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The Full Carl Sagan Series 1-9 HD

If you haven't heard of Carl Sagan then at least watch this series.  Please don't give excuses like "no time".  Just watch it like your latest soap opera drama or movie.  It's an eye-opener.  

Nespresso and mycoffeestar combo

 I like drinking espresso coffee but I just dislike the mess of making one.  A good press is also expensive and difficult to maintain if I don't drink enough.  I had thoughts of getting a single serve Nespresso capsule machine while in Singapore but as I am currently staying in a 山龟 (rural) area in Thailand, it will be difficult for me to get the capsules readily if I ran out.

Yes, there are online shipping options but because Thailand taxes heavily on import coffee, it's crazy to even think of getting them overseas and shipped into the country without being slapped by a heavy penalty.

Another thing that puts me off is the amount of waste it generates.  Yes they do recycle their capsules in Singapore but not here in Thailand.

Those reasons above put me off of getting a machine until I discovered this refillable capsule from mycoffeestar.  It's expensive but actually worth it in the long run.  I get to choose locally produced Thai coffee which are pretty good.  Especially those Arabica beans grown in the North.   It's less wasteful and not so much of a hassle then a real coffee press machine.  The small Nespresso machine does not leave a big footprint in my kitchen so it's a win win.

Making a cup with a refillable capsule is not that difficult.  The only attention you need to be specific is the grind size of your coffee and you're set to go.  Grind it fine but not too fine .  My experience is about similar grind size like drip coffee.

Of course, I still drink Nespresso capsules once in a blue moon or if I want a quick coffee fix or I want to splurge myself.  But for my current morning routine.  I can easily whipped up a double shot latte with this combo.  And speaking of double shot,  I bought one more set from coffeestar recently to make my double shots even easier.  :P    

I am still shooting.

My cameras are still with me and I still shoot but I am even more selective on the photos I wish to share on the Net.  Not so much of privacy concerns but one of the reason is because of the sheer volume of photos on the Net.  Selfies, groupies,  food photos and even my wife is starting to dump photos into her facebook account.  I know its a free space to share but can at least edit a bit anot?  I see people dump over 200 photos of their travel photos with tons that are just out of focus and underexposed.   I know it has been like that ever since facebook has an easier way to upload photos in batches but it's even more serious nowadays and I got a little bit fatigued in looking at a picture on my monitor.  Which leads to the 2nd reason why I stop posting to facebook

My bloody printer.  :P   Ever since I got myself a serious photo printer,  I printed most of my recent works on my Canon Pro 100 and they are just simply different .  A physical piece of paper with my picture on it is 100x better then the same picture viewed on a computer monitor.

Ask those who prints their photos seriously and they will give you the same conclusion.  If you really want to appreciate your own piece of work as a photographer then just print it out,  print it large (at least 8x10), print it with a proper printer or lab, and you will know and understand why a printed photo is so awesome. :)

My 3 month hiatus is over.

I have not disappeared or died in Thailand yet.  :P  I have not been writing anything because I just gave myself a self imposed 3 month hiatus from complaining and personal reason.   It's surprisingly not that tough as I have not been writing a lot ever since I quit my job.  There are tons of crazy things happened in both Singapore and Thailand during these 3 months that I wish I could write and blog them down for future reference but I was able to choose not to do it.

I even tried to impose myself to have limited access to facebook and twitter.  This  restricted access to the Net is not really working as I still frequent facebook on my phone to check on latest trends and news almost everyday while I waited at the school to pick up my kids.

So for the pass 3 months,  I  re-read some books, watched the latest Dr Who (which is pretty awesome), visited some tea and strawberry farms (see pic above),  became a coffee addict by getting a Nespresso machine and manual coffee grinder,  learnt to fly a small drone (Syma X5c), watched some old Chinese lectures on our ancient Chinese philosopher, self taught myself on rainbow loom charms, signed up with Ello and still waiting for their bloody reply and invite, and completed some home DIY projects.

I think I did more then the list but I guess you kinda guess I am enjoying myself over here in L.O.S.

Hiatus is over and I will try to write more but I guess nobody bothers to read blogs nowadays.  Tweets and Facebook status updates are more trendy.

Public Transport in Singapore?

Decided to write a post after all the media hoo haa on this incident in ST.

Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains for C Division rugby final at National Stadium 
They are people out for blood for this incident.  Their arguments are mainly the MRT rail is actually a public transport and why should public utilities be allowed to charter private events.  Some silly defenders will say they are chartered buses what.  How come got difference meh?  Big difference.   How so?  If we charter a bus, the road that the bus is driving on still belongs to the public and other cars and buses could still drive on the same road.  Rails?  Not possible in Singapore right?  This is because we only have single-way tracks and not multi tracks like other countries.    So in short, this incident kinds of like ACS "chopp"  a dedicated public road to National Stadium and not allowing other vehicles to use it at the same time.  So that's why LTA have the right to be pissed.

