Saturday, January 28, 2006


年 恭

年 喜

有 发

余 财

Back next year.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Camera suggestions?

I could be getting my very own digital camera (finally!). I'm quite fascinated by both the 8 megapixel Panasonic FZ30 with 12x Leica zoom lens with zoom and focus rings, and the 5 megapixel Panasonic FZ5, also with 12x Leica lens but with no manual focus and slightly less flexibility.

Leica optics has a good reputation, and reviews indicate that the Panasonic user interface is brilliant.

The remaining question is one of reliability and relative cost.

The other options that remain are the 6 megapixel Olympus SP 500 UZ, with a mere 10x zoom, or the 5 megapixel Canon S2 with 12x.

DSLRs and lenses are out of my price bracket so please keep recomendations of the Canon EOS 5D to yourselves thank you.

Anyone out there with comments on Panasonic digital cameras?


Mixed photographs from recent days

Fighting fish

Click here for large size image


Click here for large size image

Yellow Sea

Click here for large size image


Thursday, January 26, 2006

An open letter to whom it may concern

To whom it may concern,

Your little secret is out. From the outside looking in, it is actually mildly amusing how the leak happened. Like a proverbial hole in the dyke, a little leak would bring the entire edifice down. Perhaps we can discuss this little failure of intelligence in more detail when we meet?

I feel sorry for your well laid plans, and the prospect of a grand entrance (complete with shrieks of joy and surprise) being shattered by a tiny oversight. I alone cannot stem the surging seawater, but you can rest assured that I will not speak.

See you soon.



Monday, January 23, 2006

Thumbelina: The fish and Freyja

Continued from
section n: Vladimir the wanker

section n + 1: The fish and Freyja

Trapped on a floating lily pad and not knowing how to swim, Thumbelina could only sit and think about her fate. She could not imagine anything worse than being married to Vladimir.

She had to get away, but how?

“Think Thumbelina, think,” she told herself, just like what the characters in stories usually do when they get into trouble. No good ideas came to her. It appears that she really had to think, instead of just telling herself to “think Thumbelina, think.”

Thumbelina carefully moved to the edge of the lily pad, careful not to overturn the leaf. She could easily see through the clear stream water, and in it were a few fishes darting about, some interestingly smooth stones on the stream bed, and even an aquatic spider.

A fish swam close to her, and she called out to it, “excuse me, my dear fish, but can you help me?” She felt silly addressing it as ‘my dear fish’, but then she did not know if it was a ‘sir’ or a ‘madam’.
The fish looked around, and did not see anybody that could possibly have called out to it.
“Here, up here on the lily pad,” Thumbelina said.
The fish looked up, and finally saw Thumbelina. “What a small person you are! How may I help you?”

Thumbelina told the fish her story, how she was kidnapped by the mother frog, then about Vladimir who wanted to marry her and subsequently trapped her on this lily pad.

“That is certainly not the right thing to do,” the fish exclaimed about Vladimir. “Wait, I’ll get a few of my friends and we’ll see what we can do to help you.”

As the fish swam away between plants and rocks, Thumbelina watched with a sight of relief. At least she will get help; even though it was not certain if she will completely escape Vladimir the frog.

After a while being alone, Thumbelina began to have second thoughts.
What if the fish forgot her location?
What if the fish got distracted by some games its friends were playing?
What if Vladimir returned before the fish did?
What if the fish got eaten by a kingfisher?

Many ‘what if’ questions filled her mind, and made her very nervous.

Finally, the fish returned with a school of friends. They swam excitedly around Thumbelina’s lily pad, all of them talking at once, pointing at the direction which Vladimir came from, speculating if ‘the frog they saw at the market’ was Vladimir’s mother, discussing the morality of Vladimir’s kidnapping of Thumbelina, talking about why Vladimir could not get a bride for so long, asking why Thumbelina was so small compared to other humans. In short, the fish gossiped.

Had one of the fish not reminded them that they were actually here to help Thumbelina out of her fix, they would have surely continued talking till Vladimir came back. Spurred on, they came up with many ideas to help Thumbelina get away from Vladimir. Most of the ideas were impossible, but like most brainstorming sessions, a few good ones did turn up.

Finally, they thought it would be best to nibble at the stalk of the lily pad till it broke free, and ask Freyja the butterfly to tow the lily pad to safety. They sent two of the younger ones to get Freyja while the rest stayed and took turns nibbling at the stalk.

