Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Malaysia Great Sale

When I was in Malaysia last weekend, it happened they were having the Malaysia Great Sale. Singapore also has its great sale in Jun, but the discounts are not really that attractive, unless you brave the crowd.

It is a bit different in Malaysia. Many shopping centres and shops participate in the great sale, and the cut is really deep. Some items are at 70% discount, and many others are at 50%, 40%, 30% discounts. You rarely see such deep discounts in Singapore. To make it more sweet, the shops are not really that crowded. I was in Klang's Bukit Tinggi Jusco and KL's Mid-valley Mega Mall, the shops were not jam pack. You could shop at ease, without rubbing other's shoulders.

Malaysians sales assistants are mostly youngsters. They may not have very good product knowledge, but they are at least friendly, and approachable.

The Malaysia Great Sale is in March, August & December. If you don't want to miss those sales, plan your trip Malaysia at the right time :D

Monday, March 24, 2008

Klang Bak Kut Teh 肉骨茶

Bak Kut Teh, literally translated into English is Herbal Pork Broth. Basically, it is pork cooked with herbal soup, and you always have tea to go with this dish, that's how the name Teh (which means tea in Hokkein) comes. This delicacy is said to originated in Klang, Malaysia. Up to this day, this is still a dish that the Chinese in Klang are proud of. There are many many shops selling Bak Kut Teh in Klang area, there are good ones, but there also bad ones. Over the good Friday long weekend, I tried out 3 of the shops selling this speciality.

1. Teluk Pulai
2. Qi Xiang (奇香)
3. Qing Xiang (Backstreet Branch) 庆祥 (后街)

Teluk Pulai serves the clay pot version of the Bak Kut Teh. The meat is tender and just nice. Other than Bak Kut Teh, they also serve other dishes such as fried vegetables. You can satisfied all your taste buds there.

Qi Xiang also serves the clay pot version of the Bak Kut Teh, but they also have a 'dry' version of the Bak Kut Teh, which is a new invention, a new development of an old dish. The dry version is more spicy, cooked with soy sauce, lots of green & red chilli.

Qing Xiang is the most most authentic version, which Bak Kut Teh is served in a bowl. This shop is said to be the No. 1 in Klang, and they are only open for the morning. On weekends, by 9am, their Bak Kut Teh is sold out. If you don't want to miss it, be an early bird.

Personally, I like the Teluk Pulai version most, followed by Qing Xiang and Qi Xiang. Some warning though, all 3 use a lot of MSG. In terms of hygiene, many may frown on Qing Xiang's practice. As they are short of man power, they don't clean the tea cups! Customers leave the tea cups on the table after use. The next batch of customers must use the boiling water provided to clean the tea cups themselves. So if you are there, don't forget to clean the tea cups yourselves, ok?

All 3 shops are in the Lan Hua Yuan (蓝花园)area which is near the Federal Highway. A hand drawn map is available here.

Too bad, I have no pictures to show for now. My PDA and my laptop simply refuse to talk to each other. :(

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easying of the Traffic Jam at Woodlands Checkpoint?

I had wanted not to mention this man, but I have no choice to to mention him directly. Who is he? He is Mas Selamat Kastari, who is said to be the head of JI in Singapore. He was arrested under ISA, but successfully escaped from a detention centre on 27 Feb 2008. Ok, he is said to be a terrorist, who planned to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport. The plan has not been materialised yet, luckily, but his escape is just equally lethal as his plan. Ever since his escape, thousands of people suffered, and Malaysians are the worst affected.

Before and on March 8, the election day in Malaysia. Thousands of Malaysians who were on their way home to vote had to walk from Marselin MRT station to the Woodlands Checkpoint. Why? The traffic jam had paralysed the public transport almost completely.

Last Thursday night, I joined the thousands who were on their way home for Good Friday holiday, and walked from Marselin MRT to Woodlands Checkpoint. On the way, all the cars were standing still. There was hardly any movement. The roads had been turned into a huge car park!

At Woodlands checkpoint, long queues everywhere, although more counters were opened to cater to the high volume. Those who were in the long queues were mostly foreigners, Malaysians included. Singaporeans are more lucky, if they hold the new passport. They can make use of the automatic clearance facility to pass. All they need to do is scan their passport, then pass with their fingerprint verified. Fast and swift :D

At Malaysia immigration, the counters for foreigners were mostly empty. The usual long queues were gone. The immigration hall looked like a ghost town.

