elb's hovel of thoughts

Monday, July 31, 2006

HDDs still unaccessible! Argh!

After almost three weeks, I finally got my desktop running. However, I still cannot access my old harddisks (I've tried changing cables, different SATA/IDE channels, but they still don't show up in My Computer, sigh.), and am still looking for someone else with a desktop to see what can be done.

In the worst case scenario, I probably lost a good portion of my electronic copies of work, lectures, assignments from both my undergraduate and postgraduate work (argh!), some of my current research work of which I should have some copies elsewhere; a couple of hundred mp3s (no big deal really); and over six months worth of pictures, including those of Spain, Hungary and France, as well as those from a couple of special occasions and all that.

Damn it!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Upgrading Desktop / British Intl Motorshow

Just the other day when I attempted to switch on my desktop, my desklight went off. The computer never started either; a power surge or something had occured. After running around and having the people restart the tripper two days later (they deemed it non-essential because my main lights were still working, pah I have work to do you know?), I realised that my power supply would not work any longer. So I decided to go online and to purchase a new power supply. 23 quid in a few days, easy peesy.

I received the new PSU soon enough. Remove the cables, attach the new cables, and start. I heard the whirring of fans, but my monitor displayed nothing. Frowning, I left the computer to idle for a bit and upon examination found out that the graphics card was cold. Either the graphics card was dead as well, or part of the motherboard fried together with the PSU.

Deciding that it was time to make the leap to PCI-E from AGP, I set a modest budget of 300 quid to obtain the necessary equipment. I walked out of Tottenham COurt Road with a Pentium D 930 (instead of the popular D 805), a 7900GT (instead of the 7600GT) which remains the white elephant, a SLI - enabled PCI-E motherboard by ASUS, and the unnecessary purchase of the 1GB of DDR2 RAM. Unnecessary because DDR2 is supposed to be backward compatible with the DDR!!!!

Talking with a friend later, he pointed out to me the PCI-E power cord. I swear I had never felt more out of touch with computer technology at that point (forgive me since I have devoted much attention to photography). So I had to buy a power supply which would give me enough juice and the appropriate SLI support, which pushed my budget to double of the initial cost. Bah!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The new Lego bricks.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Expensive Lego bricks they are.

Eventually I got everything fixed and started the computer. Much to my relief it booted and I fiddled with the BIOS setup settings and restarted. Horror, the computer started to reboot everytime it reached the Windows loading screen (you know, the black screen with the Windows logo and the moving bar at the bottom). I could not enter safe mode either.

Therefore, I attempted to use the Windows XP installation CD to repair things. Everything went fine at first, the device driver files were being loaded. Right after that, just before the options to repair/ reinstall/ format HDDs were given, I received a blue screen of death: Error 0x0000007B. Awesome.

Consultations with friends lead me to conclude that the problems I was facing was either: 1) Faulty RAM. 2) I forgot to uninstall and clean my old motherboard files from my HDD 3) My HDDs were goners.

It doesn't appear to be #1 because I returned the RAM and got a new one from a different batch, but the problems persist. I therefore spent another 50 pounds on a new HDD which should arrive soon; hopefully Windows will install onto it and that I can rescue 20GB or so of my pictures. Sigh.


Oh, I visited the British International Motorshow at the Docklands. It was great, lots of awesome cars and the works. However I am in no mood to post a detailed entry with pictures etc, because I extremely pissed off at the fact that I lost my CF card with half the pictures that I took. Thankfully the 2GB is still around and I still have some awesome pictures. But the pictures of the Maybach concept car etc etc are gone. Bloody hell!!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Searing heat

Its been absolutely baking hot the past couple of weeks as summer burns on, and as parts of London's parks turned into a Sahara desert due to a shortage of water. Its seriously no joke when the weather can reach highs of 36 celsius and there is virtually no air conditioning. Its bad enough walking, its worse on the buses and its horrible taking the Underground, especially if you're on the lines which are deep underground.

Oh, speaking about the Underground, there are plans to build a new line from Heathrow - Ealing Broadway - Paddington - Bond Street - Tottenham Court Road - Liverpool Street to the east of London. It is called 'Crossrail' and will hopefully open by 2012, subject to parliamental approval. As a side note, some of the buses are now air conditioned - as I found out as I climbed onto the upper deck of a couple of the double deckers.

