Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Time flies. Another year is going to end. No matter it was a good year, a bad year, it has come to an end. We will usher in a new year in a couple of hours' time. No matter it will be a good year, a bad year, a new year will come.

If you think it is going to be a bad year, then try your best to turn it into a good year. If you think it is going to be a good year, then make it even better. In either case, make it a fun year, and a fulfilling year.

May all your wishes come true in 2009! :D

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Something wrong? Or someone has escaped?

When I came back from Orchard this evening, I was greeted by two policemen who were holding those army combat guns at Admiralty MRT station. One each at the escalator.

I was wondering, hum? What has happened? I am aware that from time to time, policemen will be onboard the MRT train and patrol around the MRT stations, but usually they come in group of 4, and only armed with handguns. However, today, the two guys were wearing red beret, and holding those combat guns, the long ones.

Someone else has escaped? I hope not! Otherwise we will have a hard time again at all the land checkpoints.

Thursday, December 25, 2008



長亭外 古道邊 芳草碧連天
晚風拂 柳笛聲殘 夕陽山外山
天之涯 地之角 知交半零落
一壺濁酒盡餘歡 今宵別夢寒
韶光逝 留無計 今日卻分袂
驪歌一曲送別離 相顧卻依依聚雖好 
別雖悲 世事堪玩味來日後會相予期 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fish & Co.

I have never been a big fan of Fish & Co. The last time I had a meal at Fish & Co. at Wheelock place, I got a stomach-ache, not diarrhea yet, but bad enough.

Today, since my big brother wanted to have our dinner at Fish & Co. @T2 Changi Airport, so I just went with the flow.

I ordered a swordfish collar. I thought it would be tiny piece of fish and then I could finish it at easy. It turned out to be two gigantic pieces of fish. I think, as the name says, the portion of the fish between the head & body. The bone is gigantic, and suprisingly there is still lots of meat for me to go around. The fish is a bit dry, no juice, but then if you dip it into the sauce that comes with the fish, the taste actually is not bad.

We happily finished our meal, paid our bill and left the place. I hit the call of nature and immediately went to the toilet to relief myself. Then by the time I came back to meet my big brother, then I found him talking to the assistant manager of Fish & Co., Cris, who was holding the bill. My big brother told me Cris was saying we were undercharged! We had to pay more! WTH??!! My big brother took out his handphone and use the calculator there to do the calculation and then proved we were correctly charge! Cris just went off without saying sorry or apologize in the any form. It was so rude. She made us look as if we were cheats!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Connection to eBay is slow....

I don't know whether others have experienced the same, access to is very slow. It gets even worse after 10pm. Does it mean many internet users are browsing through eBay hunting for bargains in the late evening?

Many times I encountered very slow response, pages didn't load. Headache....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to make money with your photos - My eBook Launch

Ok, finally this day has come. I am launching my first ever eBook now. See details below:

How to make money with your photos
---- Beginner's guide to microstock photography

Medium: eBook

Price: SGD$5.00

This book is specially written for people who have already gone into/are going into photography, who want to share their joy and passion of photography, while making some return/rewards from their hobby to fund their expensive hobby, or even make a living.

It will be the key to open the door to the mountain of wealth. Once you are there, it is up to you to decide how much wealth you want to get.

Anyone interested can contact me for the eBook.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Books for Sale

I decided to keep a list of books that I am putting up for sales at eBay. If anyone is interested, you can contact me directly.

All the books below are for worldwide sale, non-Singapore buyers can contact me for shipping charges.

1. Magazine: Photographers' Companion

The magazine is in Chinese. It is a popular photography magazine among the photography hobbists and professions alike in China. Filled with beautiful photos of the Chinese landscape, as well as photography equipment reviews, guide to best locations to shoot in China, etc.

Start bid price: S$1.00

eBay auction link:

2. Photography Book: Man - Power & Beauty

This book is a collection of works on Chinese artistic male nudes by award-winning Chinese photographer Wei Yu-ming. Comes with a free pocket-size book with even more photos.

Start bid price: S$5.00

eBay auction link:

3. Photography Book: The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Photography

Start bid price: S$2.00

eBay auction link:

Happy Chirstmas shopping :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Sales

I am selling off some of my old books. I spent the whole night struggling with eBay. I am required to verify my identification, and then the US eBay site is like crawling. Pages don't show up, time out. All kinds of crazy stuff. At the end, I can only settle with local Singapore eBay.

I put up the ad for my 1st book for sale, an old guide book on photography. Anyone interested can take a look at it here:

Happy Christmas shopping!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beginner's Guide to Microstock Photography - Continued

The online book 'arrived' over the weekend and I anxiously went through the 150-page book.

Here is my comment:

If you are starting in BOTH photography AND microstock, then it is a good book for you. It introduces you to all the starting basics of photography, including topics such as choice of equipment, photography fundamentals, etc.

However, if you are already familiar with the photography part, especially if you are already a practising photographer, or even a semi-pro or pro photographer, then this book is not so suitable. You won't reap the full benefits of the book, as almost half of it has been dedicated to basic photography knowledge.

The two authers, Laurin Rinder & David Smith, they are great photographers, and they were already good photographers before they ventured into microstock. This is an advantage to them, but at the same time, it also became their 'disadvantage' in the sense that they didn't struggle as much as other beginners. As a result, they might not know so well what or how the real amateurs strugle.

After reading through the book, I am getting a bit more confident about my own version of the Beginner's Guide to Microstock Photography. My version will be useful for the busy pros, semi-pros and amateurs alike.

So stay tuned for the launch of my version of the beginner's guide :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sushi - 寿司 - すし

I just found an interesting entry in the eat shoot blog about sushi. There is an YouTube video clip teaching people the etiquette of eating sushi, however, looking at the way it is done, I am not very sure they are actually serious about it.

Anyway, he mentioned about his experience at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo Japan. It is such a pity that I didn't actually go there to taste the high quality sushi there during my last trip. I actually was not very sure what to expect if I did go there.

Now it is different. Dr Leslie Tay recommended two shops, one is Sushi Dai, the other is Sushi Daiwa. Next time when I am there, I can give them a try.

Ok, here is Dr Tay's sushi entry:

But talking about sushi, I did very much miss the sushi I had in Tokyo. It was pricy, but the taste was really good. So tender, so juicy, so fresh. OMG, I must stop here before I get myself hungry...

One more thing, when I was in Japan, heard that there was some kind of scam going on against foreigners having sushi at those shops around Tsukiji fish market. The claim is that the shops serve lower grade tuna to the unknowning customers at the higher grade tuna's price. Alama, how can I tell which one is the higher grade tuna, which one is not?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beginner's Guide to Microstock Photography

Just placed an order for this book written by two successful microstock photographers.

Now anxiously waiting for the notification email's arrival so that I can start learning from the great guys. You see much further whilst sitting on the shoulder of a giant :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First EL Sales - Dirt Cheap Though

I just got my first EL sales at Just when I was to show a happy face, I found the total credit for that EL. Guess how much was it? USD$6.60. What a 'great' sum! I was expecting something like 20 bucks!

Now I am wondering, I upload my photos to many sites, would people just go to the cheaper site to get the same photo at a lower price? Mmmmh....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Trading For A Living

Title: Trading for a living - Psycholog, Trading tactics, Money Management
Author: Dr. Alexander Elder
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc 1992

This is a must-read book for whoever wants to learn investment and/or trading for a living.

The author, Dr. Alexander Elder, was born in Leningrad & grew up in Estonia. You can't find Leningrad anymore, as it is now known as St. Peterburg. So you know he was born in the era of communist Russia. And he is a psychiatrist.

The opening charter is dedicated to alcoholics :) Well, not really. Just that he compares a loser in trading with an alcoholic and the similarity is alarming.

This book teaches the most important aspect of investment or trading, which is how to manage your psychology. People have the false impression that stock traders do not need the traditional virtues such as hard-working, patience, professionalism, etc. This book simply debukes all those myths. Just as in any other profession you can think of, the success of a trader or investor MUST have good EQ.

Read this book if you are serious in making some money in the stock market.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Device to lower your electricity bills?

I was at SITEX today, wondering around the endless booths selling all kinds of computer related stuff. Then I found this little booth selling a device that claims to help you lower your electricity bills.

Out of curiousity, I asked the saleman how it works. He happily explained to me that the device is actually a capacitor, and it helps to smooth out the current surge in the supply line from the power company. He also showed me some actual electricity bills to prove the effectiveness of the device.

I never liked power engineering during my university days, but the whatever little knowledge that I can still remember doesn't make me believe that putting capacitors to the supply line will improve your electrical applicances' efficiency. I do agree that putting a good capacitor will smooth out current surge, your supply will be more 'clean' and stable. It may also improve on the power factor (which may help to improve efficiency).