But this opens to another observations I see on social media.  Singaporeans still sincerely believes we have "public" transport.  Sorry to say its all incorporated and privatised during Goh Chok Tong era.  SMRT in 2000,  SBS in 1997.  So is our Electricity, Water and postal service.

So please don't be naive and think that these companies will serve in the best interest of the public. Their bottom line is to make more profits for the shareholders.

It speaks volumes

when our gahment encourages its people to sell off their homes or houses so that they can downgrade and get some extra cash to survive in their twilight days.  This post is about the 76 year old granny begging for her CPF to be returned to her.  Instead of just providing a listening ear for her and STFU, the PAP IB or those cynical bastards starts hounding on where she is currently staying now.  Why she never sell that house? She rich what.

I asked my wife that day after I read the news.  "Dear, if one day we did become poor, should we sell our house and rent/buy a smaller house instead?" She says I'm mad and she would rather die then sell our current house.  I asked why?  She replied, "It's our 1st house together.  I like the location and neigbourhood and moreover  our children were born and raised in this house, it has sentimental values that cannot be matched by wealth.  Nope, I would die and leave the house to my children rather than selling it!"

I smiled and nodded.

We were not buying a house.  We bought a home.

There is no price for home.  Period.   And I sincerely think the old lady has great sentimental values on that house she currently resides in.  If  there is money in my CPF,  I would rather use that then to sell my home.  

I shall repeat again.  It speaks volumes of our gahment if they want or encourage its people to sell their homes to stay alive.  It speaks volumes.

May 2014. What an interesting month!

WARNING.  Long post ahead with lotsa grammatical errors. :P

A brief summary.  Besides being the month of my girl's birthday, there was a coup in Thailand that ended the political unrest.  A blogger got sued by our PM Lee in Singapore and a big debate about constructive politics between our PM Lee and opposition chief Mr Low.

1st off.  Thailand military staged it's 12th coup on the 22th May.  Bringing the 6th month of madness in control (somehow forcefully).  Although I don't really endorse the idea of such actions by the military but at least so far they have been quite fair in dealing with both parties.  The only thing I want to complain is that there are too much censorship on the media.  I guess they are worried that the anti-coup camp will stage more protests so they have these draconian laws of anti-coup messages deleted and court martials but I'm afraid this will most probably makes things worst.  I'm not going to comment too much on this whole situation as the Thai always says "Please don't comment on Thai politics if you're a foreigner.  It's complicated."  I still want to stay in LOS so the better of me to STFU  :)

Then at the Singapore end.  We have a blogger Roy Ngerng being sued by our PM Lee.  I was following this thread quite closely as it was damn entertaining.  I have to say sincerely I didn't know about Roy (even though I am SO "political"and critical of our MIW gahment) before this whole incident.  I did however, remembered that I read one of his articles that was shared by my friend in FB.  I didn't dwell too much into it as it was a link from The Real Singapore.  :P   But at that time, my conclusion was it's just a rant.  I do have some knowledge on how our CPF works and there are some good questions on certain aspects but most of them are just bit extreme on trying to get himself into trouble.  And lo and behold.  He got sued!

So the online mass kind of broke into 3 camps.
Pro MIW camp starts mocking him - this is usual and I forgive them.
Anti-gahment camp supports him totally - a usual response from them too as anything anti gahment must support mah!
Then the 3rd camp - so called pro liberals who always said that they don't take sides (but in fact they do but just do not have the guts to admit it) starts mocking him too - this is to me, a very disgusting attitude and the worst of all.  Why?  Because these are hypocrites and those who reads my blogs know I hated hypocrites.
Roy may not be factual I agree,  he may not be smart or an intellect like you and I.  He maybe did it for glory and fame.  But at least he dares to speak up.   Maybe he is insidious and out for blood against the FAMILEE. But ask this question.  Besides getting sued by our most powerful person in the country.  What other benefits will he get?  He will be punished, condemned and maybe even lose his job and get bankrupt so do we really need to mock him any further?  Real pro liberals should instead mock the other 2 camps, the pro MIW and anti-gahment ones.  They should not be proclaiming to be pro-liberal and make fun of Roy like "He deserves it."  "He's stupid!" "He just want to be famous!"  but instead gives sound advice to Roy like "He should be more careful on how he writes. "  " One can make his points across without name callings or getting emotional"  

My take on the whole lawsuit is that this is one of the worst PR disaster for our PM Lee as if he had been gracious and dropped the case, Roy will not be made as a Martyr in the anti-gahment camp.  It's sad actually as this whole debacle, all of us are losers.   Our PM becomes a bully,  Roy with get sued and punished for something he believes in.  And if  he is the bad guy like what other people says, he gets his limelight anyway.  We, the commoners will not get a full disclosure on what's going on in our CPF.

