Friday, September 29, 2006


When words and time are short in supply, photographs will do the trick.

Canon Digital Ixus 40

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St. Kilda on a Winday Day

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Spring Erupts

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Drove 454 km through freeways, sunshine, coastal highways, cloudy weather, mountain roads, hail, traffic jams, severe cross wind, farm land, dusk, urban grids and night. All within 12 hours.

Strong winds and hail causes little ice spheres to slash diagonally across the landscape. The projectiles cause a surprisingly large amount of discomfort and fear, especially if they explode near one’s eyes.

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Image spans ~90 degrees


A brilliant end to a day trip:

I dropped her off, put Vanilla Ninja on the player, turned the volume up to ‘daft’ and drove home through the empty city streets.

And then sharpened and honed a kitchen knife. Right now, it will cut through anything- onions, celery, quadriceps….

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

There is no free lunch

In a (prolonged) moment of idleness, I dug up some novellas I co-authored with Yuan Harng in 2003. I like the action in this bit:

2 seconds before Yow Thian walked under the carport where he would be out of range, the snipers abandoned their rifles. In total silence, they sprinted across the flat roof to the back of the house. There, on the back wall of the house, a ladder had been erected earlier. Rapidly, the 3 figures slid down the ladder, not using their feet on the horizontal rungs, but just gripping the aluminium sides of the ladder with their bare palms and abseiling down.

The kitchen window was already open, and they climbed in, leapt over the piles of dishes in the sink and landed in front of the refrigerator and microwave oven, while drawing out their hand guns at the same time, unlocking the safety switch and checking to make sure they were loaded. Even before Yow Thian had removed his slippers, everyone was positioned in their pre-assigned positions.

When the door opened, 5 guns were already pointed at it, while Paulette was standing behind it, butterfly knife ready to strike. Shyan Yih, Shianjian and Shannon let out a collective gasp when they saw the visitor. For a long time, no one said a word. Finally, Shianjian opened his mouth, the words coming out slowly from the gaping orifice, “It’s Ai Lin….”
‘The Kuku Revealed’, Lee Y.H. & Tan Y.W., 2003

This was the playground where I learned to write; it was great fun.


Now, to more serious matters-

To whom it may concern,

There is No Free Lunch

Casinos thrive because people hope to get a free lunch. Unfortunately for an overwhelming majority of these people, not only do they not get their expected free lunch, they lose their dinner vouchers as well.

I will not try bore you with probabilistic arguments; I guess you will skip them if I expressed them here.

Please stop this daft business; the money can be put to better use. It’s not like you are so rich that the loss of £300 or so is negligible.

Lao Chen.

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Photographs of a lavender bloom and a strawberry

Exploded View

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An Unlikely Love Affair

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And who needs a fancy light box when 5 sheets of A4 paper, 8 staples and sunlight would do the same job?

End note:
I'm so chuffed; 'An Unlikely Love Affair' scored 40 views, 2 comments and 5 favourites(!) within 60 seconds of it being posted on Deviant Art.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fresh new look; same girly colours

A few hours were spent here designing, coding and reverse engineering HTML templates.
I did not feel particularly inclined to editing a mass of background images, and thus decided to work on a less graphics intensive layout.

The downside of this is the need to plunge into a huge ream of symbols. I came back out alive and armed with better CSS style sheets manipulation skills.

The three strawberries at the top might be replaced with a lavender and strawberry shot to match the link colours and the cover of “Good Writing Guide”.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Long exposures

7.02 p.m.

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7.13 p.m.

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"Good Writing Guide" by HarperCollins

In general, I am quite meticulous with my (English) grammar and sentence structures. In the near future, expect an upgrade from meticulous to anal.

My father’s friend recently flew into Melbourne, and offered to ferry some goods to me. Together with a box of mooncakes, my parents also gave me a book entitled “Good Writing Guide” by HarperCollins.

It is a very beautiful book, but unfortunately, a rough transit had fucked it up a bit. Sigh.

The cover is metallic lavender in colour with a matt surface finish, and the title is printed in large narrow font, coloured in extremely bright pink gloss ink. It sounds horrible, but when was the last time you saw a lavender coloured book?

