elb's hovel of thoughts

Monday, June 27, 2005

Too much to do, too little time!!!

I am so going to die. In a space of 9 hours, I have done:

1) call vodafone to obtain phone number code
2) call O2 to enable roaming
3) book an entire holiday
4) buy sunglasses
5) insure my camera
6) send off my v3 for repairs
7) hair cut
8) buy sleeping mask
9) buy Lonely Planet guide books
10) send off two letters to two universities and try to send my application for a sponsored accommodation
11) turn up for graduation photo shoot

BLOODY !()#!_)&!$"!$ Update: Okay lah, not too bad. Am off for my holiday! So no updates for a week. Sorry :P

Too much alcohol, too little time

Help! How am I, a light drinker, to finish all this in two weeks?!!?!?

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From left, clockwise: Villa Maria Riesling 2003, Bin 50 Shiraz 2003, Mulled wine, Midori (French melon-flavoured liquor), Valley Oaks Syrah Rose 2003, Bombay Sapphire, Absolut Vanilia. Not included in picture: Tia Maria.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


I purchased a can of these delicacies at the Guildhall market. The stall was run by a very nice French lady. I also purchased a jar of coarse duck with duck foie gras spread. Unfortunately I had forgotten to take pictures of it before I had finished the whole jar. Sorry! It went well with toasted ciabatta bread with olive oil though :)

Anyway, without further adue, the can of snails!:

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They should rename the brand to 'ugly' though. Why? Continue reading and find out.

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The can is opened.

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Mmmmm... my tummy rumbles in anticipation

But okay la, for the sake of you who have never seen escargots besides the ones overloaded with cheese and garlic at the Western restaurants in Malaysia:

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A second snail:
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Are those eyes?

Never seen the snails from this angle? Don't worry, like I've mentioned earlier, they usually get smothered in cheese and butter and garlic (my reasoning is that the snails are not fresh, hence hide the staleness with tons of that stuff). Despite the looks, they're yummy. Try it!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The RM1000 'no-show'

Warning: Long rant ahead.

Just days before we were due for our holiday, XX messages me and drops the bombshell. It went something like this:

'Sorry, this trip is too expensive for me. I have lost all interest and am pulling out.'

I was stunned for a few seconds. Just when preparations and the lot were falling into place, that was one of the last things the rest of us needed to hear.

Expensive? Yes okay, it probably was. But it was within the initial estimates that we had thrown at her, and she had agreed earlier that it would be fine if the cost was around that level.

'I did my calculations and estimate that we would spend up to easily £1000.'


I recalculated everything again. My total amount was half her projection. Within the expected budget. I explained it to her, detailing the cost for almost everything.

'Sorry, but I have already lost interest. I will give you the money for the airplane ticket and cancel the accommodations.'

I was extremely pissed by then. She had shocked us before: she wanted to lug her bags over 20+ kg with us on the trip on what was supposed to be a backpacking trip (just because she was catching the flight home to Malaysia several hours after landing at Heathrow). Goodness gracious me.

YOU DO NOT LUG HUGE ASS BAGS ON A BACKPACKING JOURNEY. You don't have a fucking tourist bus to leave your bag on; you'd be doing plenty of walking/ running and similar stuff. The most that I would accept for a backpacking journey is a cabin sized bag.

Her 'justifications' for why the cost should not be high:

1) 'Its too expensive'
Hello, trains are not cheap in Europe. A seven hour rail journey in the UK can easily reach triple digits (almost similar throughout the wealthier European nations). And we are visiting a total of 7 stops (overnight at 4). If you want it cheap, then you stay put at one place. But then its no longer travelling, is it? And its some of the most expensive countries in the world we are visiting as well. Get a clue.

2) 'I cannot afford it'
If you cannot afford it, then why did you agree to the budget in the first place? And you're going to spend three days shopping in London prior to the trip? Okay, I'll excuse the fact that you need to grab some gifts for your sister who is getting married, but its not like you're going to spend several hundred pounds! And as if you won't buy other stuff while you're at it (This is what I suspect is the REAL reason why she wants to pull out.)

3) 'We are only going to 2 1/2 countries (please lah, what the hell is 1/2 a country? And we were only supposed to go to 2, not 3 countries, so count yourself priviledged!!) and paying the same price you did when you went to 4 countries (I had used a previous trip to warn her of costs).'

