29 May 2006

Blast from the past

Been moping around the house all weekend and decided to look at all the random stuff I've collected on my computers over the past few years. Ahh... the nostalgia.

Came across a whole bunch of old photographs. These are all from a trip I made to Ireland in 2000 while I was still studying in the UK. They were all taken with my old Canon AE-1 film camera and scanned on someone's then state-of-the-art flatbed scanner.

A seagull!!! Bear in mind I was doing this with a manual-focus camera...

Me on the boat to Ireland. It can get a little drafty.

A self portrait - can't remember where it was taken, though.

That's Dublin at night. The dude on the left is Joshua - haven't seen him in like 13 million years...

No, these pics aren't really anything to shout about. I have been very much into photography for most of my life but I only really started to get serious when digital cameras popped up.

What's particularly sad is that most of the 'creative' pictures I've taken while using film were rubbish, thanks to my rather poor understanding of dynamic range and lighting back then.

In the past four years since I first picked up a digital camera, I've found my technique and knowledge has improved by leaps and bounds. All because I've been able to experiment without having to waste loads of film.

Now the funny thing is, I'm suddenly finding it quite tempting to go out and shoot in film one of these days - just for the sheer hell of it and to see if I can get the sort of results I'm getting these days with digital photography. I wonder if the old AE-1 still works...

26 May 2006

My new Ferrari

Been feeling a rather depressed lately so I bought a little toy to cheer myself up:

It's a Tomica Super Bit Charg-G!!!

For the benefit of the not-so-geeky, the Bit Charg-G is Tomy's line of ultra small remote control cars. It's fully functional, with forward/reverse and left/right controls.

This one is an officially licensed Ferrari product, based on a Ferrari F40 (arguably the most kick-ass prancing horse ever).


It's REALLY small, which makes it rather cool. After charging it on the remote for about 45 seconds, it'll run for about 2 minutes before running out of juice. And it's pretty fast - a dining table isn't big enough to play it on.

It's only RM49.90 in Toys 'R' Us, so... buy buy buy BUY!!!

21 May 2006

Run... RUN!!!

Went for a jog today at the park in Taman Tun. Haven't done so in nearly 2 years. The place looks exactly the same as when I last saw it, only that there are even more people now and that the trees littered around the jogging track have grown quite big.

Loved the smell of fresh Sunday afternoon air too. It drizzled a bit, but the upshot of it was that a rainbow appeared as the sun set. Veeeery nice.

And no, I didn't carry my camera.

In any case, jogging in a public park is MUCH better than running on some treadmill in a gym with a 21-inch TV stuck to your face showing some scantily clad women waving their very pert backsides at you in some music video on Channel V.


Erm, actually the treadmill doesn't sound too bad, does it?

20 May 2006

This is Japan...

Ah, Tokyo. Unlike my previous trip to Japan, I actually had a day to walk around on my own this time.

Basically I visited a shrine, went shopping for camera stuff at Shinjuku, ate some cheap udon, returned to the hotel, went to another shrine, went back to Shinjuku for more shopping and ate more cheap udon (at the same restaurant, no less).

Yes, it was a blast. Well, sort of. The problem was that it was raining every day I was there - and the sky was always white/dark gray, which meant it was hard to get some nice photographs. Plus, it's really hard holding an umbrella in the rain while trying to operate a Nikon D70.

Here are some pictures to tell the tale (in chronological order, of course).

This is the entrance to the Meiji Shrine

Started off the day at the Meiji Shrine with some Singaporean journalists. Unfortunately, I was the "tour guide" and got everyone to get off on the wrong station (which was about 5km away). Eventually we got to this gate (via taxi), which is about half a km to the shrine itself...

The long gravel pathways surrounding the Meiji shrine are covered by big, beautiful trees. It feels magical, especially since it was rather misty that day.

A Shinto priest at the Meiji shrine

The Meiji shrine is quite popular with tourists, as evident on these prayer blocks - notice the number of prayers in English.

Me standing in front of the Meiji shrine

After that, I said goodbye to the Singaporean journalists and PR lady (since they had to fly home early) and I headed for Shinjuku (otherwise known as "that place in Tokyo where you buy cameras... and Japanese porn")

I made it a point to find a whole bunch of camera accessories that I couldn't find in Malaysia. Not that they're expensive or anything - they're just not imported into the country. Plus, it's kinda like an RPG, wandering around the labyrinth of stores and alleys of Shinjuku looking for obscure stuff for my camera.

