Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cuttlefish Camouflage

This is just amazing

Basketball blues

I haven't touched a basketball, boardgame, guitar, or console in 2 weeks. Damn, my fingers are itchy....

Sunday, April 27, 2008


The Simple Dollar just did a cost calculation of rechargeable batteries vs standard AAs, using some new "Eneloops" batteries. I'd seen some adverts for these batteries previously (some advertisement with a spiel about saving the environment through R&D) and was interested. I recall trying to use rechargeables maybe 8 years back, and it was a discouraging experience. The inconvenience of charging, the quick discharge of the batteries, the batteries charge worsening from about the 10th charge onwards...

So it was quite interesting to see his evaluation of these new batteries. I think the newest things to me was the calculated cost of charging the batteries, which comes up to.. just US$0.002. Which is quite amazing.

Of course, his calculation is slightly off. This review of the Eneloops notes that Eneloops contain less charge than other NiMH rechargables, which begs the issue, whether alkaline AAs have an even higher charge. In other words, he may have to replace the Eneloops at a higher rate than his normal usage.

Of course, at less than a cent per recharge, the cost is hardly significant. And the Eneloops really seem to do well in terms of storage charge retention.. Which means
(1) You can throw a bunch of eneloops in a (cold) drawer for emergencies and bring them out to charge occasionally - like once a year.
(2) You can keep a bunch of spare eneloops around when you change batteries and not have to worry about them losing charge in between.

It also means no more sticky spoilt batteries destroying the battery contacts...

Of course, I barely use AAs anymore. The only things I actually use them for now are: (a) Xbox 360 controllers, and in this case I don't think I've replaced the batteries since I got them; (b) clocks at home; (c) guitar tuner.

Anyway - will probably go and check costs when I get home...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

3 days in a row of good weather!

The weather's finally turning. 3 days in a row of good weather here in Geneva, today it's so nice I can leave the window open and it still feels fine.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sita Sings the Blues

After Wired's interview, I definitely want to watch this!

Sword of the Stranger

Just watched Sword of the Stranger, apparently was released in Japan in Sep 07. Well, it's swords, so I'm interested, yeah, but it's also by BONES, which produced Wolf''s Rain, Scrapped Princess, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Period swordfighting, like Champloo and Kenshin, but totally totally different from the two. Well, obviously it's a movie, but its style is totally different from either of those movies, because it's totally totally serious - kind of like the Kenshin prequel. Anyway, storyline is quite straightforward, tale of redemption kind of stuff, feels actually like a Chinese swordfighting movie, actually, down to the melancholic ending, and the overwhelming preference for flute music. And the fighting scenes tend towards realism, none of the characters have special powers and everybody's kind of mortal - including the main character. Love the way they have like three ranks of fighters - Grade 3 nameless dudes who are just there to die and make the rest look good, Grade 2 chaps with names, and weapons to distinguish themselves from each other, and the two Grade 1 guys who are like pre-ordained to meet. Only bad thing was the Chinese, it's probably more enjoyable if you don't understand Chinese so you can't understand what that group of bad guys are saying.

Oh, and I really love the "where's my sword?" bit. (I need to steal someone's screencap of that scene) Dark humour, yes, but... lol, that's the only humour I found in the whole thing. Oh, and maybe the sarcasm about the hostage situation...

A review.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

La Vida Robot

This is a pretty inspirational and cool real-life story... robots, neighbourhood school kids vs MIT kids, inspirational teachers, etc. It's got everything.

Intelligence-enhancing drugs?!

Eh, if you've played Fallout 2 you remember Mentats... Well Wired ran an article about various kinds of intelligence-enhancing drug regimens which readers were actually using.

Crazy stuff... I'm not so much put off by the idea, it sounds great to be more focused and productive, just that I wouldn't want to risk my health for it. I just wonder how delusional some of these people are about the results they actually get - like those who say they get more done in an hour than in their normal workday, and I cannot imagine how that can be.. unless your normal output is darn low... Still that's more possible in creative industries I guess. and the idea is ... intriguing.

I'm more interested in the feature on improving memory... More on that later.

Full Metal Alchemist

There's something to be said about reading manga versus watching anime. I started out as an anime watcher, and loved my Scryed, FMP, FMA, and of course, Makoto Shinkai's stuff. For the longest time, I preferred anime to manga.

But now, reading FMA instead of watching it, I'm finding that I actually connect better with the story. I'd heard a lot of talk that the anime corrupted the story pretty badly, but it goes beyond that. I'm at chapter 9 now, and finding that reading the manga actually helps me to connect better with the characters. When we see Armstrong crying to hear Alphonse's account, well, I'm just like - yeah, I feel a bit like that too!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A good explanation of what those CDOs, and how they got their ratings.

Triple-A Failure
Here's a funnier version, told in Google Docs.

