Sunday, September 23, 2007

Roses are Infra-Red

Roses are InfraRed, originally uploaded by Wahj.

I never thought red roses would be so IR-reflective as to turn alabaster white. Shot of roses floating in water (see previous post for explanation).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sandpaper and Roses

Monday night was sandpaper and roses.

My wife is helping out as stage manager for a play, and the director wants roses floating (stem down) in a fish tank. The stem-down part is easy: screw in a screw or a nail into the bottom, and it weights the rose enough that it floats straight (getting the right mix of buoyancy and weight does require some experimentation though).

The roses on the other hand ... what you see in the picture above are the roses that we bought from a nursery on Jalan Kayu at $14 for twenty roses. We didn't realise that they came with thorns and all - really nasty thorns - which we had to remove before they could be used as props. After a futile attempt with a knife, I figured the best way to do it was with sand paper. What you see in the photograph above is me sanding down the stems of some the most vicious and thorny roses I've ever encountered. It took a good 45 minutes to sand them all down, and the thorns were no joke: the gardening gloves didn't really offer any protection, and they were tough enough to shred my sandpaper.

The most ironic thing was that I'd bought another set of roses from a florist at the Paragon on Sunday night, at just $10 for twenty - and they were not only cheaper than those from the wholesalers at Jalan Kayu, but they were thorn-free. Just look at that photo above: the foreground stalks are the thorny ones, and the background stalks are the delightfully civilised and thorn-free ones. It turns our that the fancy-smancy roses from the high-street shopping centre are cheaper and better than the bulk purchase from the wholesale centre.

So this is how Monday night was spent: sandpaper and roses.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My most popular photo

This is apparently my most popular photo on flickr: Lone Tree.

Lone Tree 3

Apparently, this image made it to the top 25 of flickr's "explore" pages, which is not bad. This is also the one image which has received requests from various people to use - for posters, in a magazine, and for some book (which it is totally unrelated to). I've mostly told them yes, since I'm not a pro and I don't make money from my photography.

There is one thing that has always irritated me though ... the largish leaves on the right. In the foreground. They don't belong. And I can't crop them out without losing the tree.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Indonesia Rocks Our World

I was sitting in front of my computer when I thought I was feeling dizzy. Then I realised the room was moving - an inch to either side, a gentle but rapid swaying. And then I was running out the door and downstairs as fast as I could.

7.9 scale quake in Indonesia. I couldn't feel it when I got downstairs, but at the 17th floor, the swaying was enough to terrify me.

Random thoughts as I was putting on clothes and shoes and getting ready to flee in panic:
- Why didn't the cats warn me? I thought they were to supposed to have a 6th sense about these things or something but they just sauntered along like it was nothing. Maybe they only get out of bed for a real quake.
- Should I have brought my Macbook along? (still logged in to World of Warcraft?) In the end, I left it. When I came back, I saw the chat channel where several of my guildmates were also expressing their feelings about the tremors. Like the guy who suddenly typed "wtf. wtf. wtf. wtf. wtf." Kinda says it all about how we were feeling.
- Dammit, I have 4 cats and only 2 cat carriers. And it's not as if they would have cooperated by getting into the carriers anyway. I've gotta train them to run into those things like they're life-rafts or something.

Edit: On the advice of Packrat, I have filled a glass of water and am keeping it beside me - because I'm so paranoid now I can't tell whether I'm dizzy, imagining it, or whether the room is actually moving. Just have to remember not to drink the thing ... =)

Edit: On the way down, I shared the lift, and some conversation (along the lines of "Did you feel that?" "Yeah - did you feel that?" etc) with a neighbour who was also hurrying downstairs. I've lived here for 7 years and I've never seen this woman before: it took an earthquake for me to finally meet my neighbour. How about that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How I Got My First Parking Ticket

I blame World of Warcraft, wikipedia, the Internet, and George Bush.

