Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marina Barrage

Hello (: It's been a long while since this blog has been updated so I guess I'll take the initiative to do so. Jeffrey bought a new camera lens today and we decided to test it out! We decided to go to the recently opened Marina Barrage to take some photos since we heard that it's a pretty scenic place. The photos turned out pretty well and I think Jeffrey's happy with his new lens (: I particularly liked the combination of dark clouds and strong wind because it makes an interesting backdrop. Thankfully, we didn't get caught in the rain because we were only there for a short period of time.

Similar greens

Towards the Eye

Marina Bridge

The Dam

View from Marina Bridge (I love how the blue stands out)

On the Roof

Angled Perspective

Shots of the Main Water Fountain

Oh Jeffrey mentioned that my photography skills have improved a little cos I now know how to capture off-centre shots such as the ones below (:

Marina Barrage is a nice place for walking and relaxing =) I hope that we'll be able to take night shots at this place in future! :)


I hope you're okay with this kind of posts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

News Travel Fast!

A few moments ago, the postman delivered the latest TIME magazine to my mailbox. I was quite shocked to see the Olympic flame on the cover. Didn't the Opening Ceremony just take place not too long ago? How did the story get written so quickly and then put into the magazine to be posted to subscribers?
Today is 11 August, a Monday. Yesterday was Sunday. Saturday was 9 August; Singapore's Independence Day, which was a public holiday. So the post office wasn't opened that day. If I received the magazine today, technically it means that the magazine was posted to the post office by Saturday afternoon. But that's not possible because of the holiday. So it would have been posted by Friday afternoon instead. But that's not possible because the Opening Ceremony was held on Friday night? I'm beginning to think that news do travel too fast nowadays...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology (iCTLT 2008)

I am at the iCTLT conference at Suntec City today. It's always nice to come to conferences where folks get nice food, goodie bags and brochures, and listen to very intelligent people give speeches. Today's Keynote is by the incredibly funny Sir Ken Robinson. I don't know this at first, but Sir Ken was at a event and I am just listening to it after discovering he was the guy who gave the famous 'Do schools kill creativity?' speech. There seems to be this idea that education today doesn't really meet the needs of students, or that it, in fact, hinders students in their quest for learning, which is deeply ironic. Coincidentally, I've touched upon similar issues here and here.

More on Robinson's speech later. But first, the new Education Minister Dr Eng is the guest of honour and he gives a great speech (much credit surely goes to the speech writers) to unveil the IT MasterPlan 3. This was the first time I am hearing Dr Eng speak, and I think he may be a candidate to be the next PM. He has a pleasant speaking voice, and his mannerism and speaking style uncannily resembles Lee Kuan Yew. Eng's speech is remarkably forward looking. The MOE HQ people really have some good ideas and they seem to understand that technology by itself doesn't make much sense unless it's integrated well with pedagogy, among other things. I'm not sure of the exact nature of MP3, but it seems that the overall plan is really quite progressive.
Picture by eschipul, taken in Feb 2008

Ken Robinson's speech is titled Creativity and Innovation in Teaching and Learning. The following is a summary/liberal paraphrase of what he said. Education is now at a crossroad; it's in sort of a transition but no one really knows what's going to happen in order for it to solve the problems that we now face. There are no precedents, the issues that we face have never been encountered before.

The worrying thing is this: education, nowdays, seems to squander the talents of students. And students may not be able to know or recognise their talents in class, much less their teachers. Robinson relates an interview he had with Paul McCartney of the Beetles. When asked to relate his experiences at music classes in school, McCartney said he hated them. He was considered too lousy for the school choir. Guitarist George Harrison was in the same class. Think about it: the music teacher had half of the Beetles in her class, and she completely missed it! We are terrible at recognising talent, maybe due to the fact that we only recognise certain intelligences and not more. We don't value 'imagination', but imagination is terribly important; it's the only thing that separates us from non-humans. It's the thing that is able to help us cope with the future, with all its uncertainties.

Robinsons' definition of creativity is the ability to come up with original ideas that have value. The next point is highly intriguing to me. He shows this survey where a longitudinal study of kindergarten kids was done to rate their level of 'divergent thinking', an important component of creativity.

