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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Analysis of the bus and train fare hikes

The big news today is not that a Straits Times reporter was arrested in China, but that bus and train fares are going up:
  • one to two cents for bus fares with EZ-Link card
  • one to three cents for train fares with EZ-Link card
  • ten cents for cash-paying commuters on buses and trains
(The above applies only for adult commuters. Children and national servicemen enjoy prevailing rates.)

According to published reports, fares would be allowed to go up only by 2.4%. So let's do some math.

Firstly, some stats from today's Today article:
  1. There is an average of 3.4 million commuter trips daily.
  2. 200,000 trips (5.89%) are cash-paying --> 3.2 million trips (94.1%) are EZ-Link card-based.
  3. The average fare is 80 cents (from the older Today article).
(Dear Tor Ching Li: 200,000 of 3.4 million is around 6%, not 5%. Any primary school kid can tell you that 5.89 rounded to the nearest whole number is 6.)

Supposing the average increase for EZ-Link cardholders is two cents (based on the increases stated above), then their average increase is 2 / 80 * 100% = 2.5%. For cash-paying commuters, their increase is 10 / 80 * 100% = 12.5%.

Therefore, the average fare increase across the board is 0.0589 * 12.5% + 0.941 * 2.5% = 3.09%, or 0.69% more than the allowed increase of 2.4%.

In other words, commuters are screwed.

But children and NS men don't pay the increase. So let's suppose that there are 500,000 of them, or 14.7% of all commuters, and all of them use EZ-Link cards. Correspondingly, the number of EZ-Link cardholders who will have to bear the increase is 2.9 million, or 85.3% of all commuters. The average fare increase then is 0.0589 * 12.5% + 0.853 * 2.5% = 2.87%, or 0.47% above the 2.4% limit.

Screwed again.

The only way that the average increase can fall to 2.4% is if the number of EZ-Link cardholders who pay the increase is about (2.4% - 0.0589 * 12.5%)/2.5% = 0.6655 (66.55%) of all commuters, or about 2.26 million, which means there would be 937,300 children and national servicemen. Is this reasonable?

(Someone please correct me if my maths is wrong. If proven so, I'll pull this portion of my entry.)

So that's the financial side of the fare increase. To quote Jedi Master Yoda, more to say I have. But I'm going to hold my tongue because I don't want to live in fear of being sued. I'll just leave the above facts and figures for you to contemplate.

To round up, here are two classic quotes from today's Today article:
  • Nameless SMRT spokesman: "These (10-cent) increases will cushion the impact on Singaporeans who are frequent users and EZ-Link cardholders."
  • As written by Tor Ching Li: "While the public has expressed its disapproval at the fare hike application this year despite both public transport operators posting healthy profits this year,..."

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Monday, May 30, 2005

The problem with (and similar blogs)
Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing something that is bound to earn the ire of many a (Singaporean) blogger, but I'll go ahead anyway.

It's about, or rather, why I think it's still a half-baked idea.

Mind you, when I say "half-baked", I mean that it has a lot of good ideas, but can do better (can't everything?). It's informative, up-to-date, and -- extremely important -- local. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I'll be hammering its server/s almost every other minute, just to see what local bloggers have written.

But my main problem with -- and any other similar blog that depends on user contributions -- is that it depends on user contributions. This produces a classic chicken-and-egg conundrum:
  1.'s readers must contribute (interesting) articles
  2. must provide (interesting) articles to lure readers
I don't have any statistics, but I'm sure that receives thousands of hits every day. However, the number of posted articles is far smaller than the number of hits, because of these two numbers:
  1. the number of articles that are contributed by readers, and
  2. the number of contributed articles that are approved by editors.
If (i) is small, and since (ii) is a fraction of (i), then the final value of (ii), i.e. the number of posts, will be very small. Taken to the extreme, if no reader contributes articles, then (i) = (ii) = 0, or if the editors decide that there are no interesting articles from the day's contribution, then (ii) = 0. But this will defeat the purpose of in providing content for readers and, if it uses a per-hit revenue-generating stream in future, reduce its income.

Will this happen? I don't think so. In the first place, it is in the best interest of to provide content, so there will always be some (interesting) articles that are approved by the editors.

