Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I'm in Melbourne, end of story.

Sincere thanks to everyone who made home, home. And let's not start to define 'home'- it's a huge, fuzzy concept.

Actually, the real story only gets interesting after arriving in Melbourne, but that is for another day. At any rate the story is not finished yet.


Friday, February 24, 2006

A polarizing filter for the camera

As previously stated, I’ve got a polarising filter.

I’ll skip the physics of polarised light for now and get back to that when I know my stuff properly.

Here are several effects of a polarizing filter:
Blocks half the light from entering- hence requiring longer exposures and/or wider apertures.
Dramatically reduces reflections and glare on most non-metallic surfaces
Improves colour saturation of the sky by darkening the sky

Once installed onto the camera, the glass of the filter can be rotated to filter the desired angle of light polarisation.

Sky colour saturation:

Without filter

With filter, rotated to allow passage of polarised light from the sky (the sky becomes brighter)

With filter, rotated to block passage of polarised light from the sky (the sky becomes darker)

Reflection reduction:

Without filter

With filter, rotated to allow passage of polarised light reflected from the water.

With filter, rotated to block passage of polarised light reflected from the water.


"Yer! You look like a pondan"

Not much has recent days.
I take that back; much has happened lately, but none of them is of earth-shattering importance. Unless you count the time we bluffed our way into Shangri-La’s Sandy Bay in Penang and nearly got hauled out by ‘secu’.

I’ve got a polarizing filter for my camera, haven’t got round to doing proper shots with it save for some experimental glare reduction tests and a bit fiddling.
I’ve also regressed back to obsessive nail-buffing. But fortunately, only on the left fingers. Obsessive not like in a “wah so pretty so pretty must rub more!” kind of compulsion, but more like “ooh its so shiny lets make it more shiny!”

“Hah my nails are buffed, not polished. More sophisticated than yours,” I boasted to May, and bared my reflective finger tips.
“Really? Put them down and let me have a look.”
And then she started giggling, “Yer! They even reflect light, you look like a pondan!”

The more interesting story would probably be the incident in Shangri-La.

By a stroke of misfortune that came with the uncooperative bowels of a cousin, we needed to find a toilet immediately. We were approaching the resort-lined stretch of Batu Ferringhi, and decided to plough into Sandy-Bay’s car park, since it was a Shangri-La managed multi-star resort which we had considered staying but was double of what we were willing to pay.

The one with the rebellious bowels hopped off into the lobby and disappeared in search for the loo while we slowly locked up the car and took our time.

“Let’s go look at their pool and the beach,” May suggested.
We headed in the direction of the pool.

A hotel employee came up to us and asked if we were staying with them.
“Yes,” replied May.
He asked for our room number, May looked lost for a while before turning to me, “What’s our room again?”
“Erm, erm… 225,” I plucked an arbitrarily integer.
It was not a convincing show, and he asked for my name.
“Mr. Tan.”

He let us past reluctantly, and we went along our way to the poolside.

Yee Hou spotted him speaking intently into a walkie-talkie.
“We better go now, he’s checking our details with reception.”
“Quick, back out!”

We turned around and went back through the lobby in single file. It was quite embarrassing to feel the employee’s eyes stare at us, especially since we lied about our tenancy just to look at their pool.

Out of the hotel, we radioed the one with the difficult bowels on our own walkie-talkies, told him our story and arranged to meet somewhere in the Batu Ferringhi pasar malam.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sony SS-V150 speakers


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

The Red Wire Goes Here

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


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A brief introduction to tidal forces

For me, the tides have been slightly troubling for as long as I can remember.

The most disturbing question was, why does high tide occurs on both sides of the earth in an elliptical shape, and not only the moon facing side?

The question was partially answered when I came across one of the last few chapters in 'Gravity: an introduction to Einstein’s general relativity'.

Consider a large array of small objects (mangoes, for example) freely falling towards a massive object (such as a star). Note that the separation of the individual mangoes is sufficiently large that the gravitational force and direction is not the same for all the mangoes.

At a particular time, the mangoes are arranged in a circular fashion with one of them in the middle as shown. The gravitational force vectors acting on the individual mangoes are also illustrated as arrows indicating the direction and magnitude.

As expected for gravitation, the relationship is proportional to the inverse of the square of distance. Thus, a greater force is exerted on mangoes nearer to the star than mangoes further away.

