Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ShutterStock: US Sources vs Non-US Sources

I just discovered today that ShutterStock had added a new 'feature' called 'payout history'. In the payout history, it lists down all your past records of payout, the date and amount.

What is interesting is it also distinguishes the sources of downloads. It shows you how many of your images are downloaded by people or entities from the US, and how many are from non-US sources. The reason is for revenues from US sources, you are subject to 30% tax withholding.

In my case, I don't know whether I shall say it is lucky or unlucky that only ~10% of my revenues are actually from the US, while the remaining 90% are from non-US sources. As a result, the 30% tax withholding rule has a much smaller impact on me than previously thought. What a relief!

Earthquake.Tsunami and Tremors

Just watched a movie about earthquake and tsunami, then a real earthquake occurred, and tsunami warning issued. What a coincident!

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake occurred at 5.16pm local time in Indonesia (6.16pm Singapore time). I was sitting at WJ's place, and all of a sudden, the whole office was trembling, as if somebody was pushing the building. The walls and floors look like made of paper, and displayed no strength. Based on past experience, the tremor will subside very soon, which was true. But the tremors came in waves. People in the office started to evacuate. WJ was the fastest, he disappeared in a blink. I figured the trembling had stopped, and took my time to pack up, took my bag, and then walked down.

The open space in front of our office was full of people. As it was already after office hour, people started to leave. I tompang EY's car to Sembawang. Along Serangoon North Ave 5, we saw people along the way, all evacuated from their respective office buildings, but nobody from the HDB blocks. There was a small traffic jam too along Ang Mo Kio Ave 5.

It is a bit worrying that the earthquakes are getting stronger and stronger. Although Singapore is said to be in a 'safe' zone, but then you will never know. Our building is also shaking more and more violent.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Awards and Prizes

Reading somebody's blog today, and the blogger got an award in the blogsphere. Congratulations to him! Look at myself, it seems like I am not fated with any awards or prizes.

First, let's look at lucky draw prizes. I seldom got any lucky draw prizes. The one and only time was maybe at our department's 20th anniversary dinner, I got a small little oven from the lucky draw. That maybe is the one and only time I got a lucky draw. There is no repeat occurance of such good luck so far :)

Second, awards at any competitions. So far, I got nothing worth mentioning. In the first place, I was not 'qualified' to join any competition of any significance whether it was during school time or after I came out to work. For those competitions that don't need to get 'qualified', I don't get any awards anyway. I am always a member of the background, or in the audience, to show how important or grand the competition is and how great the winners are.

All these come back to my non-competitive mentality. I am afraid of competitions. Whenever I hear the word 'competition', my legs become numb, my palms start to sweat, my mind goes blank :P My colleague CT then will always say 'It is psychology, you need to have the right psychology.'

This is life :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Minimum Payout Amount Changed at BigStockPhoto

More and more changes are happening these days. BigStockPhoto just changed its minimum payout sum.

Previously, the minimum amount to get a payout is USD$30 for paypal/money booker, and USD$50 for a check. Now, it seems like everything has been increased. For paypal/money booker, you need to reach USD$50 before you can request for a payout. This is in addition to the already troublesome wait of a minimum of 7 working days after any download to avoid internet fraud.

This change is not going to affect the big players, as they most probably will have commissions way above USD$50, but for the hobbists and amateurs, or people with a small portfolio, this change means harder, longer to get anything at all from BSP. For BSP, it is a good thing as it will improve their cash flow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tsunami at Haeundae

Tsunami at Haeundae is the first Korean disaster film, and itself is a disaster, a flop.

Hard to tell the good points, easier to pick the bad points.

1. Too much dialogue. The movie is shot in the same manner as the Korean soap operas. The conversations are long & dragging, although sometimes humourous. The dialogues between characters take up too much time.

2. Lots of tears & screaming. It seems like the only weapon the director has to move the audience is to make the actors & actress to scream, to cry, lots and lots, so hopefully the audience will cry and scream too.

3. The tsunami scenes take up only about 1/5 of the whole film. It does not give audience the tense sense. It is more like "oops, it comes, and it goes".

4. The special effects are not too bad, judging by Korean or Asian standard, but comparing with Hollywood standard, our Korean friends still have a lot of room for improvement.

My rating: 2.5/5

Friday, September 25, 2009

Queen Seondeok

Queen Seondeok is a popular Korean drama series being aired by MBC in South Korea. The story is obviously about Queen Seondeok, one of the few female monarchs in the Korean history.

I must praise the script-writer. The story is very interesting and draws my attention. The twists & turns are all so natural and full of surprises.