When I came back to Singapore this afternoon. Everything was very smooth. The long queues of lorries and trucks and cars along the road leading to the Woodlands Checkpoint were suspiciously absent. I was wondering: Has Mas Selamat been captured? Or something has changed? Or just that my observation was wrong? Mmmmm...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Microstock: Poor Lighting

I submitted this photo to Shutterstock under "Editorial - No release needed", but it was rejected for "Poor Lighting--Poor or uneven lighting, or shadows. White balance may be incorrect."

I don't know why it is considered "poor lighting". What I suspect is there are people in the foreground shadow. Although this photo was submitted as "Editorial", I find that they, in general, don't like photos with 'more' regconizable faces. If the guys (or gals, of course) in the photo are far away, with barely regconizable facial features, they are more willing to take the photo in.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Truth or Lies

Someone posted a video clip at, of a documentary from the National Geography Channel, on Tibet.

And someone wrote an interesting article, about Tibet before 1950. The article is available at the link below:

There are many one-sided opinions in the mass media, which are contributed mainly by the supporters of the supreme spiritual leader. Probably we should always hear the other side of the story. One-sided story tends to be biased, most of the time.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Fall of Soviet Union, The Rise of Russia

Soviet Union was long critized by the west, for the communist rule, the planned economic, etc, etc. The last ruler of Soviet Union, Ah Go, listened to the friendly advice from the west, from the 'democratic' countries, took necessary actions that gained him respect and praise from the west. Came one day in 1991, the Soviet Union that stood up on her own feet for almost a century, collapsed over night. Very nice indeed. Within one day, we had 10 more heads of state. So nice.

Ah Go gained even more praises from the west, for his ingeniuous act to disintegrate his own country, give up his own power, reduce himself from a head of state of one of the only two super powers in the world to a pensioner living on miserable pensions from the state.

His successor gained even more praises from the west. Boris managed to put his new country's economy into a mess. The country defaulted on its debts. People were living in a living hell. But, Boris still gained great praises from the western countries.

Boris decided he like alcohol more than his job, so he handed over his job to a tough guy, Putin. Putin ruled with an iron fist, sorted out the country's economy. People again can have enough food on their table, enough money for them to spend, and even can afford overseas holidays. Putin was condemned by the west, for making Russia a rising power.

The five-circle game is fast approaching. The sleeping dragon is waking up. How can that be allowed to happen?! Sleeping dragon shall forever remain sleeping; otherwise, it should be slayed. In such a case, the pawns are coming on stage. A former slave master is again, trying to regain his power, his power almost as powerful as a local emperor.

Microstock: Poor Composition

Photography is an art. It is just another way of saying photography is subjective. Different people may have vastly different views on the same photograph. Unfortunately, in microstock, you always have to pass the reviewers, before your photo is accepted and put up for sale.

Reviewers are supposed to be experienced photographers and have enough experience in the microstock industry. However, they are still humans. They have their likes and dislikes, they have their own bias. One photo accepted in one stock site does not guarantee the acceptance at another.

For example, this photo of part of the dome in Florence, Italy, is accepted by Shutterstock, but has been rejected by Dreamstime for poor composition. In general, the reviewers are right. In this case, even though the photo was accepted by Shutterstock, the sales numbers are really small, so probably the Dreamstime reviewer is right.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

House Warming

Had a house warming last night at my flat. Some of colleagues came over to 'warm' up my flat :D

My Indian friend told me they also have house warming in India. They usually warm some milk on the stove, offer some milk to the gods, then the host drinks the rest of the milk. That is the house warming ritual. For us, hehehe... I think we only use the body heat to 'warm' up the flat:D Well, more traditionally, you are supposed to cook a meal in the new flat, and invite your friends to come over for the food. Cooking a meal in the kitchen signifies the 'fire' is lit, and the bigger the 'fire', the more prosperious the family living in the flat will be.

For me, I only ordered some Pizza Hut delivery for my guests. New age, too troublesome to really cook for 10+ guys.

Fit brought his XBOX over, which provided most of the entertainment of the night. The most popular game of course is the football game. The fighting game was not bad. 'Rivals' in the office settled their woes in the 'fighting ring' :D The least popular game was car racing. None of us seemed to be a good driver.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Declining US$$$$, Deminishing Returns

When I first started in microstock in late, US$1.00 was worth around S$1.70. Today, 13 March 2008, US$1.00 is only worth S$1.3802. It is a 20% decline over the 2 years. Luckily many stock sites also up'ed their rates for photographers. Shutterstock, for example, first increased their payout rate from US$0.20 a download, to US$0.25, then further increased the payout rate to US$0.30 for those who had an accumulated amount of US$500.00 or above. Recently, Shutterstock again announced they are reviewing their payout rate, crutching the numbers before they make an official announcement in early May. Many are hoping to get some really good payouts in May. Let's see what the new rate will be.