It all began with Warcraft. After levelling a Hunter to 70, I got bored and started to level a Shaman. I got bored with that and started on a Warrior. And then I saw the Light and decided to level a Paladin (we shall conveniently forget the Druid for the moment). And after rolling female Night Elves and male Draenei, I finally felt ready for a plain old vanilla Human male paladin.

Then came the naming problem. I didn't bother much with the name of the very first character I made: in fact, I asked the people around me for random syllables which I then cobbled together for a name. Bad idea.

Since then, every character I've rolled has gone through an agonizing process of deliberation for naming. I wanted the Hunter to be Artemis (goddess of the hunt), but had to settle for Artem since that was taken (and I didn't want Artemys, Artimis, or another other creative mispelling). The Shaman was named Tostig, after the Earl who inherited his 6 feet of English earth at Stamford Bridge. The Warrior was named Osrik because I was going through a whole Anglo-Saxon naming scheme (I gave up on the whole alternate spelling purist thing: too many people had already taken the obvious, and to my mind correct, spellings).

Now the Paladin, I had the perfect name for: Mjolnir. After all, Paladins are a hammer wielding class, and what better name than the most famous hammer of all: Thor's hammer. And, of course, Mjolnir was taken. As was Mjolner, Mjollnir, and Mjollner etc. Evidently other Paladin players had the same idea as me.

So I turned to Google, and discovered another word of similarly ancient vintage: Vajra. Sanskrit, not Norse. The thunderbolt. The diamond mace. The symbol of knowledge that smashes ignorance. Now THAT was a good name.

So now I had a name for my Paladin. And naturally my mind wandered to the next thing ... that's right: accessories. I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great if I could get a miniature vajra symbol, like a pendant, or a handphone dongle.

Another set of Google searches determined that South Bridge Road (Chinatown) held the highest concentration of shops selling buddhist paraphernalia (a category of merchandise I didn't even know existed). A plan was formed: drive down to Chinatown ... park somewhere ... look for a shop ... that sold vajras.

And you know what the parking is like in Chinatown right? Right - horrendous. I ended up parking at the first place I could find a lot, in a large car park next to a big new red building I hadn't noticed before. It wasn't till I got out of the car that I realised I had just parked next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. And a thought occurred to me: "Do Buddhist temples have gift shops?"

This one does. And lo and behold, amongst the incense, CDs of monks chanting, and fashionable tea-light holders ... yep: vajra handphone dongles (see picture above).

15 minutes later I was out of the temple and back in the car park. To find my first parking ticket. So you see, I blame World of Warcraft, wikipedia, and the internet in general.

And George Bush? Well, we blame him for everything anyway, don't we?

Random iTunes shuffling thoughts on a Monday

(1) I did not know there was a poem called “Why I Take Care Good Care of My Macintosh Computer”, or indeed that I had a recording of it. By Gary Snyder. Nice poem. Link to words and recording here.

"Because I have let it move in with me
right inside the tent
And it goes with me out every morning
We fill up our baskets, get back home,
Feel rich, relax, I throw it a scrap and it hums."

(2) Sylvia Plath's voice sounds too sonorous and deep, too “performed” for the frailty in “Daddy”: you expect something more raw, more primal, for this poem, yet you get this considered, crafted voice. Doubly creepy. In the same way as seeing Christopher Walken dance on that Fatboy Slim video. Brrr.

(3) Tom Waits has all these great songs about sailors - sleazy bars in Asian ports of call, populated with a host of creepy low-life characters etc ... but has he ever been in the navy? A quick wikipedia check shows he was in the Coast Guard ... but the US Coast Guard doesn't go on shore leave in Hong Kong, surely? Still these are great songs ... great imaginings of what shore leave ought to be like:

" ... in a Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels
I rolled down the gutter to the Blood Bank
and I'd left all my papers on the Ticonderoga
and was in a bad need of a shave
and so I slopped at the corner on cold chow mein
and shot billards with a midget
until the rain stopped ... "

You also can't fault a guy who wrote a pirate song about Singapore ( “We sail tonight for Singapore / Don't fall asleep when you're ashore” ... yarr!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

about those dive photos ...