In terms of photography, this drama has the typical character of Korean dramas, which is attention to details, and beautiful scenes. Well, that's if you look at it the positive way; if you look at it the negative way, you may say the pace is way way too slow. It takes a long time to complete some small little things.

The drama is still being aired in South Korea. The latest episode is episode 36, which still has a long way to go to the end. Our Queen Seondeok is still only Princess Deokman at the moment.

Something interesting is that almost all Korean history-themed dramas inevitably have to mention China. Pleasing the Chinese envoys is always a big and important task & event in the Korean court, whether it was during the three kingdoms' period or under a unified Korea. Both Queen Seondeok and her successor King Muyeol spent quite a number of years living in China. And the senior officials in the Korean court had to master the Chinese language.

And in the drama, all the communications such as letter, notes, historic records, etc, are all in Chinese.

It is obvious that China and Korea had very close ties in the past. Koreans used to be proud to be able to read and write and speak Chinese. It is such a big contrast today that South Korea is trying to distance herself from China and severe all the past ties. One such incident the change of the Chinese name of the capital of South Korea, Seoul. All the time Seoul is referred to in Chinese as HanCheng (汉城). This name is inherited from Seoul's ancient name of HanYang (汉阳). But then the current president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, changed its Chinese name to Shou'er (首尔), the purpose is to get rid of all Chinese influence.

If he really wants to get rid of all Chinese influence, why doesn't he just burn down all the old palaces and temples all over South Korea? Look at any of the palaces and temples, Chinese characters are everywhere. Please, accept the fact that China and South Korea used to have close ties. If we don't have that close ties anymore, find out the reason and restore that tie. It is good for both countries, good for the whole world.

History should not become a weapon for the benefit of some mean politicians.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Merger: ShutterStock Acquires BigStockPhoto

Just got the news from facebook. ShutterStock has bought over BigStockPhoto to build up their strength in discreet downloading market.

This is the first merger & acquisition in the microstock industry with one microstock agency being bought over by another. The last time a merger happened was when iStockPhoto was aquired by Getty Images. In that case, it was more like a main-stream, traditional stock agency trying to break into the newer field of microstock.

With ShutterStock's acquisistion of BigStockPhoto(BSP), the biggest question in my mind is: Do I need to pay the 30% tax to the US too for my BSP revenue? If the answer is YES, then this is really bad news for me. If the answer is NO, then it doesn't affect me much.

I also wonder whether the photos submitted to BSP from now will be reviewed by ShutterStock's reviewers? Or they will have a different set of reviewers? What about the resolution requirements?

There are a lot of questions to be answered, and I hope everything will be more clear in the coming days. I don't want to see any changes other than higher sales & payout :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Feng Bo Zhuang (风波庄)

FengBo Zhuang is a themed restaurant in Temple Street. It is Chinese franchise with the theme on Chinese sword-fighting novels (武侠小说) such as Jing Yong's series.

The tables are differentiated by different sects in the WuLing world, such as Dong Xie, Xi Du, Mt. Hua Sect & Mt. E-mei Sect, etc. The waitresses address the customers as Da Xia, the menu is referred to as the secrete scroll of kungfu. It is quite interesting for the sword-fighting novel fans.

Food-wise, they are offering An-hui cusine. I have never heard of An-hui cusine, but looking at their menu, it is quite a mix of Sichuan, Northern China (Dong-bei) style of dishes.

We ordered 3 dishes, sour fish, pig knuckles, and mix vegetable of egg plant, potato, & green pepper.

Sour fish is a Sichuan dish, and a bit on the spicy side, but not the Sichuan signiture style.

The pig knukle is quite ok, but it has not come to the perfect level that the fat will melt in my mouth.

The mix vegie is quite a flop. The potato is too hard to chew.

All the 3 dishes are heavy in oil. The food is acceptable but not fantastically good. They should improve their service too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

NETs It, and You Get 40% Discount

I was shopping at Columbia Vivo City this afternoon. They are having a promotion together with NETs. If you use NETs to pay for your purchase, you will get a 40% discount on selected items.

I was looking for a pair of good trekking shoes. Then they have this pair of water resistance, medium-cut trekking shoes. The feel is good. My feet are well-cushioned with all the paddings. The sole is good too. The original price is S$159, after the 40% discount, it is S$95.40. For me, I think it is a very good deal. You don't see such deep discounts very often.

This promotion lasts till 21 Sept 2009, so act fast if you want to get something from Columbia. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

3 BIG Items

In China, there are certain items that are symbol of status, and usually 3 items will be typial of the times.

In the 1970s, the 3 items were watch, bike, & sewing machine;
in the 1980s, they were fridge, color TV set, & washing machine;
in the 1990s, they were VCR, air-conditioner, & computer;
in the 2000s, they are car, house & cash!