The stalk was nearly done when Freyja arrived, her intense blue wings shimmering brilliantly in the sunlight as they flapped up and down. She landed neatly on a neighbouring lily pad, and a few of the young fishes swirled around her telling her about a new game they had invented.


If anyone is inclined, do look up the meanings of the supporting cast's names.

As before, feedback of all sorts very, very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.


The little one

There was a small but luxurious pre-CNY dinner at an aunt’s house. A pot luck arrangement is usually not associated with luxury, but when the dishes include fancy dishes like sharksfin soup, foil wrapped crabs baked in salt and home made mango loh (with ice shavings and mango puree), one can be sure that this not a simple fried beehoon and diced watermelon affair.

After eating sufficiently, I persuaded a little cousin to let me carry her. She did not allow it.

Later, when my mother was holding her (she is quite attached to my mother), I asked her again. No response, which actually means ‘no, I can’t be bothered with you.’

Mother reassured her a bit, and she agreed to come to me. Thus the influence of a reference is demonstrated.

I brought her around the house’s garden doing the typical things that people do when they bring children around a house: point at the fish in the pond, look at the plants, observe some tadpoles in the pond. We did not ogle at the dog and provoke it, solely because I did not see the creature.

After a tour of the garden and the obligatory ‘waving through the window to mummy’, I brought her back to her mother.

Sometime later I asked her if she wanted to go see the swimming pool at the clubhouse.
A nod.

It turns out the clubhouse was quite far away, but I’ve already committed myself and it is not good ethics to make a u-turn on young kids. So it was a 15 minute walk to the clubhouse carrying this 5 year old girl all the way. Look at the water, listen to the pumps, pluck a few pretty bougainvillea flowers, and it’s another 15 minutes back, uphill.

Back at the house, I went upstairs to one of the cousin’s rooms where a few of them were lazing around not really doing much. I found myself a spot and joined them in lazing around and watching the room’s occupant (attempt to) do her homework in a very distracted manner.

The little cousin nudged the door open tentatively and surveyed the room. Quietly, she came in and paced around for a short while before coming to a stop in front of me. Without a warning, she plopped herself on my lap and made herself comfortable. Not yet completely satisfied with her comfort, she then grabbed my arms and moved them into a more comfortable position. Happy, she remained in that position for a period of time.


So, this is what a young child is…. Nice.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


As previously mentioned, I’ll be moving away from my current flat. So far, the remaining things that needs to be packed are not much. Mostly little bits and bobs that will be needed/wanted to the last minute.

My 2.1 speaker set has been disassembled, and my printer will be disconnected soon. The keyboard will have to go too. After that, you will not see me write anything for a few days; typing with the notebook’s compressed keyboard is very annoying. And to add insult to injury, this Compaq runs really hot, and typing on a scorching keyboard is a sure way to cancer of the wrist cartilage tissue. Joking.

On Thursday afternoon, I will fly for home. In the mean time, there is a lot to be done, including to find a new room to come back to.

Over the past years I’ve been at Melbourne, I have not had those dreaded pangs of homesickness that many complain about. Strangely enough, I felt a slight tremor yesterday while chatting with a cousin. For some reason, perhaps her slightly matured behaviour and young cheekiness, she is one of the younger ones closer the few of us older cousins.

Observant stalkers may have noticed previous mention of the book Gravity: an introduction to Einstein’s general relativity. It’s difficult, with loads of unfamiliar equations and mathematical methods.

Part way into the book, the author turn to deep space. Cosmology is very useful as a tool to tell the reader how insignificant he/she actually is. The length scales are awesome, with parsecs, kiloparsecs, megaparsecs and the occasional gigaparsec jumping up and down the pages. And by the way, a parsec is about 3.26 light years, and the edge of the observable universe is about 14Mpc away. And that is very far away. I'll not even bother to repeat 'very'; its no point doing that regardless how many times I repeat it.

Returning to smaller scale issues, I’ve almost finished a 4 litre tub of ice cream single-handedly in about 10 days. When contemplating what to eat for my ‘dinner’ meal at about 2am, I usually reduce the problem to a rather simple decision choice:
1. Cook
2. Ice-cream

I think ice-cream has an unfair advantage- it won many times.

