Wednesday, September 30, 2009
First of all, I like the simplicity. I want to be able to maintain my online album with minimum fuss. Picasa does that for me. There are three things you have to do to use Picasa: a) sign up for a free account; b) download and install Picasa on your computer; c) choose the folders on your computer to upload and synch with Picasaweb. That's all the hard work. From that point onwards, whatever you add or delete from the assigned folders on your computer is synchronized almost immediately to the web gallery.
Typical of Google, the user interface of Picasa is pleasingly useful in a simplistic way. It gives me an alternative way to open up my picture folders without navigating through a lot of irrelevant folders. There is an option of either dealing directly with your folders or assigning "albums". In Picasa terminology, albums are like pseudo folders. You can assign pictures from various folders into one album. I prefer to deal with real folders, though. With real folders, when you manipulate the files outside of Picasa, the same will be seen when you open Picasa. This looks like a petty detail, but I think it is very important. I don't like all the "file missing" prompts one gets when a cataloged file is unwittingly moved around (which happens when you use programs like Photoshop Lightroom or ACDSee) .
As for editing and other features, you'll have to check out for yourself. All I can say is, they are very useable. Picasa in my opinion is great for people who want to store pictures on the web without actually doing anything once your have enabled the synch mode on selected folders. It is also great as an alternative way to view your photos without navigating through a bunch of irrelavant files. To see my work-in-progress Picasa album, go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/howyitmeng
Monday, September 28, 2009
Yet Peter was not always the picture of bravery we see here. In Matthew 14 we read that Peter trusted Jesus enough to step onto the water, but soon got scared and began to sink. Matthew 14:29-31: "... Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" "
Perhaps an more even poignant example of his lack of bravado was his denial of Jesus even after Jesus had told him that he would deny Jesus; not once, but three times. When Jesus was arrested and charged with blasphemy Peter was terrified and tried to slip away. Matthew 26:73 says "After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly."
If someone of so little courage can in the end stand up for his conviction even after his mentor is gone, I cannot think of any greater demonstration of faith. Moreover, every one of the apostles stood up and died for their belief after the resurrection. Not a single one escaped persecution; not a single one caved in.
The apostles were certainly men of great conviction. Every single one of them, after the resurrection of Christ, faced severe persecution. All, except Apostle John, died violent deaths. Not a single one of them chose to surrender their faith but they chose to give up their lives. This is a great testimony of their strong conviction.
Few of us ever face a problem in life half as severe as the apostles faced. Yet we complain that our cross is too heavy to bear. Shouldn't we stand up as brave soldiers of the cross? Do we so quickly forget what a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear? "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" as the bible says in James 1:2-4.
Today I feel my burden weighing heavily on me, so I am writing this as a reminder to myself, and not to preach to you something alien to me.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Basically Australia is trumpeting its success in overcoming the global recession of 2008. In terms of GDP, yes. According to Ross Gittins, this is done at the cost of increasing the population (through migration). Bigger population, bigger consumption and bigger demand for labour. All this adds up to a greater GDP, but not necessarily GPD per capita. In fact, GDP per capita contracted 1.5% in the last 15 months, and has fallen in three of the last five quarters (according to reports).
This is where I find myself having mixed feelings. On the one hand I am a beneficiary of Australia's generosity in accepting migrants. Yet once here, I know that continued high rate of migrant intake will only dilute the quality of life for which I am here. This is clearly explained by Ross Gittins in his article. Politicians and businessmen will continue to pretend that high migrant intake is good. The former is interested only in getting re-elected, while the latter is only interested in getting higher profit. So who is watching our for the welfare of the country? Generally speaking, the answer is nobody. I only hope that I am wrong.
When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in country New South Wales, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.
One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.
And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? . . . . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . . . . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. .. .. . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . .. 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . . . . . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not .. . . . . . . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? . . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . . you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . .. . . . . . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . . . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . . . . . . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows ... . . . . . that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . .... . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . . . . .. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . . . With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. . . . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . . . . . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, . . . . . . ..Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . .. . . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . . . . and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. . . . ... . . . . . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone .. . . . . .. . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . . . .. A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . .. . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . .. . . . . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . .. . . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years . all too few . . . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see . . . . . .. . ME!!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
That's it, this is a must-have device for one of these people:
1. those who need a pen input device for Photoshop, like me.
2. those who want a better input device than a mouse, like me.
3. those literally in pain from using a mouse (repetitive stress syndrome), like me.