British watching Randy Pausch

So close!!!

Liverpool 1 - 1 Chelsea. I arrived a bit late for the game with Julien, but just after I ordered my drink Kuyt scored that beautifully scrappy goal. He made the first cross, won back the ball, and then ran in to score off the chip over the defence. Then desperately defending (and desperately attacking) until that 94th minute own goal... sianzness....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Damn sianz - screwed up some work

Two weeks ago I was rushing something, and made a call to okay a particular item, in order to make the deadlines...

Just came back to bite me, looks like it was a bad call. Damn sianz.... Haven't been scolded yet, but maybe that's because I'm out of sight.

And they expect me to have 3 or more children in what house again?

A4369. Queue number 4369 out of 5700 applicants. Fourth time. Wtf.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life Lessons: Randy Pausch's last lecture

First found out about this off the New York Times article on Apr 8, and only just got around to listening. It's really awesome, and you can find links to the video and transcript here. 70 min Youtube, so make sure you have a block of spare time, and you'll find it's well worth it.

Tons and tons of learning, but the part that resonated most with me was when he said "when you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up". Criticism is good, it means people care and hope you can change. Maybe because I screw up so often, I'm a bit more sensitive about this particular topic. But a little bit of a belated thank you to all of you. Some of the simplest pieces of advice I've received - like giving people reasons to help you do your job, or not scraping my heels as I walk, or that nothing is beneath me or beyond me - have already made a large impact in my life, and my main regret is that I wasn't always listening carefully for the advice that I've been given.

At a different level, just listening to this talk gave me pangs for a higher calling in life. What dreams have I had? Probably nothing much. But I've been hearing a siren call in my life for sometime now - I need to focus on it more, see if it's where I need to go...

Final note: isolated 1 slide in the lecture as my mantra:
1) Tell the truth
2) Be earnest
3) Apologise when you screw up
4) Focus on others, not yourself

Government in action: Oil, traffic, and organs

Its overcast but sunny today - kind of like the clouds are blanketing the sky, but thin enough that the sunlight shines through... It's Sunday, and the town is half-dead. Maybe I should have gone to find the Magic tournament. Instead, I'm staying in my room and reading - which means analysis of news.. lol.

From the US presidential race, some analysis of how gas tax cuts could lead to demand increase leading to increase in prices to erase the tax cut.

Milan put in place an EcoPass system, similar to ERP, with very impressive results.

Iran doesn't have a transplant kidney shortage. Apparently, in 1988 organ vending was legalized, and in 1999 the waiting list for kidneys was eliminated. It's got government paying vendors cash plus 1 year of limited health insurance coverage, and charitable organizations and transplant recipients can chip in at the sidelines. The policy analysis, complete with ungated pdf, is available online. Some problems highlighted include: apparently lower efficacy of the transplant (it doesn't survive as well as organs from donors), questions about long-term health of the vendors, reduced donation rates from biologically-related donors. The analysis also includes an interesting short philosophical discourse on whether an organ market would be "coercive" to poor people. Good reading!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A day out at Carouge

Well, CNN still says it's going to rain today. Here's what Geneva has to say:

Well, maybe later in the afternoon. I can't emphasise how good the weather is right now. I can see the snow on those mountain tops in the background, and the sunlight is so bright it hurts. And when I'm walking in the street with my gear on I feel like I'm just about to sweat. Of course, when you look at the fountain of water in the centre (that's the Jet d'Eau) you can see just how windy it is too.... the water is actually blasting almost perfectly straight up and the wind is blowing it out in this spray. On good days when you're on a ferry on the lake you can see the rainbow inside that spray...


If you're in Geneva on Saturday morning, take train 13 away from the United Nations until the Marche stop. Just around the corner, will be a street market for fruits, vegetables, cheese, and wine....

Carouge is nice, people are quite friendly. If you're looking for a flea market, the place to stop would be Plainspalais on the same line. I stopped there too, but it's not really the kind of stuff I would buy.

Geneva has these strange trees all over the place. I've seen ones with leaves on, they're like needles. I wonder what they're called?

They look quite ominous if you focus on them. The craggy, twisted limbs look like the claws of some strange anorexic creature, and if those are claws, then on the ends of those fingers, those must surely be shrunken heads? The horror! It's a good thing I took these in the daytime..

There are also all these fountains around. Most of them serve an ornamental function in addition to the utility value they once may have had. Many of the spouts are beasts, for instance this one, which looks like a wolf of some kind, perhaps the Roman Romulus/Remus-type wolf....

And this one, which is much more fantastical winged-dragon...

I did manage to find the boardgames shop. It felt just like PI.. :> But most games are in French. Damn it!

Well, back to dreaming. Geneva's a nice place to wach the clouds go by. The clouds have mostly run away now, making it very unlikely that CNN's prediction is going to come true. Earlier, I was watching a fleet of star destroyers bearing down on Geneva, led by a single hammerhead shark...