Fortunately for me, half the time I work in the biological labs, which are air conditioned - and if I really want to, I have access to a huge walk-in 4 celsius storage room, a -20 freezer and even a -86 freezer. Not to mention a huge cylinder of liquid nitrogen.

Anyway, I've taken the liberty of travelling outside of London towards the Midlands for the weekend to try to escape the heat. And escaped I did, as within an hour of reaching my destination it started to rain heavily. Tomorrow we're driving up to Alton Towers as well. Woohoo! Pray it doesn't rain and that its not too hot either.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Multiple Light Source Photography

First of all, let us examine how the picture would look if it were only lit from the front/ top.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As you can see, the object is unevenly lit; there are strong shadows towards the back. So I introduced a light source towards the rear left; a tungsten lamp.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I introduced a third light source towards the right, a white diffused 430EX flash.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The rear lighting balances the difference between the rear and front a bit; however as you can see, there is a very strong shadow where the cup is. Therefore I decided to move the rear right light source towards the middle right.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The next step is to remove the harsh shadow in the middle of the cup. This is done by increasing the strength of both the 580EX and the 430EX to provide a stronger light.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As you can see, the shadows at the right side of the cup all but disappears. The front/top light source was decreased in strength whereas the right light source was increased. The warmth of the tungsten light is more apparent as a result. However now shadows appear to the left of the box because the right light source is too bright:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I changed the diffuser of the 580EX to a warm-up diffuser, and dialled down the strength of the 430EX.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Finally, I increased both the strength of the 430EX and 580EX.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And of course, that image was used for the previous post.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thick, rich hot chocolate

Following a friend's recommendation, I popped by Paul's the other day to get myself some hot chocolate. This despite the hot summer day that we had over here. And oh, a coffee eclair as well.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Incidentally, the above picture is also my first experiment at using a slave flash. 580EX as master (with gold diffuser), 430EX as slave (with white diffuser) and a tungsten light source were used to obtain this picture).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A closer look at the incredibly thick and rich hot chocolate. How many of you have drank hot chocolate to reach the thick bit at the very bottom? Well, this hot chocolate is all that. Its so viscous that its clinging to the sides of my cup right now and refusing to move downwards. Unfortunately, it is also too rich for my liking. 2 quid for the large cup (400ml).

Paul (Maison de Qualite) [very famous in France, according to my French mates]
At various locations all around London (and the UK maybe?)

Litle update: The chocolate on the walls of the cup solidifies when it eventually cools down and can be 'flaked' off the walls - just to give you an idea of how rich it is.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Vendéglő a Zsákbamacskához (Zsákbamacskához Bistro)

It was still raining when we reached this restaurant, as recommended by a hotel staff. Zsákbamacskához apparently is the name of a cat cartoon character, or something to that effect.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The signage outside

The restaurant was located in the basement:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Because it was raining, it was empty despite it being a Friday night. Do note the way they keep their bottles towards the top of their bar!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

One of the starters was a dumpling soup topped with cream

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The dumplings were hidden somewhere inside...

A main dish of catfish cooked in some tomato tinged sauce, served with lots of steamed vegetables

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Another main dish of grilled goose liver with steamed apple slices and potato croquettes. The croquettes were absolute classic; the apple slices complemented the rich slices of gooses liver (which unfortunately wasn't of foie gras standard, but at 13 euroes, you can't expect foie gras).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We had a dessert of somli with chocolate sauce, but no pictures sorry.

And a little souvenir taken from the restaurant:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
There you go, a little picture of the aforementioned cartoon character in that postcard

Vendéglő a Zsákbamacskához
Lovag utea 3
1066, Budapest

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Malaysian Eateries in London

There are a few Malaysian restaurants that I have eaten at in London so far, unfortunately there are no pictures, sorry. Restaurants listed in the order that I can recall them. I stress that I hardly eat Malaysian food here in London (there is so much more to eat than just Malaysian food, you know), so I have been to only a few places. And as for the omission of Malaysian Hall's canteen, well, I've never been there. I always somehow end up going to Four Seasons or to a friend's place instead.


Location: Formerly located in Chinatown (just a few shops down from the notorious triad-run Wong Kei, now a Korean sundry shop). Now located in Soho, approachable by walking straight down the middle exit of Gerrard Street. Look out for the Malaysian flag propped outside.

Impressions: Oh my goodness. Is this really Kopitiam? How it has changed so much! From the typical canteen look to a more chic New-World look dominated by the dark brown colour of varnished wood. They even provide wine glasses, something definitely absent from their previous premises.

