Thursday, December 22, 2005

christmas videos

one of these days i'll figure out/spend time on recoding and uploading some of own videos, now that i can take TV quality clips with my new camera :) meanwhile here are some vids sighted this morning (enjoying my day off work to finish packing and relax before another half day of work and then fly off for my holidays!):
  1. from ben and faith's place, a link to "who is carol?", a flash animation of carolling singaporean style
  2. from the official google video blog, a link to diana krall singing (and scatting!) jingle bells

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

christmas lights tour

went on the christmas lights tour tonight aboard some BCC buses. there was a fair size turnout, and we proceeded to visit some of the houses in the southern suburbs. i was quite disappointed that most of the time we had to stay inside the bus, and even though we would slow down as we passed houses of note, it was not still enough to capture much on the camera. thus a lot of my attempts turned out blurry, and after a while i gave up, choosing instead to shoot short video clips or just take it in with my own eyes. following are a selection of the better shots. the first 3 are taken from inside the bus:

this is the first place where we actually stopped and got off to walk around a little, so could take more stable shots from the ground...

and another pit stop almost an hour later...

one of the window displays at that stop...

more photos are available in my MSN space album.

all in all an interesting but slightly disappointing ride in parts. it was nice to see all the lights, but after having seen some of the grander displays, anything else is like "don't waste my time man"! lol... i've become a christmas lights snob :p so i would have liked to spend a bit more time at the grander displays, and have the opportunity to stop and take decent pics rather than view most of it through the glass window of a (slowly) moving bus. oh well. i think next time will have to round up some people and do a self-drive tour of the houses of note - princejay is already talking about firing up the ol' GPS for such a trip! haha.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

christmas quiz

i entered a christmas themed quiz at work, and won first prize! don't know what the prize is yet... might find out tomorrow. my submission wasn't as creative as the effort from a 'smart' colleague, whose anti-answers i found funny :)
  1. What is 'Santa Claus' called in:
    1. The Netherlands.
      Santa Van Den Claus
    2. Italy.
      Papa Giuseppe Claus
    3. Spain?
      Santo Clauso (Basil Fawlty told me that)

  2. What were the gifts received in the Australian version of the Twelve days of Christmas?
    12 cold stubbies

  3. Why is December 26 known as Boxing Day?
    That's the day we have the boxing matches with family members who annoyed us at Christmas lunch and gave us stupid presents

  4. I want to buy a candle for each member of my family. I want to get them each the same size, and they come in three sizes priced at $2, $3 and $5. I need a candle for Mum, Dad, Gary, Breanna, Jessey and Bob, but I only have $22. Which size candle should I buy?
    Christmas day is hot and there is a total fire ban in force, no candles

  5. When were Christmas lights first used on Christmas trees?
    1. 1930.
    2. 1909.
    3. 1882.
    Clark Griswald first used lights on a Christmas Tree in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

  6. How many spirits appeared to Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas carol'?
    If Ebenezer Scrooge is having visions, I'd say there were lots of sprits involved but most likely whiskey

  7. In 1974, one Australian city had a miserable Christmas experience because of a disaster. What was the city and the disaster?
    Melbourne - was the boxing day test rained out? That's pretty miserable

  8. What is the name of the Australian Christmas carol that has the line "Racing Santa Claus in the blazing sun"?
    Santa Claus racing in the blazing sun

  9. When is Advent Sunday?
    the day after Advent Saturday

  10. Where did Rudolph come from?
    1. He was created by a department store employee as a promotional gimmick.
    2. Henry VIII's court jester introduced him to Christmas folklore.
    3. A very drunk Christmas reveller rolled into a publishing house dressed as a reindeer – the rest is history.
    Where did Rudolph come from? That's a tricky one. Here goes, when a Mummy Reindeer and a Daddy Reindeer love each other very much……

  11. Which day of the week did Christmas fall on last year?
    It doesn't matter which day of the week Christmas fell on, we had a holiday.

  12. You are trying to wrap a present for your nephew Charlie. The present, a small teddy bear, is in a box that is four inches long by eight inches tall by three inches deep. Which piece of wrapping paper should you use - one that is 16 inches by 10 inches, or one that is 22 inches by seven inches?
    Charlie lives interstate, his mum and dad have to wrap his present. I transferred money into their account to buy it and my work is done.

  13. In which country did the Christmas carol 'Silent Night' originate?
    New Zealand. Have you ever tried to get a beer there on a Sunday Night?