My mother asked me to buy a current issue of the ‘Table’ magazine for her, which I did. Flipping through it, I saw that the theme of the month is ice-cream. This is so going to kick ass. I even purchased dried vanilla pods from the market (in preparation for the vanilla ice-cream recipe- I preplan in certain cases); they are rather expensive, but I’ve been told that the fragrance is much better than bottled vanilla essence. The ice-cream is so going to kick ass. If mom is not making it, I'll do it with my cousin(s) and brother(s). This is so going to kick ass.

I was chatting with The Architect on MSN this evening, and we were lamenting about the number of things we have to rush through before our flights home.

The Architect: y did we leave things so late?
Tan Yee Wei: hello? its us ok
err.... yeah....
if we dint, god will reveal himself and slit his wrists in front of our eyes

No blasphemy intended. I will not entertain discussing about how blasphemous this conversation was.

I’ve a nagging feeling that my next entry will be after I’ve had my mandatory serving of asam laksa, which should be pretty soon anyway.


Monday, January 16, 2006

The prompted essay meme

Unknown to me, Ah Pek had actually done this meme (with the same 10 words) a few hours ago and tagged me. And here I am tagging him...

Sonia has already completed hers, one that would plant a very disturbing image in your mind.

Yee Hou has also done his.

Tagged myself after seeing the fun Yvy had. No fancy introduction this time (like this and this); the meme itself is amusing enough.

The Golden Rules:
Write an entry of between 100-200 words, with these words have to be included once, and only once:

me saggy
robot sheets

Cookie points if you can use them in order. But not necessary, it’s supposed to be a challenge ~ so I’ve been told.

Out of the 10 words, you can only change 2 words.

Your essay must make some kind of sense.

Send to 5 people.
ob!ique, since she gets bored at work sometimes
David Chong, since he gets bored at home sometimes
Yee Hou
Ah Pek, because it will be interesting to see the poet get working on this


A day in the life of Thumbelina in her later years
- if she had not escaped the toad

“Come here, my dear Thumby, I am waiting,” the frog croaked cheekily from the bed.

Thumbelina glared at her husband, with his moist, saggy skin hanging loose around his once muscular frame. “Don’t disturb me; the tadpoles need help with their jurisprudence homework.”

“Just a quick blowjob?” he asked hopefully, almost pleading.
From a bowl of grapes, she picked up one of the firm juicy orbs. She whipped her entire body around, turning her feet, hips, waist and shoulders. Her triceps contracted, her wrist snapped, and she let the fruit loose into the air.

It zinged towards the old sagging frog, and hit him between his large eyes. The fruit’s epidermis ruptured, and tasty but pulpy bits splattered in seemingly random directions from the power of the impact.

“Do. Not. Disturb.” Thumbelina repeated herself with an acidic overtone.

A pang of intense loneliness hit the old frog as he licked up the grape pulp from his face and the bed. Some of the liquid from the impact had seeped into the beautiful sheets, ruining its rich ultramarine hue of blue.

Disappointed, the frog shuffled away to watch Big Brother on the television.

~191 words

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Thumbelina: Vladimir the wanker

section n: Vladimir the wanker

One spring evening, as Thumbelina sat on a table outdoors painting the sunset, a frog watched her from behind some bushes. The frog had a son who had remained unmarried for two years already, and she was on the lookout for possible brides for him.

The frog thought Thumbelina would make a suitable bride, for she was indeed a very beautiful girl. The frog then hopped up the table, and grabbed Thumbelina, and quickly bounded away on her. Poor Thumbelina did not even have time to scream for help.

For several minutes, the frog held on to the struggling Thumbelina as they hopped away from the house at great speed, leaping easily over tree roots and across puddles of water. Had Thumbelina been invited for such a journey, she would surely have been excited and thrilled at the speed. However, she was kidnapped, and she was frightened.

They came to a stop at the edge of a quiet stream, and the frog called out to her son, “Vladimir, come here. I’ve found you a bride.”

From below the surface, her son Vladimir emerged at the water’s edge. He cast his large, bulging, black and yellow eyes at Thumbelina, and was immediately enchanted by her beauty. “She’s beautiful,” he said softly to nobody in particular. Thumbelina felt uncomfortable being stared at by those huge yellow eyes with black slits in the middle. Their gaze pierced her, as if they were assessing her merits like a shopper would estimate the worth of an item on the store shelf.

She stared back at the eyes, in an attempt to outstare Vladimir. She stared unblinkingly at the eyes, those ugly, monstrous eyes. Vladimir continued staring at her.

