Monthly Archives: July 2008

WordPress 2.6

Just upgraded to WordPress 2.6. I was afraid that my themes and plugins would be incompatible, but after doing some testing I realised that they still worked. There weren’t that many changes (and nothing much noticeable from the blog itself, aside from the version number in the footer), but it was good to have the media uploader incompatibility fixed from 2.5, and the Gears functionality should be pretty nifty. I definitely like the ability to automatically caption image uploads!

A captioned donkey

It doesn’t seem to break anything from 2.5 though, so I guess there’s no real harm done upgrading, aside from the (slight) hassle involved…

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My phantom graduation

This year I’d opted to fly home early to catch my cousin’s wedding, and since it didn’t make financial sense to fly back to the UK after that, I gave my graduation a miss. I don’t think I really missed much leaving earlier, but I do wish that I could have taken those cheesy graduation pictures with my friends. I’d (jokingly) discussed this with Shan and Lin (I think) before leaving, and we decided that they would take some pictures with gaps in them for me to Photoshop myself into.

I wasn’t exactly serious about doing it, but a few days ago I was tagged in a few photos on Facebook (as an empty space). I guess since they took the trouble to take those pictures, I should live up to my end of the bargain and insert myself into at least one of those shots… so today I embarked on my latest Photoshop mini-project.

It’s not really that well done (I couldn’t bring myself to spent that much time/effort on something I wasn’t actually at), but I do think it’s sufficiently amusing for our private enjoyment lah, huh?

A new route

Two nights ago I was talking with some former NTU (NIE is kinda part of NTU, for those who didn’t know) students and mentioned my plan to cycle between Boon Lay MRT and NIE. Joanna mentioned that she remembers quite a few cases of people dying in accidents in the area, and that Jalan Bahar is extremely unsafe somehow, and after re-evaluating fitness/fun over safety, I kinda gave up on the idea.

After reading mrbrown’s Quick Guide to Bicycle Commuting in Singapore, though, I suddenly feel very gian to stick to the original scheme – I guess part of this comes from having cycled for about two years in the UK. I’ve even gone on to research an alternative route – seems like there’s one which avoids Jalan Bahar altogether (and is shorter, too). For greater safety I might use some of the minor roads to a greater degree, too.

I guess I’ll give it a try over the weekend – probably have to borrow a bike from someone, I’ll get one of my own if it seems to be a viable plan!

Good night

Tonight was a good night. Haven’t just chatted with friends for some time.

That was pretty much all I could come up with in my half-zombified state earlier to describe this night. Weiyi’s post (in the last three paragraphs) summarises it pretty well, though.

Not that talking’s all we did – it was an enjoyable night of much food and playing the Wii (which I am getting increasingly intrigued by, maybe I will really get one after all), but I think ultimately the chatting was definitely the highlight of the day.

Good times.

ANA Lounge @ Narita Airport

I’m typing this from the ANA Lounge right now (well, actually I started the entry there but only finished it back home in Singapore, but it’s cooler if I pretend it was all done there). I know I’ve been rather scornful of lounges before, but this place has made me a convert. Just to clarify – they don’t have a separate lounge here for Star Alliance Gold members, so I got to go into the business class lounge this time – and boy, is it good! I can now understand why people are willing to pay extra for lounge access, especially in foreign countries where they aren’t quite as in charge of their transport options (for example, I got to the airport three hours before my flight, an hour earlier than I’d have liked, due to limited bus schedules).

Perhaps the most welcome facility I noticed was the shower. I wasn’t really expecting it there, or thinking of taking one – but somehow after stumbling upon it, I simply knew I wanted a shower. I’d showered the night before, but somehow it felt really good to wash up after the 3h-long bus ride, before the flight home.

Since I got to the airport about 8:20am, and hadn’t eaten anything earlier (woke up about 4h before that), I was starving when I arrived. Normally I’d have checked out a McDonald’s or something, but this time with free food at the lounge, I helped myself – and the options for food was really quite something! For starters, I got myself a bowl of udon from the hot noodle bar.

There was quite an extensive bread selection as well, so I grabbed myself a green tea and white chocolate bagel. I also tried a melon-flavoured bun later. Japanese bread is unexpectedly delightful – they’ve really adapted from European bakeries pretty well.

There was sushi as well, which was alright (passable but not great). There was a sake bar too, but since it’s still early in the morning I didn’t really try it out. But wow, this place is amazing – I can’t wait till I’m back again! Now I’m really curious abut the Silver Kris lounge back in Singapore. Wonder when I’ll get to see it, if ever?

Those sweat shops in… Singapore?

