28 October 2005

The Ultimate Guide to keeping fish: Part 2 - death

Depressingly enough, I'm now down to four fish - one of my clown loaches has passed on.

When I came back from Japan a couple of weeks ago, I was greeted by a very skinny and fin-nibbled fish. It had not been eating, so I suspected it was ill (No shit, Sherlock).

I put it into a separate bowl (with a filter, of course), and put it on Vitamins and some other healing solutions. It didn't seem to work, and the little fishy didn't eat a bite.

Then, about a week ago, I was convinced that it was going to die. Everytime someone asked me how it was, I'd say "Well, it'll probably be dead by tomorrow." This was mostly because it got soooo skinny, it was like a moving skeletal figure you'd see in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

But it kept getting thinner. And everytime I thought it would be dead by the morning, it wasn't.

Well, it's dead now. Gave it a rather unceremonious burial (wrapped in tissue paper and flung into a dustbin). It's the first fish death I've had in about 6 months. Guess I still have much to learn in the art of fish keeping...

23 October 2005

Annoying IQ puzzle thingy...

Heard this from a friend the other day, over drinks at a pub-like place that sells watered down beer (Chakri Palace at Plaza Mont Kiara).

This is one of those IQ puzzles which, on the face of it, seem rather easy but will take you an hour or so to figure out (if you haven't seen it before, of course).

The Puzzle:

There are EIGHT people: a cop, a robber and a family of SIX, consisting of a mother, a father, two daughters and two sons.

They have to get across a river on a boat, which can only take two people at a time.

The problem is, only THREE people can pilot the boat: the cop, the mother and the father - and each can only take one passenger at a time. The boat can't move on it's own without a pilot either. However, the pilots can ride the boat alone.

To make matters worse, this is a pretty violent group of people:
1. The robber will beat up anybody if the cop isn't with him - so, he can't be left alone with the parents or kids at any time.
2. The father cannot be left alone with the daughters at any time (even on the boat), or he'll spank them - the mother needs to be there to protect the daughters.
3. Similarly, the mother cannot be left alone with the sons at any time either (even on the boat), or she'll beat them - the father has to be there to protect the sons.

So, how do they all get across safely?

Have fun.

16 October 2005

AGDS / CEATEC, tiny sports cars and J-POP

Gaaah...!!! I've been swamped with work the entire week - didn't have time to update my blog at all. Plus, we've been playing loads of Quake III multiplayer in the office lately. It trully is the best multiplayer game ever, even after seven years!!!

Plus, Quake 4's coming soon... ^_^


A couple of days after returning from Japan, I had to cover the Asian Game Developers Summit in Cititel Hotel, Midvalley KL. Got to speak with a number of video game developers around the region, which was nice. This event was the first of its kind in South East Asia and, hopefully, something good came out of it. The general consensus is that there's a lot of talent in the region but that there isn't enough cooperation (i.e. information / knowledge sharing) and business going on between game companies in Malaysia, Singapore, the Phillipines and Thailand.

Anyway, I didn't really feel like writing anything else about CEATEC - seeing as I've got to write more about it for my actual job! So there.

Test driving Italian sports cars...

I went to the Fiat showroom along Jalan Ampang earlier today to try out the Fiat Coupe 20V Turbo. This is roughly what it looks like:

It's been out of production since 2000, but the cool thing is that you can still buy these brand new from Malaysian dealers! Yes, it looks a bit naff now, but it's still an amazing car, with about 225BHP from its inline 2 litre 5-cylinder engine, which is enough to propel it from 0-100km/h in less than 7 seconds and all the way to a top speed of 260km/h.

It's not all straight line performance either. The later models even came with a limited-slip diff to help distribute the power evenly to the front wheels when cornering (yes, it's a front-wheel drive car).

Best of all, it only costs RM130k brand new. A 2nd hand one will cost you less than RM80k nowadays while the non-turbo version (especially the earlier 2.0litre 4-cyl versions) can be had for just RM50k.

Unfortunately, I can't get my 6-foot-1 1/2in frame into the cockpit!

When seated in a 'proper' driving position (i.e. with the seat upright, legs bent and my right wrist able to touch the wheel at the 10 o'clock position without any stretching), my head touches the Coupe's ceiling.

To be precise, I have to open the sunroof and roll/tilt my head 45 degrees to the left in order to 'fit', with my hair emerging from the top of the car like pubes peeking out of a... you know.

Of course, I'd lose an ear if I ran over a speed bump at 100km/h in this seating position. I could always recline the seats and lower the steering wheel, but then I'd feel like I'm on an easy-rider - not particularly good for tackling corners. The clincher, though, is that the seats are already ridiculously low.

Ah well... I'll probably go for another test drive one day. The guy at the showroom didn't have any trade plates so I could only take the test car round a housing area - terrorising the stray cats and dogs in the area with short bursts of acceleration.