Bloody hell, if the 4 countries are near to each other then duhhhhhh. Whereas the countries we are going to are HUGE. Its like complaining that going around China costs more than covering Central America (okay I have no real idea, but you get the idea)!!

4) 'Did YY tell you he had lost interest?'
Well yes he had, back when the estimates were higher. But now that he finds that the cost was within the initial projection, he was more than happy to go along. Unlike you.

5) 'The itenary is incomplete. I don't like hidden costs.'
Well nobody likes hidden costs. And yes it is incomplete. We're not on a bloody tour for goodness sake. Backpacking is about going around with a rough idea sketched into your mind, looking at the train schedules last minute, walking into dorms in the middle of night and asking for beds (otherwise tough, rough it out in the street). The fact that we had taken care of most of the transport (with a rough idea of the rest) and the accommodation is already sufficient.

And do you know what? I have to plan itenaries for TWO trips. I did it for us because you and YY were busy with exams and projects, while trying to coordinate with my parents (who are coming for my graduation) for the next holiday just a few days later.

6) 'You insist on staying in the centre of the city where it is more expensive.'

When you're staying in the middle of a place you're absolutely not familiar with and have too little time to stay (lets say 24 hours before moving on), time is money. Getting lost could mean missing the train and ruining the plan. Plus, the cost of taking a taxi [OMG LOOK HERE HIDDEN COST CAN YOU SEE THAT], the longer time wasted travelling (and getting lost, as mentioned earlier), and PLUS THE FACT THAT YOU WANTED TO BRING OVER 20KG OF LUGGAGE, and you still want to stay at a ho(s)tel 5 km away that is just a few pounds cheaper? Simply amazing.


I have no idea how on Earth XX had to behave like this. It is not like she had never travelled before; she went with some other university mates to Berlin earlier this year, and has visited a number of countries before. Sigh.

I got YY to talk with her, no luck yet. We are still working to push costs lower (fat hopes it will without cutting out must-see places). Also, with just days to go, the chances of getting a decent priced, well-located place to stay is virtually impossible. DAMMIT!

Note to everyone: The next time you bloody commit to something, DON'T FUCKING BACK OUT.

UPDATE: After some talking to, XX is back on the trip! Woohooo!

Friday, June 24, 2005

My picture

To those of you who have never seen me before and am wondering how I look:

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There you are :P Damn, don't I look like paparazzi?

Pushing me further away.

I was browsing around Screenshots a day or so ago.

I thought I was reading a satire for a second, until I took a closer look at the transcript. I was flabbergasted for a minute; this behaviour was beyond belief. A Dato' Seri should know his bloody manners. Well, at very least, a Dato' Seri who achieved that title through sheer hard work and perseverence should know better *cough*. I can't think of many other moments when I felt ashamed to be Malaysian.

Incidents like these and even more push me further away from my desire to come home. Part of me wants to go back, to help to build the economy and industry in a transparent manner. To return to somewhere familiar, where I spent most of my years growing up, stupidly believing that Malaysia was really 'fair'. To sit down at the mamak stall with friends, having a cup of teh tarik and catch up with things.

The other part of me wants out, to be handed a fair deck of cards. Where everybody has their chance, and not bloody claim it as their 'right'. For the unlucky in life, I can understand the little push of help. But the comfortable? The rich? My parents, my friends, so many people tell me to take the opportunity that I have to secure a job abroad and to make my own bed here. Even my ex-girlfriends' parents were telling their daughters: 'Wahhh very nice... one day you will get the chance to live overseas!' (although that is probably unrelated to my reason for opting out).

To be able to support my children in the same manner that my parents have given me this priviledge. I don't think I'll be able to afford such an education for my offspring. To earn that kind of money in Malaysia is not easy; most of it requires boot polishing. Whereas I'm too direct and a bit too tactless for my own good.

That other Muslims from other countries get to pay bumiputera fees for courses (okay, someone please correct me if I'm wrong), whereas the other races have to pay through the nose. We're not even treated anything like citizens in our own country. My friend's boyfriend, a Hong Kong national, balks at this thought. Never mind that he'll be an expatriate should he work in Malaysia, he'd be treated the same like the rest of the Malaysian Chinese. I may be a 'second class' citizen here, but like I've mentioned before: I get a better playing field.

(Actually, do you know what? The UK has a 'positive discrimination' policy: If you're in the minority, you'd get a better shot at certain jobs. Fat hopes that that would ever happen if you're an Indian in Malaysia.)