The recent devaluation of the US dollar makes it much less attractive for photographers living in non-US dollar countries. By the time they receive their pay from microstock, the amount is no longer worth that much. In addition to that, they still have to bear the cost of exchanging the dollars into their own currencies, which is additional cost.

For someone like me, doing microstock as a sideline, or microstock as a side-product of my hobby, probably it will not matter that much, but for those who make a living out of microstock, the impact is significant. If you maintain the same sales volume, you are already getting a 20% pay cut.

Mmmh, we all must work harder, to make up for the loss of income. Thanks to Mr Ben from the Federal Reserve of USA. :(

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

FED for the Con Man

The Federal Reserve just announced it would, together with other central banks in the world, inject another US$200 billion into the financial market. Read US$ is going down and down and down, and inflation will go up and up and up!

They claim it is an effort to avoid a recession, but the fact is they are trying to rescue the rascals, the con men in the finanical industry, whose greed grew too big, and too unlucky that they still had all the shit that they wanted to sell to the fools.

No doubt it is true the stability of the financial market is important, but don't forget the fundamental principle of capitalism. Capitalism will only be successful if it is truly market driven. What Ah Ben is doing is just to delay the market's self regulation. Would this mean the bad guys won't be punished by the market force? No! Ah Ben is just blowing up the bubble to make it bigger, so that when the bubble bursts, the pain will be bigger, too.

So what Jim Rogers predicted was right. He said the US$ would continue to decline, and he would move all his assets out of US. What a smart move. Had he not done that, he would be sitting on huge paper loss, or huge piles of useless green paper, not even good enough to be used as toilet paper :D

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Beginning of A New Era - Malaysia General Election 2008

Today, when Malaysians woke up in the morning, they would find a new era had just begun. The ruling party Barisan National lost its 2/3 majority which it had held for the past 40 years! To make things worse, they also lost 4 states to the opposition parties, Penang, Kedah, Selangor, and Perak. Kelandan, a state that had been under opposition PAS rule for the past, remains a strong hold of PAS.

These results are totally unexpected to most. Very few even imagined that BN would lose this much. What has changed that led to such surprising results?

There are a couple of reasons, in my own opinion:

1. A generation of younger voters are voting in this GE. They accounted for about 25% of the eligible voters. Many of them are better educated, with easy access to information from the internet. Old-fashioned media manuplation does not work very well to those voters. The opposition obviously noticed this and they set up internet blog sites to communicate their ideology to the young voters. BN didn't seem to understand or know how to use the new information technology much. They still sticked to the old way.

2. Inflation. It is a global phenomenon, but it is more severe in Malaysia. Inflation affects Malays more than other ethnic groups such as Chinese and Indian. Malay is the core support group of the ruling BN, yet BN didn't take good care of their supporters. What do you think then?

3. The Anwar factor. The former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, who had been put into jail for crimes that sounds suspicious, has become a powerful factor in helping his wife's party, the PKR to win support from the Malays.

4. The lack of development in Malaysia. Many Malaysians are commenting Malaysia is not moving forward, on the contrary, it is moving backward. This is particularly obvious in previously industry heavy state of Penang. With the rise of China and India, many MNCs are moving their manufacturing facilities away from Penang. At national level, there are not many major developments. From my personal experience, Malaysia is not getting better, but worse. In the past, Malaysia was still attractive because things were cheap there. People could have a good life there even though they didn't have much money. Now with the rising inflation, prices rises in almost every single aspect of life, people are feeling the pinch. For a foreigner like me, it is not attractive at all to shop in Malaysia. In addition, the crime rate is high. People don't feel safe in the streets.

This GE served as a wake-up call to the ruling BN. It is not a bad thing. I only pity PM Adullah, who had been under heavy attack by former PM Dr. M. Life for PM Adullah will be hard in the days ahead. He has to work twice, thrice as hard as before to get his country back on the right course.

This GE is not only a good lesson for Malaysia, it is also a good lesson for those who had been the ruling power for the past many many years. They must respect the power and will of the people. Those in power must understand that they are the SERVANTS of the people of the country, not MASTERS! A well respected Chinese Emperor Li Shi-min (李世民)once said "water can keep the boat float, it can also capsize the boat", meaning people can bring you to power, but they can also bring you down.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

32" LCD Monitor

Got a 32" LCD TV set recently. Today, I tried to use it as my computer monitor. It is BIG! And that is about all. It is too big for you to sit close to it, but the words on screen are too small for you to see clearly.

