss much from the time I spent abroad: I'm too much of a homebody, I value familiar and familial comforts, and I frankly hate the cold. Loved the snow, hated the cold. Loved having seasons, but wanted a constant temperature. Enjoyed the long days of summer, but wanted 8 full hours of darkness to sleep in. I just too demanding.

But I do miss autumn, especially at this time of the year. I have an old-shirt from the RSC that says it all with a line from The Tempest: "Were I in England now, as once I was ..."

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Of Moose and Meals

Poor Moose

Every time we eat at Dan Ryan's, they seat us underneath this moose.

It's a huge moose. Or, should I say, ex-moose, since it's most definitely dead and stuffed. Just the head as well, so perhaps we should call it a partial ex-moose. Either way, we always get seated at the booth with the moose head looming over our heads while we eat.

I've always felt sorry for the poor fellow - first to be shot and killed, then suffer the indignity of being stuffed and mounted. On top of all that, he now has to put up with these cobwebs, which are part of the halloween decorations, and though you can't see in this photograph, he has a bat hanging off one of his horns.

Somehow, he still maintains a stoic, long-suffering look in his eye.

yeah baby ... YEAH!!

On the other hand, here's this statue we spotted outside another restaurant, holding up a menu and grinning at you with a thumbs-up. I think he's meant to look like he's positively, confidently affirming the goodness of the food within, but he looks a little too cheeky to me: the first words that came to my mind when I saw him were an Austin Powers-esque "yeah baby ... YEAH!!".

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Reading: A Feast of Crows, Calvin and Hobbes

Two things to report concerning books and reading.

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows is finally out! George R. R. Martin's 4th book in the series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords) was so long in coming I was beginning to think it would be called A Rumour of Sequels. I'm chuffed, but the flipside is another 4 year wait for the next (and final?) volume. Write fast Mr Martin ... write fast ...
Calvin and Hobbes

I've never bought anything quite so heavy, but this might just be worth its weight in gold: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Complete. I look forward to many a lazy Sunday afternoon curled up in bed reading this.

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Lone House

Lone House 2

From my office I can see this house. It's the same house I could see as a student (my old school is quite nearby) from the train station everyday on my way home.

I always wondered who lived there, in what I thought (and still think) was an ideal location - an old colonial house, close to public transport yet hidden from the streets by trees at ground level, so you wouldn't even normally know it was there. It's a remnant of more spacious times, before the era of apartment blocks and crowded housing.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Product Photography

What time is it?

Terz
seems to think I have a future in product photography. I need to get out more and photograph real things, instead of being stuck indoors with only computer peripherals and wristwatches to photograph. =)

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Dark Clouds

Dark Clouds

The one good thing about the recent rainy spell is nice cloud textures to photograph (from the dry comfort of an office). The bad thing is being stuck in the office at lunch, because it's raining.

I took this photograph sometime last week, when the current rainy spell started.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gecko Tales

The little survivor

Last night's encounter with the gecko reminded me of another one we rescued, almost exactly a month ago.

This fella is actually survived some very rough handling by our cats, especially Iffy (a born huntress - I'm convinced that if we hadn't rescued her, and she'd survived to be a feral cat, she'd have chalked up a massive kill rate). K and I came out into the corridor to find all three cats staring at the same spot on the ceiling, quivering with excitement. This gecko was their target, and despite everything, he would've have been perfectly safe except for the next, incomprehensible thing he did.

He ran down onto the floor.

You can just see that a flap of skin is hanging loose behind his neck, where Iffy had clamped down on him with her jaws. I was convinced he was dead, but amazingly when Iffy opened her mouth, out he ran.

(Household cats don't hunt to kill, or eat - they're well-fed and have no need to supplement their diet with the occasional gecko. But they are bored ... extremely bored. I've seen our cats chase flies. I've seen our cats go crazy over a speck of dirt on the ceiling thinking it was a fly.)