I snipped some lavender blooms from a neighbour's flower pots to illustrate the colour of this book

So far, this book appears to be a very well written book; not many can write about grammar in an engaging manner. Observe:
I saw you in my underwear!

Could mean either I saw you when I was wearing only my underwear, or, more ominously, I saw you, wearing my underwear!

Good Writing Guide is published in the United Kingdom, which means it is not teaching American English. I’m biased against American English.


In other language related issues, I recently discovered/ was shown a few interesting things that I probably should have known earlier.

For example,

zhá – deep-fry
zhà – explode

I never knew zhá existed- I always said zhà regardless of referring to car bombs or potato chips.

shí tou (sounds like tòu), not shí tóu


Friday, September 15, 2006

Two things

Exhibit A: the product

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Exhibit B: a confession

Fuji Velvia simulation algorithm and clone stamp had been applied to this image to achieve the preceding image. Note (the absence of) the lamp post.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Solution to Saturday’s puzzle:

Define ƒ:

ƒ(n) is the element that has atomic number corresponding to the n-th prime number, expressed in Chinese.

For simplicity of analysis, ƒ can be thought of as a composite function
ƒ(n) = g(h(n))
ƒ(n) = gh(n)

g(n) = the (Chinese) name the element with atomic number n, and
h(n) = the n-th prime number

Let n = 25,
ƒ(n) = g(h(25))

h(25) = 97 (the 25th prime number is 97)
g(97) = 锫 (Berkelium has atomic number of 97)

ƒ(25) =锫

Estimate the domain of ƒ:

Elements in with atomic numbers greater than 111 have not been named yet, placeholders are used to refer to these elements. It is analogous to calling a carburettor a ‘thingy’ when one does not know the name.

The greatest prime less than or equal to 111 is 109, which is the 29th prime number. As such, the domain of ƒ lies in [1, 29].

To be more rigorous, let’s break ƒ into its constituent functions g and h.
g(n) is the name of the element with atomic number n.
h(n) is the n-th prime number.

g is defined for all values of n between 1 and 111. Since n is a count of protons in an atom, it cannot take negative values. If there is no proton (n = 0), the particle does not qualify as an atom. If the atomic number is 112 or greater, the element is unnamed, and g is not defined.

h is defined for all values of n greater than zero, since there is no such thing as the zero-th prime number. Since the list of prime numbers is sorted by magnitude, h is a monotonously increasing function: h(n+1) > h(n) ∀n ≥ 1.

For g(h(n)) to be defined, h(n) must not be greater than 111.

It is known that h(1) = 2, h(29) = 109 and h(30) = 113. Since h is a monotonously increasing function, it can be deduced that the maximum possible n that will result in ƒ being defined is 29, and all values of n between 1 and 29 will not result in h(n) exceeding 109.

The smallest value of n possible is 1, and the largest is 29. The domain of ƒ is [1, 29].

Further reading:


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Monday, September 11, 2006

This is going to be one of those long entries. It will cover four main areas:
Kaya and butter toast
A meme from Politikus
A pointless composition
A brief notice on Saturday's puzzle

Kaya and butter toast

Speak of the devil!

After a light lunch of pork and century egg porridge, the entrée chef brought out two triangles of toasted sandwiches. Between the slightly browned bread slices was a rich, yellow solid, a huge chunk about 5 mm thick. That is a lot of cheese. I like cheese.

I gave it a second look. The cheese looked suspicious.

“Is this cheese, or butter?” I asked.
“Shouldn’t be butter kua…” Shawna remarked.
“Stop asking and just eat it; you’ll know when you eat it,” the entrée chef pointed at the triangles with an exasperated look.

I wasn’t about to be a pansy and risk a wussy nibble; I took a bite. And 5 mm worth of butter was in my mouth. It was frightful. There was a tinge of kaya too. I like kaya.

It turns out that Shawna had taken an exploratory bite too, and there was a simultaneous eruption of horrified looks and various muffled phrases that effectively meant “OMG you actually used so much (hand signal- index finger and thumb opened to show an exaggerated gap of 30 mm) butter!”

I like kaya and butter toast, but 1 mm of kaya with 5 mm of butter is just preposterous. The chef had even defended himself with, “if it’s to sell we will give a smaller slice, but for ourselves, we can cut a larger piece.”