My God, it's a fast car. After you hit 3000rpm, the turbo kicks in and warps you into some time next week. Lovely stuff.

My first J-POP CD in 3 years...

Yes, I've not bought a single J-POP album since one by Mr Children some time ago (it's the one with Youthful days and Kuchibue on it).

Anyway, I managed to get a CD while I was in Tokyo (At the Shinkansen train station, actually):

It's a compilation album by Koda Kumi called 'Best ~first things~ with a bonus DVD containing a lot of her music videos. Turns out that she's also the girl who sang the theme for Final Fantasy X-2. Most of the songs are typical J-POP fare, but a few of them are really good. My personal favourite is a song called 'Hands'.

If you're wondering, I bought this on Yuri's recommendation. Apparently, she's the 'sexiest' J-POP artist in Japan at the moment - her music videos are rather saucy by Japanese standards. Hmmm...

I left my memory card reader in the office so I can't upload any photos. Grr...

08 October 2005

From Tokyo to Osaka

I'm finally back from a very busy week in Japan - so busy, in fact, that I only saw most of it through the windows of a bus.

I had originally hoped to visit some of the 2nd-hand camera shops in Shinjuku or Akihabara to get myself a cheap 2nd-hand lens or film body (A Nikon F100, perhaps). Even thought of visiting that famous fish market in Tokyo that auctions fresh fish from 5am, but rain prevented me from going... T_T

Took the Shinkansen (bullet-train) from Tokyo to Osaka. It's bloody fast, topping off at 300km/h (approx 180mph) during some parts of the journey.

On board the Shinkansen

A rare patch of greenery between Osaka and Tokyo

Arrival at Osaka station

Osaka was quite nice, actually managed to do a spot of window shopping at the huge Yodobashi-Camera department store. Never before in my life had I ever seen such a huge collection of electronic / electrical goods under a single roof. The camera section was, of course, the biggest I've ever seen. They had the ENTIRE range of film/digital SLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta and Pentax, as well as the ENTIRE range of lenses from these companies (Even the mega huge 600mm telephoto lenses). They even had brand new Nikon F5s and Leica bodies for sale.

Best of all, there were demo units for all of these lenses, so you could actually try them out on the various camera bodies on display. And I haven't even mentioned the incredible selection of tripods, professional lighting gear, filters, medium-/large-format cameras, high grade film (displayed in refrigerated shelves, just like ice cream). Of course, this doesn't include the myriad of comsumer digicams in the neighbouring section...

Cathay Photo in Singapore definitely can't hold a candle to this place.

However, this shop didn't sell 2nd hand cameras, so I couldn't afford anything. Plus, brand new cameras are actually cheaper in Malaysia since they're tax free, and the fact that some shops in PJ sell cameras for much lower than the suggested retail price. ^_^

Shame I didn't take a picture of the place, but you can see the building at the left side of this shot from my hotel room.

Shinsaibashi Shopping District

When we headed out for dinner, I got to walk through the famous Shinsaibashi shopping district, which is packed with many restaurants, specialty shops, pachinko / video arcade centres and sleazy strip joints. Think of it as Japan's Petaling Street, only about 50 times larger, much cleaner and a whole lot better.

Lots of pretty neon lights... *yay!*

Random strip joint

This used to be the most popular photo-op spot in Osaka, but they had to put up these glass barriers to prevent people from jumping into the river. Apparently, the local baseball team (The Hanshin Tigers) won something big this year - not sure - and the locals tend to celebrate by jumping into the river, which was a lot of fun, apparently, but bad for their health due to poor hygiene (the river's quite dirty).


Don't ask me, I'm only telling you what I was told. Honest... -_-

Anyway, I had the most gorgeous Teppanyaki and Okonomiyaki I'd ever eaten (At the restaurant, not the river).

Dinner started off with fresh abalone. Basically, the chef placed the live (still moving) abalone on the heated pan, which caused them to squirm more violently. And right before their untimely demise, the chef carved them out of their shells and chopped them to itty-bitty little pieces and fried them in butter before they completely died.

The hapless abalone really never had a chance...

They were completely dead by the time we ate them, of course. Tasted awesome... ^_^

I can't really remember the rest of the menu, but I do remember the lovely steak and fantastic tasting okonomiyaki - which is a sort of Japanese pancake with meat and vegetables in it, topped off with special sauce and mayo.

Had more Yebisu beer, of course. I had beer with almost all of my meals during this trip.

I'll post more CEATEC-related stuff once I'm more awake.

More stuff on HD-DVD and Blue-ray to come... ^_^

05 October 2005

Underground Japanese dining...

Went to this really neat underground (literally) restaurant in Roppongi called Jidaiya, which has got the smallest entrance / doorway I've ever seen.