What amazed as well was this: most geckos under attack would've dropped their tails by that point in time. A gecko under threat can sever its tail, which continues to wriggle and twitch in a most convincing manner, to distract the predator while the gecko makes its getaway ... a few grammes lighter. My wife and I have found as many gecko tails tucked underneath our rugs (which is where the cats tend to stash their playthings after they've expired) as we have found dead geckos.

For some reason, this fellow, in mortal peril for his life, clung on to both his tail and his dignity, and was released outside mostly unharmed, except for the wound you see.

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Catch, photograph, and release

Gecko anatomy

Our cats kill any gecko unfortunate enough to wander into our house - not out of malice, but simply because they pounce on it and play with it until the poor things invariably die, to be discovered by us a few months later, tucked under some rug, dried up and dessicated.

As result of this, my wife and I make every effort to capture and relocate geckos that wander in. By "capture", I mean me standing on a ladder with a tupperware container trying to corner a terrified gecko up on the ceiling. By "relocate", I mean me taking the gecko out and letting him go on the wall in the corridor, near a nice ceiling light where he can feast on insects that congregate there - and hopefully not come back into our apartment!

After I caught this little fellow, I thought I should take the opportunity to photograph him. The tupperware container was tranluscent, not transparent, so I got a spare piece of glass from the study to place underneath him. K helped me hold him up against the light, and very astutely suggested that the lighting would be much better if we diffused the light, which meant putting a piece of white paper over the lamp. I took this photo from below, after about 20 tries (yes, that's how long it takes: fiddly set up, moving lizard, and a camera autofocus not quite up to focusing on a near object with harsh backlighting).

He's so tiny (only about 2 inches in real life) you can see right through him - lungs, vertabrae, and what sees to be a gut full of semi-digested insect. (take a look at the bigger version in flickr)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Taxi Queue

Arrow

I promised an end to the white photos, so here's something in a different colour.

I sent off a friend at the airport on Sunday (off on a solo trip to India ... good luck with the food, Doc), at the unnaturally early hour of 7am (early for me, at least), and spent the remainder of an hour wandering round the airport. I took this photo of the cab queue, which was largely empty at that early hour, as I was leaving.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Yet another White photograph

It's funny how things come in threes ... or in sprees. Or whatever you want to call them.

Egg Timers

I seem to be on a White spree recently. I was designated photographer at a work related event today, and these white egg timers were part of a game we had to play. They were just calling out to be photographed.

This picture was taken about 30 seconds after I'd laboriously arranged the egg timers, 20 seconds after someone picked up the egg timers and started moving them around, somehow failing to notice the man hunched over the camera peering intently at the eggs less than a foot away, and 10 seconds after profuse apologies and the replacement and rearrangement of said egg timers. Quite a funny moment.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

More White

White Things 2

I couldn't resist ... the whiteness of it all was too much - it was just begging to be photographed!

White Things 1

It was K's idea to photograph the new mouse next to other white things - which, thanks to Apple, I have a lot of. The mask though, was a pleasant surprise: I'd forgotten about it till she dug around for white things and found it in the study. No, the mask is not an Apple product ("iFace"? for all those times when you've lost yours?): it was a prop for a drama production.

Razer

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Too, too white

A visit to the Cyberathletes Pro League games being held at the Padang this weekend ended up with me buying a new mouse. Yes, it's a Razer. And yes, it's white ... cos it had to match the existing iBook ensemble. (incidentally, this is Razer's first Mac compatible mouse - and whereas every other mouse of theirs is black with ominous green, red, or blue accents, this one's all marshmellowy whiteness and purity ... they know their Mac users well)

At this point, all I can say about this mouse is that it is too, too sensitive. I feel like a truck driver put behind the wheel of an F1 racing car - even after I dial the sensitivity down to a low setting, the higher resolution (double that of my previous mouse) means that slight hand actions lead to the arrow hovering and moving even when I think my hand is completely still. Photo editing with this kind of mouse (as Terz pointed out) is a whole new kind of challenge ...