The last incident was the constructive politics debate in Parliament between PM Lee and WP's chief Mr Low.  I read the some of the comments in FB before watching it and people were laughing at Mr Low's Engrish... That's a bit low.  For a Mandarin educated Mr Low,  what he managed to pull off was formidable.  It might be interesting to see how PM Lee debates in Mandarin or Tamil/Hindi.  We should do that in parliament as I believe one day with our current intake of FTs, Singapore might really belongs to China/India. :P

Slides from 2013

Some friends asked me that I have not been posting photos online for quite sometime and wondered I have stopped shooting.  Well, definitely not!  Photography is still my no.1 Hobby and I just bought a A7R didn't I? :)

I am shooting less often nowadays because mainly my subjects (the kids) are bored with my camera.  Once they see I'm holding one, they would hide from me :P.  And if I managed to get them to pose, they would make silly and funny expressions in front of it without any prompts from me.  I wonder whom they learnt that from.... tehehehehe

Anyway,  I did shot quite a lot of slides last year and only managed to send them to develop recently.  Got them back yesterday and spent a day time to "copy" them to digital.  You may view them over my flicker stream under landscape 2014.

A short review on Maige TV. IPTV box

World cup is coming and although I am not a die hard soccer fan.  I do enjoy World Cup.  Luckily I am currently in Thailand which do have 22 matches free on air.  My friends in Singapore however are not so lucky.  They have to pay the most expensive World cup package to watch it on their own TV.

That's where the discussion and research on how to get World Cup at a cheaper rate started.  And I didn't found the cheapest option but an interesting one that allows us to watch various satellite and HBO cable channels over the Internet.  This is known as IPTV  (IP stands for Internet Protocol).  What it is?  It's basically something very similar to Mio TV by Singtel that uses an Internet connection to stream/broadcast a show.

There are various brands for such IPTVs and currently one of the most prominent one is by Maige TV.   This box is a device dedicated to streaming video on demand and online.  There is a local distributor for both Singapore and Thailand but I decided to be cheapo and ordered a unit via Alipexpress.

I placed an order on the 9th and only managed to receive my box on the 17th.  Shipping was by DHL and was considered fast as there was a week break for the Songkran over here.  Price I paid was $390SGD for the box, wifi adaptor and shipping in total.  $50 cheaper then the local distributors but I would recommend those with non geeky friends to get it locally.   I will get to that later.

Hardware wise.  HDML cable was included but no batteries for the remote.  The box and the remote feels cheap.  Cheap like those China made Media TV boxes.  Not necessary a bad thing but at this price point I was thinking it should be better.  Let's say we deduct the subscription and shipping cost.  The hardware will be around $200.  So 200 for such hardware is a bit errrmmmm.
The usb port on the side which is for the wifi-adaptor was slightly twisted on arrival.  I had a hard time inserting the USB adaptor initially but I opened the box up and used a plier to twist it back in shape.  So for those non-daredevils, please please get it from the local distributors.  At least it will be easier to get a replacement if there is a hardware fault.  But opening up the box I see a pretty decent circuit board.  Not dirt cheap components in there I will say but still relatively expensive for a $200 box.  

Video quality? Streaming was good on my fibre connection here in Maesai.  Both Wired and Wifi - N tested.  1080p HD quality for most channels and some even have Ultraclear which I find streams very well.   I have tested the device over various time and it does hangs once in a blue moon. Quite normal for IPTVs boxes.  There is a refresh button on the remote so just hit that and it will resync again.  Not occasionally but for certain channels do get it more often than others.  Live streaming of soccer was good over here though but as usual like Mio TV, there will be a slight delay compare to real cable broadcast. The new box also provides 7 days playback functionality and Video on Demand which I find it to be very useful.  Basically you can watch any shows you had missed within a 7 day period.  Video on Demand library is pretty awesome.  G.O.T, Battlestar and tons of Cantonese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese dramas are available.  Movies are updated frequently.  The kids watched a few cartoons on the box already.  Frozen was one of them :P.  The software interface is responsive and fast compared to bloody starhub cable box.   It came default in Chinese though and even though you changed the interface language to English, mos of the show listings will be in their native language.  Even for the titles in V.O.D are in Chinese for English drama.  Like those found in latest media player, firmware can be upgraded so I guess there will be improvements coming up.  The device also has an additional usb port for HDD so it can be used as a media player box too.  I have not tried that portion as the online content is more important and comprehensive for me.
For a full channel list, check it out here.  Last count was 366.

