Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Yes you can, Yellow Coward"

yellow coward, originally uploaded by Wahj.

The photo about says it all really. This was a mousepad I spotted in a shop, and its the kind of idiosyncratic use of English typical of Japanese products. No doubt the designer/copywriter thought it would be just the right kind of encouraging, uplifting message to give to a friend who was down in the dumps.

I can just imagine cheering someone up with this ...


"Yes you can!"


"Go on, say it!"

(more slapping with mousepad)

"err ... I can?"


"Yes!! That's right! You CAN, you Yellow Coward!!!"

A Tale of Two (or More) Doctors

Christmas eve is a very bad time to fall sick. In my case at least it wasn't life-threatening, but a very frustrating case of conjunctivitis, coupled with and preceded by a mysterious swelling of the lymph nodes 2 days prior. Mysterious because there were no other symptoms: no fever, no pain - just a swollen preauricular node by the ear, and then two days later the eye goes red in pain and swelling during the Christmas dinner, and hasn't let up for 6 days.

After several visits to a 24-hour clinic (the only ones open over the holiday), 3 baffled doctors (no, I was not doctor hopping: I started with the 24-hour clinic, and made a conscious decision to go back there for consistency: ironically, every time I went back a different doc was on duty, not unusual given that this 24-hour clinic employs multiple shifts of doctors to cover the time slots), and two courses of antibiotics and eye drops, I thought it was about time I went to an eye specialist to get some proper help.

What a waste of time: I received the most cursory of inspections (I hesitate to even call it a medical examination) and not so much a diagnosis as a dismissal with medicine. More medicine. Better medicine perhaps, but probably just different medicine, when what I needed was a proper diagnosis, and some information. In the end, I was charged $12 for the medicine, and $99 for the 3 minutes in "consultation", which boggles the mind, given that there wasn't much consultation, and the medicine was probably worth far more than that.

In comparison with this specialist, I can't help but think of my old GP, who died recently (and tragically): he was the best family doctor I ever had, the only one who really took the time to listen and talk to his patients, the only one of my doctors ever to call me up 3 days after every consultation to follow up on my condition. It sounds like a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me, and it showed how dedicated he was.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

'net blackout

Undersea cables damaged in an earthquake. Internet access severely limited. For one whole day, I can't reach Google, Blogger, or any site outside of Singapore.

And yet I still receive spam in my email.

What is wrong with this picture?!?!


Friday, December 15, 2006

Geeky Dive Watch Videos

As mentioned earlier, I haven't got any underwater photos to share from this dive trip because I haven't got into underwater photography. (Yet)

I do have something analogous, and far geekier: the playback from my dive watch of my two favourite dives.

The watch in question is a Swatch Scuba, which shows depth and time underwater, and allows playback of the last dive. I use a Suunto Mosquito for my dive computer, but got this particular Swatch as a backup. The hour (short) hand is showing depth on the inner scale (which runs clockwise from 0 to 40 metres). The minute (long) hand is showing time elapsed, measured on the outside bezel (running clockwise from 0 to 60 minutes). What you're seeing in the playback is a sped-up replay of the whole dive: watch the short hand to see the dive profile (depth over time)

This first dive was the second last of the trip, at a place called Koh Ha. We dove early in the morning, and ended the dive swimming into a cave, through to a second cave, and surfacing in a pocket of air. Fantastic way to start the morning: on the playback, you can see the depth rise up to 0 metres as we surfaced in the cave before going back down to 5 metres and then ascending once more.

This second video is of the last dive of the trip, at Bida Nai near Phi Phi, the longest dive at 63 minutes. We spotted a leopard shark on and off throughout this dive, and were almost surfacing when we spotted it on the sea bed, and went back down to have one last look: you can see on the playback that we had ascended to 5 metres before returning to 14 metres one last time.

Cutest Baby Ever On a Dive Boat

This, surely, must be the cutest baby ever seen on a dive boat:

cutest baby ever seen on a dive boat

She was on the dive trip with us for 3 days, and I've never met a baby so incredibly adorable and good-natured: if you can imagine, she was on a boat for 3 days, in the company of many strangers, loud noises and with all the rocking and swaying and engine rumblings, and she was smiling like that all the time. She never cried, or threw a tantrum, or indeed did anything but just gurgle and giggle at everyone. This is the kind of baby that makes you want to have kids =) Anyway, she was the apple of everyone's eye - I think the two Thai cooks on board fell in love with her, and she had no lack of volunteer babysitters. Hats off to the parents for bringing her on the trip, and thanks - cos I think she actually brought a little sunshine with her and made the trip better.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Arriving at the Phi Phi Islands

Arriving at the Phi Phi Islands, originally uploaded by Wahj.

We're in Phuket now, but the past three days were spent living aboard the good ship White Manta, as we dived around the Phuket area. More pictures will follow (alas none from underwater, as I haven't really got into underwater photography yet), but here's one of the boat approaching the beautiful Phi Phi islands, where we made our last few dives.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Serious about naptime

domesticity, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Of the three cats in our house, Twinkle is the one that is serious about naptime.