Incidentally, the CPL event wasn't as geeky as I feared it might be - none of those stereotypes of obscenely obese gamers wedged into folding chairs, bodies busily converting Mountain Dew into sweaty smells. People looked more or less normal ... more or less. About the funniest thing was the teenage couple going in that Packrat and I passed as we were leaving - he with a determined "OmigodI'msolatethey'vealreadystartedfragging" look on his face, she (being dragged along) plaintively asking "Are we really going in there?".

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Invasion of the Cut-Outs

Cyclist

Cut-outs seem to be the latest thing among advertisers and marketers.

First there were the cows and elephants. Then these blue golfers. Now these red ... what are they anyway? Given that they were part of a display advertising an exhibition of Vatican art (the museum is off-screen to the right), I thought they were meant to be Magi, but there are quite a lot of them (and only 3 Magi, if I recall).

The old man on the bicycle didn't seem to care much anyway.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

GIMPshop vs Photoshop

Inspired by Tym's adoption of GIMPShop, I finally downloaded X11, GIMP, and GIMPshop to try out. GIMP is an open-source application that does pretty much everything that Photoshop does, but without the price-tag. It's free - or, as the saying goes, "free, as in speech, and free, as in beer".

Here's a few photos from my first experiments with GIMP. First, a standard IR photo, from the set taken in the park. I didn't bother putting this photo through Photoshop because I thought I had enough shots of trees already (heh) but I ran it through GIMPshop to see whether I could get the same effects.

gimped tree

No discernable difference. These next two are interesting. I tried Terz's technique for making colour photographs look like infrared (see here, here and here), using GIMP. This wasn't really a test of GIMP's capabilities (I could've done the same thing in Photoshop) but more to see whether it was as easy to do the same things.

Exhibit A is a colour photo turned "IR":
skybridge (gimped)

Exhibit B is an IR photo, of the same subject:
skybridge 1
(the same two photos can be see here, in their original form)

GIMP was just as usable as Photoshop for this task, though slower, and slightly clunkier (which is to be expected, for a new user). Ultimately, I still prefer the IR photo, but I'm going to be practising the other technique, because the Sony is getting old, and I don't think I'll be able to afford a replacement full-fledged IR camera anytime soon.

All in all, GIMP strikes me as a capable replacement for Photoshop. It seems to run slower than Photoshop (possibly because it has to run via the X11 environment on a Mac?) and the previews are noticeably less smooth, but if you're prepared to put up with a decrease in speed of workflow (which no doubt will be ameliorated by practice and familiarity), GIMP'll do the trick just as well. GIMPshop, by arranging all the menus in a Photoshop-like manner, also helps users like me transfer across with a minimum of fuss. And did I mention GIMP was free? = )

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Disk Inventory



A short post to mention this freeware application (for Mac) called Disk Inventory.

The nice thing about it is the visual representation of the disk usage on your hard drive. As you can see from the picture, Call of Duty is currently occupying a largish chunk of hard drive.

Numbers will tell you the same thing, but a picture tells the story better - although I can get the same information on disk usage by checking the directories, the picture at left helps me zoom in on what's really taking up the most space on the drive.

Now, to see what that blue chunk is ...

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dark city

dark city

A view across the East Coast of Singapore.

My mental image of residential Singapore has always been a curious mix. One picture is of high-rise apartment blocks, with dark stairwells and dingy lifts - Eric Khoo's Singapore, as depicted in Mee Pok Man and 12 Stories, for example.

Another picture is of lush greenery, tree-lined streets, old kopitiams (coffeeshops), and shaded parks. This is the Singapore imaged above, but I somehow wanted it darker, gloomier: the original photo was fairly bright, from which I increased the contrast and lowered the brightness to get what you see above.

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Email = Work = Email

I work in an office where email is the dominant mode of communication. Whereas bureacracies of the past jumped to the beat of Memos, and moved files from desk to desk, email is the medium for all such communication now. Email is used for all sorts of things, from simple requests, to transferring large work documents.