Food sampled: Seafood and egg noodles (海鲜蛋面), teh tarik and soya bean milk.

Comments: Definitely the best noodles I've had in years, convincingly beating the rest! The teh tarik was served in a porcelain mug and was alright. The soya bean milk was authentic, unlike other places which use Yeo's soyamilk, if not a tad sweet. Service was fast and unobtrusive, but then again it was 5pm.

Costs? Around £8 - £10 per person if individual dishes are ordered with a non-alcoholic drink

Recommend?: If the rest of the food is as good as the seafood and egg noodles, definitely!


Mawar: Located amongst the many Arabian places of Edgware Road.

Impressions: Uhoh, I’m back in Malaysia already! Malay was being spoken from many tables, and with the definite Malaysian accent and slang. The oh-so-obvious-you’re-Malay tudung was spotted all over the place.

Food sampled: Beef rendang with rice, sup kambing (goat soup), soya bean milk.

Comments: The food was okay, I have tasted much better in many places in Malaysia. Nothing to shout about, really. Sup kambing was nicely spiced. Soya bean milk was a disaster. Yeo’s soya milk is crap.

Costs? Around £8 - £10 per person if an individual dish is ordered with a drink.

Recommend? Not really.

Warning: Mawar was rated as one of the top 10 unhygienic restaurants in London a few months back.



Location: Hidden away in a small side street off Chinatown, near Pizza Express. The signage outside the restaurant contains the Twin Towers. A second branch exists somewhere else in London.

Impressions: Typical economy restaurant and busy busy busy during peak hours. Expect to share tables.

Food sampled: Seafood and egg noodles, nasi lemak.

Comments: The noodles were mostly bland. The nasi lemak was decent, but definitely not the best.

Costs? Around £8 - £10 per person if an individual dish is ordered with a non-alcoholic drink.

Recommend? Not really. Avoid peak hours if you do not want to share tables; even Four Seasons has the courtesy of asking you if you mind to share tables (and if you don’t, they respect that despite there are only two of you taking up a table for four and the queue is forty minutes long.)


Lagenda Restaurant

Location: Situated at the Holiday Villa hotel, near Bayswater.

Lagenda Restaurant. Picture from Holiday Villa's official site

Impressions: It is in a hotel, and was well decorated with things Malaysian, with pieces of kain songket propped up along the well, et cetera. Almost empty despite it being during peak dining hours.

Food: Char kway teow, satay, nasi goreng

Comments: Satay was a disappointment; we were hoping for something similar to what we could get in Malaysia. We got something similar to the British supermarkets. Char kway teow was so-so, as usual, without the cockles. Nasi goreng was okay only.

Costs? Around £10 - £15 per person if an individual dish is ordered with a non-alcoholic drink.

Recommend? If you are in the area, maybe you might want to go to Malaysian hall instead?



Location: Situated in the sleazy part of Soho at Peter St, directly opposite a few sex shops. More brances exist.

Food sampled: Beef rendang with rice, teh tarik, fried chicken

Comments: This place has an extensive menu and you will get lost wanting to eat all the food you miss from Malaysia. The beef here was tender and melt in your mouth. Thumbs up! However the fried chicken consisted of chicken breast, which isn't the best cut of chicken for deep frying.

Costs? Around £6 - £8 per person if an individual dish is ordered with a non-alcoholic drink.

Recommended?: Yes, but at the moment, Kopitiam which is just a block away has the edge over it.


Oriental Canteen:

Location: Exit to the right the South Kensington Underground station in the direction of the Natural History Museum and you will see it.

Impression: Small, and overcrowded

Food sampled: Crispy pork rice, char kway teow, seafood and egg noodles

Comments: Too cramped and rather rude waitstaff, although nowhere near Wong Kei. They used to have a different menu for their Malaysian dishes. The last time I went there and asked for it, I was told there was no secondary menu. The quality of the crispy pork seems to have no real consistency. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it isn’t crispy at all. The char kway teow here comes with a couple of slices of fish cakes and tastes below par (although my other friends who’ve never tried CKT before liked it). The seafood and egg noodles here are pretty good actually, but not on par with Kopitiam's.

Costs? Around £5 - £7 per person if an individual dish is ordered with Chinese tea.