After a while, Thumbelina’s eyes began to dry, and she had to blink. She felt that she had lost the little staring contest with Vladimir, although in fact frogs do not engage in such activities. Little did she know that due to the shape of their eyelids, frogs cannot blink.

Vladimir continued staring at Thumbelina, gazing from top to bottom, then bottom to top. It was like he was looking for a flaw or defect in her before deciding what to do with her.

Finally, he made a decision. “I’ll take you as my bride.”
“No!” cried Thumbelina, “I don’t even know you.”
“We can get to know each other better after we get married,” suggested the frog, “I love you, do you know that?”
“You’re mad. How can someone fall in love in a minute?”
“You’re beautiful. That’s enough for me,” replied Vladimir, “some would say it’s love at first sight.”
“I’m still not marrying you,” Thumbelina crossed her little arms across her chest.
“It does not matter what you say or feel,” Vladimir said. “I’ll just put you on that leave while I prepare for the wedding.”

Without warning, Vladimir grasped Thumbelina and hopped into the water. He swam out to a floating lily pad, on which he left Thumbelina.

“Stay still, or you’ll fall into the water.” With that, Vladimir turned around and left to prepare for his upcoming wedding.


Just joking about the title. 'Vladimir the wanker' is not a very refined chapter name is it?

This is an experimental foray into fairy tales, hence the (attempt at) slightly simplified sentence structures. Section n-1 was even simpler, but I tired of it. It even started to look a little like those frightful Hardy Boys sentences.

Feedback of all sorts very, very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Macro photography of hair strands

The Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom is magnificent. It not only has got 10x optical zoom, it also has a cool super macro mode which can focus on objects a mere 3cm away from the lens assembly.

The following photo is a crop of a full sized image. The photo shows a strand of hair, complete with the follicle ('the sheath of cells and connective tissue which surrounds the root of a hair' - Concise Oxford English Dictionary 10th edition). The background is a sheet of 80gsm A4 paper.

The next image is also a crop of a full sized image. Here, the strand of hair was freshly severed with a pair of scissors, which explains the abrupt end instead of thinning out to nothing.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hoorah for Boobies!

Whenever I have a camera with me and I see a decent flower, I have an urge to inspect it for its colour, shape, and the environment around it. The fact that my Deviant Art album of 62 photos contains 10 flower macros should suggest something.

On my last trip across the state border, we stayed at a nice house with a very well maintained garden, with bushes of magnificently coloured blooms. I looked around for the most well formed one, with the best colour density.

If anyone does not know that rose bushes have horrible thorns, well, they do. It’s impossible to snap them with your bare hands if you happen to be a pain abhorring creature such as me. Out came the Swiss army knife, and from that, out came the scissors.

The flower fell gently to the ground, whereupon a pair of metallic tweezers emerged from the same menacing Swiss Army knife. Gripping its thorny stem, the poor rose was rapidly whisked away, very much like a typical alien abduction scene.


Click here for large size image

In other news, I am looking for a new room to stay in. Now that I do not go to the university daily, I do not mind staying a bit further from the university and the city centre. The rental rates do tend to fall off further away from the central business district.

In yet other news, I have modified my flight back to Malaysia to the 19th instead of the 20th of January. The reason being there will be a family dinner on the 20th, a pre-CNY sort of a party. Mom’s side seem be able to find all sorts of excuses to have get-togethers, just make noise and have a ball. Suits me just fine.

The far sighted cousin May has already planned that we go to the Cheras night market on Wednesday for our very own mahjong set. That would so kick ass. And of course, to look out for fireworks and crackers, legal (as if!) or otherwise.

Closer to the present, I’m mostly packing up my belongings into boxes and the suitcase. So far, my collection of books and magazines has been sorted out into three sturdy 10 kg courier service boxes. When they are all boxed and zipped up, I fully intend to measure the dimensions of each packing crate, and thus find out how many cubic metres my three years are actually worth. The printer and 2.1 speaker set will add to the volume easily, but value wise, one proper text book (used) can easily out-value these two.

The phrase ‘second cousin, twice removed’ jumped into my head in a completely arbitrary fashion. It must have come from a latent memory, or my past life as a goat genetics analyst. Regardless, Google, in its infinite wisdom, revealed that a ‘second cousin, twice removed’ is a second cousin (sharing a pair of great-grandparents), but separated by two generations.