Sunny saturday, against all predictions

Yes, it's sunny! Lots of clouds though, hopefully it doesn't rain later. The sunlight has a peculiar colour which I usually associate with afternoon showers in Singapore. Not sure how much attire I should bring out, lol.

Planning to go on a little trip within Geneva today, to Marche, and Carouge, and then to a games shop somewhere in the Bains. Round off the afternoon with a pub lunch and watching Arsenal v Reading, Fulham v Liverpool. Ah well, warmer is better than colder, so I'll be bundled up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Not a good shopper

Thursday is shopping day in Geneva, with the shops open till 9pm, instead of the usual 7pm. Was planning to go shopping, but... then I thought about it, what would I actually buy?

Nowadays it seems I only buy 3 things - clothes, books and toys. Toys include my videogames, but also board games, my guitar (if I didn't have one already), and so on. But I'm not going to buy toys here, it's difficult to carry back. Books I would buy (and I'm already regretting that I left A Game of Thrones, which I'd started reading, behind in Singapore), but most of the books here are not in English and are generally more expensive anyway. Plus, it's difficult to carry.

So I would have bought clothes! And I know just how deficient my casual wardrobe is... and I suddenly realised how dependent I was on KeY to help me select clothes - to the degree that I don't even want to go shopping on my own... If KeY didn't give me tips, the only things I would buy would be basics - plain monocolor shirts and tshirts, black pants, blue jeans. Boring, right?

Ah well.. so I went back to my room and surfed instead. Sigh - so loserish!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A taste of spring

It was a bright and sunny day in Geneva today. Still frightful cold in the wind, but it was like a little bit of a preview of spring, a tiny tease of a taste to keep you hoping that the weather will warm. The prediction for the next couple of days isn't so bright, but a little sunlight goes a long way to restoring hope.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Argh - pesky virus social engineers

The other day I got a link from Airmund on MSN. It looked like a photo link. Clicked on it and was asked for my MSN login and password. Now, why would it do that? So.. suspicious, paranoid Zim didn't follow the instruction. Msn Edmund back asking about the link, and promptly forgot abt it when he didn't reply.

Today I read this:

Lol... She suggests to change the password, which is correct. I'm just wondering how many people use the same passwords and userids for 50 - 100% of their online accounts - which means that if I was the password stealer I would be testing it on various accounts pretty quickly, looking for that email where you've got a financial password or financial email hidden away.

Of course, these guys would very quickly run into the problem of how to find that email, when it's buried under a mountain of spam....

In any case, if you kenna this, advice - change all your passwords which are the same....

Role playing is in my blood?

I started playing rpgs when I was in upper primary - someone in class ran Dragon Warriors campaigns after exams. But I really got my start with rpgs with Junx and company playing AD&D (and later Shadowrun) in Sec 1. I used to cut ECA and German classes to go and play - which, of course, I feel guilty about, but you know, it was fun!

Those days were fun.. very juvenile, come to think of it, but I really enjoyed the campaigns, those fun stories our characters would get into, puzzles solved, monsters killed..

Of course, nowadays it's almost impossible to find our old friends to roleplay with anymore. And I've come to realise I just don't have it in me to really be in roleplay campaigns. Especially as a DM, I was never as good as Junx in fleshing out story, mood, and style. I was more of a mind-twisting plot / ouroboros kind of person, and face it, that makes better reading than roleplaying. But I've always liked the idea...

Last year I bought and played a board game know as Descent. When I'd bought
it I'd thought it was simply a dungeon crawler - the fighting part of the dungeon, minus the roleplaying that you needed to get to that point. And I wasn't sure if I would, but hell, yeah, I enjoyed it. Which surprised me, until recently, when I read this Penny-Arcade item about someone else's role playing experience. And then I suddenly realised, as a DM I had faced the same problem.

As a DM, you are not the players' adversary. You are their partner, helping them to tell the legend of their heroes. And so you can't hammer them too hard, and they know it, which takes away from the tension of the game. That's one reason why I liked Shadowrun, with the shadow of disaster constantly hanging over the characters. Death was easy, and resurrection impossible. But Shadowrun is an impossible campaign to run properly unless your players are devious little things who actually think of the kind of skullduggery you actually read in the shadowrun and cyberpunk literature - ourouboros, double blinds, pre-surveillance, Ocean's Eleven and Italian Job kind of tricky, cool ways to get things done.

But Descent, like Fury of Dracula, like Betrayal at House on a Hill, like Shadows over Camelot - these are games where bad guy gets to really play to your full ability, to fight, struggle with, obliterate the good guys without feeling like you ruined their game. Well, you did, but that's the aim. Sweet! I'm looking forward to finding people to complete the basic campaign with, and then to play each of the next three expansions, ending with Road to Legend, which really really really makes me want to play it, since it allows the DM to try to level up at the same time by outsmarting the good guys strategically.