On a larger scale, consider the following statistics: As of this writing,
What this means is that there are thousands upon thousands of individual blog entries that could potentially be contributed to, but only less than 1% actually make it.
Why is this so? I don't know. I've contributed a few articles to But if I could hazard a guess, it would have these three parts:
  1. The majority of Internet users are unaware of or its contribution service.
  2. The majority of Internet users who are aware of's contribution service DO NOT USE IT.
  3. Those who do use's contribution service do so very selectively.
Of course, it will be very easy to prove me wrong: simply contribute this entry -- provided you were unaware of or its contribution service prior to reading this. On the other hand, since I've already told you what to do to prove me wrong, your contribution will not be an effective rebuttal of my entry.

Also, it is very easy for me to complain about, like how Singaporeans like to sit in coffee shops and complain about the government but don't do a darn thing about it. Well, actually, I did -- from a certain point of view.

One of's articles was of someone complaining about the it, and I gave my $0.02 in a comment that I would like to feature blogs that are not so popular or visited/linked by popular bloggers. (Darn it, I can't find the article nor my comment!) Something like a "Side B" in those old-school cassette tapes. The reply I got was effectively: " provides the tools for free, go figure it out yourself!" ('s code is based on the free Drupal.)

Well, I would, if I had the resources, which I don't. And I suspect many people who wish could be more also share the same limitations. But if I did have the resources, I would do a "Side B"-type blog, and if it turned out to be a bad idea after two years, I'd eat my own words (metaphorically-speaking).

What I can do -- and what you should do -- is to contribute at least one Singapore-related article every day from any blog. That's barely scratching the surface of the Singaporean blogosphere. But if the thousands of's readers do that, then we're talking about thousands of contributions (and nightmares for the editors). And don't worry if the contribution is juvenile or whiny or whatever, just contribute it and let the editors figure it out (which is easy for me, a non-editor, to say, ha).

And now, I shall sit back and see if my voice is heard in the blogosphere...


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Friday, May 27, 2005

Yahoo! PhotoMail -- don't rush to it

Yahoo! launched its new PhotoMail service today (or yesterday or sometime earlier, I'm not sure of the exact date). This comes a few weeks after Yahoo! acquired Flickr, and a few days after Flickr was down for "maintenance".

But in my opinion, PhotoMail is not worth its bandwidth right now. Take a look at this:
We're sorry. The Quick Select Tool could not be installed.
Quick Select is the browser software that enables PhotoMail. Quick Select is only available for PC users running Windows 2000 or XP with the Internet Explorer browser [version 5.5 and higher]. Quick Select Tool and PhotoMail are not available for Firefox, Netscape, and Macintosh users. If you do meet the requirements outlined above, please try closing all open browser windows and restarting Internet Explorer. Then visit Yahoo! Mail and try installing the Quick Select Tool again.
Err, I don't think so! Yahoo! wants me to download an Internet Explorer-only plugin to work with its new service? That just reeks of trouble. Internet Explorer has been in the news for its security holes, almost all of which are due to (ActiveX) plugins. There is no way I am going to allow my computer, home or otherwise, to be compromised.

That's why I switched to Firefox at work and use a Macintosh at home. No ActiveX problems for me, thank you very much.

You know, I really wanted to sign up for Yahoo! PhotoMail. I appreciate Yahoo!'s many services and I enjoy using Flickr to manage photos. But it looks like I'll have to wait until the folks there come up with a more useful program before I start emailing pictures to my friends... not that I do, anyway.


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Monday, May 23, 2005

Church family day at Labrador Park

Yesterday was Vesak Day, when Buddhists all around the world celebrate the Buddha's birth and day of enlightenment (if I got my religious knowledge correct). And because it fell on a Sunday, today is a public holiday. For us Christians, it was a time to have some good clean fun. And particularly those from my church, this fun was to be had at Labrador Park.

The event was supposed to start at 8:30am. That was the time I woke up. My family didn't make it to the park till 9:30am. The ironic thing is that we are just a 10-minute drive away. The other ironic thing is that this was only my second time there. The first time I was there, the park was still pretty much a mangrove swamp. Today, there are paved walkways, playground, public restrooms, paved nature trails, and descriptive signboards of the various military structures located there.