My father told me this three years ago, days before I left to start my degree:
'If you ever feel like it, and get the opportunity, get a job overseas. We could always visit each other. '

I have a feeling that he was telling me indirectly that he wants me to get away from all of this.

Most of my friends have scattered across the globe anyway, with the exception of a couple of dear friends whom I still hang out very frequently with. You know who you are.

I have made some wonderful friends with the locals over here. I love it when I bump into random people and we have a brief chat: for example the lady whose shopping I helped carry, the guy on his evening cycle and chatted with me for a few moments while I was snapping pictures with my camera, and the old couple at the traffic light whom I had to wave at to inform them that their lights were not switched on. Could I ever have the same thing back home, where half the people are paranoid and afraid of everyone else?

I attend a church which I love; full of wonderful people and fantastic kids. Although I still probably have quite a bit of culture catch up to do. Eventhough I'm likely to shift for my next degree, and again if I eventually get a job, I'm sure I'd be able to fit in reasonably well.

To get a job for a few years and to return back home one day? At the rate things are going, I might only ever return as a tourist. Unless I fail to secure a job here lah, which is a good possibility because work permits are frustratingly hard to get. But with some luck, I might be able to get myself one. And they wonder why the educated people end up migrating?

I don't know. A tear rolled down my cheek; for myself, the others caught in the same position as me, and Malaysia.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Annoying cheesy elevator music

I'm sick of all needing to make all these phonecalls to companies which get thrown into a queue. Don't you get annoyed when you call up a company, and you get relegated to a queue which could go on for more than half an hour? Either you get:

1) to listen to a ringing tone followed by the usual 'We are sorry, but all our operators are busy. Your call is important to us and we will get to you as soon as possible.' Repeat multiple times. Annoying. My old broadband provider did well at this, the answering machine would tell me from time to time how many customers were ahead of me and an estimated wait time. At least I knew I could hang up and try later if the queue was an hour long.

2) made to listen to worthless adversitisements non stop and get bored to tears.

3) forced to listen to cheesy elevator music, which ALWAYS sounds like a broken elevator record. I mean, don't bloody spoil a classic like Duran Duran's 'Come Undone' with the shabby quality!!! Either play decent quality music (I'm not asking for Lynn quality), or don't at all. Come to think of it, most of the elevator music they play is shit to begin with. But that leaves the first two options, which are no better.

I prefer a fourth option. In this option, you can leave your telephone number when you are on queue, or if you want to, you could enter your telephone number into the company's web site and they would call back as quickly as possible. Even your mobile! Something used by my insurance company. It beats needing to hold the phone to the ear for ages, especially since most of us don't have speakerphone facility.

More companies should adopt this (or the suggestion at the end of 1)in my opinion, it makes for better customer relations and puts the customer first, always a good thing.

p.s. Congrats to the PPS Award winners :)


Ever wondered about the inspiration for the way army camouflage uniforms look?

I think this tree does it pretty well:

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1/8 s, F/3.5, 18mm, ISO 100, Partial metering, Aperture priority.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My mobile malfunctioned

I'm annoyed. I already have so many things to do, and to add to my woes, my mobile phone malfunctions on me. How did this happen?

I left the V3 on my my desk overnight; the battery ran out, so I plugged it into the charger, tried starting it, but I only got a flicker from the keypad. Annoyed, I unplug the charger, plugged it back, and tried to switch it on a second time; I got an electronic sizzle instead. Oops! Dammitttttttttt!!!!!

I noted that the battery cover had signs of a liquid. Opening it, the back of the cover had some creamy whitish substance that had a metallic smell to it *doesn't want to imagine the perverted thoughts running through everyone's minds*.

The battery looked alright, weirdly. However, the SIM card has burn marks on it (it still works though), with signs of burning in the SIM card slot (not on the contacts though).

The particular spot on the desk where the phone was left overnight was examined; there was traces of liquid there. I have no idea as to whether it was some water which happened to be there previously, or whether it is chemical residue. If I am not mistaken, a burnt SIM card is not characteristic of a water-influenced short circuit.

Can anyone advise me as to whether it could be an(accidental) liquid damage or rather, a battery leak?

The people at the phone shop where I got it from don't know, and I am reluctant to send it in to them in case they charge me if it were not a genuine technical problem (warranty; also my accidental damage insurance policy is not with them).