The amount of email that each of us has to process (and I do mean process - on some days, your work is clearing email) can hit highs of hundreds: I once came back from a week's leave to find 300 emails staring me in the face. I spoke to a colleague last week who told me that going on leave incurs great anxiety for her, because of the anticipated log-jam of emails she'll need to clear after. The first time I had to do this, it took me 2.5 days to clear everything.

Coping mechanisms have to be adopted. Most of us prefer to work on a face to face basis: after 3 years here, we'd much rather take a walk to the other workstation and talk things over in person (helps to combat "cubicle butt" as well - the result, I'm sure, of blood pooling in your bottom after a few hours of sitting down). I've also learned that clearing email, especially the backlogs after a stretch away, is a "bottom-up" process: start from the bottom, read the fwd:fwd:fwd: emails, and eventually you'll reach a point where all the emails are redundant and no longer relevant.

Delete ruthlessly beyond that point. If it hasn't been solved in all the time you were away, someone will bring it to your attention again. Delete ruthlessly all spam, or spam-like emails - the "Hey everybody I found this hilarious video/photo/joke" emails.

All this triggered off by reading this man's analysis of his email usage over the past 8 years: Eight Years of Email Stats. (note the increase in the amount of spam in the last 3 years)

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Semi-ulu

tree crown

K and I have been exploring this jungly bit near where we live for a possible location to place our own geocache. It's a good site: accessible by public transport, a short walk away from civilisation, yet far away enough that it's screened by trees (like the one above) and undergrowth. It's ulu, but with home comforts, if you know what I mean (also, the presence of good prata nearby is a definite advantage).

dead frog

If the presence of good food and public access seems a bit too soft and easy, there's always sights like this dead frog to remind you that though you're not really in the woods, you're not quite out of them either.

K and I have been geocaching for more than a year now, and have found 10 caches, but have yet to set up one of our own, so it's about time we tried our hand at hide, rather than seek.

Post-script
By way of explanation: Geocaching is a sport where caches (usually tupperware boxes, but containers can vary in size) are hidden in secret locations, and the co-ordinates to find them posted on a website (this one here: geocaching.com). A GPS is needed, since the co-ordinates are in longitude and latitutde. Sometimes little trinkets and toys are hidden in the caches for people to find, but most of the fun lies in the finding. K and I have found a few so far (see here, here, and here) but there's lots more lurking around in Singapore to find. You can also release Travel Bugs, which are little dog-tag like items that people can move from cache to cache: K and I made a pair of travel bugs themed after the movie Before Sunrise - one of the bugs is named Jesse, and the other Celine. Jesse was released in Canada earlier this year, and has travelled 1460 miles, as far as Utah, while Celine is still in Singapore the last I checked. The aim is to get them both to Vienna, though it looks to take a long time, judging by how they're moving.


(Shit. I just realised I could've saved myself a lot of typing by just linking off to wikipedia here)

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Same Crane, all Grown Up Now

Working 9-5 means I don't really get many chances to get out and practice my photography. I like to shoot in daylight, and I especially like to shoot at sunset - it's golden and good in colour, and all glowy and luminous in infra-red. Leaving the office at 6pm doesn't really allow for much time to shoot at sunset.

This explains the large number of photographs of things I can see from my office - like this crane from the contruction site next door, which I blogged earlier this year.
crane in the rain

Well, he's all grown-up now:
crane again

It's the sky that caught my attention though. The site tops the park that I've been taking photographs of, and the same philosophy of preserving as many of the original trees on the hill as possible is evident.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Functional, Beautiful, or Both

A while back, I read a piece of advice on the web: everything you own should be functional, beautiful, or both. Think iPod ... or iBook ... well, most anything Apple (except the old one-button mice, which were beautiful but definitely not functional).

sun worshipper

Most of the watches I own were presents from my wife. This one is one of the few I've bought for myself, and I had to think long and hard because it's also the most expensive one I've ever bought - but it fulfiled both requirements perfectly. A Citizen Eco-drive, it's solar-powered, and here it is on it's knees, worshipping the sun that gives it life. It was the idea of a solar-powered watch, more than anything else, that caught my imagination - that it would never need batteries, and would just keep on running as long as the sun was shining (and a good while after: the capacitor keeps it going for 5 months in the dark). Functional and beautiful.