I tried this place first:
Bic Camera - a super huge electronics store in Shinjuku with shitloads of stuff. You can spend hours there. They even had MacBooks on sale the day after it was launched in the USA!

    Note: And just to clear up some confusion, some major electronics chains in Japan tend to have names ending with the word 'Camera' even though they sell other stuff like PCs, videogames, toys, televisions, home appliances and so on.

Here, I got myself a new ultra-portable tripod (you can never have too many tripods...):
A Velbon P-Max. Weighs only 800g and costs about RM180 (40% off). It's small, but fairly stable and has Velbon's twist-locking telescopic feet.

I also got myself a Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version, but more on that later... ^_^

Unfortunately, the camera section in Bic Camera wasn't well stocked. Or rather, it's probably better stocked than all of the camera shops in Malaysia put together (they've even got equipment for developing your own film!). I mean, they had an entire BUCKET of Nikon DK-21m magnifying eyepieces for the Nikon D70 (something which took two months to arrive when ordered from Nikon Malaysia).

But they haven't got certain harder-to-get accessories, such as colour gels for my flash (if you don't know what a colour gel is, you probably don't need one).

For obscure stuff like that, I had to go here:
Yodobashi Camera!!!

Unlike Bic Camera (which is housed in a huge department store), the Shinjuku outlet of Yodobashi Camera is made up of several shoplots joined together, spanning entire blocks and going up about six storeys high. This is quite confusing as, when you're walking around the alleys, you'll see several stores marked "Yodobashi Camera' and all of them seem to sell the same stuff.

However, the building pictured here is their specialty camera 'section'. The first floor has mostly cheap pocket cameras, the second floor mostly DSLRs (and a huge array of lenses and - *yes!* - colour gels and filters), the third floor with expensive medium-format cameras and lighting equipment, the fourth floor just tripods and other accessories and the fifth floor is just for bags. I think there was another floor somewhere in the middle that specialises in film, but I can't remember... -_-

They sell really cool stuff here, such as a portable camouflaged tent that's tall enough to house a tripod, a camera, a big zoom lens and a photographer in it (it's meant for nature photography, apparently).

Here, I got some diffusers for my flash, the colour gels and some neat plastic-bag case that lets me use my D70 in the rain. Yodobashi Camera ROCKS! (Note, you might remember me mentioning something about the Osaka outlet during my previous visit to Japan).

After that, it was about 2:30pm and time for lunch:
Affordable niku udon (meat udon), with a little salmon onigiri (rice thingy)

And then, I had to rush back to the hotel to drop off my things and take orders for more Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version toys from certain people at home. (More on this later... ^_^):

Boarding the subway at Shinjuku station (O-Edo line)

And then, I went off to the highly controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Yup, this is the one which honours some of Japan's WWII class-A war criminals.

The Yasukuni shrine - this is where the controversy is centered

The fallen samurai who guards the gates of Yasukuni. I think...

It's also the one that Japanese PM Koizumi's been visiting annually - much to the dismay of China, which is apparently still officially bitter about the Japanese invasion of World War 2 more than 60 years ago. On a rather ironic note, they seem to have officially forgotten about Tiananmen Square 1989.

Politics aside, the first thing you'll notice about Yasukuni is that there aren't any tourists there. There are no signs in English leading to the place either (you can walk right past it and not know what it is). There's a supposedly fantastic war museum next to the shrine but I missed it - it closed at 5:30pm and I had only arrived 10 minutes later.

More prayers at Yasukuni - notice that there aren't any English ones by tourists.

At the grounds of the shrine

Having had my fill of history and old wooden buildings, I headed back to Shinjuku to buy more Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG Version toys.

Shinjuku at night (from the bridge next to Bic Camera)

HG, of course, stands for "Hard Gay"

Razor Ramon Sumitani (aka Hard Gay)

We've been watching this guy's comedy show (subtitled) in the office recently. We like. A lot.

And this is a Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version:
Note: The hat and sunglasses were purchased separately :)

If you're not entirely sure who Hard Gay is and why I'm so enamoured by some silly child's toy, take a look at the videos below.

Click on the links below for the Hard Gay TOMY videos:


After that, it was back to the hotel and into bed. After a nice hot bath, of course.