  14. What happened to Christmas in 1647?
    1. It was cancelled due to lack of interest.
    2. It was made illegal.
    3. It became a public holiday.
    In 1647 Christmas was moved to the 18th January 1648 to accommodate the Olympic Games in Tonga.

  15. What were the gifts brought by the Three Wise Men?
    The three wise men brought ties, socks and handkerchiefs

  16. Some people like turkey at Christmas time. If you were hosting a dinner and each person eats 300grams of turkey, how long will it take to cook a turkey for ten people if a turkey should be cooked for one and a half hours per kilogram?
    Mum looks after that sort of stuff.

  17. Why is Santa Claus portrayed as wearing red and white?
    1. A Coca Cola ad showed him in these colours to fit their branding.
    2. To represent the white of snow and the red of berries.
    3. So children can see him as he flies through the sky.
    He's jumping on the Sydney Swans bandwagon

  18. From where did 'Good King Wenceslas' hail?
    Good King Wenceslas hailed from the castle - all kings live in castles

  19. What plant is traditionally hung in doorways at Christmas time?
    after a few too many cold ones over lunch, it seems like every plant in the world is in the doorway as you stumble onto the verandah then down the steps, sprawling into the front yard on your way home.

  20. When was 25 December first celebrated as the birth of Christ?
    1. From the day he was born.
    2. From AD 440.
    3. From 1634.
    25 December was first celebrated as the birth of Christ in the 20th century when everybody realised it was perfectly positioned the day before the boxing day test at the MCG.

Friday, December 16, 2005

the inaugural carols in the parkland

well i'm pretty sure it was the inaugural occurance... anyways, went and met up with some clay folk to watch the carols in the parkland at the amphitheatre of the roma street parkland. the photo on the left was the only shot i took of our people, and there's "uncle" slow_poke in his yellow poncho :) it was a rather wet day and not the best of conditions for an outdoor event, but despite the unfavourable weather a lot of people turned out and the place was already filling up an hour before the pre-show kids program. it's always hard trying to arrange for a big group of people to go to a public event, especially when you don't know exactly who/how many people are coming, or when they're arriving. thus the few of us who got there early and managed to bag some space in prime position (directly in front of the stage, and about mid-way up the concrete steps/seats) soon had to make the choice of either staying where we were, or giving up our seats in order to join the latecomers, the numbers of which would not fit in the space we had reserved. and so we trotted off to the grassed area on the side and watched the event mainly via one of the two screens. photo on left shows the view from our position, and also an indication of the crowd. i didn't actually watch a lot of the show, nor sing many carols cos i ended up doing a lot of to-ing and fro-ing for various supplies and trying to organise food and direct people to parking. that plus the fact that it rained at various times during the show (the heavier storms having passed by before the show started). but i still got to see rebecca st james perform, which was probably my main reason for going in the first place. i'm not that much of a fan, and i've only ever bought one of her albums, but ever since a few years ago i've been wanting to go see/hear her. there was one time probably in the late 90's when i found out that she was in town for a concert, and i discovered that though based in the states, she is actually a local girl, and so thought how cool let's go and check it out! but due to a couple of complicating factors (stupid story and too long to tell/explain) i stayed home that night. i think she returned a few years later and i can't even remember why but i didn't make it to that concert either. so when i saw the flyer for this carols thing with her name as one of the guest artists, i thought: this is my chance! heh... here's a shot of her performing "you are loved" from her latest album, "If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something". this photo was taken from about 3m away... don't think i could have managed that (ie walk right up to the stage) at an actual concert! :p

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

跑 (去看 'children of heaven') 吧孩子

without having much of an insight into the movie-making business/industry, it usually puzzles me as to why people like to remake movies. is it because original ideas are hard to come by, and so let's just take something that's worked somewhere else, and apply it in a slightly different context? or is there more of a 'paying compliment/homage' spirit at work? is the decision driven by economics and business concerns, or perhaps owes more to the personal whims of the filmmaker?

in any case, i watched homerun (aka 跑吧孩子) tonight. i originally intended to watch a different movie, but couldn't locate the actual disc (and it so bugs me when i know i've misplaced something... but i digress). homerun had been in the house for probably a good year or so, but i had never gotten around to watching it. upon reading the back cover, i was struck by how closely the storyline resembled another movie i had seen in the past... doesn't this sound exactly like children of heaven, i asked myself. upon seeing the opening credits, i realised it is basically is the same story, except homerun had been reworked for a singaporean setting.