All the mangoes are accelerating towards the star. However, mangoes closer to the star experience a greater gravitational attraction towards the star, and thus accelerate faster towards the star. Similarly, mangoes further away accelerate slower. The end result is that the mangoes fall at different rates, and the circular array starts to deform. The circle stretches into an ellipse.

Apart from the forces’ magnitude, there is also a difference in force directions. The mangoes are all falling towards the centre of the star, but the mangoes are so far apart that they do not fall in parallel paths.

As a result of this converging nature of the free fall paths, the circle also narrows. The illustration shows the mangoes’ position at an interval after the time when they were arranged in the circular layout.

And thus the elliptical shape of the ocean’s tides has partly been explained. A more complete explanation will require that the moon and earth are orbiting each other as opposed to the radial plunge illustrated here using falling mangoes.

Blue curve: circle
Magenta curve: ellipse

Note that the force difference due to the moon is not particularly large; it causes a change in water level of only several metres, considering that the diameter of the earth is 12000 kilometres.

If an unfortunate person were to fall into a smallish black hole, the tidal forces near the singularity would be sufficient to tear the person apart. Parts nearer to the black hole accelerate dramatically faster than parts further away, the difference being sufficient to break the person into pieces.

Method for producing images:

AutoCAD was used to generate the images.
The circular array of mangoes has a radius of 4 units.
The distance between the centre of the array and the star is 60 units.
The distances between individual mangoes and the star were measured using the dimensioning tool
Gravitational attraction is proportional to the inverse of the square, thus this can be calculated from the measured distance.
For convenience, this gravitational force vector’s length was scaled arbitrarily such that the vector of force acting on the centre mango is 1 unit long.
Having determined the vector’s length on each mango, the vectors were drawn using the line tool.
The lines starts at the centre of each mango, and is pointed exactly at the centre of the star, and the line’s length adjusted accordingly.
The displaced positions of the mangoes are arbitrarily placed at the ends of the vector lines. This is acceptable for small time intervals (sufficiently small to neglect changes in gravitational force as the individual mango moves), since displacement s = 0.5at^t, and the displacements are all proportional to the vector lengths.
The final positions of the mangoes are exact, since they are derived as above.
The elliptical trend line is not an exact solution.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

Penang photographs

Batu Ferringhi beach

Casuarina Hotel's poolside

Vapour trail of a jet aircraft

These monkeys were copulating just 2 seconds before I clicked the shutter.
I think they were doing it doggie style.

The Teluk Bahang dam

The greenish water in the foreground is the dam's contents, the light brown strip is the dam embankment, and the dark blue bit beyond is the sea

For a fee, one can ride on one of these things along the beach

Alley downstairs; living quarters upstairs

Kek Lok Si temple

[image removed]

This last image was really not necessary was it? :p

Edited 8pm:
Sonia said in the comments: Try imagining Yee Wei bending down (really near) to take a pic of the horse's penis. LOL...

Please do not do as Sonia says. I was actually squatted quite far away (perhaps 3 metres) and all I had to do was to zoom in (remember that this camera has 12x zoom) and depress the shutter release.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

BRB; off to Penang.

A fun way to use unwanted CDs

When clearing up the area near the computers, a small stack of CDs were earmarked for rejection.

A long time ago, my brother and I would throw useless CDs into the air and hit them with a length of sawn off broomstick. Best done under the intense afternoon sunlight.

A good hit would see the CD suddenly explode into hundreds of fragments that catch the sunlight in a rather fetching manner, accompanied with a loud snap as hundreds of cracks propagated through the plastic at the speed of sound (in plastic).

Today, we had a small stack of about 15 old discs.

Here is my brother doing his thing:

Click here for a large size image

A full-sized crop of the previous image

There were no cool shots of me hitting these helpless discs, but I can assure you that a direct hit looks, feels and sounds wonderful.

I'm sure my brother will have more to say about this at a later date.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's meme

The date actually says Tue 14

What did you do for last Valentine’s?
Nothing particularly Valentine-ish. I actually don’t remember; probably buffing my nails.

What are you planning to do for next (tomorrow’s) Valentine’s?
What did you do this Valentine’s?

Went for a nice lunch with my aunt
Vacuumed up some broken glass from a fractured light bulb
Ate dinner
Buffed my left thumb and index nails
Snapped some photos

For comparison: thats the left index and the middle fingers

What would be the ideal place to celebrate Valentine’s?
Genting Highlands!