Both sides of my family being rather recent arrivals from China (4th generation at most), I haven’t seen one of those convoluted ‘second cousin twice removed’ characters yet.

I take that back. I realised I’ve actually got a large bunch of them, the 舅公’s and 姨婆’s, the many siblings of my grandmother who contribute healthily to the noise levels during those aforementioned gatherings.

Having given up packing for the day, I am now going to bed. The phrase of the day is, “Hoorah for boobies!” which you are supposed to shout at the top of your voice every so often.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

High speed cucumber slicing

This is probably not a very intelligent post, but who is to judge what is intelligent and what is not...

Yesterday evening I had a cucumber in my dinner. Split it into halves lengthwise, and then sliced the halves.

At full speed, I managed to cut one half into 35 slices in 6 seconds.

To produce 35 slices means 34 cuts, and that would translate into 5.7 cuts per second, or 5.7Hz.

In comparison, the C note corresponds to 440Hz.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


From the depths of the lake, a capsule rose towards the surface. It breached the perfectly still water surface, like a Soviet Typhoon submarine piercing the silent artic ice floes, with an abrupt whoosh and splash, and then silence as the waves quickly calmed, the only noises audible being little rivulets of water still dripping and running down the external cladding to the water surface and stirring little ripples that propagated outward in circular arcs.

The capsule’s hull parted, and a figure slipped into the water. Having been underwater but separated from the cool liquid for several days, he savoured the refreshing sensation.

Far away in the distance, an engine started up before abruptly revving angrily. Emerging from the far shore, a tiny boat slowly came into view. It was a long, slender craft, powered by a pair of supercharged Mercury 275 hp marine engines. The dart-like craft headed towards the swimmer, its bow raised in the air as it skipped through the calm lake surface, its twin impellers churning the water behind into a menacing foam.

The engines paused momentarily as the pilot switched into reverse thrust, before going full throttle again. The boat’s hull slapped onto the water surface, and a plume of foam began jetting towards the front of the boat instead of behind.

The slender aluminium boat drew to a stop next to the stunned swimmer, and the pilot revealed herself over the hull. Recovering his composure, the swimmer asked acidly, “what was that for?”

plink the pilot ignored his question, “I’ve got you a graduation present!”
She opened her palm, and a wisp of light fluttered out.
“What’s that?”
You’ve been tagged,” she explained, “It’s an idea, by the way.”
“It’s beautiful. I follow The Blog(u): A Blogger's Tale series, but never expected an idea to look so… remarkable.”
plink grinned. “Well, I’ve got to take my leave now. Going to see someone else,” with that, she disappeared behind the hull.

The engines barked to life, and idled quietly as plink manoeuvred the boat around. The craft was pointed back to the shore where she came from, heading away from the swimmer. As she engaged into gear, the propellers began to windmill lazily in the water.

A flash of realisation hit the swimmer, and he tried to get out of the way of the impellers’ thrust. He was too late. Plink pushed the throttle to wide open, and a column of water gushed at him.

As plink sped away, the swimmer thought he heard a mischievous cackle of laughter from the boat.


Jot down as many things as you can think of beginning with, 'I have come to realize…'

I have come to realise that:
I am getting tardy with this self propagating meme
A meme is a behavioural trait that propagates without the use of genes
However, I believe that if one is intent on building a mathematical model of the spread of a meme, it would still look very much like the model of a bacterial colony, with mutation rates, competition for resources (attention), propagation rates…
But memes would have high mutation rates compared to bacteria due to people executing the meme as they perceive it to be, not as the originator intends it to be.
I have no idea why I suddenly thought of creating a mathematical model of a meme.

I am actually contributing to the mutation rate by deviating slightly from the earlier method of explicitly starting every sentence with “I have come to realise that”.
Some of the preceding points do not actually go very well with the “I have come to realise that” bit because mentally, they were composed away from that phrase.
I can’t be bothered to undo the damage; let the mutation continue

I spent more time writing the introduction than actually doing the meme.
Meme reminds me of Mini Me, a very disturbing image.

I'm not sure if it's fantastic or daft, but the second sentence in this post is a massive 62 words long. Blame it on the submarines...

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Thumbelina is nothing more than sexist drivel

When I was visiting some relatives in Brisbane, I browsed through some of the young cousins’ books. Thumbelina (1835, Hans Christian Andersen) caught my eye, because I do not remember reading it.