When we arrived, a treasure hunt was underway, so I just joined a group randomly. But I didn't really participate. I spent most of the half hour talking with a fellow church member. But I wasn't totally non-participative; I offered a suggestion about a clue that pointed the group in the right direction. It turned out that I was half-right: the object that we were supposed to find was in the playground, but not a see-saw.

The game ended at 10:30am and I hung out with a group of people who are around my age. We chatted over food comprising of sausages, sandwiches, bee hoon, homemade sushi, durian, and homemade cupcakes.

Later, I decided to take a walk around the park since it was my first time there in ages and it would be pointless if I left without seeing how much it has been developed. The walk around the park took about an hour. First, I walked along the coast, then made my way up the hill to see the war relics. I still knew my history from secondary school, so I understood the significance of the heavy guns that used to be placed there. (The guns are no longer there.) Unfortunately, the bunkers were locked up, so I could only peep inside the dark interior. There's also a tunnel walk, but I decided not to go for it. Maybe another time.

I returned to the group and was almost immediately fed by another church member. Earlier, she had been asking/pleading/pestering us to eat some of her bee hoon, but we had more than enough food. This time, I obliged her. She promptly piled a plate full of bee hoon, fish cakes, sausages and chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish it all, mostly because it was dry and salty, and it was a hot day. I also chatted with her and got to know more about one of the church youths who joined the church while I was away.

The day officially came to an end at 2pm. Being Singaporeans, it took 10 minutes to yell at everyone to pack up, and another half hour to actually pack up. My parents and I then returned home.


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Friday, May 20, 2005

Got my Corrinne May CDs!

Fly Away (2002)
Safe in a Crazy World (2005)
I bought two of Corrinne May's CDs: "Fly Away" (2002) (it has a different U.S. name) and "Safe in a Crazy World" (2005). I think these are the only two CDs by her (so far).

Corrinne May has a voice like Sarah MacLachlan or Dido, and her songs are sweet and enchanting. I was first introduced to her in the U.S. when a fellow Singaporean shared her song, "Same Side of the Moon". Since then, she became one of my favourite -- if not the favourite -- Singaporean singer. I rarely listen to Chinese songs and only heard one Stephanie Sun song, which was nice, but isn't enough for me to comment on her singing prowess.

Then, local TV drama "Chase" started using Corrinne May's new song, "Save Me", in the closing credits and I was hooked. And then I found her CDs at Gramaphone! I swooped on them instantly and haven't regretted that decision.

Corrinne May -- Singaporean, singer, female (ha), talented. Recommended *star* *star* *star* *star*. None of that Singapore Idol wannabe for me... except maybe for Jeassea Thyidor, who is currently hamming it up on TV as a host for an information/entertainment show, "Urban Escape", about little known places in Singapore.

Now I want to listen to local band The Lizard's Convention, but there hasn't been any news about them. I think I'm late to their party.

UPDATE: Changed links to iTunes Music Store.


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Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
"The saga is complete." So the tagline goes. Well, actually, it's the midpoint of the saga, right?

I watched "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" on opening night with my brother-in-law, cousin and their friends at Golden Village Grand. Sidenote: even though it was opening night, there had already been previous screenings: a charity premiere on Monday night, and the sneak preview on Wednesday night. So I felt kinda cheated about the whole "first screening" schtick.

Fortunately, no one was dressed in SW-related costume or carried SW-related toys.

We sat near the front, which kinda spoiled the experience for me, because there were a lot of close-up lightsaber battles, and it was really difficult to watch with all of the flashing lights. Overall, the movie was a nice change from the previous two outings. As expected, there was a lot more fighting, and the tone was darker, what with the hero's (Anakin Skywalker) descent into becoming the enemy (Darth Vader).

I missed seeing the Millenium Falcom near the beginning. Ah well.

The moment that I really liked was after Obi-Wan had slashed Vader's limbs. Obi-Wan: "You were my brother! I loved you!" Wow, I could feel his pain, especially after seeing the two of them goof off like best buds at the beginning of the show. It also makes their final confrontation in Episode IV more painful to watch.