maybe because my movie diet does include some foreign (and by that i mean non-western-english-speaking-country) films, and my general preference to see something in its original context (eg i'd rather watch a hk flick in cantonese and read subtitles, than listen to a mandarin audio track or worse still dubbed english, even though i would understand several magnitudes of order more of the mandarin dialogue than the cantonese), mixed in with having seen a few more singaporean movies/shows than i have of anything from iran (it could be the bias speaking, but the acting and dialogue in homerun seemed a bit too stereotypical at times, while the whole of c.o.h. seemed so much more "authentic" [which is a rather ironic thing to say/claim given that i know next to nothing about things iran!])... in the end i still definitely prefer children of heaven over homerun. very simple story, yet manages to be moving and touchingly believable. check it out sometime, and i think people would be better served seeing that than only having watched homerun as a not-quite-worthy substitute, though i wonder whether my conclusion would be any different if i had seen homerun beore children of heaven...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

humming a Christmas tune

two weeks to Christmas, and i'm starting to hum Christmas songs in my head...

i think that you tend to look forward to Christmas more as a child than as an adult. part of the reason could be that as a child you get lots of time for the anticipation and expectations to build, because you get to be on holidays at least a few weeks out from Christmas. once you start working though, it's usually a case of working all the way up to Christmas eve, and then bam, Christmas arrives seemingly all of a sudden. or it could just be that the wonder and novelty of the day wears off with age..

today i'm humming the tune to "winter wonderland"... triggered by reading the phrase in a holiday update email from a friend who's currently in singapore and en route to europe for a real wintry white Christmas... and i cast my mind back to the white (pre-)Christmas i got to see 3 years ago on my nanae trip in japan. later in the day i see photos of some Christmas lights on singapore's orchard road taken by island... and i cast my mind back to the Christmas eve i spent in that district 5 years ago. i won't be seeing any snow this Christmas, and any wonderlands i encounter will definitely not be anywhere near wintry, but i hope to catch some of the orchard road lights, and have already made plans with princejay to tour some of the local lights next week :) (here's some samples of what we might see)

yes, Christmas is coming... and in the midst of news stories of people calling for a ban on the word "Christmas" (because they think it's too pro-Christian/ity??!), and others (actual people i know) preferring to allocate their donation to the RSPCA (to help animals) than to give to the salvation army or the smith family (to help their fellow human beings), i need to remind myself even more that Jesus (the Christ) is the reason for the season - he came to earth to give his life to save people, and even those who will want to take him out of the day will have to one day bow their knee and acknowledge him as king...
"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. (Isaiah 45:22-24, ESV)

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11, ESV)
and the song to be singing then will be
"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10, ESV)

Friday, December 09, 2005

cucina of italy

can you guess what this is? probably hard to tell without looking at the full sized pic, but it's a display of assorted sets of fake nails!

we have a free weekly suburban paper - there's not much of it that i actually read, but i do usually flick through it scanning for local community information. and mentions of local eateries. cucina of italy was one of these eateries i saw, and it was the dining destination for this evening. it was at the entrance that i spotted these nails, which actually belongs to the beauty shop next door.

i figured i'd kill a few birds with one stone by combining a desire to try out this restaurant, with the desire to take a few soon-to- depart friends out for dinner. i'm glad i made a booking because when i first walked in (and the entrance is a bit disorienting because you have to go past the take-away counter and the kitchen before you really see the tables etc in the restaurant proper, so i was momentarily confused if maybe i had missed the main entrance) the place was pretty much at full capacity. it had a real buzz about it though, a good sign that it's a "happening" joint. the decor looked smart, perhaps helped by the Christmas decorations and the lighting effects - you can see a sample of the result in this next picture, where the wall on the left serves as the canvas for the ever-changing display of colours and shapes/patterns from ceiling mounted light machines.

i quite like this photo. yoonta was sitting across from me and i wanted to capture the table flowers looking along the wall. the distance is perhaps too great to really notice the flowers from the tables behind her, but the colours go well and the foreground flowers are nicely out of focus - my digicam doesn't provide any depth of field control so i couldn't really get a more exaggerated effect.

the food was nice and quite filling, though IMHO a bit on the pricey side at an average of over $20 per head for mains alone - no drinks, entrees or desserts (speaking of which, i find it hard to accept how one of the dessert choices, which looked from the description to be no more than a glorified ice-cream sundae type affair, can be worth almost $12, no matter how good it may taste). we decided to share our meals so that we could maximise our tasting opportunities. first up was a "feed the man" pizza, then (about 50 minutes after the pizza was served) our 3 pastas: the penne romana, linguine con gamberi, and tagliatelle con pollo somethingorother. my favourite was the third dish, whose full name i couldn't remember - there's a menu on their website, but it's not exactly the same as the one we saw in the restaurant itself.