I voiced out my doubts to the saleman. The poor saleman, who is not from electrical engineering background, had a hard time. I didn't want to embarrasse him or make life difficult for him, just that I wanted to learn. At the end, he told me the device will not be effective if your monthly electricity usage is low.

Judging by the number of people who came to enquire about the product, looks like products that have good efficiency will be in higher and higher demand in the not to distant future....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My first contact with eBook was reading Dan Brown's Demons & Angels. It was quite different. Instead of hold a physical book in your hand and flip the pages, you click your mouse :D And if you wish, you can read the book anywhere on your PDA or handphone.

eBook is also good in the sense that it gives large saving in printing and material cost, and it can help lower the publisher cost, as well as the shipping cost. I have been looking at some eBook auctions at eBay, everybody is offering 'free shipping'. I just couldn't stop laughing when I saw that. eBook 'shipping' is nothing more than just a click away. :D

I am also thinking of compiling all my previous writings on microstock into an eBook as a beginner's guide. Do you think anyone will be interested to buy it? Any way, I just started the first few pages. Hopefully, it will be ready after new year. Curious to see the response.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shopping Time -- The Christmas Season

It is the time of the year for everybody to happily shop around again. It is the Christmas shopping season. Walked around Orchard and City Hall areas over the last weekend. Many shops are having discounts to attract customers.

5-10% discounts are easily available almost every corner you turn. 15-20% are not uncommon. And then you see more steep discounts varying from 50% to 70%. (Lee Hwa is the one having the 50% discount, so ladies....)

However, those discounts are very much subject to scrutiny. Some of the items still cost about the same as a few weeks ago after the 'attractive' discount. If you are a consumer of short-term memory, or have no sense of prices, you might be duped into believing you are having a good deal. So, please, when you shop around and happily grapping the bargains, make sure they are the real bargains, ok? :D

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant

Title: Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant - Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom
Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki/Sharon L. Lechter

This is another book in the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. I always like Robert's books, his books kind of shape my view on my personal financial matters.

In this book, he outlines the 7 steps to finding financial fast track:

1. It's time to mind your own business
2. Take control of your cash flow
3. Know the difference between risk and risky
4. Decide what kind of investor you want to be
5. Seek mentors
6. Make disappointment your strength
7. The power of faith

He classified investors to 7 different levels, and I am at level 3, the so-called 'pig' investor who is always loosing money, buy high, sell low. It is high time I broke this 'curse', or 'norm', and advance to the next level. :) Working hard to achieve it...

This is a book that you should read, especially if you are like my own dad, who still insists that the flat he is living in is an asset.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kyoto 1: Kinkakuji (金阁寺)

Kinkakuji, or more commonly known as the Temple of Golden Pavilion, is one of the most famous temples in Japan. It is almost like the symbol of Japan.

Japanese temples have a distinct difference from Chinese temples. Chinese temples tend to emphasis on the statues, which is quite understandable because that's precisely the reason many visitors are there. Japanese temples tend to emphasis more on the garden, or the 'feel'. Their statues are in general quite small, sometimes even hard to see.

Being a famous temple in Japan, Kinkakuji is always crowded, with bus loads of tourists from in & outside of Japan, and the many many Japanese students embarking on their 'study' tour. Then I admire the foresight the founder/architect of Kinkakuji had. What do you hate most at touristic sites? Whenever you want to take a photo, there are always crowds of other tourists in the backaground! In Kinkakuji, you have less of such problem.

The golden pavilion is built at the one side of a pond called the 'mirror' pond. Tourists can't step into the golden pavilion, but only to admire its beauty from the other side of the mirror pond. As a result, everybody has a clean and beautiful photo of the golden pavilion, without the crowds of tourists in the background!
The admission is 400 yen. Their admission ticket is no other than a charm on a piece of paper that will protect you and family from any harm :)
Definitely this is a place you should not miss if you are visiting Kyoto.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not So Budget Budget Airlines

The budget airlines claim to be give the passenger the best value for money, but is it really true?

I just bought an air ticket from Tiger Airways. The cost of tax & surcharge is SGD$170.00. At the booking site, how this SGD$170.00 came about is not explained. In comparison, for a similar route, it is only SGD$64.00 total for tax & surcharge for SIA.

There is a new rule that came into effect on 1 Nov 2008, that all air fare advertisements must indicate the fare inclusive of both tax & surcharges. Even with that, Tiger Airways still has other hidden charges.

1. Cost of check-in luggage: SGD$10.00/check-in luggage per sector
2. Cost of selecting your seat: SGD$10.00 for any normal seat; more for emergence exit seats
3. Cost of paying your air fare by credit card: SGD$5.00

It is not really fair to charge extra for paying by credit card, as there is no other payment method other than paying by credit card!

Tiger Airways has one more trick that you must be careful. For example, if you want to buy a ticket from Hong Kong to Singapore, you can have the option to pay in Singapore dollars or Hong Kong dollars. If you choose to pay in Singapore dollars, better check out the exchange rate first. The rate offered at Tiger Airways' website is much lower.

Considering Tiger flights always set off at odd hours, you have to pay many hidden charges, you may need to take a cab to catch your flight, you need to pay to get your food or drinks on board, the total amount sometimes can explode to close to what you pay for a normal airline.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lonely Planet Guide Book on Japan - Great Disappointment

Lonely Planet guide books are getting more and more expensive over years, but the quality is getting worse and worse. After my disappointment with their guide book on Europe, their guide book on Japan is another big disappointment.

Firstly, it is bloody expensive. SGD$50 plus dollars.

Second, this guide book does not really sound like a guide book, more like a hate book. The authors are frequently critising the places they mentioned, especially the more famous Japanese sites. In some cases, their criticism is right; but many other times, their criticism is more because they, as most of them are non-Japanese speaking, non-Chinese reading western travelers, they have no clue about the cultural significance of some of the places, how precious some of the treasures are. Disrespectful, demeaning languages or tones are used to describe many of the famous Japanese temples. Those authors have no understanding of Japanese Buddhism.

Third, the places they recommend for lodging are totally out of the question. It is not even possible to make a booking. Probably everybody is having a Lonely Planet guide book and everybody wants to book the same few lodgings recommended by Lonely Planet. The book gives the reader a false impression that good accommodations are far and rare in Japan, especially those cheap and good. The fact is nothing but the contrary. Japanese hotels/ryokans/budget hotels may have small rooms by western standard, but they are usually well-maintained, clean, decent and most importantly, affordable by any average traveler.

Fourth, the guide book confuses you more than giving you a clearer picture. Reading the guide book make me feel dizzy about Tokyo. It gave me the impression that Tokyo is like a huge maze. Again, it is nothing but the contrary. Spend a little time to do your research, get hold of a Tokyo map, everything is clear. Tokyo is a well-planned city. Once you get a hand of it, you will have no trouble going around. For example, in the guide book it makes Harajuku sound like millions of miles away from the Tokyo station, while it is just along the green JR line, and it takes about 30 mins to get there from Tokyo station. Straight forward.

If you need to get information about Japan, do your research online. There are plenty of information freely available to you. Spending 50 bucks on a hate book is not worth the money.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kyoto 1-Day Bus Pass

Kyoto does not offer any 1-day or 2-day pass for all transports like Osaka, however, it does offer a 1-day bus pass. The cost is 500 yen, free for all Kyoto buses, but not valid for subways.

This 1-day is good value for money if you make 3 or more bus rides. The bus fare in Kyoto is skyhigh, 220 yen for adult and 110 yen for children as long as you board any bus, regardless of travel distance. It will cost you a lot if you make a few bus trips.

The Kyoto bus network is efficient and buses will bring you to all the major tourist attractions. You can get the 1-day pass at the bus terminal or any bus that you board. Ask the bus driver. And get yourself equipped with a Kyoto bus map. It will prove very useful. I am not very sure about the English-speaking only tourists, for me, I grapped the bus map in Japanese. The Japanese bus map is more useful. You can point at the place you want to go and ask questions to the locals or the bus driver. If you use a Japanese map, they may not be able to understand what your question is. And of course, the bus map is full of Chinese characters, many have the exact meaning as they are known in Chinese.

Plan your trip carefully in Kyoto though. Buses can be very crowded during rush hours, or when students go to school and come back from school.

Btw, this Kyoto 1-day pass used to cost 700 yen back in 2001 (?), thanks to long-lasting deflation in Japan, now it is only 500 yen :D

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Black President for USA

Mr Barack Obama, an African American, became the President-Elect of the United States of American, a first BLACK president of a dominantly white country.

