• The Missing Zodiac from McDonalds

    When McDonalds released the Zodiac Doraemon Lucky Charm in January, we planned to buy the zodiac signs of our family, so 2 dragons and a pig.

    2 weeks into the promotion, when we got the dragon lucky charms, we came to realize that the pig lucky charm was replaced by a cupid one so as not to offend the muslim community.  This sort of backfired as buying a pig toy and eating pork are not at all related, so most of our muslim friends are not offended. But, the chinese customers born in the year of the pig were disappointed as they could not get the lucky charm of their zodiac sign. We too were disappointed.

    Then, McDonalds announced in late January that they apologized for their oversight and said that they will bring in the pig lucky charm in mid-April and all proceeds will go to charity. I don’t know why, but I have a nagging feeling that the whole thing was all an elaborate PR stunt to bring more publicity through controversy. Anyway, that’s just a personal opinion.

    Either way, I am glad that they decided to bring it in.  And I just bought mine this morning to complete the family collection. Yippee!

    Oh, and by the way, don’t make the same mistake as me. You don’t need to make any food purchase to buy the lucky charms.

    So, all those waiting for this, have you gotten yours yet?


  • Unboxing of ASUS UL30A

    I recontracted my Starhub MaxOnline Premium account last week and got an ASUS UL30A notebook in return.  Got the collection email on Monday to pick up the notebook from China Square Central.

    Collected it today on my way back from SGH.  First charge should be at least 12 hours. The specifications of the notebook according to the Starhub website are as follows,

    Processors Intel® CULV Processor SU2300 1.2GHz
    Operating System Windows® 7 Home Premium
    Graphics Chipset /Chip Type Mobile Intel® 945 Express Chipset Family/ Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 950
    Display 13.3” WXGA Screen
    Standard memory 2GB DDR3 RAM
    Hard Drive 320GB SATA Hard Disk
    Networking 802.11 B/G/N, Bluetooth
    I/O Ports 1 x 34mm Express Card Slot, 4-in-1 card reader slot (SD/MMC/MS/MS pro), 2 x USB 2.0 ports, RJ45, VGA, mic-in, headphone (stereo)
    Audio & Speakers 2 x internal stereo speakers, single build-in microphone with echo cancellation and noise reduction
    Battery 8 Cell battery, Up to 10 Hours Battery Life
    Webcam 0.3M Pixel Build In Camera
    Weight & Dimension (LxWxH) 250.2mm x 183mm x 22-27.5mm 1.25Kg with Hard Disk and 3-cell Li-ion Battery
    Warranty 2 Years Global Warranty
    Finishing Black Brushed Aluminium finishing

    Here are some photos of the items in the package,


    Will attempt to do a review post after I have fiddled around with the notebook for about a week. The first impressions of the notebook are that it feels light and looks sleek.


  • Gripe about SMRT Bus Service

    For the longest time, I have been griping about the bus service by SMRT (formerly known as TIBS, which merged with SMRT in 2001).  Especially now that I am temporarily staying at my parents’ place in Bukit Panjang during my leave, and have to rely solely on SMRT buses for public transport.  Either that or take the LRT-MRT combi, which is forever crowded.

    Its not like the service from SBS is anywhere near perfect.  But at least the intervals between buses are quite regular and predictable.  And with iris, I am able to time my trips out of the office or home without spending too much time at the bus stops waiting for the bus to arrive.

    Though we are paying the same fares for SMRT buses, there is no such online service.  I believe the infrastructure to determine the bus positions is in place as PublicTransport@SG Mobile is able to tell the arrival time of SMRT buses at various pre-defined bus stops. Perhaps it is to cover their inadequacy to provide sufficient buses on a regular intervals.  The wait for buses can be as long as 30 minutes to an hour even during off-peak hours when there are no jams.

    And to make matters worse, some of their buses are so old that the aircon cannot be felt during hot, sunny days.  This make taking the buses feel like being in a sauna on wheels in the afternoons.  I shudder to think what would happen if someone with an infectious disease unknowingly boards the bus and starts coughing and sneezing during the journey.

    I was ‘lucky’ enough to board one such bus today when I was making my way to Bukit Batok.  The bus was so old that the seats were still the old fabric type and buzzers were use to notify the driver of the intention to alight.  Based on the record on Wikipedia, the bus should be about 18-19 years old.  I thought the COE was supposed to prevent such vehicles from being on the road.  Mind you this is a public transport vehicle that travels long distance day in and day out.

    And to top it off, the recent review by the PTC about a month ago was that the bus service by SMRT was considered satisfactory.  This is probably a prelude to upcoming fare hikes due to so-called increases in crude oil prices and running costs.  I seriously think that the people doing these reviews should get off their cushy office chairs and experience the bus service first-hand.  Even when God created the world in 7 days according to the bible, he was on hand to see that things were good before proceeding.


  • Day Trip to SGH

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I chose to coincide my leave with my dad’s surgery.