Bah, and I'm supposed to go away on holiday next week?

Monday, June 20, 2005

MBT update: 3 weeks

It has been almost three weeks since I have started using MBT shoes, completing the one-hour-a-day-for-the-first-week breaking in period.

Hazard Alert: These shoes are liabilities when going down tiny (read: small contact point between shoe and stair, in comparison with the total surface area of the shoe) staircases, as I found out when I slipped one rung going down one such staircase with a cuppa of latte balanced on a tray with one hand. Thank God that I managed somehow to regain my balance and avoid injury (and embarassment!) with nothing more than a loud thud as I regained my footing.

I attribute this due to the shifted pivot point of the MBT shoes (my weight would be focused on the centre of the shoe, not at the heel of the shoe, as in conventional shoes which would have kept me stable otherwise.)

Okay, I think I'll just illustrate it.

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There you go. Now you know what I'm on about. If you don't let me explain briefly: The pivot point of conventional ('ordinary' shoes) is towards the heel, thus helping with balance going down the stairs. However, the pivot is towards the centre of the MBTs, and if that point is hanging in mid-air, it is easy to fall over.


Walking with these shoes is now a normal routine. The differences between walking in MBTs and my Timberlands can be felt. However, I am not comfortable with the idea of wearing the MBTs for a full day outing / holidays: I am capable of partically non stop standing and walking for extended periods of time (my record was over 13 hours, with a total break of under 1 hour) and usually am at the point of collapse during those uber-outings; I feel that the MBTs will be a liability in these situations.


I have tried the MBTs on while running on the treadmill. The soles of my feet feel more natural upon contact when compared with my Asics; however the Asics will remain as the main workhorse (simply because I paid an almost similar price for it for exclusive use while running), although I am certain the MBTs would probably be more beneficial in the long run.


Rumours are the MBTs are supposed to give a better 'feel' while driving. To be confirmed.

Posture & Toning:

Too early to tell, and I doubt I will ever really notice. Simply because I press weights with my legs regularly and am doing correctional stretching to improve my posture.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Photography: Zoom Effect

One of the many effects in photography is called the zoom effect. This is achieved via using a reasonably long exposure, and zooming in on a target whilst the photograph is being taken. It creates a sense of speed of the area surrounding the target; basically almost everything gets blurred out, depending on the speed of the zoom and the exposure length. Still blur? Here's a sample shot:

The area immediately inside the entrance of the Museum of Natural History, London:

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1/6 s, F3.5, 18mm, ISO1600, EV 0, Shutter priority.

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1/6 s, F3.5, 18 - ?? mm, ISO 1600, EV 0, Shutter priority.

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1/3 s, F4.5, 18 - ?? mm, ISO 1600, EV 0, Shutter priority.

The picture above is brighter simply because of the doubled exposure time; I thought that it was a pretty good shot considering that I wasn't using a tripod then! More detail of the sides of the walls are also seen as a result. The statues are also clearer because less time was spent zooming the lens but holding it steady. Don't they seem to have an air of life around them, like ghosts? ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Flights of Fancy

One thing about certain people that I cannot simply comprehend are those who pretend to be who they are not. For example, let's say we have someone who is currently studying economics. Nothing wrong with that subject mind you, that just popped up to mind. Not good enough? Alright, let's use chemical engineering then.

So let's say that we have a student reading chemical engineering. Just one of the thousands around the world. But wait! That student likes to write as if he is a real chemical engineer! He or she goes around telling everyone 'I'm a chemical engineer specializing in petroleum drilling (for example), and I think....'

Is there something wrong? Well duhhhh. He's a bloody student after all, and he's trying to act smart and pretending to be a professional and all that? And what more if the student lives in a dream where everything and everyone has been engineered beyond recognition. Flights of fancy indeed.

Then on to another case. I know someone who has been telling other people that she was doing a degree in chemical engineering (degree changed to maintain some semblance of privacy) and all that in lets say, Wales. Fair enough. So I ask her for a phone number so that we could meet up in London or something. Excuse after excuse was given.

Next thing I knew, she was back in KL, apparently transferring her degree 'due to a problem'. When she knew that I would be back at my church (which she has joined) soon for the summer, she was forced to confess to me: 'I have not even gone to university yet.'