I was surprised to find out that Singapore produces Gap apparel, particularly since Gap only started selling there about 2 years ago. I wonder how the Japanese regard our products – do we have a reputation for being a good producer, or are our products treated like the ‘Made in China’ stuff we see at home?

Tonkotsu Ramen @ Daruma Taishi

I’d never been a big fan of tonkotsu ramen prior to visiting Japan (though admittedly I’d only had it once in Singapore), and even after being introduced to Japanese-made versions by Xianna and Ailin, I wasn’t a huge fan. Curiously enough I’ve somehow acquired a taste for it along the way, so much so that I actually really wanted to revisit this place before leaving Japan, despite it being a really long drive from where I’m staying.

Daruma Taishi (named after daruma dolls), as it is apparently called (we usually just refer to it as ‘Daruma Ramen’), is supposedly pretty well-known for its tonkotsu ramen, which essentially features a pork-based broth that is made by stewing for hours. The ingredients are pretty simple – noodles, bamboo shoots, pork, egg and scallions, but the potent broth makes it extremely enjoyable. I’d originally captioned the photo (taken last December) with the line ‘With soup so thick that it reputedly gives angmohs indigestion, this is pretty powerful stuff!’, and this opinion still hasn’t changed – but I’ve come to appreciate this ‘powerful stuff’ now, and have taken to liberally adding mashed garlic and sesame seeds into the broth to create a medley of strong flavours.

I’m probably slowly clogging up my arteries by eating this stuff, but hey – at least it’ll be a life well spent!

New beginnings

I’d already said my goodbyes to York and the UK a few weeks back, but it’s never really occurred to me until recently that I’ve not really been saying my hellos to home and Singapore yet. Sure I was back for awhile – but only for a week before jetting off to Japan again. But I go home again this coming Saturday, and it’s time to adjust and make plans for the next phase in life.

Many adjustments are in order – from big things like the previously-mentioned transport woes, to a more general ordering of finances (bank accounts, credit cards, investments, etc), setting some short and medium-term goals to work towards, to little things like deciding what to read during my long rides on public transport, shopping for more work-friendly clothes, and other little things like that.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

I’d thought I’d already settled the main gist of it earlier, but it’s proven to be non-viable and merely wishful thinking on my part. I’ve always taken great comfort in making plans (at least in the broad sense), but I guess it’s good that I be reminded that such plans are never concrete, and that I should always be willing to accept the possibility that they don’t turn out as planned.

A timely reminder, indeed?

The high cost of driving


(map from oneshift.com)

Help! My neighbourhood’s getting fenced in by all those ERP gantries!

Along with the rising cost of petrol, it seems like driving’s going to be practical only if you’re living relatively far from the central area because…

  1. Those blood-sucking gantries don’t penalise you for simply using the roads around your neighbourhood.
  2. You live far enough from the city centre (and other friends) to justify getting a personal vehicle.
  3. Chances are you’ll be living in one of the new HDB estates which are comparatively affordable and might actually leave some money in your budget for buying a car.

I was previously considering getting a car for my year in NIE, since it’s practically on the western tip of the island, and am still considering it (I think the ERP still doesn’t affect the route between my house and NIE) – but it’s really kinda pricey and I think I’ll try commuting daily via public transportation, first. I don’t really fancy spending nearly 3h on travelling everyday, but I suppose it’s money well-saved, and I’ll probably be able to do some light reading in the meantime.

I might even experiment with a combination of the MRT and cycling. It’s a 5.1km ride from Boon Lay MRT to NIE (according to Google Maps, anyway), which seems pretty doable – a great way to save money and keep fit! Now I’ll just have to figure out how to avoid smelling like the apocalypse after every trip, given Singapore’s climate.

Spore

I’ve been out of touch with gaming news for quite some time now, so I hadn’t actually heard about Spore until more recently. It’s essentially a multi-genre game, kinda like 5 games in one, where you customise and develop your own creature from the cell stage into a space-faring civilisation. Designed by Will Wright (probably best known for SimCity and The Sims), it seems like it’s going to be one good game!

Perhaps the best gimmick about this game is the sharing of user-generated content. If I’m not wrong, your game universe will automatically be populated by species that other users have generated and uploaded. You can even upload your own species and get statistics about how well/poorly they fare in other players’ games. I think you will be able to create and upload buildings and other designs of things, but the primary content is probably going to be the user-designed creatures.

So I was curious about it all and got myself a trial of the Spore Creature Creator and fiddled with it a little. It’s surprisingly easy and fun to use – within minutes I had created a passable bug-type alien creature. I can see myself playing this for quite some time.

A basic torso without anything added, basically resembles a blind worm.

Add a pincer, eyes, and 2 legs – a basic creature!

With some wings, arms and colouring, the final creature is born!