He won by large margins to his opponent John McCain. Before the election, pollsters showed the two of them were very close to each other without either one being an obvious winner. And the media was speculating that the racist white Americans would ditch the black Barack Obama on the election day itself.

Well, maybe the opinion polls helped Obama, because they gave the voters an impression that as the two were so close in the polls, if they didn't vote in Obama's favour, Obama may actually lose to McCain!

And of course, one person who must not be left out of Mr Obama's thank you list is the junior Mr Bush. If he didn't mismanage the country and get this once wealthy country into piling debt, then Mr Obama might not even have a chance.

Oh, never mind. A great day to remember...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In this age of turbulence, I think we should all get back to basics and revisit the true meaning of capitalism.

What is capitalism? I like Mr Daryl Guppy's analogy:

In a traditional capitalism economic, you have two cows, you sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

The key here is you actually produce something physical. You grow your herd from two cows to many cows and bulls.

Look at what our American friends did to their economy and you know why so many people are crying for the death of capitalism....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Osaka 1-day/2-day Pass

Osaka offers to tourists 2 types of unlimited passes, 1-day and 2-day passes. The only difference is, as the name implies, one is valid for 1-day unlimited use of city transport, including buses and subways; the other is valid for 2 days. Both will give you free access to 27 places of interest. The cost for 1-day pass is 2,000 yen, 2-day pass is 2,700 yen.

Before you decide to purchase the Osaka pass, you need to know how often you will take buses or subways. Keep in mind that for Osaka subway, it is minimum 200 yen per trip.

For the 27 places of interest included in the Osaka pass, you need to know whether they are your cup of tea. For me, they are ok, but for some, these 27 places are super boring to them. One man's delicacy is another man's poison, so you have to decide for yourself. I will share with you below how I used my 2-day pass.

1. Dotonbori Gokuraku Shoutengai (315 yen)

This is a food entertainment 'theme park'. Well, it is actually just a building in the Dotonbori area. I must say the idea is a bit stupid. Dotonbori area is the centre of Osaka's night life filled with restaurants and shops. While you can just go into any restaurant free other than the cost of your food, why do you want to pay extra to go to a 'food entertainment theme park'?

Grade: 1/5.

2. Osaka Bay Cruise "Santa Maria" (1,600 yen)

This cruise brings you around the Osaka port area, with a good view of the giant ferris wheel, in a replica junk ship. However, the view along the route is just so-so, unless you have a specific interest in the maritime/shipping industry. You have a spectacular view of the Osaka port.

Grade: 2.5/5

3. Osaka Castle Museum (600 yen)

This is in the Tenshu-kaku, the main tower of the Osaka castle. It is almost like the symbol of Osaka city. When I was there, they were having a special exhibition about the history of Osaka castle. There are static displays, and a lot of multimedia presentations catering to the visiting Japanese students.

In addition, you can get a good view of Osaka city from the top of the main tower.

They also give visitors a free post card of the castle. If you complete a visitor's survey with them, they also give you a golden bookmark as souvenir. So if you are a cheapo like me :), complete the survey and get your souvenir. The golden bookmark costs 200 yen at the souvenir shop there :D

Grade: 4/5

4. Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden (200 yen)

This garden is right next to the Osaka castle. A great place to visit when the cherry blossom time, and also a nice place for a family picnic on an Autumn/Winter sunny afternoon; otherwise, it is a bit boring.

Grade: Season dependent

5. Osakajo Park Tram (200 yen)

It is a tram ride around the Osaka castle park, along the castle moat. Again, it is nice during the cherry blossom season; boring otherwise. :D

Grade: Season dependent

6. Osaka Museum of History (600 yen)

This museum is just a stone's throw away from Osaka castle. I highly recommend you to visit this place. They occupy the 7th-10th of a skycrapper, and arrange the exhibites from old Osaka (Namba period) to modern Osaka from 10th floor down to 7th floor.

And, the reason I highly recommend this place is when you take the escalator down, at the corner landing, you have a spectacular aerial view of Osaka castle and the modern Osaka city.

Grade: 3.5/5

7. Shitennoji Temple (300 yen), The Treasure House of the temple (200 yen), Honbo Garden (300 yen)

This temple was built by Prince Shotoku (圣德太子) and said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. However, all the temple buildings are actually replica constructed after WWII.

The treasure house of temple has some writings from many emperors. I think many of them are in Chinese. I remember I could actually read one of them in the whole. It says the power of the imperial court is directly related to the power of Buddhism in Japan. The stronger the power of the imperial court, more solid the foundation of Buddhism in Japan is. But I can remember which emperor wrote it. Sorry :)

The Honbo garden is a Zen garden with nice landscaping.

Grade: 3.5/5

8. Tsutenkaku Tower (600 yen)

This is another place where you can have a good view of the Osaka city from the top. They have placed a statue of Biriken on the observation deck too. What/who is Biriken? Google it, please :D You will be amused/surprised...

Grade: 3/5

Total cost of the 2-day pass: 2,700 yen
Total cost of all places: 4,915 yen

The pass does not include the more popular places such as the ferris wheel, the Osaka aquarium, the Suntory Museum.

You can get more information on the Osaka pass at this site:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lodging in Japan

Hotels, hostels, and Ryokans (traditional Japanese guest houses) in Japan have an annoyingly different check-in check-out time. The check-in usually is at 3-4pm, while the check-out is at 10am! They are also a bit rigid about the check-in check-out timing. To make it more troublesome, you may have a problem if you want to check-in late, say after 8pm, at the Ryokans or hostels. Many of them also have curfews. The door will be locked from midnight onwards until 6 o'clock the next morning. If you don't come back in time, you will be locked out, and sleep on the streets :)

I will share with you the accommodations I had for my trip below.

1. Narita Airport Rest House

I spent the 1st and last night in Japan at this hotel. Not really a choice, but for practical reasons. I originally wanted to stay in a Ryokan in Asakusa area on the first night, but when I contacted the Ryokan, they said my flight was a bit late (landing at 8.20pm), and not very practical to get into Tokyo. So they recommended Narita Airport Rest House.

The hotel is right next to Narita Airport terminal 1. It is just 2-min by shutter bus.

The rooms are quite decent and big by Japanese standards. The facilities in the room are basic but in good conditions.

This hotel is good choice if you arrive late or need to leave early in the morning from Narita airport.

Their website:

2. Shin Osaka Station Hotel (Osaka)

The hotel is located about 5 mins walk from the JR Shin Osaka station. The rooms are small, but decent and clean. It also has this automatic toilet in the room. :)

They don't have their own website, but you can make reservations at the following site:

3. Ryokan Shimizu (Kyoto)

This is one of the best I had stayed in for the trip. It is a traditional Japanese ryokan tucked into a small site street in Kyoto's old street lanes.

It is a two-story building completed constructed by wood in the traditional Japanese style. The rooms are in Japanese style too with all the sliding doors and tatami. The feel is very good.

In addition, the ryokan also has a private traditional Japanese bath that you can book to use.

The staff there are young and can speak pretty good English. They are also very helpful if you need any information for sightseeing, food or onsen/sento.

This place is highly recommended.

Their website: However, to make a reservation, you need to go to this site:

4. Toyoko-Inn

I stayed in the Toyoko-Inn chain of hotels for Himeji and Tokyo. Toyoko Inn is a budget business hotel, catering to traveling business people. Their rooms are on the small side, but decent, clean and have all the needed facilities available. Internet access is free in the lobby. If you bring your own laptop and LAN cable, you can also have free internet access in your own room.

You can make your booking through their website:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Japan Travel Myths

There are many myths about traveling to Japan, which really scared me a lot before my trip. Now that I am back in Singapore from a pleasant trip to Japan, I must say many myths are simply untrue.

First, traveling to Japan is expensive. If you are going for the top-end stuff, then wherever you go, it is going to be expensive, but if you plan well and go for the ordinary Japanese stuff, then it is not any more expensive than living in Singapore.

Just to share with everybody the various costs of my trip to Japan, I have listed down my costs:

1. Air ticket: I took the Cathay Pacific promotion of SGD$850 (including taxes & fuel surcharge) to Tokyo with transit in Hong Kong. The timing is not exactly perfect. The flight to Tokyo is at 10.15am, and the return flight is at 9.45am. Basically I wasted about 2 days flying. But cheap tickets, what to do?