This is a later incarnation, severely toned down from the earlier 5 mm version.


A meme from Politikus


1. If you read it, you’re tagged.
2. Post the Rules when you complete the meme.
3. Complete the five sentences below.
4. When you post the answers, leave five new sentences to be completed by your readers.

These are sentences from Politikus:
1. I have a pet monkey, he’d be called Vanker.
2. “You are so beautiful to me” is what you get when you search “you are so” on Google. Which is true, if suitably chosen pairs of “you” and “me” are used.
3. The world we live in is filled with bifurcations. And a few tossers.
4. One, two, three, four …erm, I lost count.
5. Crap! I saw hair growing out of a bee. Really.

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And for anyone who bothers, complete the following sentences:
1. Ten years from now, this …
2. The oldest text message on my phone says…
3. The dentist said …
4. Two days ago, I would never imagine …
5. Tomatoes and herbs …


A pointless composition

The kitchen was quiet. The setting sun’s yellow rays, its intensity dulled by cloud cover, slides in from the western window, drawing elongated oblique shadows on the walls.

A light continuous breeze flutters through the open window, a blind hanging across the window sways lazily in the wind. Every few seconds, it knocks on the glass pane with a tiny “thunk”.

Over the sink, the tap’s valve was not tightened properly. An imperceptibly tiny stream of water seeps through the gaps in the valve, accumulating as a droplet at the end of the faucet. Beyond a critical droplet size, the water’s weight exceeds its surface tension force, and the droplet falls. It hits the metal sink with a dull plink.

I spoon my ginger, fish and century egg porridge slowly. Shadows from the sunlight become more acutely inclined, and the light starts appearing red shifted. The periodic tapping of the blind continues, as does the calming slow drip of water.

Cash registers, blouses for under $30, coffee shops and ice cream parlours, Price Waterhouse Coopers, SLRs, supernovas and black holes, nihilism, double-clutch heel-and-toe, greenhouse gases…they all do not exist here.

It would be nice to sit a while longer, but I had to work.

Occasionally, a faraway car’s gentle purr stirs through the windows. I finish my porridge and wash up.

The clock says 5.45pm.
“I’d better get going.”

10 minutes later, I was back amidst the cash register, bar and delivery orders.


A brief notice on Saturday's puzzle

And since there appears to be some mental activity on Saturday’s puzzle, I’ll postpone publishing the results for another 24 hours. If you don’t see the pattern by then, it will be too late.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Here’s a little puzzle:

There exists a function ƒ(n) which takes a natural number n as an argument and returns a character.

It can be said with certainty that natural numbers smaller than 20 are in ƒ’s domain.

ƒ(n) for the first 15 values of n is exhibited in the image below, in the following order:

ƒ(1) ƒ(2) ƒ(3) ƒ(4) ƒ(5)
ƒ(6) ƒ(7) ƒ(8) ƒ(9) ƒ(10)
ƒ(11) ƒ(12) ƒ(13) ƒ(14) ƒ(15)

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Define ƒ.
Estimate the domain of ƒ.


Here is a dictionary.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Small scale calligraphy

With that microscope, I can now get preposterously high resolution images of small objects. The characters you see below are all less than 6 mm in height. If you look closely enough you can actually see the paper’s fibrous texture.

The advantage of writing at such small scales is that the pencil strokes’ thickness variations are comparable to the character’s size, just like writing with a brush. By controlling the force exerted on the graphite tip, the characters can be given some…erm…character.

The following characters (except for the last two) are from various people’s names.

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Monday, September 04, 2006











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A cancer stick hangs steadily in the foreground, its tip oxidising slowly in the still air with a warm glow of black body radiation. In the background, two individuals pose for another camera, while a couple observes the goings-on.


Because I did not get model-releases for this photograph, I do not feel it is appropriate to upload a large image.

I quite like this photograph. I’d even say it ‘has character’. But then, I’m biased because I snapped this scene.

And this is my digital microscope.

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The Yamato

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

A mixed bag of photographs

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My reverse-mounting rings finally arrived; photographic microscopy just got easier.

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3 Empty Bottles

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