After reading it, I found the plot to be disturbingly sexist. (Synopsis from Wikipedia below)

The story presents the protagonist (Thumbelina) as an object of desire, the point of desire being her beauty, and only her beauty.

She was kidnapped to be a bride by a frog, then imprisoned, then kidnapped by a mayfly. The female mayflies didn’t think much of her beauty, and convinced the male mayfly kidnapper to abandon her in the winter cold. A mouse found her and cared for her, and having saved her life, the mouse then ‘owned’ her. The mouse gave her away to be the bride of a mole. The mole himself did not like the flowers above ground, and would confine her below ground.

By a stroke of luck, Thumbelina was rescued and met a fairy prince, who was enchanted by her beauty. He asked her to marry him, and then renamed her for he thought the name Thumbelina was not fit for a beautiful girl as her.

The protagonist of the story is not much of a character, but more like an inanimate satisfier of male sensual desires. She has her own opinion, but only very slightly. And she never expresses her views, instead letting the environment sweep her to and fro, at the mercy of kidnappers and the dominating mole.

Right up to the happy ending, she played no role in deciding her fate; Thumbelina was never sentient.


Once, a woman grew a barleycorn in her garden, so beautiful that when she kissed the petals of the bloom, it burst into a flower and a tiny but beautiful girl emerged. The woman named her Thumbelina, as she was no bigger than the woman's thumb.

The girl's beauty soon attracted the attention of a frog. She believed Thumbelina would make a good bride for her son, so she kidnapped the girl in the middle of the night, and delivered her to her son. The son was immediately enchanted by Thumbelina's beauty, and left her on a lily pad. However, Thumbelina managed to find help. Fish gnawed away the root of the lily pad, and a butterfly offered to pull her to safety with one of Thumbelina's ribbons as a harness. Before she could be freed however, a mayfly grabbed Thumbelina off the lily and took her away, leaving the butterfly to die as he was too fragile to break free of the ribbon.

The mayfly, who was also enchanted by Thumbelina, brought her back to his family, but the female mayflies declared she was ugly, and so they abandoned her as a result. Starving in the cold of winter, the little girl was then found by a field mouse, who took care of her. Because the mouse believed that she was indebted to him, the girl soon found herself engaged to a mole. The wedding would take place in spring, once the last snow thawed.

Unhappy that she must marry the mole, Thumbelina went to the see the flowers one last time, knowing the mole disliked the beauty of the upper world and would confine her to the ground below. A bird flew by and saw Thumbelina's distress, so he offered to take her away to a better world.

She agreed and the bird took her far away to a field of flowers, where he told her to choose a flower to claim as her own. Thumbelina found a flower, but discovered another person present, the prince of fairies. Enchanted by her beauty, he asked to marry her, and the little girl agreed. She was renamed Maha by the prince (as the name Thumbelina is not beautiful enough for a girl like her) and given a pair of wings so she may fly with her new husband.

Source: Wikipedia
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I am back, with photos

I’m back from a weekend away. The Computer Engineer, The Two Architects and I rented a car and scooted off to a neighbouring state (SA) for two nights.

A Feather in the Wind

Click here for large size image
Click here for Deviant Art entry

The daily rate for a Toyota Corolla 1.3 was $40; the Toyota Camry 2.2, $45; the Ford Falcon 4.0, $50. And no one wants the Hyundai Elantra. The choice was obviously for the 4 litre Ford. [car related discussion continued below]

The place of accommodation at Mt Gambier was an upmarket one, but shared among us the price did not cause anyone to die. It was a house rented out on daily basis, complete with:

Washing machine
Iron and ironing board
A crystal decanter of red wine and a pair of little crystal goblets that rang melodiously when pinged.
Microwave oven
Convection oven
Cutlery and dishes enough for 8 people
Coffee plunger and corresponding grounds in the fridge
An outdoor spa with heated jacuzzi pool
A baby cot
Enough beds for 6 adults
Lace curtains
Velvet curtains
An ancient standing piano that appears to work fine
For breakfast, we found in the fridge bacon, eggs, orange juice and milk. In the kitchen was a loaf of bread, a block of butter, 4 types of cereals in neat plastic containers, a nice wooden teabag box with more than 12 types of tea, not to mention the plunger coffee.

The Rose and the Goblet

Click here for large size image
Click here for Deviant Art entry

At $200 per night, it works out to $50 per person per night, compared to about $25 to $35 per person per night in backpackers’ hostels.