Apparently, Shirefolk come here a lot.

The inside is modelled after an old-fashioned Japanese living room, complete with hooks from the ceiling for hanging your pots over the fire.

The food was excellent, of course (Sashimi, sushi, pickled vegetables, eggplant, etc). However, I had a bit of a problem when the Tempura came - I'm allergic to prawns. My solution? Take one dose of Zyrtec (an anti-hystemine, howeverthehellyouspellit) with my beer and carry on with the shrimp!

Apparently, you can take certain types of medication with alcohol ^_^

As good as it was, the dish-of-the-day for me was the... erm... Damn, I can't remember what it's called. Anyway, this is what it looks like:

It's basically beef strips, mushrooms and yummy peanut sauce. Before you eat it, you have to cook it in water that's boiled in paper bowls over a fire. Yes, there's some reason why the paper doesn't just burn away - something to do with the boiling point of water. Wonder if it has any effect on the taste of the meat itself. In any case, it tastes fantastic!

After dinner, we're headed back to the hotel, and passed by Tokyo Tower along the way. Apparently, the bus driver couldn't be arsed to stop for 5 minutes, so i had to make do with my compact camera in a moving bus.

I think I did pretty well, actually. Anyway, I've already been up Kuala Lumpur Tower, Seoul Tower and the one in New Zealand - Christchurch, I think... can't remember the name of it. Anyway, they're all probably the same.

Oh, and we passed by a Porsche Cayenne (howeverthehellyouspellit):

As well as a Maserati Quattroporte and two Bently GTs - all within a few yards of one another! There are probably a few hundred more of these all around town. I guess the economy is picking up in Japan. Ok, it's late, and I have to wake up early to visit the fish market.

Good night.

CEATEC Japan: Pretty girls and sweaty palms...

Like all conventions and trade shows in Japan, CEATEC is loaded with women (booth girls) dressed in plastic costumes in order to attract the typical Japanese salaryman to their wares. Believe me - it works!

However, you get loads of really dodgy-looking guys like this:

...or this:

Who spend all day taking pictures such as these:

I shake my head at these desperate men. *sigh!* Sometimes, I wonder if these girls are really comfortable with a bunch of strange men poking their big, scary-looking zoom lenses at them. The pervy bastards...

Wait, did I hear someone call me 'Kettle' or something? No? Phew...

CEATEC Japan: Battle of the big screens

If one thing's for sure, every Japanese electronics company worth its salt has a huge line-up of extremely large televisions. Apparently, all of us are dying to buy a plasma television - nevermind the fact that they usually cost more than RM10,000 if larger than 32 inches.

This is the Panasonic booth. The engineers at Panasonic think that Plasma technology is the way to go, and that LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays) are shit for large screens.

This is the Sharp booth. They are huge proponents of LCD technology in large screens and think that Plasma technology is shit.

This is Sony. They've got a funky name for their TVs and image processing engine so they're probably going to sell by the truckload. They think they're great and that everybody else is shit...

This is JVC - simply making up the numbers (although they've got some excellent rear-projection TVs).
However, JVC's sake-drinking engineers have designed a plethora of wood-coned speakers. Nice to see that they've got their priorities right...

Canon and Toshiba have got a brand-new technology called SED, which is apparently really good compared to LCD and Plasma technology, which are now apparently shit.

When they're not strapping a new oil-cooler and larger turbo into the next generation Lancer Evolution XVI (sorry, I lost count... how many are there?), Mitsubishi is also an electronics company. They've got a cool dual-screen DLP rear-projection TV, and my God it's huge. Apparently, DLP rear-projection is the future, and plasma, LCD and SED are shit.

And the coolest of them all:

You've probably seen this around the 'Net before, but Sharp has this clever multi-angle LCD television that allows you to watch two different video streams (full screen) on the same screen. Allow me to demonstrate:
Start from the right...

Walk to the centre - eh, the screen's funny...

...and stop at the left. Bloody hell, the screen's changed!

How awesome is that? Best of all, the crossover point between both screens is rather narrow, so you can have a large number of people looking at one screen at a time (no need to huddle up too close together ^_^).

If you're thinking of playing Gran Turismo 4 with multi-player cable link (i.e. with TWO PS2s), this is an excellent solution. Also, you'll never have to fight to watch a particular channel again (unless you've only got one Astro/Satellite decoder in your house)...

Cool Japanese tech...

Here are a few things we saw at the Panasonic Centre and National Centre showcases (in case you've already forgot, National and Panasonic are both under Matsushita Electic). But before we begin, let me just say that I've come to a couple of conclusions:

1. The Japanese like really big LCD/Plasma screens.
2. They have the best kitchens in the world.
3. They are able to make the simplest objects in your house incredibly over-complicated by sheer over-engineering.