She obviously had no choice. It was either four things:
1) She would have to quit my church temporarily;
2) or I would embarass her in front of everyone else when I met up with her along with other friends (apparently other people know the truth);
3) or she could continue with the masquerade (which would be unsuccessful because I would talk about all things UK and she wouldn't have a bloody clue).
4) or she could come clean (which is what happened).

What the hell! You are all no longer kiddies, where if you told any grown up 'I'm a doctor!' you'd be given a smile and a pat on the head. Grrr...

Biotechnology: What it takes

(Note: Impromptu and not well researched)

For those of you wondering what the big hoo-haa about biotechnology is, read the news around you. Genetically modified plants. Cloning of animals and possibly humans. Research into the levitation of cells using electrical dipoles to simulate vacuum to enable cells to grow in a proper 3D environment. Separation and purification of biological products to produce (medical) drugs. Cereal technology. And so on.

One of the biggest problems of biotechnology and biochemical engineering in particular, is cost. There is a big need to investigate alternative methods to allow affordable public access to biotechnology solutions. Unfortunately it (research) appears to be a low priority, at least in Malaysia.

I myself would be reading a Masters course along the lines of biotechnology later this year; and I am also considering doing a PhD in biochemical engineering in a couple of years, amongst other things. However, why should I return to Malaysia? Besides some of the troubles highlighted here. Plenty of graduate engineers end up doing sales, or in the case of PhDs, get mostly relegated to lecturing, or get no job because of 'overqualification'.

The mentality has to change. Patronisation and appointments of position without the appropriate qualifications must be shed. Promotions, pay increments and the like are to be done on merit, and not based on whims and fancy and arse licking. People with the suitable qualifications would usually be smart enough to smell a rat easily, therefore not even a stealth patronisation policy is recommended.

The ability to THINK is most crucial. You have to be innovative, and be able to approach the problem from an entirely new angle. Following blindly will not get anywhere. It is also a fast growing multi disciplinary field, and anyone doing it needs to be able to be able to adapt.

The employees should be willing to accept that a sizeable proportion of the employees would most definitely be much more qualified than them. It is after all, an industry that requires a highly qualified and specialized workforce to go far. Better still, the employer (or at least the supervisor/ immediate boss) should hold an equal or higher qualification. This is to help the employees feel more at home and have less resentment at having 'a less qualified person as their boss'. This in effect implies that practically everyone should be suitably qualified. And of course, pay is another issue, I shall not delve into it.

And of course, the appropriate equipment is required. It is unreasonable to expect the research facilities to have a piece of analytical equipment worth over one million ringgit (such as one of the latest purchases of the chemical engineering department of Imperial College) unless they have sufficient capital and can justify a need for it. But the most important thing is that the equipment should be appropriate and actually works for its purpose. No mysterious disappearances of funds should occur either.

But where should the money for all this be gotten from? The government has to recognize and to help out universities by giving research grants. Commercial companies could depend on loans initially along with the manufacture of OEM and generic products to generate sufficient revenue.(unless they have a wealthy investor). Eventually they will obtain sufficient income to be able to pay off their own research costs. Even better is if a bigger company takesover / merges (choose whichever you prefer) with the smaller company. More equity can be injected into the financially tighter subsidary from the parent company.

And so on. I'll stop here I guess.

To sum it up: In my opinion, research needs to be a priority and be given a prominent role, along with competent workers.


The above is a response to Andreas' entry about Malaysia's biotech ambitions, from my perspective.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

(Very) Exotic Taglietti

I made myself a rather fancy dinner using some exotic ingredients: sea urchin, and escargots (that's snails for you who are not familiar with gastronomy terms or French.)

The components?

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Includes (clockwise): lobster butter (top of plate), taglietti, chilli flakes, sea urchin, escargots, garlic, fresh parsley (centre) and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

For a bigger picture, please visit my deviantart site. Friendly reminder: PICTURES ARE COPYRIGHTED BY ME.

Macro shots and a bit more in-depth description of selected components will be dealt with later on in subsequent posts.

The final outcome?

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Okay I know the lighting of the picture (or rather the overall picture) here is very crap and unprofessional compared with the last. I was too hungry.... But it was really nothing more than to point out the exotic stuff.

That's right. No tomatoes or cream. The olive oil and garlic and chilli were sufficient to lend some flavour and body; the delicate flavours of the sea urchin and escargot were allowed to shine through this way.