But I'm sorry: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader still doesn't come across as the most powerful Jedi/Sith ever, in spite of his so-called enhanced powers. And I really think that his growth from Episode III to Episode IV is disjointed, because in the later episode, there is nary a hint to the scale of his anger... which makes sense, because George Lucas had written Episode IV as a standalone movie since he wasn't sure how the public would take to his vision.

Episode IV is like the bastard child in his saga because of the original limitations in technology and public acceptance. Besides, few moviemakers -- or creative people in general -- accept their creations as 100% complete and accurate. I should know. It's all about the creative process: one can never be 100% satisfied with the first version. (That also explains why you need to upgrade your software constantly!) I've made a few videos that I wish I could go back and improve upon, whether because I've gained more experience or have newer tools to experiment with.

That's why sometimes I think that Lucas should remake Episode IV, and I won't fault him for it. After all, it's HIS saga and he should be allowed to tinker with it until he's 100% satisfied. (I recall reading somewhere that he's at 90% satisfied with it currently.) The fans can rant and rave for all they care, but I'd still accept Lucas' version anytime because I understand where he's coming from.


I've been thinking about the title "Star Wars". Within the six movies, two major wars are fought: the Republic's war in Episodes I to III, and the Rebel-Empire war in Episodes IV to VI. Before the prequels, there is peace. After the sequels, there is also peace -- supposedly. If you don't read the books and comics that take place after the movies, there is peace. But if you do read them, then you know that the "wars" continue. Thus the title remains relevant, otherwise it'd have to be renamed "Star Peace" or "Star Truce".

"Star Wars" is one heckuva violent universe!


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Today Online blooper #3

I always knew that someone or something would have to be blamed for sex-related injuries. And Today newspaper has finally found the culprit: the entire (quirky) world! (See photo below.)

Today Online 19 May 05

In truth, Today actually has a section entitled "This QUIRKY world", which lists weird and strange happenings. Usually, the titles are better seperated, but not this time. I guess the editor needed a laugh!


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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Report on Timor-Leste trip

Here's my report/presentation/speech that I presented on Sunday at church:


Ruth, I know that I still owe you my report on our trip, so here it is.

Bon dia. Diak kalai?

And for those who don't speak Tetun, I just said, "Good morning. How are you?" The interesting thing is, before the trip, I had printed out all of these English-to-Tetun phrases. But the only ones that I remember are those two phrases. Then again, I've never been good at non-English languages, like Chinese.

Many people have asked me how the trip was. And my reply has always been that it was an interesting and eye-opening experience. This was my first time going to an undeveloped nation, or a so-called Third World country. I had never seen so many run-down buildings in a city. There were few road markings and no traffic lights for the hundreds of vehicles. And each time I stepped into a provision store, I kept wondering if it was safe even to buy that bottle of water.

But these fears and anxieties were not to be found in the people. In spite of the difficulties that they faced, life went on for them. They did not treasure things like hand phones or fashion or American Idol. I don't know if any Timorese travelled halfway across town to eat some special dish. I don't even know if there is a dish that East Timor is famous for. Jason had wanted to find something called "paun", which I think is like a cake or puff, but we couldn't find it anywhere, in spite of its so-called fame.

Instead, the people I saw were happy just to have food to eat, roofs over their heads, and family members close by. Most of all, I remember the reactions by children when they saw us strangers. They didn't shy away from us. At a kindergarten, they proudly showed us their artwork and performed stunts for the camera. At a beach, boys stripped naked and dived into the water. You've already seen some of these children in the video, so you know what I mean.

And that is really why I had gone on this trip. In truth, I treated it as a holiday, to get away from materialistic Singapore and travel to a place that had a simpler way of life. I wanted to reaffirm my faith in the human race. For too long, I have been surrounded by people who dream of getting rich, and then getting richer. Where wealth equals happiness.

Of course, it is easy for me to say that. Would I really be willing to give up my TV, computer and iPod? The simple answer is no. As a Christian, I am taught to be simple and humble. Store up your riches in heaven. The meek will inherit the earth. Meanwhile, we have million-dollar preachers, million-dollar Christian merchandise, and billion-dollar church buildings.