From the age of 3 to 5, almost all of the kids were full of curiousity and unafraid to be bold in their attempts at creativity and coming out with new solutions to problems. By the time they get to ages 16 and above, they are 'dumbed down'. At 25, only 2% of the group show the same level of 'genius' they once possessed when they were much, much younger.

Robinson does an audience survey. Rate your level of creativity from 1 to 10, and then rate your intelligence. I rate mine as 4, and 6, respectively. There seems to be be a disconnect between how we view intelligence, and how we view creativity. He thinks that more educational systems should be tweaked so that creativity becomes something that school administrators will want to promote.

Here's a comparison between what is, and what should/might be. We need to change from the usual buzzwords of conformity and standardisation to a more flexible way of thinking. To be more diverse and customizable. More stuff can be found at John Connell's blog.
The next Keynote speaker is Mitchel Resnick whose talk is on 'Sowing the seeds for a more creative society. His team was behind the development of Lego Mindstorms.
He introduces this awesome Mindstorms-esque way of visual programming media elements such as graphics, sounds, and videos. It's called Scratch, and I've never heard of it until now! It's a really deep sandbox that just blows me away.

The picture belows shows some sort of interaction between Scratch and Second Life. Finally, visual programming in SL!
The name 'Scratch' comes from the way musicians sample music from other performers to incorporate into their own work. Rather than call it 'stealing', software like this emphasize collaborative work as the building works can easily be shared freely with others and modified.

Day 2 of the conference is tomorrow...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

BlackRapid R-Strap RS-1

I've always been interested in the way bags/backpacks are designed, especially how they handle heavy loads. Maybe it's due to the fact that after I got sort of totally 'numb/paralysed' in my upper arms after walking 8km with a fullpack when I was in the army and got 2 months medical leave.

In backpacks like those used in backpacking trips, the idea is to transfer the load from the shoulder to your hip (so that the shoulders won't feel much weight.) I have the Osprey Aether 85, and it works perfect. I feel I'm carrying next to nothing even when the pack is almost full. For everyday backpacks, I'm quite surprised that the design of the carrying strap makes a difference as well. I have the Osprey Talon 22, and somehow the engineering magic that goes in the construction of the material of the strap plus the way they are angled over the shoulders really make a difference in how comfortable the whole package feels. I don't feel as comfortable, for example, with Deuter backpacks, which I've used for many years.

For the camera, there is a similar problem. For over 400 years, the usual way a person carries a camera is to sling it around the head and shoulder, resulting in a sore neck and uncomfortable posture. Some manufacturers try to mitigate the problem like padding the strap like OP/TECH's products. However for cameras, there's an additional problem: dangling straps that will get in the way of the cameraman, especially when shooting in the portrait format.

I've recently found a seemingly great alternative called the R-Strap and decided to buy it to try it out. It costs USD44 and the postage to Singapore costs USD10. I ordered it only on 22 July and received it in the mail 7 days later. Very quick!

Strap with the MB-D10 battery pack, which is normally attached to the Nikon D300 that is not shown because I'm using it now to take this picture

You can look at the videos on the website to see how it works. I field tested it two days ago, and it works great! The feeling of 'weightlessness' as compared with the other carrying devices that I have is evident because the camera is slung across the body. (Neck strapping the D300 with a battery pack and long lens is not feasible for any long period of time.) There are no more dangling straps (and the frustration that dangling straps cause is more than what I'm able to describe here), and the camera is able to get out of the way when the shoot's being done. It's shocking how no one has thought of a camera strap design like this before... great stuff!

October 2008 Update(!): If you are in Singapore, the RS-1 is now available from Cathay Photo. It costs SGD71.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


The summer after the drawing class I was in Italy for a science conference and I thought I'd like to see the Sistine Chapel. I got there very early in the morning, bought my ticket before anybody else, and ran up the stairs as soon as the place opened. I therefore had the unusual pleasure of looking at the whole chapel for a moment, in silent awe, before anybody else came in. ~"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"/Richard P. Feynman
I was in Hokkaido with my family earlier this month, and had the chance to visit the hot springs at Noboribetsu. One popular location is called Hell's Valley (Jikokudani Valley) The tour group arrived at the place in the afternoon and it was quite crowded. We were lucky to be staying at a hotel a few hundred metres away and the next morning I decided to do what Feynman did and went back at 4am (the sun rose at 3am) to have the whole place to myself. 400 pictures here; some good, others not so good...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Source: CNN

16 months ago... seems just like yesterday. 8 years since the Bush presidency, one of the few things that has kept me angry for a long while, and that's an understatement. At some point, it's going to get better, for the world, at least.