The region had many geological features, mostly pertaining to the limestone substrata and ancient volcanic activity- there are caves, aquifers, craters lakes and sinkholes. Probably the most prominent lake in the region is the Blue Lake, which indeed becomes a magnificent shade of blue in the summer months.

A limestone cave at Naracoorte

Click here for large size image

The Blue Lake is really blue

Click here for large size image

The Architect, The Falcon and The White Road

Click here for large size image

In search for some less popular attractions, we travelled along some unpaved roads, whose gravel appears to be of limestone origin due to the whitish grey colour. It was a refreshing contrast to the usual black strips of tarmac we see all out lives. The Architect is seen here taking photos of the scenery to the left of our rented Ford Falcon. The photograph itself has not been digitally manipulated; the exaggerated whiteness of the road surface was achieved by adjusting the exposure compensation to +1.3.

Click here for large size image
24 valves, Double Overhead Camshafts (DOHC), 4.0 litres with double variable cam timing (VCT). Pity it’s not a manual gearbox or it'd be wicked (with the English inflection for emphasis).

It appears that apart from the company, the most interesting things about this trip were not the sights, although they were very wonderful. The interesting bits seemed to be the photography, winding rapidly through deserted C-roads, and of course, unruly behaviour in a gravel parking lot.

Now that I have a digital camera with me, I seem to be dumping photos here rather than really writing stuff. I’m still not sure if this is a positive or negative progression. Regardless, I do not intend for this to turn into a pure photoblog; I still have my mathematics, physics and writing. Which reminds me I need to learn about tensors and metrics to be able to go further into relativity.

Click here for large size image

[car related bits continue here]
At first, the Ford was not easy to get into. The brake pedal feels squishy like it rides on a bed of sponges. The throttle response seems a little too non-linear. The car was large, large in an out-of-place sense of large. And the blind spots… the huge car has blind spots an entire can hide in.

Fumbling through the busy city traffic was not fun in a car with a squishy brake pedal and a non-linear accelerator. However, after a while, one tends to feel as if one has grown into the car, sort of like knowing where your limbs are without having to actually see them.

The brakes and throttle become controllable, having gotten used to the non-linearity. Instead of controlling the pedal’s travel length, the brake force and acceleration itself is manipulated.

One begins to be able to place the tyres to a precision of 2 inches, to be able to brush the edge of the tarmac when exiting those fast C-road corners. To be able to slip between reflective road markers without actually bumping over them, straight-lining quiet roundabouts by whooshing past the entry, circular and exit kerbs with inches to spare.

Exiting a small gravel car park, I gave the car a squirt of full throttle while turning left. The engine jumped alive with torque, and the rear tyres lost their grip on the loose gravel surface. Catch it with a bit of counter-steer, and the car was reined back into normalcy as it unrolled itself on the springs. It was an interesting preview of what a large gravel trap could provide.

A reasonably sized gravel car park did materialise later in the day. Cruise in slowly, and start to turn in. Blast the throttle to break the traction, and the rear end starts to slide away. Catch it with a bit of counter steer, and juggle the brake, throttle and steering inputs. Empty gravel lots are deeply satisfying, to be able to quiet the occasional urges to slide sideways, but without the high speed and high power requirements of tarmac.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Melbourne city night scenes

Melbourne by Night

Click here for large size image
Click here for Deviant Art entry

Flinders Street railway station

Click here for large size image

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A comparison between Newtonian and Relativistic models of simple oscillating systems

Special relativity will be discussed here, but it is best to learn special relativity from a proper text. While care has been taken to maintain accuracy, many of the important concepts in SR are not well represented here, especially the relativity part: relative to what?

A long time ago, I argued that rigid bodies do not exist. Here is a summary:
A rigid body’s length remains constant all the time. It cannot deform at all. Thus, when one pushes on one end of a rigid rod, the other end also moves at the same time. There is no delay between one end being pushed and the other end moving.

If we have a very long rod, and one end is pushed, at the same time, the other end will move. This process is instant.

However, a beam of light shined from the other end requires finite time to traverse the length of the rod. That being the case, it would seem that by pushing on long rods, information can be sent faster than the speed of light.

Of course, that is impossible. Thus, rigid bodies do not exist. Everything in this universe, from neutron stars to diamond gemstones, are not rigid; they are elastic. All of them.