It also replaces this watch here, a present from my wife, which I lost sometime back to my great regret. I only have this photograph of it now, taken on our honeymoon. (a thirty-second exposure: the glowing arc of circles is the chronograph hand moving while I took it)

30 second exposure

(I don't usually blog about the things I own, but since the girls are blogging about their handbags, I thought I'd join as best I could. =)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Everything is a Journey Now

I watched a presentation today which described work done on a project as "a journey". I thought about how many times in recent years I've seen that term applied to accounts of projects, reports on application of initiatives, and other accounts of How Things Went.

the path

Everything's a journey now
. It's a metaphor that's permeated so many organisations, as well as our personal lives. I have no problem with it usually, but I started thinking today about why a journey is such a popular metaphor with businesses - I can see why it's popular with individuals, but the fuzzy, feel-good logic of the journey doesn't seem to endear it with businesses and organisations with a bottom-line.

Journeys are familiar. Everyone can relate to the metaphor of a Journey, because we make journeys all the time - the daily commute, the day-trip, the bus ride. Journeys are also resonant metaphors: they're a common element of myths and legends, and we all know from those that journeys mean transformation, redemption, and salvation of some sort. I knew this vaguely before (I have a deep interest in mythology, and especially the work of Joseph Campbell), but a new thought came to me today.

Thinking of your work as a Journey absolves people from blame of failure: if it's the journey that counts, then you don't have to worry about whether you actually got there. It shifts the focus away from results, and towards process - which most people agree is a good thing (especially if you've experienced working in a completely result-oriented environment) - except that sometimes results do matter. If it's a journey, then you don't ever have to admit you didn't suceed - you're just still on the journey, it's too early to tell, we've made progress, it's early days, and you know, baby steps, that sort of thing.

into the woods

The other implication is that a Journey doesn't have to end: if your work is conceptualised as a Journey, then you never actually get there, and the work doesn't ever stop - it just keeps going on and on, because it's The Journey that matters. Success, instead of a finishing line, becomes a milestone, and if we remember what milestones are, they're just markers on a route telling you there's more to go. Everything's milestones now, and no one ever actually gets anywhere. As my colleague puts it "The reward for good work is more work".

Monday, October 03, 2005

Why it is so d***ed difficult to photograph stray cats

Exhibit A:
blurry stray 1

Exhibit B:
blurry stray 2

Exhibit A shows a stray cat - a sweet-natured, affectionate, friendly and completely harmless cat who walked right up to us and mewed piteously. Exhibit B shows what happens 9 out of 10 times when you try and take a photograph of said cat.

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"I can see my house from here!"

An old army buddy of mine told me about Google Earth recently. I've just downloaded it onto my computer at work (Google Earth is still not available for Mac ... grrrrr) and it's quite simply spectacular. Yes, I can see my house.

If you have Google Earth, try this: follow the little red dot that says "Singapore" (I'm sure it's nothing personal from the people at Google: every major site is marked by a red dot) as you zoom in on Singapore, and see where you end up. It turns out that the point they've chosen to mark as "Singapore" is at North 1 degree, 18'00.00, East 103 degrees, 50'00.00. Obviously chosen for numerical convenience more than anything else, since it's hardly the geographical centre of Singapore. In an interesting twist though, that's exactly next door to the Elections Department, on Princeps Street. I'm not sure what building that is, but it looks like one of the old shophouses. If you have Google Earth, take a look and see if you can find out what building that is that Google has decided to pin "Singapore" on.