Go out and get one. I recommend the Bamboo Fun range. Choose the smallest pad. It is cheaper, takes up less space on your table, and you can move your cursor faster across the screen. Only a graphics artist has any need for anything larger than the smallest tablet.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I believe that that point in a person's life is the apex of the feeling of being rich. You'll never feel richer than when you get your first pay. Very soon after that you will be mired in utility bills that you have raked up yourself, car installment, house mortgage payment, insurance, tax, repair and maintenance, traffic offenses, and buying things you don't really need but want. And social entertainment... you can't be a loner. Then you get married and have children... more expenses... No matter how much more you earn thereafter, you'll never again get that same feeling of being superbly.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Corel Painter actually lets you draw or paint digitally, as well as automatically transforming the picture for you. This is where the fun begins. The picture shown here is half painted by Corel Painter and half by me using digital brushes and ink on a computer screen. Now that I have tried real digital painting and real oil painting, I must say the Corel Painter software does quite an amazing job of emulating the real thing! You can choose the brush type, different media, as well as applying wet or dry paint, etc, etc. (Photoshop has Brushes too, but I haven't tried that yet)
Monday, September 21, 2009
1. Sale authority.
This is a legally binding contract that outlines the sale of your house through the appointed agent. Take note: 1) there is no set industry-standard for the agent's commission; 2) the seller is liable for advertising expenses even if a sale doesn't happen; 3) it is illegal for the agent to underquote the seller's reserve price.
2. Vendor's statement (or Section 32).
Typically prepared by a conveyancer or solicitor, it must be complete and signed by the seller. Take note: prospective buyer must receive a complete and signed vendor's statement or else the contract of sale would be void.
3. Contract of sale.
Verbal offer is not binding. A contract of sale identifies the buyer, seller, particulars of the property, settlement date, deposit amount, sale value, and which chattels to go with the house. Note that: 1) buyers can request a sale to be subject to finance approval, sale of their own property, or building inspection; 2) buyers have a cooling off period of three business days (can back out subject to a small penalty), unless the property is bought within three business days of a scheduled auction or if they took legal advice before signing the contract. Auctions can have no cooling off period and no attached conditions.
1. Real estate agent's commission: 2.5% of $440k = $11k
2. Variable commission: 5% for amount over $400k = $2k
(note: that's a whopping 7.5% in total for the $40k "extra")
3. Advertising cost: 1.5% (for signboard, online listing, print ads, etc) = $6.6k
4. Building inspection (if required) = $1k (say)
5. Legal costs (vendor statement, auction contract, etc) = $1k (at least)
6. Exit fee from bank for outstanding mortgage = $1k (say)
Total = $22.6k, which works out to 5.1% of $440k. In addition, if you buy another house to replace this, expect to pay about 5% in stamp duty. That makes a grand total of roughly 10%, excluding moving costs and the cost of hiring temporary props to make the house look more attractive to the buyer.
The bottomline: everything above is negotiable; but not after you have signed any papers. So negotiate first!! Don't be fooled into thinking that the rates are non-negotiable.
Friday, September 18, 2009
It was quite by accident that I came across this software, which comes bundled with the Wacom tablet I bought primarily as a mouse replacement for my computer. After much research I was ready to part with AUD$139 for a Bamboo Wacom tablet as advertised. Instead I got the better Bamboo Fun tablet instead, and it comes bundled with Corel Painter. So here I am, an overnight digital painter!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" (He presumes that eternal life is obtained by doing good things)
17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. (Jesus did not answer his question directly. Instead he tells him that it is not what we do, but what we are that is important. Are we good? Only God is, because ultimately we all fall short of God's standard) If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18"Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself."
20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"(He still thinks he can earn his way to heaven by doing good)
21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."(1. Jesus implies that the young man could do even better by getting rid of his possessions; 2. Jesus did not tell him that if he got rid of his possessions he will qualify for heaven. He only said that he can exchange earthly treasure for heavenly treasure; 3. Not just giving away his wealth, but next to follow Christ. That is what the young man must do if he wants to go beyond what he has been doing)
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Obviously Jesus knew his heart well. The young man has done all the praiseworthy things, but in his heart he still holds on dearly to his earthly treasure.)
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Jesus says it is impossible for man to save himself)
Monday, September 14, 2009
I picked up this tip from a photography magazine. It is just a simple task. To include one of the ready made borders, you simply add the border as another layer to the opened image in photoshop. Then select "Lighten" or "Screen" and the image will appear with the predefined border, as shown in the example here. It does add a bit of character to the image, doesn't it?
When I started my working life after graduation in 1982 the service industry was run on pen and paper. In fact the personal computer was only in its infancy with the Apple IIe only starting to make its mark. In those days (in Malaysia) most people had only three household utility bills: water, electricity, and telephone. Nowadays in Malaysia many people subscribe to pay TV and broadband, in addition to the other three utilities.