Some people thought that I had a higher calling from God. Sorry to disappoint you, but no, I did not receive any such divine word.

At our first team prayer meeting before the trip, I admitted as much to my team members that I had no real spiritual reason for going. At another meeting during the trip, Ruth asked me if I felt God speaking to me. Again, the answer was no. Or maybe I'm going deaf. That's what TV Mobile will do to you.

But I'm not here to give a sermon. I'm here to say that I hope that I can return to East Timor, maybe on a more spiritually-inclined level. I may be trapped in my materialistic way of life, but I need to remember that there is a simpler way to achieve happiness.

Thank you.


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Friday, May 13, 2005

M1 and StarHub

There are two things in my life (so far) that I've regretted not buying: shares of local telcos M1 and StarHub. I think it was four months ago when both shares were low enough for me to consider buying with what savings I had (mentally) set aside for future investments. M1 was trading at around $1.80 and StarHub at $1.20.

But in the local telco market, there is the 100-pound gorilla that is SingTel to consider. And based on advice that I received, both M1 and StarHub would not be worthwhile investments, even though M1 has been profitable for a long time.

Today, M1 shares cost more than $2 each and StarHub jumped to $1.55 after it reported its first-ever profit. Based on my amateur forecasting, I think StarHub will continue to churn out profits (though they may be small) because of its cable TV and broadband offerings, while M1 will either level off or start going down because the local mobile phone market is saturated and M1 doesn't seem to be expanding regionally.

I still hope and pray that they will either fall or level out, so that I can finally get in on the action. Sometimes, you have to believe in the little guys.


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Yahoo! 360

Yahoo! 360
Thanks to nilsinelabore, I got my Yahoo! 360 page even though I was on their waiting list all this while.

Thanks, bro! You're a good man.

Now to share the goods: I have 100 invititations to give out, but of course I'm going to share them only with my known acquaintances, e.g. family and friends (those I've met physically and are in good standing with me). Those with existing Yahoo IDs get brownie points too. If you need an invite, email me. If you don't know my email address, well *duh*, of course you're not one of my known acquaintances!


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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Darth Vader

Wow, in today's newspapers, there was a whole page dedicated to the inner workings of Darth Vader's armour (feed tube? magnetic sensors?) and various lightsabers.

Somehow, I don't think Lucasfilm paid a dime to get this much publicity...


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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is tomorrow, but my family celebrated it this evening. My sis and I had planned to eat seafood, but because of the cholestrol issue, we went to a Japanese restaurant at Siglap, Igen. It seems new and trendy (the prices look trendy too, but then, this is Japanese food) and popular. However, there were only three or four waitstaff, and only two of them really knew how to take orders, and they had to look out for slightly less than 100 hungry customers, so it was quite difficult to get decent service once the restaurant was packed.

I had a grilled salmon set. We also shared some sushi and maki.

After dinner, we went to Hong Kong Cafe for dessert. I had a mango pudding and we shared a french toast with peanut butter. That last one is positively sinful. It is almost entirely made out of grease. And my body's reaction to excessive grease is to unload it all over my face. Yuck.

Hmm, my writing is very... snappish. Ah, don't feel like writing.


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In need of a makeover

I met Inex at HarbourFront in the afternoon. The reason for our meeting falls under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, but for all you cheeky folks, the meeting was not of a romantic nature at all!

So after we had talked shop, we drifted on to more social talk, and that led to my inability to find a girlfriend, which may seem a strange topic for two persons who met for the first time just an hour ago. And she reiterated what others have told me and what I know myself:
  • I need to put on some bulk, probably through exercise
  • I need a new wardrobe with classy brands (and classy pricetags)
  • I need a new hairstyle -- though this may be a moot point in coming years
She also suggested that I wear contact lenses because I have nice eyes. Others have told me that before, but I steadfastly refuse to do so, because it's just weird (to me) to put a foreign object onto such a delicate human organ.

We had drinks, shared a calamari appetizer, then went out seperate ways.


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Friday, May 06, 2005

RIP Dr Wee Kim Wee

Dr. Wee Kim Wee
Picture by Roxanne
I'm kinda ashamed at myself. It took me a few hours to post an obituary entry upon hearing of Christopher Reeve's death, but almost a friggin' week to post one for a former Singaporean President.