    This morning was the date of admission.  I had offered to drive my parents to the hospital, but my parents with their usual thrifty mode on, said that the roads will be too jammed up, finding a car park lot at the hospital will be too much of a hassle and will cost a bomb.

    So off we went on our ‘world class’ public transport of LRT and MRT from Bukit Panjang to Outram.  The trip there was pretty uneventful, though it was fairly crowded during off-peak hours and we had to wait 5 minutes for the LRT and another 6 minutes for the MRT at Choa Chu Kang.

    When we arrived at Outram and saw a queue for the free SGH shuttle service, we decided to walk up to the Admissions Office.  Along the way, I was surprised by the changes that were made since the last time I was there, which was more than a decade ago when I had to visit the Specialist Outpatient Clinic there for my thyroid condition.

    It felt more like a shopping centre cum hotel than a hospital.  The Admissions Office was situated in the middle of everything.  There was a Kopitiam Food Court, an O’Briens Sandwich Bar, a Kaffe & Toast outlet, a Retail Pharmacy, which was super crowded like a sale was going on, and a Cheers convenience store.  There was not even a hint of the usual hospital/clinic/medicinal smell of antiseptic.  The only telltale sign that we were at a hospital were the signs pointing to various clinics and the hospital staff going about their usual routines.

    The admission process felt like a hotel check-in. They checked for my dad’s record and booking for the surgery, and asked him to wait for the previous patient to be discharged first so that the bed is available for him.

    Had lunch at O’Briens, since I have not had their sandwiches for quite some time and my mum never had it before.  Sort of regretting it after reading Julia’s post about the otah bun from Kaffe & Toast, which was just opposite O’Briens and I wrote them off as a Ya Kun clone when my mum asked what they were selling.  Will make it a point to try out their otah bun when I go visit my dad later in the week.

    It only felt like a hospital when we made our way to the block where my dad was to be warded.  At the ground floor, the lifts were cordoned off and there was a queue for visitors to register their visits.  The scene looked something like the ones on the news when SARS and H1N1 hit the country.

    We had to register our visits using our ICs, provide our contact numbers and were issued stickers for the first visiting hours session.  We were advised to return/swap our stickers if we intend to stay for the second visiting hours session.  As my dad is a new admission and he is to go to the OT the next day, we were allowed to stay beyond the visiting hours.

    At the ward, it was business as usual with the nurse going through the motions with my dad on his particulars and admission.  The conversation with the ward doctor was a bit more interesting.  I found out more about my dad’s condition, the tests that he had to go through and the surgery to be performed.

    Apparently, one of the valves in my dad’s heart is not functioning properly, which causes some of the blood to leak.  This causes the murmurs that led to the detection of my dad’s condition.  The surgery is to correct this problem by replacing the valve with an animal tissue valve.  Before going into surgery, he has to go through an angiogram procedure.  According to the doctor, this is done to check if my dad has any blocked arteries which can also be corrected during the same surgery.

    Hospitals usually ward patients with the same condition together to facilitate the doctors going on their rounds.  There was this other patient who went through the same surgery by the same surgeon about a week ago.  He is due to be discharged tomorrow.  It is really reassuring to see him walking about normally and talking to us.  What really left an impression on us was the term he used to refer to his condition.  He called it lao hong in Hokkien, which means leaking air.  My mum and I nearly burst out laughing.

    I really hope that my dad’s turn on the surgery table will be just as successful and he will be up and about in a week’s time and be ready to be discharged from the hospital.


  • The Sabbatical Begins…

    Today, I begin my sabbatical leave.  Time really flies, I have been working for the past 10 years and maybe I am long overdue for a break from work, literally.

    I’m not talking about the usual annual leave that we are entitled to.  I’m talking about an actual break from work where I can ignore most phone calls and emails for an entire month.  When my boss offered me the chance to go for this break, I jumped at it.

    The mobile phone is a great invention which brings people closer than ever, but I come from a generation when mobile phones never existed and you can be a hermit for awhile without worrying about missed calls and SMSes.

    Anyway, so it begins.  A whole glorious month away from work.

    I chose for the leave to coincide with my dad’s surgery so that I can be around to settle any loose ends, if needed.  Will be writing an entry about that later.

    A custom that is usually associated with sabbatical leave is setting personal targets to be achieved during this period.  So here goes, my personal targets are as follows,

    1. Blogging!  Wrote 3 entries before this, not counting the introduction one, and the last one being more than 2 months ago.  Pretty pathetic right?  Hope to blog every weekday of my leave, on anything and everything I do.
    2. Going to the gym.  Target to go to the gym every weekday, and go on the treadmill.  Hope to lose some excess fats and weight.
    3. Spend more time with my boy.  He is growing up so fast and will turn 3 next month.  Hope to spend more time with him and bring him swimming every weekday afternoon.
    4. Do my own things!  After I started working, everything I do day in, day out seems to be a routine.  Hope to be able to just bum around and go wherever I please, whenever I please!

    Think that’s about it.  Especially with the last one, it seems to cover whatever I want to do, whenever I decide to do them.  Will blog about it as I go!!