[as a bit of a side note, while i was checking the names of the dishes, i saw that the website has the tubular pasta dish listed as a rigatoni romana, whereas i'm sure we ordered a penne romana. not being well versed in things pasta, i tried surfing to see what the difference was. after doing some brief checking (see the list of pasta at wikipedia) think what we had was the penne... but i digress (from this digression). while surfing for an answer i came across this totally wacky paper on how Penne Rigate will spontaneously insert itself into Rigatoni (order pasta) under liquid to gas transition conditions of H2O to create the previously unobserved species Noodleous doubleous!!! how weird is that? lol. and that page then led me to discover the, website of the DiHydrogen MonOxide research division. if you don't know what dhmo is, you'd better find out, read the FAQ, and maybe even check out the material safety data sheet, cos your life very well depends on it! ahhh dearie me, some people have too much time on their hands :p]

ok so back to cucina... actually the main reason i was attracted to this venue was that they had a piano bar. italian restaurants are a dime a dozen, but how many of them have a grand piano in it?? it's a nice hook, and one that convinced me to check it out. the website says it only plays friday and saturday nights from 10pm till late (up to 2am??), but the music was already flowing when we got there at 7:30pm - maybe because they had a full house? most of it music actually came from the keyboard/synthesizer rather than the piano though, and i for one would have preferred pure piano for the classier effect and feel. still, it was a positive contribution to the ambiance of the place, though i was a bit disappointed on two other points. firstly, i had the image of a slightly separate area of the venue dedicated to this "piano bar" area, but in reality it's right next to the dining area and the only seating in this section is a sofa that could fit 3, maybe 4 people. and that right next to the piano... i'd feel a bit too up close and personal an arrangement to be sitting, enjoying the music, and having a bit of a chat with the pianist a mere 2m away! secondly, we tried to request some songs without success. tekken suggested on bended knee by boys II men - i was doubtful whether the pianist would know it, and my doubt proved right. i thought we'd have better luck with some of the older artists, and tried "anything by lionel richie, elton john or phil collins" as our round two offer, but he didn't know any of them either! oh well... it was still a nice night out where we chilled and chatted, including some discussions on my recent post about the down syndrome detection test article (tekken being a known reader of this blog - *waves hello*), enjoyed some good food in an agreeable venue, took some silly photos (more pics available on my msn space album), got some free lollipops on our way out, and even had the owner take a group shot of us with the piano bar dude :)

so, will i be back? i don't know... i guess if i want "sophisticated yet affordable" (their own words) it's a venue i'd consider, but while i had a pleasant time there on my first visit, i don't think it makes in into my list for "must eat here again" places. still, it's probably worth checking out at least once if you've never been before, and i'm not against the idea of coming back at a later stage to see if the piano bar thing has taken off any... maybe as an after-dinner/supper-y type of thing. we'll see...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

digicams: the modern ice-breaker

maybe it's mostly a matter of the language and possibly also a generational gap, but i didn't really interact much with NK's kids the other night when we had dinner (the whole affair with the over-priced restaurant). then on the weekend we brought them up to brisbane to spend a night with our family. so there was a ~1hour car ride, then yum cha lunch, and still very little interaction between the "kids" (the parents in the group did most of the talking). afterwards we went for a wander around the city, and visited the city hall clocktower where we waited for the sounding of the quarter hour chime. it was here, up in the clock tower, that i took a photo of JH, the youngest, liveliest/most outgoing (and according to her mum, the naughtiest :p) of the 3 children, blocking her ears in readiness to be rocked by the big bells. actually she wanted to leave before it sounded, being afraid of how loud it would be. from that moment on, she started to pester me to delete the photo, and to hide her face whenever she saw me pull out my camera... though i did manage to pull off a few more candid shots throughout the day. and so, through the taking of a photo, i inadvertently bridged some of that gap, and we managed to have a bit more interaction... once you get past the initial reticence, it can be pretty amusing talking with kids :)

anyways, i told her that i would give/show her the photos when she was older -- this is my virtual time capsule for such a day. wonder whether she'll remember me if we ever cross paths again... i'll have my other photos ready for a trip down memory lane if such a day ever comes ;)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

defective detection

commenting on a newspaper article whose headline reads "Down Syndrome Now Detectable in First Trimester", regarding a new test which could "pinpoint" many of the fetuses with the "common genetic disorder" that causes Down Syndrome as soon as 11 weeks after conception, a boundless columnist writes:
Let's get real: a test that enables doctors to identify birth defects in utero will really only be used for only one purpose: eliminate those with the defects. More than 90 percent of children whose Down Syndrome is detected in utero are aborted. (There's no reason to think that this testing will be limited to Down Syndrome, by the way. Eventually, the cost- effectiveness of eliminating genetically-based illness in utero will prove irresistible. As Nancy Press of the Oregon Health and Science University put it in the New York Times, "If you can terminate pregnancies with a condition, who is going to put research dollars into it?")