The view of Tokyo Tower from my hotel room

And that was my day out in Tokyo. Really wished I had more time. I like Tokyo. It's mad.

10 May 2006

It's official: Munich is a boring place

This is my second trip to Munich, Germany. It's a really boring place. For example:

Boring street painter

Boring old building

An even more boring old building

A boring park...

...which has boring flowers.

Even the statues look bored.

A dog. It is bored. Also.

In truth, it's a lot nicer during the Oktoberfest. Munich: city of boredom and great beer.

07 May 2006

Italian cars, bungee cord and tow trucks...

For a while, my Fiat Multipla sort of forgotten that it’s an Italian car, and remained problem free* since the start of 2006 (the longest problem-free stretch ever).

    * Note: If you have an Italian car, your expectations on what constitutes a ‘problem’ will eventually sink. Rattles and squeaks? No problem. Faulty electrical wiring on headlamps? It’s fine. Melting plastic fittings on dashboard? No worries. Shagged shock absorbers? I’ll live with it. Leaking sunroof? Well, a little water never hurt anyone. As long as I can start the engine and proceed from point-A to some other place within 500 metres of point-B, there’s no problem.

A couple of nights ago, the Multipla finally came to its senses and became it’s old self again. Which meant I had a problem.

After a long day at work, which was the end of a bloody long week, I stumbled out of the office at 1AM and into my car, turned the key and heard a loud “CRUNCH!!!”.

Engines normally go “Vroom…!” (Or “BRAMmmm! Bum bum bum bum bum…!” if it’s an Alfa Romeo).

“CRUNCH!!!” followed by “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” should only happen during breakfast.

The battery sure-as-hell wasn’t dead since I’ve just changed it and I don’t think electronics make bone-snapping sounds so something must’ve broke in the engine. It was late, I was completely knackered, I was bloody hungry and everyone I knew was probably sleeping by then so I walked home (I can now confirm that the office is only a five-minute walk from my house).

And cooked some Shin Ramyun, which I promptly ate. Yum.

The next morning, the scale of my problem started to become more apparent with each sip of Brand’s Essence of Chicken (some Chinese placebo, if you’re wondering).

My car was parked in a basement car park. It needs to be towed to a workshop.

Tow trucks don’t fit in basement car parks – they’re too tall.

I called AAM (the Automobile Association of Malaysia) and they sent over a mechanic to see if he could fix my car on the spot. He couldn’t.

The problem was that the little gear that connects the camshaft to the timing belt broke! It’s a shame that I didn’t take a picture of it. You see, normally the timing belt would break first (since it’s made of rubber). The reason this happened is that, unlike other car manufacturers who’d have a solid metal gear, the one on the Multipla's diesel engine looks like a sport rim, hollowed out with thin spokes. Ah…

At least it looked nicer than a solid wheel. Gotta love those passionate Italians…

The dude from AAM told me that my car couldn’t be fixed on the spot (which I already knew), that a tow truck wouldn’t be able to come down to the car park (which I also already knew) and that the AAM only had one pickup truck with a tow hook that could pull me out (which surprised me, quite frankly).

He said that I’d have to wait until the truck was available, which may take a few hours.


Oh dear… I had originally woken up at 7am so that I could get the Multipla to the FIAT service centre by 1pm – before it closes on Saturday. It was now about 10:00am, which wasn’t good.

Thankfully, I happened to know someone else with a pickup truck and a long cord for pulling other cars:

"Did someone call for help?"

Yup, Paul Si came to the rescue in his Ford Everest and brought along one of those elastic cords used to pull other 4x4s out of a sticky situation.

“It’s a Saturday morning… So I thought ‘What the hell, I’ll give it a try…’”, he said.

First, we tied the two vehicles together at their tow hooks.

My car

Paul's armoured truck

After pulling the Multipla out of its parking spot, we had to connect the cord to the front so I could steer it. However, Paul’s Everest only has a tow hook at the front, so he had to reverse all the way out of the basement.

Negotiating a tight corner

Going up the ramp…

Going through another tight corner.

Light! I see light!

Yay! We were finally out. Paul looks rather pleased with himself...

"Hmmm... Let's do this again."