Installation was a breeze for wired connection.  Just plug an Ethernet cable (provided too) to your router, HDMI to the TV and power adaptor you're ready to go.  Once powered on, it will prompt you for activation or renewal.   I contacted the seller to activate the box for me.  Yes, it's via subscription and the 1st year subscription is included in the package.  The chap was online and it only took a 5 mins wait to get it activated.  Renewal is on offer at $100 SGD at the moment but according to the site, the usual price should be $140.  My advice is to just use it till it expires and renew afterwards.  Yes it might be more expensive later but what if they go bust?  So ignore the subscription till it ends.  Wireless however was a pain in the ass for me.  1st was the USB port issue which I managed to solved quickly.  Then I couldn't connect to my WPA enabled Wifi even after I entered my passphrase correctly numerous time.  I thought it was due to the port but it could detect my home's SSID so I guess its the encryption portion.  In the end.  I created another SSID with no WPS and serve as a single guest account on my router and it worked fine after that.  Not exactly secure but at least it works for the moment.

IPTV is relatively new.  Content providers are still willing to provide content to these newcomers as they still pay their license fee and yes, it's legal.   Beware if there are no subscription fees at all. But data carriers like Starhub and Singtel might easily sabotage these newcomers by putting a QOS on such servers.  Not likely to happen in Thailand but not too sure about SG.  If lotsa people buy this box then we might see it happen.

Overall conclusion is if you want EPL/Soccer, HBO, Discovery Channels and other major news English channel, this box has it all.  Video Quality is great.  Installation is a hassle for Wi-fi  (for me)  but otherwise not a major issue.  Would I recommend it?  Yes I would if you really enjoy watching cable TV and do not want to pay too much for all the channels.  Especially the sports one.  But not highly recommend it as the initial cost of getting the box is high.  Even worse is that the box and remote is pretty cheaply build externally and whether it will last more than 3 or 4 years is an issue.  If the entry price is not more than $300 then I would highly recommend it.

A short trip back - 2014

The long break for schools in Thailand starts from March till the 1st week of May.  That is for the majority of public schools in Thailand.  I took the family back to Singapore to visit my sis and mum again.  We hit the road on 29th March and returned on the 7th.

This round, we flew out from Chiang Mai instead of Bangkok like last year and due to financial constrains.  We didn't even stay in Chiang Mai when we returned from Singapore.  Normally, we would stay a few days either in Bangkok or Chiang Mai after our return from Singapore but we didn't.  We just took a taxi straight back to Maesai and actually for this trip, we aren't as tired as it used to be.
  It might be due to the kids are older so its now as daunting as it used to be.

This trip to SG was mostly unplanned.  Plainly just to let the kids to spend some quality time with grandma and aunt.  The road trip started with a Sam Law (Tuk Tuk)  trip to the Maesai bus station.  From there, we took the bus to Chiang Mai.  Then we switched to a Sawng Tiao (Red Pickup truck taxi) to the airport and flew out via Silkair.  It was hectic but actually quite fun as the kids get to try different sorts of transport in a single day.  Over in SG, we spent most of the time at their aunt's home.   We did however,  revisited the Sentosa Watercove Park and Jurong Bird Park.   

My sister also took some leave from her busy work schedule and brought the kids to a toy store and they bought another set of LEGOs.  So they are pretty occupied at her flat.  

Overall, I didn't get to meet up with friends on this journey.  I will be returning to SG again in early July.  Reason?  Bloody reservist again.   

Seasons - 4 sunsets with different moods.

I think I had not posted any photography related posts for quite some time.  The main reason is that I had not much of ideas lately and I can't find any outstanding photos to share with lately.  I had an artistic inspiration recently and here is the result.

The idea was to shoot a particular sunset with multiple shots and see if I could photoshopped later to have totally different moods and feelings.

Here are the 4 shots.  You can click on them to see a bigger version.  The 4 shots are titled

Spring - 春

Summer - 夏

Autumn - 秋

Winter - 冬
Which one do your prefer?  And yes,  all shots were taken on the same day at a slightly different location.  I took some time to scout around my area.

I saw this coming almost 8 years ago.

I woke up this morning and was reading the news online when I saw this on BBC.