    Cheers to time off!!!


  • License to Flout (Traffic Rules)


    Last Wednesday, on one of the rare occasions that I drove to work, I encountered an incident which reminded me of the accident that happened involving the Romanian diplomat last month.

    With all the high profile traffic accidents that happened recently, I would have exepected drivers to be more cautious on the roads. How wrong I was.

    While at a junction outside a school, an embassy car that just dropped off a child at the school, cut into the lane of oncoming traffic. At first, I thought the driver was just impatient and wanted to move to the front of the queue which had two cars in front of him. When he did that he nearly hit a pedestrian who was trying to cross the junction (there were no proper pedestrian crossing as it was a small two-lane road). The pedestrian immediately whipped out his phone and took a photo of the license plate. But the best was yet to come.

    What happened next was a blatant flout of traffic rules. The driver waited for the traffic from the right to clear, cut perpendicularly across 4 lanes and traversed a double white line to make a U-turn. All this in front of a school and with another U-turn 200m ahead. The worst part is that he probably does this every school day morning. It really is an accident waiting to happen.

    I suppose having a special license plate does make a difference. If anything goes wrong, you can always go back on reasons of health.


  • Egg tarts from KFC

    I was never a big fan of egg tarts. To me, they were just another form of dessert.

    After reading a tweet from DK, I was intrigued that KFC would sell something so different. You can reason that eggs come from chicken and all that, but come on, oriental desserts from a fried chicken chain?

    The urge to try was reinforced by an advertorial post from Sheylara. It seems that this menu item is not new and has been sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan and some parts of China.

    I chanced upon a KFC branch on Friday at Bukit Panjang Plaza after dinner and decided to buy half a dozen for $7.50 ($1.25 each) to try them out.

    Here are some photos of the packaging and the egg tarts.


    I don’t recall fancying any of the egg tarts I previously had, so I can’t really make any comparisons.

    On the whole, the tarts were quite good and I had two of them about an hour after dinner. The custard filling was firm and fragrant and not too sweet. The pastry was just nice, flaky and crisp, but not enough to leave a crumbly mess. It was on the smallish side, hence the need to inhale two. d8

    I had another after brunch the next morning. It felt a bit more oily than I remembered, but the texture of the custard and the pastry was not compromised.

    It could be due to the hype that I noticed this and tried it out, but I would definitely go back for more if I have cravings for egg tarts in the future.

    Likes:

    • Firm texture of custard filling
    • Frangant and not too sweet
    • Crisp and flaky pastry

    Dislikes

    • Small
    • Oily if left overnight

  • Succumbing to the Empire

    30th January 2010, the day has finally arrived.

    Today is the day that I succumb to the temptation of the evil empire of Apple.  I have for the longest time, ever since the first iPod arrived in 2001, told myself that I will not be enticed by the products from the empire.  The irony of that resolution is that the thing that got me interested in all things IT was the Apple ][.  But that’s a story for another day.

    In the past 8 years, I have successfully ignored all the Apple products that were released, from the original iPod to the iPhone 3GS, until recently, that is. With the announcement of the iPad on Wednesday, I thought that my first Apple product would be the iPad.  However, with all the pre-announcement hype, the specs of the iPad was really underwhelming. From the lack of support for Adobe Flash to the use of micro SIM and lack of phone features in the 3G version, it seems that the iPad will only appeal to die-hard Apple fans.

    Anyway, back to the original story, my darling 2 year-old son got his hands on my sister-in-law’s iPhone and started playing Bounce On.  From then on, when he saw any device that remotely resembles an iPhone, he will keep asking to play the “ball game”. He even attempted to raid my sis-in-law’s bag when she wasn’t looking during a recent family dinner.

    That, together with the demise of my cheapo Aigo MP5 player (the LCD cracked when it dropped from the high chair – shouldn’t expect too much from a China-made, China-branded product), gave my dear wife the perfect excuse to suggest buying an iPod Touch (actually, I was toying with the idea of buying one, but it’s always good to have a scapegoat to blame when yielding to temptation d8).

    So, off we went to EpiCentre at Ion Orchard this morning to shop for one.  As luck would have it, this weekend is the opening of a new EpiCentre store at 313 Somerset, and there was a UOB credit card promotion, which bundled a silicon case together with the in-store promotion of a wall charger, additional in-ear earphones and smartwrap, with every purchase of an iPod Touch. After much deliberation on which model to purchase, we decided to get a 64GB model.

    Here are two photos of the ‘spoils’ of our shopping trip,

    Now to figure out how to develop apps on the device. I wonder if I can develop iPhone/iPod Touch apps on Linux or Windows, or do I have to buy a Mac?


  • Hello blogging world!

    Been procrastinating on my blogging attempt ever since our li’l boy came into our lives a few years ago.  He’s almost 3 now, so that’s an indication on how long I’ve procrastinated.

    Anyway, here’s how people in IT start off something new.

    HELLO BLOGGING WORLD!