The taste? Both the sea urchins and escargots are delicate pieces of food, and are yummy on their own. Perhaps it wasn't really necessary to combine both into one dish, but to create separate dishes, especially with the lobster butter taken into account. But then again, you have restaurants combining tiger prawns and scallops and goodness knows what else.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Night Bus Terror Ride

After helping a friend move her belongings to a location along Edgware Road, three of us headed back to Knightsbridge, where we were staying for the night. At 1 something AM, the Underground is shut, so we basically had to catch a night bus. We checked the bus routes. One bus, the number 36, would pass by the appropriate stop.

Simple and straightforward. The bus came, we climbed on and showed our pass, and went to sit upstairs (it was a double decker). So the bus went. By the time it had crossed the Thames river, I could not help but feel some apprehension. Especially after we reached Vauxhall (that is South-East London; we wanted to go South-West). Okay, cool down. The bus would soon turn west and make a circle, I told myself despite the alarm bells going off in my head.

Unfortunately, it was really not to be. The bus continued moving south east. All of the sudden, I spotted on the side of the road: Caribbean Store. African restaurant. Oh shit. Shady characters began to board the bus. Imagine those people in the hip hop videos surrounding you at 2.30am, unsmiling. NOT GOOD. Especially not with my several thousand ringgit camera on me.

Then this weird character came in. He had on his head the most ridiculous makeshift turban (for lack of a better description). It was a huge blue cloth (or was it plastic?) thingy, which reminded me of an Alien:

Image taken from legendshobbies.com

Just replace the skull/ brain of that alien with a big blue mesh enclosing a mass of what I presume was hair, and add a (Middle-Eastern face, if I remember, or was it African) face of someone in his 40s. It would have been hilarious, if not for the situation we were in. I'm afraid my Photoshop skills are too limited for producing a caricature. Sorry :P

So anyway, we were scared shitless. Would you dare to get out and cross the road and wait for the next bus the opposite road in that kind of neighbourhood? I wouldn't. There were a couple of opportunities to get out, run across the road and get back on a returning bus. But the other two were stuck rigid and refused to!

Eventually we arrived at a place called Park Grove (a good hour plus away and probably at least 50 km away from where we wanted to be), where the bus turned around; we finally reached back to my friend's place at 4 something am, very sleepy and very relieved. Especially me, because I wasn't mugged. No pictures available, no bloody way I would dare to take my camera out of its bag.

All because we boarded bus N36 (N for night), whereas the information we garnered earlier was for bus 36. What a whole load of difference it made! Lesson learnt.

p.s. It wasn't a totally Black neighbourhood, but they represent a sizeable figure of the area we passed through. Interesting characters included Mr. Alien; another African man who did his hair into two pigtails, and an African casanova who kept his hand on a Caucasian lady's thigh across the aisle during the time they were on the bus. The rest were characters out of a hip-hop video, some drunks on the way home from the pubs, and some Asian teenagers (the girls were yummy).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hot air balloon: Revisited

Remember how I complained about not being able to take a decent picture of the hot air balloons? (The original entry has now been removed). Well, I've got no more problem, thanks to my new camera's wide angle lens!

This is the old sad picture: Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Here are the new pictures, taken earlier.

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Can you see the difference? :D

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Oh no! The strong wind is blowing us adrift at a dangerous angle!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Games: The Moral Dilemma

As many current games encroach upon the realistic benchmark (although there is such a thing as too realistic), developers have to look for ways to draw attention to their product; one of these is via a dynamic storyline, where the actions that one makes influences the next few levels, and ultimately the ending.

Usually this would be a feature of a genre of games called 'role playing games'. I am sure that most of youare familiar with these games which have their roots in Dungeons & Dragons, with such titles like Planetscape and Baldur's Gate, one of the latest being the Star Wars' Knights of the Old Republic II (KoToR II). Usually these games would have clear cut distinctions between the types of replies (and thus alignment) of your character, but KoToR II blurred the lines considerably.

At any rate here's a little sample of a typical small NPC (a computer controlled character) problem.

Scenario: Your character bumps into a beggar asking for money. Basically you could have three solutions: help the poor guy out, show apathy towards him, or you even hunt him down in cold blood. In short, good, neutral, and evil.

Now, here's the problem. If I give him money, I get berated by my travelling companion. Why?

'If you help him, and everyone helps him, he will never learn to be independent and will continue to rely on handouts' <--- OMG does this sound familiar??? Let me know if you need a hint.