Nice to use it to watch movies from my laptop, but using it for photo editing? Mmmmmh........ Not very sure. You need to sit close to see the details, which are critical when it comes to photos. I am amazed by the technology advancement. How much of our life is now revolving around our computer.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Strange Things Happened to My Air-Con

I came back home and had big surprised today. The moment I opened my door, I felt a bit cold in the living room. It is not very normal to feel cold in the flat considering I am living in a tropical country without winter. I thought the cold air from last night was trapped in the flat as I didn't open the windows or doors.

I walked around in the flat, still feeling very strange, as it had that feel the air-con was on. I checked the air-con unit in my room. No, it was off. As I walked into the next room, I was horrified. The air-con was blowing full force! No wonder even the floor tiles in the living room were ice-cold.

I don't know how the air-con would turn on on its own. My flatmate didn't turn it on. I didn't turn it on. So who else would have turned it on?

In my previous flat, my former flatmates also told me sometimes the air-con in their rooms would turn on on their own, although I had never encountered that before myself. It is freaking. At SGD$0.50 per hour, I don't know how long the air-con had been turned on without anyone at home, and the amount of money, electricity had been wasted.

Anyone has similar experience before?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


My blog has been dull these days. Let me brighten it up a bit today by bringing you to the drawing room of Europe! Where is it? It is Venice, of course, where else? :D

You can never miss the bridge of sighs when you are visiting Venice. It is just as famous as the waterways and the bridges across the grand canal. Flocks of tourists are crowding the bridge with a good view of the bridge of sighs.

Next is the Pinto Rialto. It is one of the only 3 bridges that cross the grand canal. As you can see, it is a major tourist attraction.

And of course, you must see the waterways in Venice, the water city. Water has this magic power of making people feel romantic and warm and soft, just like a girl. The yachts and gondolas remind you there are lots of rich people in this world, which is not a bad thing.

Finally, an aerial view of St Marco's square, with the domes of St Marco in sight.

I hope you enjoy this short virtual tour of Venice.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Over-Crowded Buses/Trains and Spare Capacity

There has been quite some complaints about buses and trains being too crowded ever after all the taxi companies in Singapore raised their fares. However, the bus companies & train companies claim they still have quite a lot of spare capacity with the current load.

Why is there a difference in what people feel and what the transportation companies claim then? I did a simple calculation the other day while taking a bus. That bus was said to be over-crowded by my colleague, but I looked at the loading capacity. For a double-decker bus, the lower deck has a standing capacity of 41 persons. On that day, there were only about 30 persons standing, yet we already felt a bit squeezed. If we want to fill to the full capacity of 41 persons, we will have to pack like sardin fish. That is the difference. Comparing our trains with those in Japan, probably our trains are not really that crowded or jam-packed, yet.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Noise, Noise, Noise...

Noise, noise, noise. We have to live with noise every day. Ever since I moved into this new flat, I am getting more and more used to living with noise. As the flat is right beside a main road and a MRT track, so it is something that is inevitable, and hence I am kind of an 'expert' on noise.

Basically there are three types of noise, or four if you count the minor one as well.

1st type of noise is, of course, from the MRT train. It has a deep bass, and sounds like a cow. The frequency actually is not that high. The noise will stop after midnight and begins again around 5.30 in the morning. You know it is about time to wake up and get to work:D

2nd type of noise is from cars, lorries, trucks and buses. Out of all these, buses seem to have the worst noise performance. You can hardly miss the passing by of a bus. It is followed by the cabs. Cabs make higher frequency noises, and it is less bearable to human ears (means, my ears). It gets quite irritating when a cab passes by in the wee hours of the day.

3rd type of noise, and the worst of all, is the noise from motorbikes. It sounds like a musical instrument that has been badly manufactured, poorly tuned, but with a loud speaker attached. If you measure the harmonic distortion, properly you can find all the high frequency harmonics. Is this noise avoidable? I must say YES! In the 1st world country, with a 1st world garment, and people in white at the helm, I don't believe it can't be done. Yet, nobody has done anything to it. We can only train our poor ears to tolerate the distasteful noise.

4th type is household noise. I can hear the guy upstairs using his/her toilet, flushing the toilet, pour water onto the floor. Can I complain about the guy upstairs? Of course not! Why? Properly the guy downstairs can the noise I make when I pee, too! Our world class building board builds homes with paper thin walls, but yet still can sell the match boxes at a premium price.