I never met the man. I never spoke to the man. I only saw pictures of this small-sized guy who was either smiling or looking solemn, as one would expect a President to be. And from what I've learned about him, he was a friendly, if not the friendliest, President in Singapore's 40 years (and counting) of independence.

The only memory I have of him is a rather lame one: in school, my classmates and I used to joke that he could say his name forwards or backwards and still get it correct. Of course, back then, I thought that his name backwards would be "Eew Mik Eew", which doesn't sound very flattering for a President.

Rest in peace, Dr. Wee.

BTW enough with "The People's President" already! I understand that he's deserving of the moniker, but we don't need to get it drummed into our heads by the government-controlled media! In fact, I think it sounds like something that would come out of a "People's Republic".


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Deanimator is a cool shooting game based supposedly on the H.P. Lovecraft stories (I wouldn't know since I've never read any of his stories). Really easy to play: just shoot the zombies! But there's a trick to it to save your bullets, which of course I won't reveal here.

I scored 170 at Stage 14 on my first try.


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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Google Web Accelerator

Google Web Accelerator
And the Google goodies just keep on comin'!

Their latest tool: Google Web Accelerator. After installing, it speeds up your web surfing by retrieving web pages from Google's cache on its servers. It works with Firefox and Internet Exploder Explorer.

There are two question marks:
  1. What if I'm accessing private data, like reading email through the web browser?
    Fortunately, Google allows you to block it from accelerating some websites, but the way to do so may seem too technical and obscure for non-techies.
  2. What if the page was updated after Google had cached it?
    Honestly, I don't know how to answer this since I'm not a Google engineer. But if it's anything like how a proxy server works, then forcing a refresh in your web browser should pick up the updated page from the original website.
While undergoing beta testing, Google states that it works only in North America and Europe. Strange. I'm in Asia and have no problem being accelerated. I haven't noticed any significant difference, but the accelerator claims that I'm saving an average of two to four seconds per page load. As long as it doesn't significantly degrade my surfing experience, I think I'll just leave it alone.


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Can't get you out of my head

Yesterday, I kept singing the song "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas.'

Today, after being reminded about it in a TV commercial for a compilation album, I keep singing "The Blower's Daughter" by Damien Rice, from the movie, "Closer".

I suppose these are better than being stuck with opening notes from "The Reason" by Hoobastank.

I anticipate that after July, depending on the music, I'll be humming the themes of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith", "Sin City", "Batman Begins" and "Fantastic Four", like I did with "Spider-Man" for almost two weeks after watching the movie.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Say hello to iMac G5 (rev. B)

Presenting the new iMac G5.

iMac G5

Finally, the stars are in alignment.
  • I've been waiting for an affordable G5 (PowerMacs are always out of my budget, after factoring the monitor).
  • I skipped an OS upgrade to wait more than a year for Mac OS X "Tiger".
  • My piggy bank has enough money to spend on a new computer. (My PowerBook is five years old and showing its age!)
  • I've always wondered if an unsuspecting neighbour had left his/her wireless network publicly available accidentally...
The only gripe I have about it is that it's still bundled with AppleWorks, and not the spiffy iWork '05. WTF???

Once I have this Mac in my hands, there'll be four computers in my house. Now I shouldn't gasp in surprise the next time someone says that his/her family has one computer per person.


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Monday, May 02, 2005

Meme: If Singapore can have a casino...

It's been a week since the great casino debate ended with the government's decision to open two. Not everyone agrees with it, of course, but most of the noise has died down.

So methinks it's time to decide what Singapore can do next. That's why I came up with this meme. Ideally, the next thing that Singapore does should also reflect our "level of maturity". I hope it spreads like wildfire!


"If Singapore can have a casino, then Singapore can also sell (certain) drugs in coffee houses, a la Amsterdam."


Participate in this meme! Complete this sentence:

"If Singapore can have a casino, then Singapore can also ______________________."

Paste your sentence in your blog. And add the following HTML code:
<a href="" rel="tag">SingaporeCan</a>

If your blog service doesn't ping automatically (e.g. free LiveJournal accounts), then ping your blog here.


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