2. 7-Day Japan Rail Pass: 28,300 yen. It covers most of my transportation needs in Japan. Below is a break-down of all the travel costs related to the Japan Railway:

a) Narita Airport -> Shin Osaka: 16,250 yen
b) Shin Osaka -> Kyoto: 2,730 yen
c) Kyoto -> Himeji: 5,130 yen
d) Himeji -> Tokyo: 15,210 yen
e) JR trains in Tokyo: 160 yen(ave)/trip x 3 = 480 yen
Total: 39,800 yen

So I basically got back what money's worth of the 7-day JR pass. However, please don't have the false impression that traveling by train in Japan is this expensive. In my case, as I have the JR pass, which covers the use of Shinkansen (Bullet train) except NOZOMI, I always traveled in Shinkansen from city to city, and I had seats reserved, which is more expensive. If you don't have the JR pass, and don't want to spend too much money on trains, you have other cheaper options. For example, travel from Shin Osaka to Kyoto, you can take a local train at the cost of 540 yen, but it takes 28 mins. In comparison, Shinkansen will cost you 2730 yen (with reserved seats) and it takes 14 mins.

For food, logding, admission, and other transport needs not covered by the JR pass, the total cost is 80,000 yen.

So in total, the cost of my trip is SGD$850 + 108,300 yen. Based on SGD$1=66 yen, the total cost in Singapore dollar terms is SGD$2491.00 for a 10-day trip to Japan, covering Tokyo, Kyoto, Himeji & Osaka.

Second, you must know Japanese or have a Japanese friend to show you around. This is not exactly true. No doubt Japanese in general don't speak English well, most of them don't speak English at all. It is really a challenge to people who know neither Japanese or Chinese. However, if you have some knowledge in Chinese, it really a lot. Look at the Tokyo subway map, everything is actually in Chinese, although strictly speaking, it is in Japanese Kanji, which is a variation of Chinese characters. Many maps in Japanese have Chinese indications. If you are ethnic Chinese yet you can't read Chinese characters, shame on you!

Ok, I will just stop here today. Tomorrow, I will share with you the accommodations I had in Japan. All of them are decent and nice, and don't cost a bomb.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Traveling in Japan

Spending a week and a half in Japan, will be back soon :)

Japan is an interesting country. Their service is outstandingly good. And by visiting Japan, I somehow have a better understanding of the Chinese culture. Japan preserved more Chinese culture than the Chinese themselves.

Will write more soon....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spilled Milk

Stock markets across the world went through another round of roller-coaster ride. DJIA went up 900 points in a single day, the largest ever single day gain since 1930s. But that is after DJIA dropped to ~7000 points for the 1st time since many many years....

The DJIA and the rest of the world gained because people are optimistic about the concerted efforts by governments across the world to save the financial industry. Being a skeptic, I am not very sure how effective those concerted efforts will be, and what kind of seed it will sow.

The current problem lies in the fact that people are spending beyond their means. The toxic securities lying in the bank balance sheets are said to worth a lot a lot more than what the markets say they are worth.

It is like you think you own an asset that is worth 1 million dollars, and you happily spend half a million. Now you realised your asset is only worth half of what you thought, which is only 0.5 million dollars, but you have already spent that half a million. You are penniless!

The injection of credits into the ailing financial system only penalise people who are prudent in managing their own money. Why? Because the injection of credits means you need more money to buy the same stuff. Effectively, you lose money!

In my personal opinion, once the current finanical crisis settles down, we will go back to high inflation, commodities and precious metal will again become hot. Mark my words, it may take another 5-10 years to see that happening, but it will happen. The trillions of dollars won't just lie quietly in some corner of a bank vault.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recession - Now It Is Official

Recession, now it is official that Singapore has entered into a recession with 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

The stock market is terrible. It is like a tape rewind to the Asia Financial Crisis days back in 1997/98. Share prices are plunging, but the prices now are still not as low as 1997/98 levels yet. So you figure, is it time to bottom fish? Mmmh, better do your homework, otherwise you may be fishing at the wrong time.

According to some analyst's report, next support for STI is 1800, then followed by 1500, then 1400 is the 161.8% retracement level based on the Fibonacci analysis.

Foreign banks are failing one by one from US to Belgium to Iceland, to UK. Globalisation is good, it brings business to the whole world; and it drags everybody down too when there is a screw-up. Singapore banks are also sold down drastically, with all the preference shares trading at discount to its liquidation value.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

Don't judge a book by its cover, don't trust a man by his looks. That's my conclusion after watching the movie Painted Skin.

The demoness, Xiao Wei, in the movie, is such a beautiful woman, and she appears to be caring, gentle, understanding, etc. She seems to have all the virtues of a noble lady, but then under her skin, the painted skin, it is disgusting. She eats human hearts the shasimi way to maintain her youthfulness and beauty. Her body is full of nothing but worms, all the disgusting worms that will make anyone who sees to puke.

However, it is easy said then done. Research shows that beautiful people tend to be more successful in life. They have this natural advantage of being beautiful. How many great heroes fell victim to beautiful people who eventually gave them the fatal blow.

You can still be generous and kind-hearted, but you must know certain principles that you must uphold under all circumstances; otherwise, you will become the next victim. And remember, the more beautiful it looks, the more poisonous it is...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Painted Skin (画皮)

The movie Painted Skin is a movie adoption of a story from the book Liaozhai Zhiyi (聊斋志异), authored by a Qing Dynasty scholar Pu Songling (蒲松龄).

The cast is great, including big names such as Zhao Wei, Zeng Zhi-dan (Donnie Yen), Zhou Xun, Chen Kun & Qi Yu-wu.

Costumes and stylying are not bad either. I like the costumes they wear in the movie. However, the story is a bit plain, and to make things worse, there are times the movie will just 'freeze'.

In terms of acting, Chen Kun, Donnie Yen, Zhou Xun and Zhao Wei are all very great. They took up the challenge to act those difficult characters. Qi Yu-wu is only a supporting actor in the movie, and his character has very limited room to show off his acting skills. Too bad. This is also the first Qi Yu-wu movie that I have watched. I missed all his other movies, such as 881, 12 Lotus, and Home Song Story.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Microstock: Concepts

In microstock, quantity is important, but what is more important, as many other things in life, is quality. Concepts, ideas, creativity play an utmost important role in a sccuessful microstock photographer.

Keep in mind that you are doing stock photos, not pure arts. Your photos must fit into some commerical use.

With good concept photos, you don't need to have a very large portfolio for you to do well.

Take a look at this lady's portfolio in ShutterStock. Her portfolio is not that big, small compared to many, but she has got the essence of stock photography.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


400! That's the number of photos I have in my portfolio at ShutterStock. It took me 2.75 years to build that small little portfolio but I finally reached there today. It is small, and it took too long to build, but then at least I am happy.

My next target is to reach 800 photos. I hope it will not take another 2.75 years to add 400 more photos.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strange Calls

In the last week or so, I had been receiving strange calls to my mobile phone. It is not uncommon to receive calls from those telemarketers, and the moment they start to talk, you will know they must be from one of the banks offering you credit cards or credit lines or whatever, but then at least they will get your name, open their mouth to talk, and you know where they are from.

But then the recent calls are very strange. Caller ID always shows 'private number', when I pick up the call, it is always silence. After a few hellos from me, the caller will just hang up. It happened not only once, twice, but many many times.

I will pick up those calls with 'private number' being shown as the caller ID because I have friends who would call me from overseas. Sometimes their numbers don't show up. I don't want to miss those calls from my dear friends.

However, the recent strange calls really make me feel a bit scary. You don't know what is in the making.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Villa Olmo

Villa Olmo is the residence of some noble family situated in a small little picturequette town of Como in Italy, facing the picturequette Lake Como.

Construction started in 1782 and completed in 1797. It has this neo-classic style in architecture. Currently Villa Olmo is used for international conferences and events organized by Alessandro Volta Centre of Scientific Culture.

This small little 'palace' is not well-known to the general tourists visiting Italy. And I didn't expect anyone would bother to download photos of such a less-known palace from microstock sites.

Then something interesting happened. In the past week or so, my photos of the villa had been downloaded from different stock sites. Two of them are even enhanced license sales.

Mmmmh.....What is brewing there?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant

Lunch at Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant at Ngee Ann City today.

Ordered some dim sum and one Green Wresse. The dim sum was not bad, they use whole prawns in every single dim sum dish. You can only see this in some more expensive dim sum places. The mass produced Singapore dim sum does not use whole prawn, maybe just a slight bit of prawn meat.

The Green Wresse was nice, tasted good. The tenderness and the freshness are evident. However, at that price of S$14 per 100g, it had better be. For the one we ordered, it set us back by 84 bucks.

The shark's fin Chinese dumpling is a disappointment though. There is little shark's fin in it, although there is lots of sundry fish 'air-bag' (?). The soup is tasteless.