I had some hope then that it would not be too unreasonable to expect the improbable. At some point, America's going to turn up someone; someone that represents the best of what we expect from America. Someone who has the nuanced intellect, humility and humanity that the world needs right now. (I got kind of sold on Obama when at the end of one of the debates with Hillary, he stood up before Hillary did as a mark of respect for her, and then pushed in his own chair as he left the table.)

From now till November, it'll be dirty-tricks galore. How dare Obama rock the boat! And I really believe that this time, it'll be different, that people will see through the game. Oh, how I hope... Go Obama!

Speedlight Experimentation

So I've been experimenting with the SB-800 speedlight. My book says that directional light tends to be make a picture more pleasing to the eye, though I'm not sure technically that is the case. Anyhow, I've tried to make the light more directional by using the SB-400 to 'command' the SB-600 described in a previous post. Here's Jan cooking some nice pasta and spamming.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Many People Listening To Obama

75 thousand, or thereabouts, at Portland, Oregon. Whoa!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS Watch

2009 Update: Amazon does sell this now.

I recently misplaced my Forerunner 305 at home under mysterious circumstances. The timing of my loss was quite good because Garmin decided to release a new version of the Forerunner series around that time so I decided to get it. This is the first Garmin GPS watch that actually looks like a normal watch! (The others are moderately big and not as sleek.) still doesn't sell it at this time, so I got it from I ordered it online on 26 April, and the package arrived at my home in Singapore on 7 May via vPOSTUSA. vPOST seems to be getting better nowadays with a slicker reporting system and faster turnaround of around two weeks. (Click on all pictures below to see larger versions)

The second box contains the SB-800 flashlight from It's good to consolidate your vPOSTUSA purchases to save some money.

This morning I cycled around 37km along the PCN with Jan. The pictures below show the comparisons between the Cateye cycling computer which relies on the circumference of the wheel to get the distance travelled and the 405 which relies on the GPS satellites to do the same. As shown, the difference is about 200m over 37km, or around 1%. That's good enough for me!

This shows my heartrate; it's now 100 beats per minute. I didn't need to get the version that has the heartrate monitor because I can still use the one that came with my previous Forerunner 305.

This is the Virtual Partner screen. It's great for running when you don't have a running companion and just need an imaginery friend to keep you company or to pace you using some target timing or distance that you input into the watch.

The above two screens show the GPS satellites' accuracy. The SiRFstarIII chip is again found in the 405 according to wordings found on the box, so thick foliage shouldn't affect the signals too much.
This is a view of some of the various menu items that are available.

A very interesting feature of this watch is the way the menus are selected. I don't know of any other watch that uses this 'iPod' like way of selecting menus. There are only two hard buttons on the right, and four 'places' on the bezel to select the menus. To select 'menu', you just put your finger at six o'clock. To select items within the menus, just do circular motions on the bezel the same way you operate an iPod! It's quite incredible!

After you've jogged/cycled, the information is stored in the watch. To transfer the info into the computer, you plug this USB stick into to the computer, and the data will be synced wirelessly and automatically. This feature is powered by the very cool ANT+Sport technology!

After the data is downloaded, Garmin Training Centre will launch and you can look at the nice graphs.

There's a built-in battery and you can charge the 405 using your computer's USB port or the supplied wall adaptor. This charging clip attaches to the watch and charges it. (The 100-240v wall adaptor supplied has a plug for the US. If you aren't in the US, just use one of those industry standard plug for your region and fix it to the customisable plug.)

The design of the 405 is really very pretty. If you need to know how far you've run or cycled, there's no better buy than this. For more info, look at Garmin's website or their blog.

And oh, this is my road bike. :)