Okay fine, so neutral is probably a decent choice. But then the beggar would plead and weep. Again, OMG so familiar. Grrrrr. Makes you want to cut him down, no?

The only problem is that I can't. I mean, he's just a poor beggar who needs money. He hasn't done me any harm, like point a gun at me or threaten to decapitate me. Its just... not in my nature to be evil (although I'm very capable of being apathetic).

I remember that I had played KoToR II before, twice. In the first, I had no problems playing the good (or 'Light Side'). I enjoyed the great subtle dialogues and everything. The second time around, I wanted to play the opposite side (basically for the cool Force Lightning and to experience the other ending). However, I had great difficulty getting myself to do the necessary evil acts to be 'worthy' of the Dark Side. The only way I could do it was to not read the dialogue and options, but to quickly select the last options (usually the 'good' options were at the top, with the 'bad' options at the bottom.

So for me, the replayability was basically slashed into half. But that's fine, because its not within my character anyway. Ultimately, good would triumph over evil one day.

Have you any such problems with moral decisions in games?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Once upon a time, a bumble bee was busy harvesting strawberry nectar. Bumble bee was no ordinary bee; it could not fly despite having wings.
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But then, the bee saw from the corner of its eye something moving very quickly
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Oh no! It was a bee-killer!
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However, bumble bee quickly did a leap to avoid the projectile from piercing it.
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Bumble bee managed to mount the back of the hideous monster:
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However, the offender started to move vertically. Bumble bee was clinging for dear life.
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Unfortunately, bumble bee could no maintain a hold, and fell to its doom
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Background: Earlier today when I was grabbing something from the kitchen, I noticed a dead bee near the ledge. I decided to do some practise shots using it and my new camera. Please do not expect anything remotely professional from me for the next few months as I get to grips with the camera.

P/S. The first picture can be found in my Deviantart page. Just created :) Feel free to bash me... constructively. Cheers!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

'My' little children

Once a month, I help out with the Sunday School at my church. I get to allow the paedophile in me to work supervise the children in the age group of 3-5 years old, and get to listen to the (sometimes) rather advanced English being used. I mean, a 5 year old being able to recognize the word 'gigglepuss'? Do half of you even know what the heck that is?

At any rate, yes, I also help to distribute the goodies and nick some for myself. I also get to clean up their mess after arts and craft too. Yay! At any rate, it is an immensely rewarding experience; it gives you an opportunity to remember the good old days when you were right and everybody else was wrong, amongst other things. And not to mention testing one's patience (Although to be honest, the kids that I help out with are quite well behaved! Maybe its because its church so they behave extra special)!

It is such a shame when I talk with some of my other guy friends:

'Kids? Nahhhhh... not for me!'
'You're asking me to help out with little kids? Errrr.. I'm no good with kids!' (For the record, I'm not very good with them either.)

Please take note: One day you will most probably be a father. It doesn't hurt to get some experience with little kids before you go through it yourself. Same for you, young women!

Introducing Iona, my favourite amongst the bunch that I work with. She just turned five today, bless:
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She has an ever more charming laugh, I need to grab a picture of her doing that!

Here's little Samuel, whose father Matthew I had mentioned briefly before. He is expecting his younger sibling in a couple of days. He's very mischievious and manja.
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Such rosy cheeks!

And here's Malachi, aka Mr Gigglepuss (see beginning of post)
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There are a few more of course. But these three are my favourites :P I bet they will grow up to be lookers ;)

Saturday, June 04, 2005


A couple of days ago, I bought some pieces of dessert from the pastry counter of one of the supermarkets here. It was surprisingly heavier than what I had anticipated, and that meant I had to pay more (it was being sold according to weight).

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There were actually six pieces. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

At any rate, I have difficulties pinpointing the exact origins of this yummy pastry: it probably originated in the Balkans or in ancient Russia, judging by its name. Looking it up gives me contradicting answers; some people claim that its a Turkish creation while others insist that its Balkan. Who cares? Let's eat!

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It consists of basically three layers: The filling at the middle, and layers of filo pastry on the top and bottom. The base is then soaked in honey or syrup or something similar. This particular baklava was made using pistachio filling; some recipes call for walnuts, while rose water syrup (no, not your Rose cordial like back in Malaysia) was used. It was also dusted with some pistachio powder, I believe, looking at the green stuff scattered all around.