At that time, each utility bill could only be paid at the utility company's outlet. We had to wait in a long queue to pay each bill before running off to the next place. It was a blessing that traffic and parking were not such a colossal problem as it is in Malaysia today. Nowadays people can choose to pay all their bills through the internet, or to pay different bills at just one location. It is funny isn't it, that even as computerization has made life easier and supposedly freed up time, we all still live terribly busy lives, don't we?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I admit it; I am not cut out to be a fighter. A writer I might be. It takes a lot more effort than just reporting to the authorities. I would rather not start something that I can not see through to the end. If any of my readers feel motivated to do so, he is welcome to pick up on the case.
That is not to say we should resign to accept status quo. Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by people power, harnessing the SMS of their mobile phones to rally the nation. If we do likewise using the internet or email, we can amass unprecedented strength in number to fight any social injustice. "The pen is mightier than the sword" rings true once more. Or shall I say, Mighty Mouse to the rescue!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Back to the Australian economy... it is possible that even without the stimulus package, things might have not changed much. Australia has a huge dependence on migrants bringing money into the country. The recent real estate surge is led by mainland Chinese paying ridiculously high prices for homes they fancy (such as the recent $1.68mil sale of a house in Strathconian, which estate agents would have been delighted to sell at $1.2mil). This surge has increased the "feel good" factor that often translates into higher retail spending.
Of course, there is a myriad of other reasons and predictions about the economy. Economic modeling and fortune telling has been practised for ages. They seem to go hand in hand (tongue in cheek).
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Now it looks like the scales are tipped once more. With the advent of the iPhone and Android platform, budding programmers can once more write small applications that are marketable. It is an exciting change. Thousands upon thousands of "apps" can be purchased for a few dollars each to run on mobile platforms (i.e. mobile phones). I am excited by the prospect of a harmonized computing environment where applications can run interchangeably on a mobile phone, netbook, laptop, or desktop. These cute little apps can be used at home or carried around in the pocket. As for DIY programmers, they can once more publish, flourish, and get rich without the threat of Microsoft trampling all over them.
I set the camera to Bulb and held the shutter down for about 90 sec. Have a good look. You don't often get to see a moonlit night like this!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This is a camera that will seriously compete against the high end compact cameras. Professionals and amateurs alike buy the high end compacts (e.g. Canon G10) because they are small to carry everywhere and yet take pretty good pictures. Yes, even pro shooters sometimes opt for compacts when they go on holidays.
The Panasonic GF1 is about the same size as the Canon G10, but offers all the advantages of a DSLR: interchangeable lens, Four-Thirds sensor, SLR controls. Like a serious compact, it also offers Live View, HD movie with a dedicated record button, wind-cut for noise reduction, built-in flash as well as flash hot-shoe. Also, the fact that this innovative DLSR has done away with the mirror mechanism means that you can put the camera in silent mode. Great for use when you are shooting animals or birds. One nice touch is the option to record video in either AVCHD format or MJPEG. Both have pros and cons, so it is good to have the choice.
Help me; I feel like running out to buy this camera! This is an ideal camera to take on a holiday. The only thing that is holding me back is the lack of a fully articulated LCD, which allows one to hold the camera at any angle. Seriously!
I grew up in Malaysia. The situation may be slightly different in other parts of the world. During those days, the grocery store wrapped everything using recycled newspaper. Plastic bags were not introduced yet. Packages were tied up using straw (or reed), which had to be kept wet continuously or else they dried up and broke easily. Instead of big plastic bags, shoppers were given paper bags to put their purchases in, if needed. Housewives each carried an open woven basket to the wet market every morning. Umbrellas made of bamboo material and waxed paper were used to keep out the sun and the rain. At home, pails and basins were made of aluminum. Pots were aluminum or clay. Drinks came in glass bottles which were collected and sent back to the bottling company in wooden crates for re-use. Needless to say, there was a non-plastic alternative for every plastic product we use today. In those days, the environment was free of permanent garbage. Every piece of rubbish carelessly strewn degraded within a short time. Yes, I believe the earth was a pristine place only 50 years ago. The oceans were free of filth, and the Himalayas must have look like unexplored territory to every new visitor.
I am attending some night classes at a local college. Some of my fellow students are themselves part-time teachers there. They tell me that many of their students do not turn up for classes, but they are pressured by the college to give the students a "pass". Likewise for those who don't bother to turn in their assignments or plagiarize wholesale from the internet. The reason is that many of the students are paying foreign student tuition fees, which is a small fortune. I have heard similar stories from students in other colleges and from my son's friend. Another friend of mine took up an MBA course at a well known local university. He says that some of the students do not do any given assignments, but are still allowed to pass.
Why is this happening? The Howard government left the schools short of funds. They are encouraged to sell education to foreign students. While there are genuine students, there are also heaps of non-genuine ones who use this as an opportunity to gain residency in the country. This arrangement is falling apart now, but that's another story. As far as education is concerned, WHAT IS THE EDUCATION MINISTER DOING? The rort is spilling everywhere. Surely the shame and the shambles must have gone to the ears of the politicians by now.