Related links:
Rigid bodies violate special relativity
Real materials as opposed to rigid bodies

Rigid bodies are objects that have infinite stiffness. The question is, what sort of behaviour will be present when considering materials of large but finite stiffness?

In taking a small step to answering this question, I have constructed a simple model of 3 masses m1, m2 and m3; connected by two linear springs of stiffness ka and kb. In this mathematical model, the coordinates for the individual masses, x, y, and z have their origins at the respective masses’ equilibrium positions.

The differential equations of motion can be easily formulated using the simple F=ma relationship.

The differential equations for classical Newtonian mechanics are a set of 3 equations as such:

The system is then considered with Relativistic effects. The masses m1, m2 and m3 are called the rest mass, which is the mass measured when the system is stationary. As they move faster and faster approaching the speed of light, the measured mass becomes greater and greater, thus requiring more energy to accelerate. This is accounted for by a term γ that is multiplied with the rest mass.

As one can observe from the above equation, when velocity v approaches the speed of light, γ approaches infinity. There is an infinitely high energy barrier that stands at the speed of light. Only massless particles, such as photons, may travel at light speed.

One important effect of γ on the equations of motion is that the mass becomes greater as speeds increase, such that the masses may never approach 300,000 km/s.

Having obtained the differential equations of motion, the motion is then simulated using the 4th order Rungge-Kutta algorithm with increment time intervals of 0.00001s.

click here for a plot with a larger domain t=[0,20]
red: Newtonian
blue: Relativistic

The plots of the position of mass 1 using Newtonian and relativistic models are not significantly different to the naked eye.

click here for a plot with a larger domain t=[0,20]
red: Newtonian
blue: Relativistic
green: light speed, c

However, the differences are clearly seen when the velocity plots are compared. The linear Newtonian model exhibits instances of violating the speed of light, while the relativistic one shows the energy barrier forbidding the speed to exceed 3x10^8 m/s.

Around the time of 1s, the Newtonian model shows speeds greater than c while the relativistic model remains bounded within c. Referring back to the position plot, this effect can be seen in the slope of the curves. The Newtonian model’s motion is faster, and the slope is thus steeper than the Relativistic model’s.

As a consequence, the frequency of oscillation in the relativistic model is lower than that present in the Newtonian model. Also, due to the nonlinear term γ, the Relativistic model does not exhibit sinusoidal motion.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

New year's eve and other things

The keen reader would have noticed that yesterday, I said, “I hope to get some good photographs of pyrotechnics later tonight. Failing that, I can always snap bad photographs of pyrotechnics.”

Most turned out to be bad. As in bad bad, not ok lah bad.

I had somehow confused the aperture numbers, mistaking the largest (2.8) for the smallest (8.0) and thus was working with the aperture fully open. With great quantities of light washing onto the CCD, a mere half second of exposure would be more than enough, or the image would become a bit screwed up. Thus my shots were of spastic little light worms in the air, not magnificent tufts of hairy light balls as most decent pyrotechnics photos are.

And adding to add misery to misery, I let the camera use its autofocus. Unfortunately, it focused on the smoke instead of the light bursts if I click the shutter before the things actually pop. That wasted another lot of good opportunities.

Near the end, I finally realised my error with the aperture settings. And here they are, 2 decent images from about 100. It was crowded, but I’m quite sure the mess in KLCC and Bukit Bintang is much worse than this.

Enough talking about crap photos; I saw a rather cool paragraph from Saffron:
I hope the contortion of my features passed for joy and happiness, cos (not so deep) inside all I could think of was, "Please, if there is a god, kill me. Kill me now."

Oh look, I didn't die.

In slightly related news, the index sheet for my graduation photos have arrived. From this proof sheet of 6 images, I can place orders regarding the prints I want, how many of them in which sizes et cetera. They are fucking expensive; I’ll probably just get some mid-sized prints and send them back home for my parents.

A 3.5 x 5 inch print costs $25, and the range topper is the 24 x 16 on canvas for a cool disgusting $360. Of course there are the usual packages where you buy a predetermined quantity of prints at a slightly more decent, but still obscenely unfair price.

But the photographer who did us was quite good. It’s very hard to get me to smile for photos- I tend to feel stupidly artificial, facial expressions contorted in a dumb grimace. That’s one of the reasons I’m rarely in photos; usually it's me manipulating the camera.

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