What qualities in a person would make an ideal Valentine’s date for you?
Specifically for this day, qualities that would go towards this objective of an ideal VD would be not falling for VD marketing hype.

What gifts would you buy / have bought for your partner?
A stuffed bear costing (cost, not worth) RM 960.

What gifts would you buy / have received from your partner?
Erm… a nail buffing kit?

What is your favourite all-time romantic movie?
Kill Bill

If you could choose any person on earth to be your date on Valentine’s, who would it be?
Let’s defer answering this question to a more appropriate date.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Porsche 911 GT1 and Ferrari F40 scale models

Years ago, when time was not at all a problem, I would carefully paint and assemble scale models of good looking cars.

For a student surviving on pocket money, it was a rather expensive activity to pick up. A decent kit from Tamiya would cost about RM50 to RM120, depending on the kit’s intricacy and release date of the kit.

Modelling cement used to attach the parts cost about RM 8, and lasted a long while.

The biggest hidden cost lies in the paints. A small bottle of paint sold for about RM 9. While each bottle can last ages, one can imagine that it’s impossible to make anything decent with only three colour. (Please don't tell me about combinations of RGB. There are also surface finish varieties such as metallic, matt, gloss and dull)

I started with jet fighters, but then I somehow migrated over to cars. Cars are a lot more fun, since there’s an element of familiarity in them. There’s the brake assemblies, the kingpins on which the front wheels attach to, suspension arms, spring-damper units, the suspension sub-frame, drive shafts, gearbox, engine block, intake and exhaust manifolds, turbochargers, intercoolers, brake cooling ducts…

And in putting the various pieces together one gets a feel of how things work together to create Le Mans winning machines.

1:24 scale model of the1996 Porsche 911 GT1 with engine cover removed

1996 winner of the GT1 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Horizontally opposed 3.2 litre engine with twin turbochargers and intercoolers
600 bhp
6 speed longitudinally mounted gearbox
Rear suspension members directly mounted to gearbox with inboard springs and dampers

1:24 scale model of the Ferrari F40

3 litre V8 engine with twin turbochargers and intercoolers, 110 kPa (1.1 atm) boost pressure
478 bhp
5 speed longitudinally mounted gearbox
Initial production run limited to 400 units, but extended to 1315 by popular demand

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A new camera

I’ve got my new camera, a Panasonic FZ-30.

Zoom is controlled via a mechanically linked zoom ring located around the lens. No hissing zoom drive motors here.

Focus can be done automatically or via a electronically linked focus ring that sends a signal to the focus drive motor. Fly by wire, if you like that aviation cliché. Ok, throttle by wire or brake by wire if you are an automobile person.

After attaching the lens hood, I’m quite certain it’s a marketing trick to tap into the group of consumers who want maximum visual impact.

On a different note, here is a photo of myself. It is quite a rare specimen as I rarely agree to have my photo taken. Much less pose for a daft photo.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

A nice HK$100 red packet

A relative from Hong Kong visited and stayed with us on Wednesday and Thursday night before moving on to Seremban.

I guess he is in his late 30's, and he's my grandmother's cousin. His 2 year old kid is my uncle.

For lack of better things to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I am posting high resolution scans of the HK$100 he gave in an ang pau for me.

This bit raises some very disturbing questions. If I were to bring my $50 note to the BOC, how will they give me my HK$50? Maybe in 5 pieces of HK$10 notes, on which are (probably) printed





Neglecting the philosophy of money, lets go on to oogle at the next pretty image with the shiny sliver microprinted with alternating HK50 and the 5 petal orchid tree flower (the same one found on the Hong Kong SAR flag).

I think that's the Space & Science Museum.

The length scales of the known universe

I find it difficult to appreciate the context of sizes involved when I read that the diameter of a proton is 0.000000000000001 metres, or that the diameter of our galaxy is 900000000000000000000 metres.

To ease this little problem, I took representative lengths from various orders of magnitude, sorted them in order, and arranged them on a logarithmic scale axis.

The numbers are written in what some refer to as ‘scientific notation’, where trailing (or leading) zeroes are condensed to a little exponent. For example,
0.0007 = 7 x 10^-4
3,750,000 = 3.75 x 10^6

The blue points correspond to length units other than metres, such as the mile, angstrom and light year. Their text markers are located left of the blue points.