Interestingly enough, Penny Arcade's comic has been featuring the World of Warcraft CCG, specifically the Molten Core Raid Deck, which is a card-based version of what I just described - the struggle between bad guy and good guys.

I think I'd have enjoyed it too... lol.

Monday, April 14, 2008

First day away..

Now in Geneva, after a loooong flight. I never used to have difficulty sleeping in planes before, but with the new SQ seats and pillows, I can't get a good neck support at all. So, didn't sleep as much as normal, even though the movie selection was quite crappy and I only watched one movie - American Gangster, which reminded me in a lot of ways of Protege. I'm so gonna get a neck pillow for my return flight.

(So what did I do the whole flight? I played Crisis Core, which is turning out to be far far better than I'd thought it could be. The gameplay takes advantages of the portability of the PSP, is action-paced, and while being totally new manages to remind every FFVII player of sequences from that great game. Sweet!)

So now I'm in my hotel room, halfway through packing. Decided to check my internet connection first, make sure I will be able to work. Later I've got to do some grocery shopping for some of the stuff I'll need to stay all the way. Sianz just thinking of it. It's just very clunky...

Like the way I'm holding three handphones now. Personal, office, and swiss.

Travelling's supposed to be a job perk - Doesn't feel a lot like it now, maybe because I'm sick and it's drizzling outside. When the weekend comes, life should be better.

Zim out.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some nice places to eat - and some not so nice

Three months of eating compressed into a single post!

This is Reif + James at Clarke Quay. Really small, exclusive restaurant, with an expansive selection of wines. Quite pricey, but I must admit the food was quite nice - look at that beef! The restaurant is not well lit and sits maybe 20 to 30 people at most, so if you like a feeling of exclusivity and intimate service, this is quite a good place.

This next one the Huang Jia restaurant at Kallang Leisure Park , which was rather more pricey. The dishes were very flavourful - very enticing for the first eat, but I'm not sure whether it would become boring after a second visit. All the dishes were quite good - but after a while I forgot to take photos... I was particularly impressed with the crispy chicken. Normally, the skin and the drum stick of the chicken is really good but parts of the chicken become too tough. But in this case, every part of the chicken meat remained moist and tender as well!

The out-of-focus piece at the back here - foei gras with a slab of suckling pig and the crispy pork skin - was fantastic - the flavours combined really well!

I also liked this dish a lot - it's just a piece of scallop and a snowfish, but it tasted great... heh.

The restaurant is quite large, I'm guessing about 80-100 persons seating, max. What I really like about the decor is the seats, which are really comfortable and large chairs which you can recline in and really enjoy your food in. The restaurant has made sure that there's ample space for these large seats, reducing their capacity but helping to create a spacious, imperial, feeling.

On to a not-so-good place.

Finest Cuts at the basement of Central is somewhere between a butcher and a coffeeshop. There are all these appetising cuts of beef, lamb, and pork waiting to be purchased, and they have a small serving area - maybe 10 persons - where they can serve you your steak at about $20. For that price, you get what's pictured left - looks like NUS canteen western food right? The crime is not the dish decoration, though. It's that the beef is truly ordinary - for $30 I can get much much much better beef at Hogsbreath or Prime Society, so I'm never coming back here again...

Next up - Magma German Wine Bistro. As you'll see below, German food - ie sausages and beer. And in the name, German wine. Honestly - not very impressed, either with their pork trotters or with their sausages. The beer (see how happy we are?) was pretty darn good though, with a nice variety of beers to choose from. I'm curious about some of the non-standard alcohols they have, and next time I'm going to try the honey wine. Is that like mead, do you think?

Rounding up.... Back to the ole trusty Dessert Hut, in this case at People's Park Center. Yummy ah Boling and other desserts at about $2.50 per bowl. Good stuff. Don't mind the queue, you'll get a seat soon enough...

Wedding: Wedding bands decided, courtesy of Love & Co

Today we paid for our wedding bands. Simple white gold affair, no diamonds. High three digits for the pair. Platinum is almost twice the price, whereas if we had gotten simple silver ones the price would have been in the two digits per ring - but that seems a little too ... ordinary?

Red House at Clarke Quay

Fantastic seafood dinner at just under $50 per head.... whahaha... The codfish with teriyaki sauce and the beancurd were wonderful. Have it under good authority that the custard prawns were delicious too, and the chilli crab was fresh-fresh-fresh.

On a side note, it seems like a lot of people have the (mistaken) impression that taking a 10% discount off the food bill before applying service charge and GST, is different from taking it off afterwards. Which leads to some strange miscalculations. It's probably linked to the knowledge that the bill -10% then + 10 % service charge +7% GST is not exactly 7% more than the starting bill.