Singapore has topped 131 cities globally to become the world's most expensive city to live in 2014, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

I'm not surprised at this announcement at all but I just recalled the time when my girl was just born in 2006.  I was thinking about the option I can provide for my girl and my wife if I was to choose to bring them back to Singapore.  I guess I made the correct decision then.  Again, I'm not dissing Singapore being expensive or whatsoever.  To certain people (those rich ones :P), it's still a fantastic city to be in.  And I would easily choose Singapore over Bangkok if it's the only choices I can make.

Frankly if I was to bring them back to Singapore then,   Boy boy won't be around as I sincerely don't think I can afford to have another kid as a sole bread winner.  Missus can't speak English and it will be tough for her to get a job which means our income will be limited.  

In short, wages have been stagnant since 2000 while the city moved on at a ridiculous pace without allowing us, the majority middle income group to catch up.  And this to me,  is not growth of a country but a perversion of growth and wealth among the top earners/leaders in the country.  What's even worst then this is the majority of Singaporeans still have not waken up from their dream that it's not the fault of gahment policies.  Sad.

Dream Camera? - Sony A7R

First of all, apologies for not writing anything for the passed few months as I am getting lazier and lazier everyday in the Land of Smile :P I did had some drafts but later just dumped them as it's just my usual ramblings on our dear Singapore gahment.  Think I just get tired on my own complains and just let it be for the moment.  Maybe during election time I will be more active again on that department.  Haha

Enough about meself.  This post is about another camera (Yes, camera again... booorrrinng) that I recently accquired while I was back in Singapore.  The new Full -frame (35mm) Sony Alpha 7 R.   I got it at a special price from James of

The camera was released in late 2013 and I knew I would replacing it with my Nex-7.  I want Full Frame.  Period.  I am so used to taking film and getting the FOV of a true 35mm lens while I am shooting so it was a no brainer.  My initial choice was the normal 7 version.  Not the R version as I think 24Mp should be more than enough for me.  But when I learnt about the price of A7R that I would be paying for.  I jumped for it.  36MP is nothing much but NO AA filter.  That I am interested.

I have worked with digital medium format files before and all of them do not have an AA filter on their sensors.  The files are sharp and crisp and very very malleable for post processing.  My conclusion comes to the same after shooting with my A7R  for a month.  It's image quality is good,  very very close and to me personally, surpassed MF film in resolutions and details.  Some may argue that MF film can resolve better if I use drum scan.  Maybe?  But I have no luxuries of drum scanning in Thailand so I guess for me, this little camera is an ultimate landscape camera for me.  For shooting portraits of my family, it's a bit sharp and I need to reduce the sharpness in LR before printing them.  All the pores and scars can come out especially if I used the 135mm Sonnar.

There are some nitpicks of course.  Battery life sucks,  Loud thunderous shutter.  These I can live with as I am not that trigger happy and I have enough spare batteries around.  Shutter is not a major concern, I am used to loud mirror slaps of my Hassy last time and I don't really shoot in quiet places.  The major dislike is there is no in built image stabalizer (AS) like the Olympus and the old Alpha DSLR used to have.  I am so used to AS on my a900 so I found a lot of shaky shots on my A7R.  Still usable but it just could be better.

Dream camera?  Not really but quite close ... almost there.. :)

1st post of 2014!

I'm back!!  Literally in Singapore for a few weeks before I travel back again.  It's the usual 3 months routine to come back and clear some backlog stuff over here in Sillypore.

I broke my own tradition of not writing a last post in Dec 2013.  I actually had a draft but I decided not to publish it as its a bit wee sensitive at the moment.  For those dying to know, it's about my views on the recent protests in Thailand.  Maybe when all the dust settles and if I feel like it I will relook at that entry and publish it.

I also received an email from TOC, asking me for permission to republish some of my future posts.  I'm a bit honored actually.  I'm just a Sillyporean in Thailand, minding my own business and blogging about my life there.  Wonder who will be interested in such a boring guy anyway.

The web is a very funny thing as blogging is no longer the "in" thing nowadays.  I wonder who still read full length blogs nowadays.  I do but I think I'm the few rare ones.  Tweeting (Twitter) and short messages such as status updates in G+ and facebook are much  more common nowadays.  So that's what I have been experimenting recently for the pass few months.  Posting more status updates on facebook rather than writing something here (ok, it's an excuse, I'm just plain lazy. :P)

Anyway, for those who are really interested in spying  following me.  I have activated the followers in Facebook.  So feel free to "follow" me instead of sending me friend's request (I only add those whom I know personally :) )

Thanks for reading and I will be writing soon since.  Singapore got new things to see leh.. A new Expressway and DT line. Must explore.