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Burp! (sorry about the skewed focus, I was enjoying myself ;) )

Its good stuff, if not too sweet.

Friday, June 03, 2005

My first cooking mishap

Believe it or not, for the first time since I started cooking over three years ago, I have finally managed to burn one of my works of gastronomy. Not to say that I have never screwed up the taste of my food before; been there, done that. But never before have I managed to get this:

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Does anyone want to guess what it is?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Joined PPS

After ages of tending to my little turf in a small patch of data only worth a couple of MegaBytes, I decided that I would join the main blogging community in Malaysia - Project Petaling Street.

After a couple of days of trying to sort out my registration, I have managed to ping my first ping - the entry which can be seen below.

Have you gone Masai Barefoot yet?

A month ago, I was browsing a local magazine and came across this small article on 'Masai Barefoot Technology'. Apparently, someone had invented a pair of shoes which could help reduce back pain, and helps with cellulite reduction and helps to tone the legs etc etc.

How does this happen? Just look at the people in the Masai tribe in Africa. Have you ever wondered how the heck they have a straight rod-like posture?

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Just look at them, not a hint of hunchbackness. Picture from 50plusexpeditions.com

The shoes that we so commonly wear distribute the stress to the muscles disproportionately than what nature intended. This results in back pain, underworked muscles, et cetera. These shoes were supposed to be able to 'recreate' a rugged and uneven surface for the body to work against.

I was skeptical as always with all these 'magic bullets'. But it did seem interesting, and considering that I've turned into a bit of a health junkie, I decided to read more. I looked up the details of the nearest dealer, which was thankfully only 7 minutes walk away (there are only two stores carrying these stuff in the region).

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How on earth did I get convinced to part with my money???

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Another angle of the simple box

So I popped by a couple of days ago out of curiosity. The assistant was very helpful and obliging.

'I've started wearing these three and a half months ago, and now I have two pairs.'
'My boyfriend just said a few days ago that my butt was firmer!' (errr okay I didn't need to know)
'These aren't really shoes, they're officially labelled as 'therapeutic devices' and are usually only available via physiotherapists...'

There are only eight models available: one sandals, one boots, one business shoes, the rest variations of 'sports' shoes.

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It came with instructions. In VCR format. WHO USES VCR THESE DAYS?!!?? GIVE ME A DVD DAMMIT!

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My first impression:

'These shoes look like they are on platforms!' Oh boy.

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Ah Beng No-No = Platforms. I-don't-want-to-be-Ah-Lians beware!

But to heck with it, its a pair of shoes for which the 'platforms' have a purpose. Not for the tall ones, and if you're a tall girl, you might want to consider leaving your now shorter boyfriend. Why does it have a 'platform'? I investigate.

'The sole of the shoe has 12 layers (no bloody wonder why it looks like a platform!). The rear of the shoe deforms very easily under pressure, meaning that if you stand using the way you would with a normal pair of shoes, you would fall back. You are now forced to stand upright and to balance yourself.'


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Can you see what my thumb can do to it? Imagine your entire body weight....

Anyway I tried the boots on to begin with. I was forced to wear a size and a half smaller than usual. Apparently people go for a size lower, but I can explain away the other half by my improving fitness. The first time I stood up, whoa! I had to adjust my posture and position from the typical shoe posture. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, although apparently plenty of people take some time to do so....

'It can burn triple the calories of that when you walk normally'. Why am I not surprised, with the effort it takes to maintain balance? Just imagine running in these babies!

Trial walking:
Walking is a breeze. Just the typical heel-to-toe method. No problemo. It obviously feels different from a typical shoe for the reasons stated above.

After almost an hour of trying out, I was satisfied that the shoe would do as promised. The assurance that nobody has ever complained nor returned a pair to the shop (and they sell lots, so they refused to give me a discount) helped a lot.

It has been two days, and I can tell you all that there is a very noticable difference when walking around in these shoes. Whether or not it contributes to my fitness aims, time will tell.

The damage? I was hesitantly convinced to part with 130 GBP. That's RM1xxx for you, and a hell lot of money for me. I'm not rich, I just got convinced that these shoes would do me enough good to be worth that much. However, I don't expect it to make an appearance in shoe shops in Malaysia anytime soon. Update: Chewyx says that you actually can purchase MBTs in Malaysia. How much though, I don't know.

For more information, visit here: http://www.mbt-uk.com/