Although I didn't take any underwater photos of the dives, at least one person did: Mathieu Meur was on this particular dive trip, and his photos can be seen at his flickr site here. He has some incredible shots. How incredible, you ask? Well, he wrote the PADI manual on underwater digital photography ...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A dive trip post without dive photos

No, no photos this time. I really must get myself one of those waterproof housings, but until I do, we're stuck with wordy descriptions.

Highlights: I'm finally comfortable enough with the diving to stop consciously thinking about the process, and enjoy the diving. Buoyancy is right, gear is ok, so I spent most of the dives indulging my curiosity. Since there weren't many big fish around, I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at these christmas tree worms (found some pictures on someone else's flickr page), wondering if they had eyes/were light-sensitive or whether their defensive reaction (to withdraw into their tubes) was motion-based. Yes, I could Google that. But dive boats don't have internet connections, and anyway, I was curious.

My conclusion? Motion-sensitive: moving a hand over them to block the light causes no reaction, unless it's close, and shining a dive-torch at them at night, and then blocking the light, also causes no reaction - unless the movement is near. It's possible they have both, but the defensive reaction is triggered primarily by movement. You have to be about 20cm from them before they react, and it takes about 1 minute before they extend their feathery gills again. They usually extend them in slow stages, the same way snails would re-extend their eye-stalks after you poke them - a little bit first, then after the presumed predator does not bite anything off, the rest comes out.

Speaking of gear, I managed to repair the dive mask. The first few dives were tentative, with me bringing a spare mask down and having to replace masks halfway through due to continued flooding, but a little tinkering here and there with tightening the screws and the mask worked out fine. I finally figured out that the mask has to be worn really low on the face because the rubber seal is really short under the nose, and that a lot of flooding was happening through that part of the mask.

Low-points: getting seasick after the second last dive, primarily because they sent the dinghy after us, and sitting in that little zodiac was like the worst of all those assault boat rides back in the army. I had to sit out the last dive, but did manage to spend the time taking some video footage of Sea Eagles diving for fish.

On that last dive I made, we also found a moray eel trapped in an abandoned fish trap. We managed to rip a hole in the wire mesh, and tip the trap over, but the eel wouldn't come out. Blind as bats these things are, and it's hard to see wire mesh anyway, so we had to leave it, being low on air (it figures that you'd find these things with only 60 bar of air left), and hoped that it eventually found its way out. (A while later I found myself wondering whether the fish trap might not have been an ideal situation for the moray: fish would regularly get trapped inside and not be able to escape, and the moray did look quite healthy). I almost got to use my dive knife (Christmas present from the wife last year, an excellent thing , titanium and all) when we needed to cut through the rope, but Gary, our dive leader, was quicker on the draw with his handy little knife and had sawed through the rope before I even got my knife out. What we both lamented was that neither of us had wire cutters to open up the fish trap more - but it's hardly common practice for recreational divers to carry wire cutters.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Spider web

spider web, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Towards the end of the dive trip (more about that in a later post), I disassembled my dive knife to clean and dry it, and left it on the table to dry. I hadn't left it for more than an hour when I came back to find a spider web in the middle of one of the pieces. Amazing what that little spider managed to do in so short a time. In such an ill-chosen location.

He ran away shortly after I took this photo, hopefully to build a web somewhere more permanent.

"The peasant river"

clarke quay, originally uploaded by Wahj.

"The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays"
- "In Memory of W.B. Yeats", Auden

When I first read those lines by Auden, the Singapore river came to mind, winding past Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, but brown and muddy all the same. The two quays may have gotten all dressed up and forgotten their humble origins, but the river remembers: it is still the same simple river it was two hundred years ago.