Ok, now we'll begin...

Exhibit A: Lazy person's shower

Now this is a rather cool, but utterly pointless device - unless you can't stand, of course. Basically, you just sit there while an army of nozzles spray water all over your body. Now, if only they had some artifical hands come out to rub your back or cleaned the back of your ears.

Exhibit B: Electronic book

I like this - a simple, barebones twin monochrome LCD device that folds open like a book, and shows both text and images stored on an SD card. It's got a cool bookshelf interface too, for sorting and accessing large numbers of e-books. The battery life is quite good too, apparently.

Electronic manga! Yay!

Exhibit C: Super space saving integrated kitchen

Does exactly what it says on the box. It may not look like it, but there's actually a dish washer and a whole bunch of specialised storage areas in that little kitchen wall. It's even got a clever basket-like pull-down mechanism for accessing objects stored in the upper cupboards.

It's ergonomic too, with easy-to-clean drawers / doors and panels which leave room for your knees and feet, so you can press yourself right up to it - important for Japanese homes where space is a luxury. Mind you, this kitchen set-up costs more than an arm and a leg (around US$15k).

Exhibit D: Home of the future

As with every other electronics giant in Japan, Panasonic has its own vision of what the future would be like. According to them, we'll all have huge LCD / Plasma screens and strange Minority Report hand-waving user interfaces. The weirdest of the lot was this device which lets you select a 'mood' while you sleep - Simply select your desired 'emotion' in your home's centralised computer (Figure 1.1) and lie on the oddly shaped bed (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.2

A series of psychedlic colours and patterns will appear on the LCD projection above your head while ambient sound effects play gently in the background.

Now, I'm sure people will most likely choose 'Relaxing' or 'Refreshing' after a long days' work - but I bet that most people would be using this technology for other naughtier emotions. Possibly with a companion of the opposite gender tucked in as well.


Exhibit E: Fake horse / exercise thingy

Now this is completely bizzare. Basically, you sit on a saddle which - at the push of a button - rocks forwards/backwards, up/down and sideways, mimmicking the movements that you'd feel if you were riding a horse. Apparently, research has shown that it really tones your tummy and arse. I gave it a try, and it does require quite a bit of muscle-work - especially if you have it in 'fast'.

The downside, of course, is that you look like you're shagging your office chair.

04 October 2005

Two days in Tokyo...

I've been in Tokyo for about a couple of days, and I haven't seen much of it yet. Spent most of my time in restaurants, my hotel room and in various Panasonic showcase centres . It's been pretty pleasant, so far - thanks to a couple of things:

1. The Food

Well, the food's been excellent, really. I've eaten my fair share of Japanese food in KL but the stuff here is really excellent.

The sushi is ultra fresh and tastes rather good - full of flavour, without relying on gimmicky sauces or garnishing ala Genki Sushi. Even basic stuff like egg(tamago), tuna (maguro) and crab (kani )sushi tastes amazing. And bloody hell, they actually use real crab meat - not the artificial crab sticks you get back home.

But that was last night's dinner. Just now, our hosts gave us a nice 7- or 8-course Japanese dinner (can't remember exactly). Ate enough sashimi to make myself sick and had possibly the second best grilled salmon I've ever tasted.


The beer's good too. You can get Yebisu in Malaysia in some supermarkets (try Jusco) and restaurants. I highly recommend it - it's a 100% malt beer made from "Bayern aroma hops". Yes, it even tastes like German Weissbier. Eeeeexcellent...

2. The Hotel room

Ok, us journalists are often sent to nice hotels whenever we go on overseas assignments. This one's no different, with a huge bed, a well-equipped bathroom and other niceties...

Me in my home for the next 1.5 days

You can even see Tokyo Tower from the window.

However, this hotel's miles better than any of the other ones I've stayed in - thanks to one thing: The toilet.

Yes, it's one of those magnificent densetsu no (legendary) Japanese bogs that not only wash your arse, but have heated seats too! If I could take a shit on one of these things every morning, I'd be late for work EVERY DAY. Hell, I'd actually take my time to read The Star!

Here's a close-up shot of the control panel - the blue button says 'Backside' and the red one says 'Bidet' (for washing a woman's fiddly bits). The two smaller buttons below them toggle the movement of the nozzle (on/off) while the knob to the right controls the water pressure.

If you don't know how these work, a little nozzle appears from below (when you push the buttons) and sprays a jet of warm water all over your orifices. It's a very nice sensation, and I'm sure it does a good job of cleaning up.

Why in God's name can't you find these superb devices out of Japan is beyond me. This is possibly the greatest invention in the history of mankind since the electric shaver.

I'll have more updates once I find the time. Meanwhile, I've gotta go to the toilet. Really.