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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Seletar Base 2: IR experiments

My wife and I spent Hari Raya afternoon exploring Seletar Base a bit more.

I'm glad we "re-discovered" this quiet spot in Singapore. I've always liked parks and gardens - the one place we always went to every single school holiday was the Botanic Gardens (blogged here). The other was the old MPH bookstore on Stamford Road: this accounts for the fact that I like trees, and I read a lot. (Sadly, the Stamford Road MPH has fallen on bad times, but more of that in another post)

This time round, K used the Sony to shoot some beautiful IR shots (see her post here), while I stuck mostly with the D70 and "real" colour. I've been using the Sony all this while, but have been trying to figure out how to use the D70 for infrared recently, but so far the process has been frustrating. The exposure times are long enough to warrant a tripod (whcih I don't have) and the colour tone is just not as beautiful/ethereal as the Sony's.

Compare this shot, which is the best I got out of shooting IR on the D70:

Gold, Green and White

with this one to see what I mean by tone.

Tree and sky

More about our Seletar jaunt in Parts 1, 3 and 4
An ongoing photoset can be found here.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Extreme Frustration: Razer Mouse doesn't work on OS 10.4.3

[Update, 14 Nov 2005: Razer has since solved this problem: read here.]

One of things about being a Mac user is putting up with being treated as a second-class citizen as far as the computer gaming industry is concerned.

Case in point: after I updated my OS to 10.4.3 this morning, my spanking new Razer V1.6 mouse (blogged about here) stopped working. Well, to be precise, every button on it (including scroll wheel and side buttons) mapped to left-click, and stayed that way. Not only does this mean that I can't use the advanced features (such as on-the-fly senstivity adjustment) on this expensive mouse: it means that I am in effect using a one button mouse. Let me say that again: a blooming one button mouse.

Apprarently, Razer hasn't got around to writing a driver that fits the updated OS. Their drivers available for download for Mac are version 1.6 (which didn't work on 10.4.2) and a 1.6.1 beta, which worked (with one irritating glitch) in 10.4.2, but which is now hopeless in 10.4.3.

End result: I'm switching back to the Logitech MX 510 until Apple and Razer unflub themselves and get this problem sorted out. The person I spoke to from Apple (Yes, I called their help desk. Yes, it was an Indian call centre) could only suggest that I re-install my OS when I asked whether it was possible to un-install an OS update, which is an extreme solution: I'm not quite ready to put my iBook through the equivalent of hypno-regression therapy just to get a mouse to work.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

The world, according to a cat.

To you and me, it's a laptop bag you bought for your computer.
iffy's new bed
To a cat, it's her latest cat bed, from which she will not move.

To you and me, it's a basket of freshly-washed laundry.
Iffy in the laundry
To a cat, it's a cat bed.

It's inevitable: if it's soft, if it's warm, if it's cushy or comfy in anyway, one of the three cats in the house will claim it. This includes human laps and bellies as well.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seletar Base 1: Home away from home

Seletar camp is a former British army base, built when we were still a British colony. Part of it is still used by the (our) army, but a large part of it is civilian now.

Piccadilly

The streets on the base, however, still bear the names given them by the British. You'll find Piccadilly circus, an Oxford street, and a Baker street. There's a Brompton road, a Haymarket, an Edgeware, and a Regent. Venture further, and find a Hyde Park, a Lambeth Walk and St. Martin Lane.

All this to make an army base feel a little more like home, for soldiers far away from it. Although the Piccadilly here is 10,851km from the one in London, the familiar names must have offered comfort, however faint, to the homesick.

Seletar base feels like its stuck in a time warp from the 50s - the colonial street names, the buildings still betraying their barrack-like military function even after conversion into restaurants and clubhouses. Even the lay-out of the streets themselves are slightly alien - circuses instead of street junctions, how veryBritish.

Seletar base is popular with cyclists, with its sprawling roads and laid-back feel. The Youth Flying Club operates out of the airport here, and there's plane-spotting to be had for the aeronautically inclined (preferably while enjoying a meal at Sunset Grill, blogged about last year). There's a pretty decent golf course as well. On a good sunny day, it's the perfect place to go if the pace of life feels a little too rushed in Singapore.

Parts 2, 3 and 4
An ongoing photoset can be found here.