The red points corresponds to lengths of objects, some familiar in our lives, mostly not.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

St. Valentine's with a twist - a meme

Warning: Open ended meme and potentially disturbing scenes in this post. Proceed with caution.

St. Valentine’s day is near, and to honour this remarkable celebration of capitalism, marketing genius and herd behaviour, Yuan Harng has found a new game to play.
Write a short romantic excerpt of a facist/ dictator/ neo-imperalist leader [e.g.] George Bush, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.

Click here for Yuan Harng’s nifty excerpt.


Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476)

“I heard rumours of your dealings with the Ottomans.”
“My lord, that is not true! I have always been loyal to you!” Razvan pleaded for mercy.

Vlad nodded slightly at his men, and a few men grabbed hold of Razvan. As he was led away, the prisoner did not flail about, but continued pleading his innocence.

From the crowd of villagers that had formed, a woman erupted forth.
“Spare him, please. He did no wrong,” Catalina urged.
Vlad cast an indifferent glance at her, and continued watching Razvan being prepared for his execution. Razvan appeared to have given up his dishonest appeals and was anticipating his agonising death with fear.

A stake was erected firmly in the ground with its sharpened end pointing skyward. With the help of a few horses and some guiding hands, Razvan was lifted above the stake.

Razvan was then lowered onto the pointed end of the stake, the wood driving into his back, rupturing his stomach, spleen, diaphragm and left lung before piercing through his rib cage to emerge from his chest. He lost control of his bowels; faecal matter, stomach contents and blood mixed in a disturbing mixture on the ground. In great pain he hung in midair, only supported by the same stake that ruptured his innards.

Catalina went to Razvan’s side, stroking his forehead, whispering to him, kissing his cheeks. She did all she could to make his long death slightly less horrible.

The punctured lung, intruding stake and ruptured diaphragm made breathing difficult for Razvan. His breaths were shallow and rapid, barely sufficient to make up for the effort to merely take in the air.

Death by impalement is particularly cruel because the victim does not die from ruptured organs, but mostly due to exposure to the elements or dehydration. In the mean time, the victim suffers from great pain.

“Please, die quickly,” Catalina pleaded to Razvan’s already inert ears, cradling his head to her chest.

The crowd started to disperse and by sunset, only Catalina remained with Razvan.

The first villagers to walk by the next morning noted that Catalina had died in the overnight blizzard with Razvan in her arms.


I am passing this game to Yvy (the self proclaimed meme-magnet), plink, and anyone else interested.

I think I forgot to mention that St. Valentine’s Day is also a celebration of love.

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Macro photography of a sparrow chick

On Saturday, I had a rare opportunity of having a photo shoot with a sparrow chick at a swimming pool. It was surprisingly docile, not even moving when the camera lens was 1 cm from its face (sufficiently close to resolve the individual fibres in the fine wing feathers).

Click on the large images to see the details.

a tentative shot from far away


It Blinked

Click here for large size image


Click here for large size image


Friday, February 03, 2006

I'm back

Yes I am still alive, but busy with the festivities.

A few relatives asked me if i wanted to watch the latest girlie comedy flick, Shopaholic. The other alternative would be to stay at home while my brother's friends came over to visit.

Having visited a few friends yesterday, I am well aware that things can get noisy, so I went for the moving picture. Also, I wanted to look at the prices at a few camera shops in 1 Utama.

I went into the cinema expecting nothing more than a suck-cock experience. Maybe not suck cock, but romantic comedy is not my kind of movie. I had zero expectations, and was fully prepared to bail out of the theatre to survey the camera market.

The film was not as bad as initially feared. There were comical moments, some touching scenes, a moderately coherent plot but a tad too much filler material. Yesterday, TChuen told me that SJian used to like Cecilia Cheung (the star actress) a lot. I can see why.

So this is for SJ, even though he does not come to this backwater little province of the internet. [image source]

I have no regrets about going for the movie. But then, it was fully paid for by my aunt.

There is a lesson to be learnt here- expect nothing, and when something turns up, you'll be happy. It's actually a parallel (or is it a mirror?) of the other well known lesson- don't get attached to something, because when you lose it, you'll be pissed off.

So the path to happiness is simple. Note I did not say 'easy to traverse'.

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