Recommend? If you’re tight for money (this is South Kensington/ Chelsea after all, don’t expect things to be cheap), and don’t mind sharing tables and being forced to squeeze, go ahead.

7/7/05 +1

One year ago and one day ago, Londoners got a rude shock as terrorists carried out an atrocity within the UK. As usual, many Malaysians copy and pasted the headlines on their blog and pinged on PPS. Rojaks called PPS on that day,'a huge photostat machine'. As usual, many people didn't give two hoots about it, because why rely on blogs for news when you can open up media websites which are more reliable? And after all, the blog posts were taken from the media websites to begin with...

Nothing much to say, I suppose. The extremely heavy police presence (complete with assault rifles) at railway and underground stations have all but gone. The fear and nervousness on Underground commuters have all but disappeared, and the Underground is as packed as ever with the usual apathy.

In the weeks after the incident, anyone who carried a reasonably big rucksack onto the Underground would have invited nervous and suspicious glances from the other commuters (I admit to doing so myself). Double whammy if you looked middle Eastern. Not that there were many people to blow up; the Underground was virtually deserted anyway. It got so bad that suggestions were made for commuters to leave their bags open so that other commuters could see that they were on the way home from the gym/ work/ wherever. Now, its back to normal again, and I suppose we should thank the police and MI5 for preventing a further three attacks since that day.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Twisted foot

Dammit, I'm not playing football ever again wearing formal shoes. Formal shoes + uneven grounds on which to play football equals eventual disaster. I stepped heavily on a portion of ground where grass was growing and ended up twisting my right foot. Those of you who have accidentally stepped with your foot landing on both a raised kerb and a road will know what I mean - the foot is at a very unnatural angle.

I had to take a black cab home because I was physically unable to move a couple of steps before the pain came back again, and it was a long walk back to the nearest bus stop/ Underground that was headed my way. Unfortunately this also means that I'll be missing labs tomorrow - sorry QL, γ, we'll need to delay the experiment. But if you both think that you can deal with it, then go ahead :)

Monday, July 03, 2006

'Beluga caviar sandwich? Meet the Almas caviar sandwich!'

Last month, the (American) media made a fuss about the so-called 'beluga caviar' of sandwiches. Some of you might have heard of it, but for those who haven't, its apparently made like this:

"At about 5 1/2 inches across and 2 1/2 inches thick, the mound of meat is comprised of beef from three continents — American prime beef, Japanese Kobe and Argentine cattle.

The bill for one burger, with garnishing that includes organic greens, exotic mushrooms and tomatoes, comes out to $124.50 with tax and an 18 percent tip included. The restaurant will donate $10 from each sale to the Make-A-Wish Foundation" Source here

Alas, they blew their trumpet too early. Selfridges has been selling an even more expensive burger down here at London. Since the Yankees like to self-proclaim their burger the 'beluga caviar burger', allow me to christen the Selfridges sandwich the 'Almas caviar sandwich'.

If you wonder what Almas caviar is, its the rarest caviar in the world. Not even the beluga caviar comes close, which is probably why the Yankees cluelessly called their burger a 'beluga caviar burger', letting us claim the position of 'Almas caviar sandwich'.

What's in the 'Almas caviar sandwich' then, you might ask.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Beat that, foie gras and truffles and wagyu (aka kobe) beef!

Score yet another for the Brits! And yes if you wondering, they've sold over 200 of those beauties over the past two months.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Football fever catches on on England's public transport

Football fever is indeed strong in England, what with me being able to hear the shouts from my neighbours through my window when ever Crouch / Rooney scores and loud booes as Larsson equalized to ensure that England did not beat Sweden for yet another year.

But I won't talk about the people who gather around the pubs and parks and scream and shout their way out. People already know that. Instead, I'll present a couple of scenarios I encountered whilst on public transportation:

Scenario 1: On the intercity (intercity here referring to services between say, London - Manchester or Bristol - Newcastle; not services such as those between Wimbledon - Waterloo) train.
Match: England vs Ecuador (25th June)
Remarks: The ticket conducter (or whoever it is who makes the announcements over the PA system) suddenly announced: 'Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not heard the news yet, you might be pleased to know that England beat Ecuador 1-0. David Beckham scored the goal.'

Scenario 2: On the underground.
Match: None (the day after England-Ecuador match)
Remarks: The driver of the train suddenly remarked over the PA system 'Did anyone watch the football match? We didn't play our best, but we won and I'm happy and that's all that matters. Go England!'