If you walk into the bedroom in the afternoon, more likely than not you'll see our three cats asleep on the bed. Patch will already be awake and staring at you when you walk in: she's nervous, insecure and won't want to take any chances: after all, you could be a threat to her. Or perhaps you're trying to take her to the vet again (horror of horrors). Either way, Patch doesn't take any chances.

Iffy will also be awake, but looking at you eagerly rather than warily: she's hoping you'll want to play, or better yet (from her point of view) go to the toilet. Iffy always wants to go to the toilet. It's a strange habit, probably related to the fact that she was quarantined in the toilet for her first week with us, sick as she was. Now she seems to think the toilet is her own special space, and always demands to be let in. Once in, she's content to curl up in one corner and watch you do whatever it you're doing in the toilet.

But Twinkle.

Twinkle, on the other hand, will crack open one eye, stare at you grumpily, and snuggle her head deeper into the blanket. For Twinkle, you see, is serious about naptime.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

iMac Aquarium

iMac Aquarium, originally uploaded by Wahj.

This is my first Macintosh computer, an iMac DV from the year 2001. I still have fond memories of it. A few years ago, it broke down – not irrepairably, but I had moved on to a second-hand Titanium Powerbook, and thence to my current iBook.

It's been sitting in the storeroom for a few years, and instead of throwing it out, my wife and I decided to make an aquarium out of it, as we'd seen reported many times on various websites (check this page out to see a host of iMac aquaria).

It's taken a few weeks – gutting the internal components, getting an acrylic tank custom-made to the internal dimensions, sealing the tank, and printing the taskbar, dock, icons and (if you look really carefully) the mouse cursor to decorate the screen, but the iMac aquarium is finally complete.

Now we just have to buy a fish ...

We're taking suggestions from anybody who has a better knowledge of piscean husbandry than we do. Bear in mind that the last fish we owned (5 guppies) died terribly (in a mixture of tragedy and farce: one committed suicide by jumping out of the tank, two died slowly of disease, and the last two mysteriously disappeared after we adopted our first cat. Patch won't talk about it of course, but she still gets that vaguely guilty look in her eye whenever we mention fish ...). Bear in mind also that whichever fish we buy will live in a house with 3 very, very inquisitive, determined, and intelligent cats (the good thing about the iMac aquarium is that the tank sits in the shell of the iMac, protected, in theory, from all intrusions).

So, any suggestions which fish(es) should go in the iMac-quarium?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pseudo Mediterranean

Pseudo Mediterranean, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Our apartment block used to be painted a pleasant mix of green, white, and a dark russet red-slash-brown. It was one of the reasons why we chose to buy a flat in this block.


This is why the wife and I were quite unhappy when they repainted everything earlier this year. It's not even really "white" now: it's just a shade of Bland that a contractor probably needed to get rid of.

There's beauty in everything though. I got out of bed on a sunny morning a few days ago and, with that clear bottomless blue sky in the back, the tops of the neighbouring blocks looked like those "Greek Islands" calendars with their stunning blue skies and whiter that white mediterranean houses. I'm glad I stumbled out of bed to take this photo while it lasted: the clouds moved in soon after, and the scene became unmistakeably tropical.


I've finished reading Eragon. I never thought I'd say this, but I've finally read a book that uses more stereotypes and stock characters than the Belgariad. (To be fair, I quite enjoyed the Belgariad when I read it as a teenager: it must be an age thing. Also, Eddings is at least entertaining and funny, in a sitcom-ish way, whereas Eragon takes itself far too seriously for something that falls so flat).

I felt so bad after Eragon that I went out, bought, and read Neuromancer in one day, just to remind myself what good scifi actually is. I've moved on to Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, and I've got Snow Crash waiting in the wings for after that (guided by the gaps in my Sci Fi Book Meme list). Looks like it'll take the combined effort of the best cyberpunk writers of my generation to make up for the bad taste Eragon left in my mouth.

Just to update all those people who suggested more tropes to look for in Eragon:
- Yes there are dragons.
- No, there was no R2D2, nor were there Ewoks or Gungans (he may be trite, but he's no George Lucas: it takes real genius of the Colonel Kurtz persuasion to foist those on your audience)
- No, there were no tentacled creatures. Would that there were. It might have been more interesting.

My predictions were quite accurate. Yes, there is a princess, and though they do not marry (an event saved, no doubt, for Book 3, because these things come in trilogies now), they do fall in love. In an awkward, adolescent way.
- Yes, there is a climatic battle, which is indeed won by the simple expedient of killing one villain. (Why, oh why, do these armies of evil all melt away when you kill their leader? Don't they have any resilience in their chains of command? And how come each and every soldier, down to the lowliest grunt, always knows the instant Mr Big Bad is vanquished?)
- The mentor does indeed die. Whether he returns as a ghostly blue transparent figure, we will see.
- And a Prophecy? Yup: our hero's fortune is told, and great things are presaged for him.

The sad thing is, since I bought the set, I now have an unread copy of the sequel, Eldest. And, knowing me, I will eventually force myself to read it, because I am a completist. Which might be another word for masochist, in this case.