Now that the car was at surface level, I called AAM to tell them that I had already pulled the car out of the basement car park and didn't need their pickup truck. They said "Ok!" and that they'll send a towtruck in about an HOUR. It was about 11:45am, now.



So I had lunch with Paul and after wishing him many thanks, he went off to continue the rest of his Saturday. Meanwhile, I waited. And waited. At about 1:30pm, there still wasn't any sign of the AAM tow truck. "Fine... I guess I could leave the car at the service centre over the weekend," I thought.

I gave the AAM office a call to see how my tow truck was doing and, for some reason, they seemed completely surprised. Apparently, someone said that my problem "...had already been settled!"


So why the hell did they say they were sending a tow truck? Gee... thanks for wasting my time. The lady at the other end of the phone told me to contact the tow truck, and she gave me his number but I said, "NO! Why the hell should I call YOUR tow truck? Can't you call him yourself???"

She grumbled and spurted a few noises which vaguely resembled a "yes".

    "How long?" I asked.

    "About an hour" she said.



I waited till about 2pm and received a phone call from one of the AAM's staff. He said:

    "I apologise for the delay, sir. We're still trying to get a pick-up truck to pull your car out of the basement carpark. You see, a tow truck won't fit and..."

    "BUT I'VE ALREADY PULLED MY CAR OUT OF THE BASEMENT!!!" I said in a very loud but calm manner.

    "Eh? You did?" he asked.

    "YES! I got a friend to help me, and I've already told your staff... TWICE!"

    "Erm... ok, I'll send the tow truck, then"

    "How long will it take?"

    "Erm... about an hour"

So I had some tea. And some Coca-Cola. And more tea. And then I looked at my watch and it was already pointing at 3:20pm. No tow truck in sight, I called the AAM again.

    "Hi, I've called about three or four times earlier - since 9:30 this morning - and my car still hasn't been towed," I said.

    "Oh, that case. The car in a basement car park?" replied the operator.

    "No, it's already at ground level," I said again.

    "Is it?" he asked.

    "Yes. For heaven's sake can you send me a bloody tow truck."

    "Sure... but it'll be about an hour."

    "Thank you."

Eventually,the tow truck appeared at about 3:45pm (which was the first time the AAM had ever come earlier than they'd said they would).

Now, I guess it's their way of making up for their blunders all day, but it was kinda cool that AAM sent the biggest bloody tow truck they had in their arsenal. It wasn't so much a tow truck than a lorry which you could put your car on top of. Cool.

Finally, at about 4:30pm, we arrived at the Fiat service centre in Jalan Hulu Klang.

Note: Cheap camera-phone shot

I'll have to go to the centre to sort it all out tomorrow morning, since the staff had already gone home that day.

Malaysia BOLEH!!!

03 May 2006

The ultimate guide to picking up girls

Ok, boys and girls. Today, we shall learn how to pick up Asian girls at bars:

STEP 1: Get a nice cold pint of Hoegaarden beer (off the tap)

STEP 2: Drink the aforementioned beer

STEP 3: Wait for girls to gravitate towards you

See? it's bloody easy, innit? Who says you need to be ang moh to attract Asian girls at pubs? ^_^

Pasar Malam @ OUG

Ahhh... Pasar malam. Lately, I've been visiting the one in Overseas Union Garden (OUG), KL. For various reasons, of course.

This is a place to enjoy the fresh nighttime air, buy cheap stuff, eat good food and browse through all manner of porn DVDs. But most of all, it's a great place to take photographs.

Take this char kuay teow seller, for example:

Where else can you take a picture of some dude frying stuff with such dramatic lighting? Plus, he's too busy cooking to scold/chase/punch would-be photographers poking their zoom lenses at him. Never bought any food from his stall, though. Considering the huge queue of people lining up, he's probably quite good. Will try next time.

And here we have the tau fu fa / soyabean / tong shui seller. They've got this really nice glutinous sesame seed balls in with tau fu far and soya bean thingy that tastes gorgeous.

Random fruit stall

But the real reason I'm here, of course, is to eat steamboat. Fatman Steamboat, to be precise:


It's quite similar to the satay celup in Melaka, only that you boil it in hot water rather than curry. And yes, it's probably a breeding ground for hepatitis, diarrhea and other similar nasty things. But hey, if I can eat kerang/cockles and chopped liver dipped in curry off a stick, it's probably worth the risk... ^_^