Saturday, June 30, 2007

Please Read The Fine Print

I've just received an unsolicited ATM card from Standard Chartered Bank. The thing is that I don't have money deposited in my Standared Chartered account (I only have their credit card). So if I withdraw money using this card, this might be considered to be a 'cash advance', liable to a service charge of $5 or more. However, I cannot be sure of the exact charges apart from calling them up and asking because the fine print is so difficult to read! (Click for bigger pictures.)

I held the camera centimetres away from the coin to take the picture below. About 16 lines of text fit the diameter of the coin! While I can read the Terms and Conditions, it gets really tiring. And I haven't found the section that describes the service charges yet as there are no obvious headings that highlight where I should be reading...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Stunning Nikon / Picturetown

I've been thinking of getting an SLR camera for a while now, and have narrowed my choices down to the D40 and the D80. The D40 is generally regarded as something for beginners as it seems to have poorer image capabilities, but from most serious reviews I've read, it seems that the D40 doesn't lose out in image qualities, only in certain features that might be quite irrelevant to me such as the inability to use older lens and the absence of some user interface features.

Anyway, I was aimlessly surfing the camera sites last night when I came across a new website for the Nikon D40 unveiled last month called Picturetown. 200 people from Geogetown, South Carolina were given free cameras (that each cost around S$1000 retail), and asked to take pictures of their neighbourhood, loved ones, whatever. The general idea was that anyone could take good pictures, if given a good camera (such as the D40). I thought the website was stunningly beautiful; the marketing concept, the stories from the participants, and the photos they took (300 are downloadable).

Naturally, some photographers don't really buy the idea of this campaign (e.g. comment at here, 2nd comment here, here) It's the photographer behind the camera who has the skill to pull off great pictures, not just the quality of the equipment! If this continues, then the masses will have access to the DSLRs, they will think they can then take great pictures, and what would become of real professionals like us?!

So some find the pictures 'totally mediocre'. Others, like me, really liked the whole project. I don't believe in either end of the spectrum. If one really has a terrible camera, even the most professional photographer might have problems. If one has a $20000 camera, it's still highly possible to screw things up by not being a reasonably good photographer in the first place.

The more interesting thing for me was this. I didn't think the photographs were mediocre at all, to the extent that I began doubting at first whether these 200 folks were really amateurs or really quite knowledgeable people that were brought in to shoot pictures for this Nikon website. I later found out that 200 folks were point-and-shoot amateurs who answered a casting call for this Nikon marketing campaign. So, what was it that made the difference? Did the D40 really have such a significant effect on the outcome?

I think the answer is partly yes, since the D40 was supposedly designed to enable folks to take reasonably nice pictures out of the box. (And the answer would be 'no' for those who didn't think the pictures were all that great.) I'm thinking along the lines of another possibility, and it's the context in which these photographs were taken. If one looks at the 'making of' movie at the Picturetown website, everyone was really having fun. (And who wouldn't be if they were given free DSLR cameras?!) A huge sense of community had formed in the beginning, I'd suspect. All these things come together to make great photographs. These photographs might not have the 'technical' brilliance of the professionals, but I dare say they are full of heart. And that's enough for me.

Now, when is Nikon Singapore going to give out 200 cameras for us folks to take great pictures too?! ;p

Related posts: here, here, here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

My New File Tray

Here's my new file tray I just bought from Popular bookstore. They're having a promotion; two for $14. But I didn't buy it because of the price, but for another cool reason. Can you know why?! :p (Hint: click on the picture below.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

BBQ / Second Life

My classmates were at my place yesterday for BBQ. Limin found an interesting caterer who provided almost everything as well as a big pit to put the charcoal in. Sabrina started the fire, and cooked for most of the night. She's very good at it. There were many small cockroaches that appeared from the crevices of the pit, but they were progressively killed by the heat.

Summer says 'hi!', with Limin, Sabrina, Rhizome, Yong 'yuan4 mei4' Li

Andre on the 'crazy horse'.

My social studies tutor Kenneth asked me a couple of days ago to help him build a 'learning space' in Second Life, the online virtual world. I've installed and uninstalled Second Life from my computer many times over the past few years, not due to any substantiative technical reasons, but for more pressing psychological and physiological ones: I get a headache/nauseous everytime I play SL. This fascinates me somewhat, for I've experienced this in other 'first person shooter' games before, but I've always managed to 'train myself' and had 'less dizziness' eventually. I'm trying to do the same with SL, and so will start learning the in and outs of the game, which holds great potential for learning, if kids have access to the resources.

So I wanted to see if others have the same physiological responses. Andre and Matilda (a Sims 2 veteran) tried it for the first time. They didn't get nauseous. Andre used my avatar and teleported to a really cool bar that continually streamed 80s music, and asked for a dance from a lady there (who didn't wear much); she was a little busy at that time to entertain him. I think for a while they felt like they were in the bar, the illusion worked to a certain extent. Andre said he would install the program in his laptop. Maybe he'll get more success with the girls next time, but what would his real life girlfriend (behind him) think about that? That's one of the fun things about the virtual world; ethical issues tend to appear rather quickly!

Anyway, if anyone has perspectives/solutions to dizziness, I'd love to hear them! ;p

My crazy classmates Sabrina, Billy, Andre, Matilda

Sunday, June 3, 2007

National Runway Cycling 2007

I wasn't aware that there was such a thing called Runway Cycling until last week, just days after I got the new road bike. It turns out that this is something that the Air Force organises every year. I'd not ridden a 45km 'endurance route' at one go before, so I worried that I might come in last or something. Still, cycling on an airport runway is probably one of the top 10 things I want to do before I die, so yeah...

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the winds were just right. So now I know what's good about a road bike. I hadn't been training, but the 45km seemed relatively easy. (I wasn't really racing hard or anything.) I don't believe I can finish the route reasonably refreshed if I were to use the mountain bike I had earlier. Pedal, pedal... At the start, it was very crowded with thousands at the waiting line. But it got progressively less crowded, and that's when you become one with the runway, especially the white lane strips/centreline, which was just huge. Each loop below was 15km. Participants had to do the loop three times...

Distance covered reported by Garmin Forerunner 305: 43.99km (.gpx obtained with this TCX convertor.)
Distance covered reported by Cateye computer: 43.98km

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pedal Ubin

I was at Pulau Ubin today with Chin and Yuhui for Pedal Ubin; my second Ubin trip in as many months. The tour was nice. It's one thing to cycle all around the island, it's quite another to cycle, stop and have interesting tidbits about the wildlife, trees, plants, flowers and so on explained to you by the guides.

We travelled on the left side of the island. After the tour ended, I continued north to look at the campsites at the beach as I'm thinking of doing some camping here soon...

GPS tracks obtained with the GPSMAP 60CSx