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In which we consider Time

A while back, I posted on Wargames Correspondence (a wargames group blog I'm part of) about the cost of wargaming as a hobby. Lord Horatio's response (excerpted below) got me thinking about time:

"As a schoolboy, I could afford to spend a whole days of my weekend on a pointless slow play game which had barely started before we tidied up. I could not afford the 80 pence for 2 additional boxes of Airfix soldiers without halting all other spending or 2 months. Today it would be a major arrangement to spend a whole day gaming. One which would cost me a fortnight of compensation in domestic duties and time spent with the 3 sons. On the other hand I can happily spend 40 pounds on gaming materials and barely blink an eye. The relative balance between time and money has moved"
(from Wargames Correspondence)


Time was free as air when I was a child. You didn't think about time: it was the medium you moved in, like the water that surrounds a fish. Now, as an adult, time is an asset - a commodity - a resource that has to be measured with clocks and alarms, allocated with calendars and planners, and given a monetary value with salaries and compensations.

As a child, I had time: as an adult, I have to make time. And, as Lord Horatio points out, the irony is that when you have all the time in the world, you're a penniless teenager: when you have money, you're an adult burdened with responsibilities. The lucky few who exist at the confluence of the two are the rich kids, and millionaire adults (come to think of, those two are usually the one and the same, just at different points in their life cycle): the rest of us make do and make happen.

lost balloons

There's a problem in commoditizing time (which is what we do when we treat it as a resource, rather than a medium of existence): we lose the comfort of just being, and wind up having to justify and account for what we do. We lose the ease of mere existence, and start to worry that we are wasting our time, or throwing our youth away, or being idle, or procrastinating. Imagine what happens to a fish that has to consider every gulp of water, or a person who has to account for every breath he takes. That's what happens to us: we lose that precious ability to just be, which children have and adults envy.

All these thoughts, of course, come on an afternoon spent moving files from Point A to Point B, amidst other administrative work.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Park

north park

They're building a new park next to my office, and I've been watching their progress with great interest. Work looks almost completed, though they haven't opened it yet. The park stretches across the slope of a hill, and they've done an amazing job of preserving the existing trees and landscaping around them.

skybridge 2

I took these two photos a few days ago: the same view, but once in colour, and once in infra-red. I prefer the IR shot: for some reason, it looks to me like something out of the '50s. The building, fairly normal looking in colour, looks Modernist (to me) in black and white, while the sky-bridges lend a futuristic air to it, making the whole thing look like some retro science fiction scene.

skybridge 1

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Savages

It's eerie to look at the pictures of the Bali bombings and think that 3 months ago, you were sitting in the same spot, on that same beach. It's sad to think of the lives that have been lost.

Above all, it's maddening to think that some people did this for no other reason than to drive a wedge into a society that's trying so hard to make things work. Just like in southern Thailand, you have a very small group of extremists who want things to tip over the edge into chaos, who want to see society collapse so they can paw through the ruins and remake it in their image. They hit out at the weak and vulnerable in society because that's as much as they can hurt, and they strike out that people trying to live their lives their own way because they can't tolerate that.

It's so ... petty. It's selfishness given high-powered ammunition, expressing itself in the most destructive way. Most of us learned to live with each other more than 3000 years ago when we climbed out of barbarism and established civil societies, but what we have here are the same savage impulses that humanity has tried so hard to grow beyond, except that now the savages have learned to justify their inhumanity with self-righteousness and "higher purposes", and have deadlier weapons.

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I saw the headlines of the Sunday Times today. "Oh no. Not again". Is that it? Is that the best they could come up with? We'd expect any newspaper, much less the only English language broadsheet in a country, to not just tell us the news, but also act as a mirror for our society: our headlines are our collective banner and placard, telling the rest of the world what Singaporean society thinks. "Oh no. Not again" is a perfectly reasonable response at an individual level. "Oh no. Not again" is perfectly fine for bloggers. "Oh no. Not again" is hardly adequate for a newspaper that aspires to any serious standing, or wishes to show that it can do a better job than the blogging community of representing our society. To put it simply, it is, in my opinion, a lousy headline for a newspaper.