Well, looking at those items of status, I am quite a low status person :) I never owe a VCR, from its birth to death. VCRs were so popular during the 1990s that the video tape rental business was thriving. Then came the Laser Disc (LD), then VCD, then DVD, then now Blue Ray. The capacity is getting bigger and bigger, image & sound quality are better and better. And then you see VCRs, LD, VCD and even DVD are coming to the end of their useful life. The advancement of technology!

I only got my very 1st air-conditioner last year, after I got my own flat. Air-conditioner has always been low on my purchase list, as it is not 'green'. Its hunger for electricity, and the consequence cost of it turns me down. The only reason I decided to have it installed is to give myself a shelter during the months when Singapore is covered in heavy smog!

For the 2000s 3 items, I still need to work on them, work harder! Or I will get left behind further and further :P

Sunday, September 13, 2009

JUMP: A Korean Kungfu Comedy

JUMP is another Korean Kungfu Comedy from the same producer of BREAKOUT. BREAKOUT focuses more on break-dancing, while JUMP focuses more on the Kungfu aspect.

In terms of entertainment, BREAKOUT is more humourous and funny, JUMP is funny too, but the flow of the whole performance is sometimes less smooth, and some actions or scenes are not very clear. Audience can't understand the essence of some 'jokes'.

If you have watched BREAKOUT before, and you watch JUMP, the novelty may not be there anymore. It is fun to watch such Kungfu comedies for the first time, but after a few times, you might find it a cliche.

After watching JUMP, The NANTA Show, and BREAKOUT, I have completed the set of 3 most popular Korean Kungfu comedies. Time for me to move on to other forms of art. Maybe I should explore the Japanese art scene now? :)

My rating: 3.8/5

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pink Dolphin Show

Singapore prides itself for having the special pink dolphins in its Sentosa Underwater World. Some years ago, I went with my friend to the Dolphin Lagoon to watch the dolphin show. Not the best in the world, but pretty entertaining. You could see the dolphins doing cute stunts. And then you got to see the pink dolphins, a very special species of dolphin.

Two days ago, I went there again with my family. Somehow they changed the name from 'the dolphin show' to 'Meet the dolphins' session. The name change should have implied something, which I didn't realised until the end of the 'show'.

The 'show' now is DISAPPOINTING! They just let some tourists touched the dolphins, do a VERY limited number of stunts which are totally uninteresting.

I don't know the cause for such a change. For years, some animal activists have been lobbying to remove the pink dolphins from the lagoon and release them back into the nature. Their argument is that dolphins are wild animals, they should not be used to entertain tourists, it is against animal nature.

I strongly disagree with them. I myself had seen wild dolphins in Tasmania. They happily did stunts such as synchronized jumping to entertain themselves as well as the occasional tourists. I still remembered very clearly there was one naughty dolphin, who purposely came near our boat, did a stunt, jumping out of water, and then fell back into water with a BIG splash, getting most of us on the boat wet! Humans and animals are not exclusive of each other. What we need is to learn to live with each other harmoniously.

Again, I am deeply disappointed with Sentosa's decision to change the content of a not too bad show to totally uninteresting boring routine.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Miscommunciation/Being Misunderstood

There is an old divoiced couple. Although they have divoiced, the man still loves the woman, deeply. He sends her a bunch of red roses every year on their anniversary; a birthday cake on her birthday. When they meet for dinner together with their children, he will always get a drumstick for her.

She actually still loves him too, but she always throws away his gifts, and refuses to eat that drumstick. Year after year, he does the same routine to try to win her heart back, but she gets more and more angry every year.

One day, her friend asks the woman, don't you think your ex-husband is very nice and sweet? He sends you flowers every year, birthday cake every year, and always gets a drumstick for you.

That's precisely the reason I am angry with him. He sends me red roses because he likes red roses, so I must like red roses too. The fact is I don't like roses at all. He always sends me a cheese cake as my birthday cake, because he likes to eat cheese cake. I am allegic to cheese! He himself likes to eat drumstick, so he thinks I like drumstick too. He never bothers about what I like, he acts based on HIS own opinions, but he never tries to find out what I like, or what I don't like. That's the reason why I am so angry with him.

Up in Price, Down in Quality

Ordered a NuoMiJi from Fortune Restaurant at Vivo City's Food Republic food court today. The price has gone up. They charge you 7% GST, on top of the listed price. Previously, the listed price always includes GST.