My over-all rating for this restaurant is at most a 3.5/5.
The total cost of this meal for two is S$133.00, one of the most expensive lunches I ever had :(

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple - Update

Went to Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown a couple of weeks ago. They now have some new additions since Vesak Day this year.

Two new Boddisava(?) statues have been added to the two sides of the main buddha statue in the main hall - Hundred Dragon Hall on the ground floor.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Short Covering

STI went crazy today, up 139 points! You saw many shortists covering their short positions before they burn a big hole in the pocket.

The short position I had didn't go up to hit my original stop-loss price, but anyway, I closed the position, with S$200 loss. Well, now all my short positions are closed and I can have peace of mind.

The market is expected to be volatile in the coming week. I only hope the preference shares can go up and recover all my paper losses.

However, what has changed over the past week? From extreme pessimistic to extreme optimistic? Lehman went down, Merrlyn sold itself, AIG bailed out. Then it is said Federal Reserve is going to setup a permanent institution to take in all the junks. Fundamentally, do you think the storm is over? Junks are junks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FED the helping hand

Today is a very dramatic day. STI went down more than 100 points by 12:00 noon close, then it went back up 100 point to close with 0.88 point down!

I had a short position in KS Energy. When the counter was re-opened for trading in the afternoon, after its trading was halted in the morning for company announcement, my profit in the counter was still S$900 plus, but by the time market closed, my profit had gone down to S$300 and was triggered out.

I shorted one more counter today. I am not very sure what will happen to that counter. Hopefully it will bring me profit.

Bless me, please.

Entry of the Panic Stage

DJIA went up 100+ points last night, and STI opened with 27+ point gain, then it still ended the day with close to 60 points down. The Fed's bailout of the insurance giant AIG didn't seem to impress investors much, not even giving them much assurance.

Looks like the market is entering the panic stage. STI is technically into a zone where a rebound is imminent, but then it has not happened yet. People are still dumping their shares.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in the coming days.

Something sad for me. I am still making S$1000 loss per day. And also heard that the biggest loser of the collapse of the American financial system is not really the Americans, but the Chinese. The Chinese holds a large portion of the Lehman brothers' debt. Poor Chinese.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Gentle Fall

STI extended its fall today, but ended the day with a drop of 25 points only. Considering over night Dow Jones went down by 504 points, this drop in STI is considered really small. Some of the counters actually even recovered a bit. For example, SGX managed to gain a bit today.

I learned the lesson of not to be greedy, so I set the exit point a bit higher for the not so good counter that I held a short position. Luckily, it triggered out. The counter is MapleTree Logistics Trust. I entered at S$0.68, but then it went up to 73 cents, and oscillating between 0.655 & 0.73. There is no sight of it going down further. So I am pretty happy that it was triggered out and I can still exit with a little bit of profit. Profit is better than loss, right?

Now, I am only left with 1 short position. I will let it run. The trigger point has been set to a very low price. Hopefully it can generate more profit to offset the huge losses from all the big 3 local banks' preference shares that I am holding :( The rate of falling of those preference shares is steep. I am losing almost S$1000 a day over the past two days. Sad...

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Bloody Day

With all the bad news around the Layman brothers, the Merry Lin & All-In-God, STI was slaughtered like nobody's business today. It droped 84 points or 3.3% for the day. The blue chips, including banks, GLCs are all tanking.

The sentiment is so bad that even my 5.1% OCBC preference shares nose-dived below its only recent IPO value of S$100. The 4.5% OCBC preference shares must be being dumped by all the institutional investors. The price went down by a full S$2.00! You really don't want to be the one holding on to this counter. Luckily, at least it offers you a minimum of S$4.50 per share dividends every year. Those fixed income preference shares are for you to hold well into your retirement days and maybe even pass onto your offspring.

My losses in this single day went up from S$4000 plus to $5000 plus and almost reaching S$6000! My gosh, NO EYE SEE liao. Don't wanna log into my account to check that sea of red.

To add salt to my wounds, just this morning, I adjusted my exit price for my short position on SGX. I adjusted it higher. Then SGX went for a downward coaster ride, from previous close of $6.12 down to S$5.88 at market close. Anyway, my short position was triggered exit at S$5.96, still some gain, thank God it didn't trigger at S$6.01.

The 2680 point resistance level had been broken, now we are on my way to 2380 points, the next support level. Unless some positive news coming out from the states, I don't think we can reach the bottom there. Now, must build up cash positions to bottom fish.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Full Body Tattoos

Found a video on full body tattoos. The tattoos are really nice, but then I don't think I will ever want to have one on my own body.

It is nice, it is cool, but then only when you are young. Imagine when you are old and with all that loose skin, how the tattoo will look like?

The Japanese gangsters can afford to have those full body tattoos as most probably they will leave this world with the tattoos still at its prestine state.

Here is the link to the video:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crazy Data Feeds

Was checking the Dow Jones tonight and then different portals gave me different readings. The most crazy portal is yahoo finance. It first said Dow is up by 25 points, but once I refreshed, it became down 200 points. Everything refresh gave me some crazy readings.

Then went to DBS Vickers, the data was at 60 points up. Bloomberg gave me another reading, Reuters gave me yet another reading.

I thought the whole world went crazy. Then one hour into the trading day, finally all of them settled to some more agreeable number.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Greed took the better of me. The sharp fall last week lured me into shorting two counters. And I started with a couple of hundred dollars of profit, but greed made me hold on to my short positions, hoping to profit more.

Probably that's the mentality of all unsuccessful gamblers, punters, whatsoever. My short positions went from profit to big losses in a day's time. The stupid counters went down a lot in a day, but it also went up a lot in a day.

The moral of the story? In such a volatile market, whenever you get some profit, grap it and run. Faithfulness is more of a flaw in your personality than a virtue.

Licking my wounds now....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ebene Bio-ray Knee Guard - Continued

This is a follow-up post on a previous entry:

My mum has been using the Ebene bio-ray knee guards for more than a month now. Her knee pain was relieved just after a week, but then her legs became a bit swollen. So she stopped for a few days for her legs to return to normal, and then started using the knee guards again, for reduced time.

She used to wear the knee guards over night, but now she only wears them for a few hours a day.

The result so far are very good. Her knee used to look like a big trunk, the knee cap was not even visible. bBt now, the size of her knee has reduced, the knee cap can be seen. She no longer afraid of cold, the pain in her knee also significantly reduced.

Those knee guards are selling at Guardian stores with a 20% discount now. A good time to give it a try if you have not. :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sharpt Fall

Today STI had one of its biggest fall for the year. 80 points down, breaking the previous low of 2688 points. The next few trading days will be important. If the fall continues and the trend is confirmed, then we will be saying good bye to 2700 points, and will be heading down to 2400. I hope the downtrend will stop at 2400, not any further down. The next level after 2400 will be 2100. I don't think you will even want to know what is level after 2100. It is not going to make many people happy, except the shortists.

DJIA as I am writing now is down 230 points. Not very sure whether STI will follow suit tomorrow. Scary. You don't want to be an 'investor' who applies the 'buy & hold' strategy. If you do, you must have a big enough heart to bear the huge losses.

Let's see what will happen tomorrow for STI....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

False Rebound

Yesterday's rebound of STI was short-lived. Over night at Dow Jones, DJIA started with a 200 point gain, but ended the day with a loss. Think about it? What has changed so far to make the market feel optimistic about the future?

Yes, oil has come down from its high of US$147 a barrel, to US$105 a barrel. Other commodities are also coming down from their highs. It is good news. But what has caused the down fall of yester year's darlings? Sluggish growth, high inflation. They put a halt to the rise of commodities.

Comparing with 2007, we still have a credit crisis, we still have a housing slow-down in the states, and many other countries. Fundamentally, nothing significant has changed.

In my view, the market will continue its downward spiral until a bottom is found. Looking at the charts, it is quite scary.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Sudden Rebound

I had been warned that STI is due for a technical rebound, but yet I was still caught off-guard when the STI gained 40 plus points today. STI was down for about 10 points right from the start in the morning all the way to around 4.30pm, just half an hour before market close. All of sudden, it shot up 44 points, and closed the day by a gain of 45 points.

US dollar also went up strongly to 1.43 Singapore dollars to 1 US dollar, a high in the past few months.

I think now we are at a water-shed point. It STI can break the 2680 point threshold, then STI will be on the way down to ~2400 points; but STI can substain its gain and break 3000 point, then there is a higher chance of STI going up trend again. Mmmh, very hard to decide now.

OCBC issued a 2nd tranch of preference shares, and the 4.5% NCPS are being dumped in the market. The price has dropped below its face value of S$100, down to $98.06 today. My heart is bleeding :(

UOB also started issuing preference shares at 5.05% per annum. The application through ATM started on 28 Aug, and will end somewhere around 18 Sept.