Never mind, 7% GST on top of the listed price. The disappointment comes when I opened my NuoMiJi. There used to be one whole salty egg yoke, chicken, and other stuff. Now, only the 'other stuff' were there, my egg yoke, chicken both vanished!

Ok, the good one I got was from Food Republich @ Wisma Atrium, not Vivo City, maybe they have a different chef. However, I am really disappointed with them. I don't think I am going to patron them anymore, at least not the Vivo City branch.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My 1st Contribution to the US Bailout Fund

I received my first payout from ShutterStock, after they imposed the 30% tax withholding rule. This is my very first contribution to the Great American Bailout Fund. The amount of tax being withheld is small, only a couple of dollars.

At this moment, I am not 100% sure that the withholding tax is only a few dollars, still need to continue to observe, but at least it gives me some incentive to continue to work with ShutterStock. I stopped my contribution to them since two months ago.

Now, at least there is some 'hope'!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Last Templar

The Last Templar, when you hear this name, what would you expect the movie to be like? Indiana Jones? Tomb Raider? Action-packed? Full of mysteries? Love?

Whatever your expectation is, you are going to be disappointed! It is 4 hours of crap! The movie is unusually long-winded, spending lots of time on scenes that are organically not essential to the story. There is a lack of action in a supposed to be action-packed movie. Even if there is some action, the actions are uninteresting, lackluster, dull, & boring.

There is totally no sense of mystery either. Story is told straightforward. The director may also think the audiences are idiots, as he put together some totally illogical scenes to fool the ignorant.

The story is simple, no twist or turns, not even a little bit of suspense. The only good point maybe is that the actress is beautiful. That's the only selling point of the whole movie.

My rating: 2/5 => crap!

Doraemon: The New Record of Nobita: Spaceblazer

This is an anime movie of one of favourite cartoon characters - Doraemon. It is a re-make of the 1981 anime movie The Record of Nobita: Spaceblazer. I have never seen the 1981 version, so can't comment on the difference.

Doraemon cartoons are in general humorous, lots of imagination (even though sometimes appears to be stupid), full of school children fantasies. This movie is of no exception. It opens up the world of imagination to the audiences, children or adults alike. In other super hero movies, the superhero is always an alien and he/she will save planet earth. This time, finally we earth humans can become heroes to save a foreign planet. It is a nice movie for the whole family to enjoy. It is a pity that this movie is only released in Japan, Malaysia and China, but not Singapore.

Now the bad points. There are many illogical scens in the movie. For example, animals in the other planet look very similar to what we have on our planet earth. They just add wings to elephants, make giraffe's neck retractable, and mix toad with fish :P

My rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Zen - A Movie about Dogen

This is a rare Japanese movie on Zen Buddhism. The story revolves around the life of Japanese Zen master Dogen in the 13th century.

It is a religious movie, so you can expect some stereo types, such as the portrait of endurance, persistence, courage, generosity, etc. The story does not have drastic ups and downs, everything flows seamlessly.

This movie will not fit into the category of good entertainment, however, it does fit into the category of chicken soup for the soul. Watching this movie makes you feel calm and peaceful. Maybe just for a moment, it makes you feel more detached from the material world, your soul is free from all the worries. This very much thanks to the director/cameraman's mastership of cinegraphy. The scenes are speechlessly beautiful, especially those of Chinese landscape.

The first 20 or so minutes of the film describes Dogen's learning experience in China. It is interesting to see all the Japanese actors speaking accented Chinese. During the Tang & Song Dynasties, a lot of Japanese scholars, monks went to China to study and learn the Chinese culture and technology. They brought back what they learnt in China faithfully to Japan, and they actually preserve those cultural relics till today. When I was in Japan, I was pleasingly surprised by the evident influence of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. After many dynasty changes over the last one two thousand years, you can hardly see anything Tang Dynasty style in China anymore, but you can see plenty in Japan. We really have the Japanese to thank for preserving Chinese cultural relics.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, September 4, 2009

Live Malaysian Drama

Life is boring in Singapore. Local TV dramas are more plain than plain water. TV, newspaper, internet news, everything will report exactly the same thing, sometimes even word by word. To come out from such 'boredom', I turn to our neighbour.

Come, visit You will never get bored. The live drama is better than any drama in the world TV arena plotted by the best ever playwright.

The latest episode about the fight of 'kangkong', a special South-East Asian veggie dish. Suddenly somebody got kicked out of a party for his sexual prowess, and then somebody is being accused of accepting huge sums of money under the table. Sex, rivalry, betrayal, politics, corruption, criminal acts. Wow, which drama elements is lacking here? None.

It is amusing from an outsider point of view, but if you are an insider, an ordinary person on the street of that independent entity, your feeling is going to be like tom yam kong.