The preference shares are good for your retirement days :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Compact Flash Memory Card Prices at Comex 2008

Some one posted the CF card prices at Comex 2008. The prices are really good.

SanDisk Ultra II:
2GB S$29
4GB S$39
8GB S$68

SanDisk Extreme III:
4GB S$56
8GB S$90
16GB S$170

Kingston Elite Pro:
4GB S$29
8GB S$51
16GB S$118

Kingston Ultimate:
2GB S$43
4GB S$76
8GB S$135

The SD cards are even cheaper. Kingston 2GB SD card is only S$9.00! 4GB going for S$18.00.

With such great prices, there will be less storage woes from the photographers, but more on the photo-editing part.

Consider a 1GB card on a Canon EOS 20D can store around 200 photos at the max resolution in Jpeg format, a 4GB card then can store 800 photos. How long do you think it will take to process 800 photos.

If you are shooting raw, 4GB can still hold quite a substantial number of photos. The effort needed is not to be sneezed at, either.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canon Link at Vivo

Just discovered there is a place called 'Canon iLink' at one seldom-noticed corner in Vivo city. It has displays of all the Canon products, including printers, projectors, and of course, cameras, both DSLR and compact, and lenses. The winning photographs of "Canon Photo Marathon" are also on display.

Those things may sound quite uninteresting, indeed. All the cliche :) Then at one seldom-noticed corner, they have the EOS 40D & EOS 1D mark (?) on display as well, and the cameras have been dismantled! You can see the main circuit board, the CMOS sensor, the sensor cleaning components, the mirror, etc.

It is quite interesting to see those cameras without a cover. How the different circuit boards are placed and the wiring.

Go down to take a look if you are a Canon photobug. :D

Friday, August 29, 2008

Trading Competition - Continued

In one of my previous entries, I mentioned the CMC markets trading competition (see:

Some of my colleagues actually are participating in the competition, and they are leading! Two of them are now in the top 10 spots, while two others are in the 10s & 20s.

Wow, I didn't know my colleagues are all investment gurus. Look at the ROI (Return on Investment) rates of the top 10, even the guy at the 10th place has an ROI of 73%! Considering this is not a mock trading competition, but a real life trading competition, with participants using his/her own money to do every single trade, they have some good profits even if they don't win any prizes.

Too bad, I can't even do trading. There is some problem with my account and all orders are cancelled automatically. That's very 'nice', isn't it?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Journey to the Centre of Earch

Journey to the Centre of Earth, a movie that is derived from the Novel - Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I said 'derived', means it is not the story in that novel, but a new story.

The film is only about 90 mins, or even shorter? It is entertaining, but too short. There are numerous illogical scenes. How can a magnetic compass work after it has been subjected to strong magnetic fields?!

Never mind. If you have kids and want to have some family entertainment, this is not a bad choice :D

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Keepsake Crimes

Title: Keepsake Crimes
Author: Laura Childs
Publisher: Gerry Schmitt 2003

This novel is not simply a novel. It has two purposes. On the one hand, of course, it is a detective kind of novel, involving solving the puzzle of a murder case; on the other hand, it is also a book introducing to the readers about scrapbooking. The scrapbooking part is not actually subtle. The author sometimes spends quite a bit of effort to entice the readers into scrapbooking.

What is scrapbooking? Ok, go to wiki it :D

As for any detective kind of stories, hints are dropped here and there, then finally leading to the truth. Quite typical, or cliche, if you put it the bad way :)

However, there are some humourous writings in the book, such as:

Hardly. Times are tough. And guilty consciences are in exceedingly short supply these days

And this:

She also assured Carmela that she would light a candle each week until the two were once again reunited.
Carmela had thanked Gabby warmly, then suggested she might want to purchase those candles inn bulk.

Good fun reading if you have nothing better to do. :P

Friday, August 15, 2008

Microstock: Review Time

With the summer holiday in the northern hemisphere, the review time at various microstock sites seem to change as well.

It used to take only a day or two to get photos reviewed, but my last batch took almost 5 days! Then over at dreamstime, it took more than a week for my last batch. iStock, as usual, it takes them the longest time.

Most of the stock sites seem to have longer review time for the summer. Probably most of the reviewers are on holidays, or out shooting some nice summer holiday photos for themselves :)

The only exception is BigStockPhoto. Their review time used to be very long, but recently, my photos were reviewed over night. The short review time is good, but the sales there is going down down down for the summer....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony - Poor Directing?!

Someone sent me a set of photographs of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. Those photos confirmed my disappointment!

Look at the photos, and recall what I saw on the live telecast, I wanted to kick the director of the live telecast.

The opening show was directed by world-famous director - Zhang Yimou. His directing is world-class. The performers, from solders to the kungfu masters, everybody spent 3 long years to prepare for this important moment. They did delivery a spectacular performance. However, the spectacular performance was given a 50% discount by the live telecast director.

It seems the live telecast director has no idea about the show, has no idea what the performance wanted to portrait. When the performance is at its grandest at wide angle, the live telecast director zoomed to the individuals.

When the opening show committee spent millions of dollars to create the Olympics 5-circle fireworks, the live telecast director didn't even seem to know that the fireworks would form the 5-circle!

It is said that the NBC version of the opening ceremony is a lot more spectacular than the CCTV version. I hoped I will have the chance to look at that version in the near future. CCTV version of the live telecast is a great disappointment. I really feel sorry for the opening show's director - Zhang Yi-mou, all the performers at the opening show. Their efforts were wasted because of some stupid idiot!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Mummy 3 - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Watched The Mummy 3 - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor at The Cathay. First time watching a movie at The Cathay. The cinema is nice, grand looking, the sound effects are good too. And for UOB credit card holders, you can get a discount on the tickets. S$6.00 a ticket on week days & S$8.00 a ticket on weekends. That is pretty cool.

Ok, back to the movie. Continuing from the fun of the first two mummy movies, the 3rd mummy is just as fun. With the shift of the focus from the rest of the world to China, just as the 29th Olympics is bringing the world focus in China, this 3rd mummy comes from China, as you may guessed. The so-called Dragon Emperor is no other than the first emperor of China - Emperor Qin Chi'huang.

The story is quite plain, before you watch the movie, probably you can already guesses the end. But then the movie itself brings lots of fun and entertainment to the audience, of course, lots of fighting too. How can you expect a movie starring kungfu stars Jet Li & Michelle Yeo to be lack of fighting?!

It is a good movie for people who are looking for some laughters, some entertainment, some fun. It is not for the hypercrits who look for so-called 'deeper' meanings.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Field of Blood

Title: The Field of Blood
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: Bantam Books 2005

Finally, I finished reading this book. The story is about two Paddy Meehans, one is an old man who had been wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit and locked up in the jail for decades; another is a young girl working at a news paper as a copyboy, but is inspired to become a real journalist.

The two lines are interwined with each other, but I have no clue why the two are linked, other than both are from the Scottish city of Glasgow, a city deeply divided between Catholics and Protestants.

The plot is not too bad, other than the redundancy of the old Paddy Meehan part. The story about the young Paddy Meehan started with the murder of a baby called Brian. Paddy's finacee's cousin is one of the two boys being accused of killing baby Brian. Young Paddy Meehan started her own investigation, uncovering the details bit by bit, then finally exposing the real murderer, the one who murdered another baby Thomas Dempsie 10 years ago.

The author's lips are tight. She didn't drop any obvious hints or tips till the very last few pages when the true killer surfaced.

However, this book is a bit grey or even dark. In many occasions, the author depicted the fall of the Scottish industries. Factories were closing down one by one, workers were laid off. In addition, the tough parts of the city. All these give the readers a depressing impression of a new modern city slump.

And then people's attitudes towards religion. The young Paddy Meehan, only went to mass to please his parents, although she didn't have the least faith in the religion. She confessed she lied from the very first time she received the communion.

The society depicted is so suffocating.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Microstock: Changes

It seems like there are some changes happening to the microstock industry.

The first, of course, is the claim that they have raised the entry barrier to a much higher standard. From time to time, you will hear people making bitter complaints of how difficult it is to get accepted into the microstock sites, especially the industrial leaders such as Shutterstock & iStock.

Then over iStock, it seems there is a massive project in progress to make amendments to the keywords/tags of all the existing images. I personally had received more than 10 messages in total informing me of changes to the tags of my images. At the high of it, I received 6 messages in a single day!

As the microstock libraries getting bigger and bigger, from a mere of a few thousand images to now you can hit any stocksite with more than a million images, I can say in the future, the standard will get higher and higher and the entry barrier will be further raised. Being a contributor, we can't just sit back and relax and get contented with whatever standard we are now. With the proliferation of digital cameras, there will be more contributors and more images will be available. The customers will be spoilt for choice.

The photographers will have to improve their skills along with the growth of this microstock market. Ah....Continuous improvement.....

Friday, August 8, 2008

All Eyes on CHINA!

While I am writing this blog entry, it is half an hour into the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympics Games in Beijing, China. Billions of people around the world will be watching this great event.

It is the very first time in the 5000 years of China that an Olympics Games is hosted in this ancient central kingdom, which went through more than a century of humiliation and defeat, at the brink of collapse of the country.

Now thanks to Deng Xiao-ping, who decided to open the country's door to the outside world, and brought this ancient aging country out of poverty, the modern China is a lot more strong in terms of her economic power, millitary power and political influence. A status that is only fit for a central kingdom.

Best wishes to the success of the 29th Olympics Games!

Microstock: A New Microstock Site

Since someone asked, I will share with the rest the new microstock site I mentioned in my last blog entry.

The new site is:

I have not taken a detail look at the site yet. Some preliminary information I know of is this is a new stock site based in Singapore, with a focus on Asia images. They will give you a cut from 50-70% of the sales revenue.

For other details, such as what is the minimum resolution they require, the approval process, how the payout will be, etc, are still unknown to me. If anyone has such information, it will be good to share them here with everybody.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Microstock: Surprise

Today, when I logged into, a window poped up informing me I had got a new private message. Opened it, oh, what a surprise! Someone from a newly setup microstock site sent me the PM, inviting me to join their site.

I have not taken a detail look at their site yet, but it is something good to know. One more site up there for us to choose, one more venue for us to market my own 'products'.

Then I opened my shutterstock account, and found I some income from 'referred photographers'. OMG, I didn't even know I had any 'referred photographers'! I only knew I referred Sherman but he doesn't have any photo online. Then I went on to check who are my 'referred photographers'. There are in fact quite a number, but only one of them has some photoes available online.

I must say THANK YOU to all my referred photographers. Thank you very much for your trust in me. I am most grateful....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It has been a long long time since I last had fever. I had almost forgotten how it felt. And for the first 7 months of this year, I had been healthy, not even catching a cold or flu. Then today is the day, that I am down with fever.

First, I consumed quite a few packets of peanuts :), then I over exercised over the weekend, swimming 1.5km each day in an ice-cold pool (because weather was cloudy), followed by yesterday's consumption of beef & walking in an air-conditioned place for almost 2 hours wearing only shorts & t-shirt.

The doctor gave me two days of medical leave. That's good. I can drink that cough syrup and sleep soundly for the whole day :D

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This is called "low cut" :D

I simply couldn't stop laughing after I read this at STOMP, so I would to share with you guys here.

The guy in the picture really 'pushes boundaries" to the new limit and making a loud fashion statement, may not be in the good way though.

I have questions to ask.

1. How did his front hold up? The back had slipped till so low, how could the front hold position then?

2. Did he feel cold or chill with his 'full moon'? Especially considering the air-con in our MRT trains is really cold.

Ahhh...Never mind, he provided lots of entertainment to people who saw this, free entertainment somemore, so don't complain....:D

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Change of Address

Title: Change of Address
Author: Lee Langley
Publisher: Mandarin Paperbacks 1995

It is a story of a mother and daughter, set in the background of the first half of the last century, before, during & after WWII in both India & Britain.

There are two interesting aspects of this book.

First, the historical background of the story. It was a time when the British empire went from the empire of never setting sun to a sun set. With Gandhi leading the independence movement in India, British were finding it less & less to rule this colony. More and more violence against the British. Eventually, as everybody also knows, the British left this Asia sub-continent and returned to their home land. The author didn't depict the events directly, but rather, through a little girls eyes, and mouth, uttered out what life was like for an ordinary British family in that country, at that time.

Second, the book, in great detail, describes a mother who is lazy, over-spending, over-zealous, a woman of no honour, ignorant, negligent about her duty as a mother.

As a whole, I don't like this novel very much. It is a bit boring, not something joyful to read.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ebene Bio-ray Knee Guard

Since I started to lead a more 'active' life a month ago, what I feared most happened again. My knees. There are pains in them again. I thought my knee pain had been cured but it obviously was not true. Those so-called 'joint food' don't seem to have much effect on me at all. So this time, I decided to try out those new bio-ray knee guard.

Bought a pair on Sat at the price of S$69.30. It is said to have the following efficacies:

1. Stimulate blood and oxygen circulation in knee & leg
2. Promotes metabolism and enhances energy
3. Revitalizes cells, and strengthens bone & soft tissues
4. Relieves knee problems
5. Eliminates water retention in knee & leg

I don't know how actually it works, but for the 5 stated benefits above, I can testify 1, from my 1.5 days experience. It seems like it does stimulate the blood circulation. My knees feel warm (but not sure whether because I have an extra layer of cloth around them) now.

The product also claims guaranteed results after a few minutes, and in 7 days, relieve knee pain. I am only into the 2nd day, so still 5 more days to go before I can tell you whether it really relieve my knee pain. What I can say now is it does help a bit on my knees. They don't feel so cold as before.

By the way, my $69 investment can only last me a mere 9 months. After that, I have to get a new pair. So, within these 9 months, I must make full use of the pair. Hopefully I can also let my mum try. She has worse knee problem than me, so the effect should be more pronounced.

Stay tuned for the results....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hellboy II - The Golden Army

Watched Hellboy II today at Cathay Causeway Point.

The movie is not bad. It has all the ingredients of a pop movie. Love, romance, emotions, conspiracy, magic, and of course, lots of fighting. It provides lots of entertainment and will not bore you out.

With such a nice movie, you would expect me to enjoy it very much, but to the contrary, I didn't. Not because the movie is bad, but because people are bad.

10 minutes into the movie, I suddenly smell some bad odour. At first I suspected it was my friend who was sitting right next to me. Then after a while, my friend moved from the seat on my left to the seat on my right. He said the couple behind him had bad odour. After that, I asked my friend to move to the right by one more seat so that I could move too. After all these movement, we could still smell the odour! Finally we moved to another row, seperated by the isle.

The smell was like someone having bad breath, or the smell of vomit. It was disgusting.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Double Exposure

Title: Double Exposure
Author: Carol Smith
Publisher: Warner Books (Reprinted 1999)

Carol Smith obviously has a keen eye for modern life, urban life of the singles above 30, to be more precise. In her novel, she softly describes what those people's life is like to great details.

The apartment was still and as silent as she had left it, the morning
mail strewn across the breakfast counter but no friendly message light
winking to welcome her home. ..... What sort of a life was this, working
all hours yet with nothing to come home to?

Does this lament of Merrily, a high-flyer at Chase Manhattan Bank, sound familiar to you?

What a pathetic pair we are, to be sure, she sometimes reflected as she
microwaved her solitary supper while she watched EastEnders. Working
ourselves into an early grave, letting real life pass us by.

This is another description that I like. Realistic reflection of the modern urban life.

The story started with Jo, a junior medical doctor having holidays alone in a West Indies island. She got to meet news friends Vincent, Lowell, Jessica, Merrily, and mother & daughter Cora Louise & Fontaine. They hit off with each other well, and a tradition began for them to meet one week before Christmas at the same island every year. As they got closer with each other, they started to visit each other's home and had gatherings in different parts of the world.

Just when you think everything is rosy & cosy, a murder mystery had already been woven into the story seemlessly. First it was Vincent, then Jo's ex-boyfriend, Sebastian, was murdered. Merrily was cheated and was fired by Mother Chase. Bad things happened to the group. Hints were given along the way, but the murder was only revealed at the very last chapter of the novel.

I must say this is well-written story.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bottle Tree Restaurants

We had a farewell lunch at Bottle Tree Village at Sembawang the week before. The setting is not bad. Facing the dirty and smoky Strait of Johor, located deep into the jungle :) You won't be able to reach there unless you have your own transport or by Taxi. Outside the restaurant fence, you can see a sandy beach, with police post setup there, I guess ever since Mr Selamat's runaway.

In terms of food, they serve the typical Singapore style kampong seafood, which means prawns, chilli crab, etc. The typical stuff. One special dish maybe is their fish steam boat, with charcoal. However, I was not very pleased with this dish. The fish is fishy.

Then today, I went for a wedding lunch at Bottle Tree Park at Yishun. The setting is also the same rustic feel with fish/shrimp ponds around to entertain the customers at a price. It is a nice place to spend a lazy afternoon with family & friends fishing shrimps or fish or whatever you can catch in their ponds.

The wedding lunch was buffet. The food seemed to have been prepared long before our arrival and everything was cold. Food quality is acceptable but not fantastic. You can go there for the 'feel' but not really a place where you want to entertain your big account customer or your darling on important dates.

Overall, I can only give 3/5 to these two eating places.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gay is fashionable

Fashion trends are set by 'far-sighted' people who want to make themselves rich. In these age of gay fashion, everybody wants to make some bucks out of it.

First it was the last emperor of China - Henry Puyi. Ah, everybody knows he didn't even touch his empress or concubines his whole life, which led to the tragic life of his empress Wanrong and his royal concubine's divorce case. This is at least fair.

Then things get more interesting. Some 'cultural' person wrote a book claiming the Chinese poet Quyuan, the one who we remember for during Duanwu festival, was gay. The poet committed suicide because his secret love of the King was not reciprocated. His disappointment with the King was the reason for his death.

As if this is not enough. Another 'cultural' person came up with theories that the early emperors of the east Han Dynasty were all gays, including the famous Emperor Han Wu. It was said his love for his general Wei Qing was the reason why he made Wei Qing's sister empress.

Looks like our 'cultural' people need to dig out gold from the dead. Once a report claimed that Napoleon IS (note: this is present tense) still providing a living for many many people, including those researching on the truth of his death.

There are thousands of ways to make a living. Mysterious death of famous people, some ambiguity, some grey area, some creativity will last you a long way....


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

First $28 EL Sales at ShutterStock

Surprise surprise, when I logged in my Shutterstock account this morning, the stats page says I have 5 downloads so far for the day. Not a very exciting number. Then I looked at the photos downloaded, and saw some red characters in bigger fonts beside one of the photos. I rubbed my still sleepy, blurry eyes, guessing what kind of error message it would be, then I read "Enhanced license sale"!
I never expected this photo will get an enhanced license sales. Beautiful sky, crystal clear water, wonderful architecture, indeed, but there are also so many half naked tourists sun-bathing, sun-tanning out there.
Anyway, this is my very first EL sales after they raised the EL payout from $20 to $28 in May. A positive surprise, happy! ^_^

Monday, July 7, 2008

Traveling between Hong Kong & Guangzhou

Traveling between Hong Kong & Guangzhou is pretty easy and comfortable these days. From Guangzhou East Rail Station, you can choose either the direct train to Hong Kong which will bring you all the way to Hong Kong's Honghum Station in downtown Hong Kong; or you can take the express train to Shenzhen's Luohu checkpoint. Elsewhere, you can also choose to take a coach up. There are plenty of choices.

The direct train journey is about 2 hours from Guangzhou to Hongkong. It only takes one hour from Guangzhou to Shenzhen's Luohu checkpoint, but it takes 45 mins from Luohu to Honghum. The railway in the Hongkong side is too old for the trains to run fast.

In mainland side, the railways had been upgraded. The train speed had been raised significantly in the last few years. The trains are also different. The old KCR(Kowlong-Canton Rail) trains are just as old as the company itself. On mainland side, the train Harmony, gives you those seats as you see in areoplanes.

Interior of KCR Trains

Interior of Harmony Train in Mainland China

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hong Kong - Deja Vu?

Some wise men say life comes in circles. Ten years ago, when I first visited Hong Kong, I was greeted with a Level 1 Typhoon Warning on the day of my arrival; and a Level 3 Typhoon Warning was my farewell gift.

Then when I visited Hong Kong this year, again I was greeted with a Level 1 Typhoon Warning; by the time I left the territory in the evening, I was again given a Level 3 Typhoon Warning as my parting gift.

Ten years ago, I prayed at the Temple of Heaven Big Buddha on Lantau Island in stormy weather; ten years later, I again prayed at the Temple of Heaven Big Buddha on Lantau Island in stormy weather. History repeats itself almost to exact detail.

Ok, enough about stormy weather. Let's talk about food in HK. We had our lunch at the food court at the shopping mall at Tung Chung MTR station. The name of the food court is Food Republic. Sounds like it is from a Singapore chain of food courts. I ordered a beef hor fun. The taste is not too bad, but not too fantasitic either. Total damage? HK$32.00. (S$1.00=~HK$5.70).

We had dinner at 池记。It is a small little shop (茶餐厅) at 84, Percival St. Causeway Bay (Tel: 2890 8616). The crowd seem to be mainly mandarin-speaking Chinese. My friend told me this store had been mentioned in many travel magazines, so it is a very popular place.

The food there is not bad. We ordered Beef String Rice, Wonton, Pork Rib noodle, & deep-fried fish-ball.

Beef-String Rice


Pork-Rib Noodle

Deep-Fried Fish-Ball

The Beef string is done nicely, but the catch is at the rice. The rice is no plain rice, but mixed with vegie & herbs. When the rice is presented on table, you can smell the fragrance. The Wonton is tender, but not as good as the ones that I had in Hualian, Taiwan, the one that CKS' son used to patron.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Traveling to China...Before the Olympics

Visited Guangzhou and Hongkong last week. With Beijing Olympics opening in 40 days, the security obviously has been tightened at the borders.

At Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport, Chinese custom in the past only conducted random checks on passagers. Majority of the passengers can just walked past without any hassle. This time round, all luggage must go through the X-ray machine, including hand-carry luggage.

At Guangzhou's East Rail Station, Chinese custom officers conduct more frequent random checks on passengers boarding the direct train to Hongkong.

At Hongkong side, the security has obviously been tightened too. The custom officers didn't check on passengers' luggage in the past, but now, every luggage must go through the X-ray machine.

You can feel the higher level of security checks, but so far everything has been smooth. Nothing major incidence for me, yet.

Singaporeans, from 1 July 2008, must obtain a valid entry visa to enter China. Previously, Singaporeans did not need a visa if the duration of stay is within 14 days.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Today I share with you two common scams in China. And those scams seem to have gone global with the globalization :)

Scam 1:

Some finance company calls you up offering easy loans to you. Being trusting, you call up the company a couple of times, and voila, your application for loan from the company is approved. You receive an SMS from a bank informing you that the money is already in your account, and you can check your account balance by calling a certain phone number. You call the number, check your account and glad to know the money is already in your account. Happy. But when you go to the bank to withdraw the money, you find that the loan amount has never been credited into your bank account. In addition, all YOUR money in your account has been transferred out to someone else's account and your money just vanishes!

This is a very common scam. The trick is in the telephone number you call to check your account balance. The SMS informing you about the number may appear to be a valid bank phone number, but actually it is not. There is software available out there to make SMS 'appear' to be from some number other than the actual sender's number.

Once you call up the number, you will be duped into believing you are accessing the phone banking system, whilst it is not. You are actually entering the scammer's fake phone banking system. The scammers are waiting for you to enter your PIN number! Once they get your PIN, they will immediately transfer your money out of your account to their own account. And from one account to many other accounts, and from those many accounts to even more accounts. When the sum is small enough in each account, they will quickly withdraw your money from the many accounts they have.

Scam 2:

This is a dumb scam, but somehow it works perfectly. The scammer will send tens of thousands of SMS'es out. In the SMS, the scammer will give you an account number, and ask you to transfer money to that account.

Don't you think this scam is dumb? Who in the sane mind would transfer money to someone you don't know? Yet this scam works!

It works because sometimes people arrange to borrow money or whatsoever that involves money transfer from account to account. It happens that the person who is supposed to transfer the money receive the SMS after his/her conversation with the other party. If he/she is not careful enough to check and ensure that the account number is for the intended party, he/she may just transfer the money to the wrong person! And the scam works!

So next time, when you need to do a money transfer, make sure you verify the account to transfer to is correct.

You may wonder how much money the scammer can gain. How much? Make a guess? The scam was discovered only when the scammer used the money to buy a couple of gold bars. So you go figure.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Trading Competition

CMC Markets is organizing a trading competition. Participants will compete with each other for the grand prize of S$5000. The criteria is really simple, the one (oh, sorry, not one, but the top ten) with the highest return-on-investment will win.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? Then when I look at the terms & conditions, I almost fell of my chair. The one condition is that you must have a live trading account with CMC markets. What does it mean? It means you must trade with your own money, real money! And you have to pay the normal fees & commissions.

The organizer must think Singaporeans are idiots! Come on, the fees & commissions generated from the transactions done in this so-called 'trading competition' will be a couple of times of the prize money. There are winners & losers among the participants, but for sure CMC markets will be the winner, sure winner.

People are getting more and more creative in convincing people to surrender their hard-earned money to make some shady characters the new millionaire.

Oh, yeah, just a reminder to myself. Tomorrow I should write about a scam that is rampant in China. This scam happened to some in Singapore too. In fact two scams. Just to warn everybody.