In addition, there is subtle but real pressure on "at-risk" women to undergo pre-natal testing. [...]

And what exactly is the "risk" here? Why are we having all those abortions? One thing is certain: it's not to ease the suffering of the "defective" children. They don't suffer, at least not from having Down Syndrome. They're often aware that they're different but any pain they may feel in this respect is caused by other people's reactions to the differences. From my own experience with my autistic son, I can tell you that David's autism troubles me a great deal more than it does him.

The inescapable conclusion is that the suffering we're seeking to avoid is that of the adults. How else do you explain the phenomenon of doctors being sued for the "wrongful birth" of a child with disabilities? Children with Down Syndrome or other disabilities represent an unacceptable impingement on their potential parents' freedom: they have to work harder at being good parents and they don't even get to show off with a "My Child is an Honor Roll Student At ..." bumper sticker.

If that sounds harsh, well, it is. It's also true.

i'm struck by the suggestion that the decisions made on this issue tend to be driven by what is essentially the selfishness of the parents(-to-be). i don't know that this is necessarily true in general (and i'm sure there are those who think beyond themselves), but i just wonder how widespread and accurate an assessment it really is. the answer is perhaps somewhat scary to contemplate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

rip(ped) off

one of the stereotypical "how do you know when you're an asian" traits is that of bargain hunting/stinginess, and i think i do display that every now and then... or more :p with that, i present a few things to avoid:
  1. dine at the golden fortune chinese restaurant in surfers paradise.
    went with my family to the gold coast last night to meet some overseas visitors (my very first neighbour ever from my childhood days, and his family). dad asked me to pick a chinese restaurant nearby to their hotel, and i struck out with the entertainment book, so went with the old google fallback. didn't manage to find out much info apart from names, addresses and phone numbers, so i just picked one. spotted it while droving past on the way to the hotel, and soon the whole troupe came back on foot. it looked nice enough, fairly grand/posh looking, and certainly very much in keeping with the "golden" part of the name - all the seats even had covers, which is something i've previously only seen rolled out for weddings and such. really should have looked at the prices before coming in though, cos it was a shocker. i mean, would you pay nearly $170 for this spread? just to clarify, that's 7 dishes in total: 1 vege dish, 1 tofu dish, and 5 reasonably standard meats, of which only one is seafood (prawns). that plus tea and steamed rice, and complimentary fruit and egg tarts at the end... at an average price of over $20 per dish - and that's for "small" servings too - you really don't want to know the price of the set banquets they were pushing (which, although it includes what sounds like an abundance of seafood, is still pricier than some seafood buffets i've had at hotels... and worse of all, the food wasn't even that good. like... quite normal, nothing special whatsoever, nothing at all to suggest/justify the exhorbitant cost. plus i think they actually mucked up one of our dishes. oh well... was too embarassed to walk out after seeing the menu/prices, so felt bad about sticking the parentals (and guests?) in the whole situation of having to order from a grossly overpriced menu. meh.

  2. ok well the restaurant was one i'll have to learn from. here's one i just know to avoid... flybuys has been going the big guns on promoting their new reward - fuel discount vouchers. sure, hop on the bandwagon of savings at the bowser in these times of rising/high petrol prices, but is this really delivery value for money? a quick scan of the other offerings in the rewards catalogue puts the points per dollar's-worth-of-reward rate in the range of about 115-135, with 135 derived from 13500 points needed to get a $100 shopping voucher. using 135 as the conservative rate for calculations, the fuel discount voucher costs 1000 points to redeem, which means it's "worth" about $7.50. but to actually get that much real value out of using the voucher (which entitles you to 10c/litre discount off your fuel purchase), you would need to fill 75 litres. we're talking the entire tank, from empty to full, of something like a commodore or tarago. i'd put the average fuel tank capacity of the cars out on the road to be closer to the 50-60 mark. using 115 as the rate would require you to fill over 85 litres to make it "worthwhile". my advice? skip the hype, get a shopping voucher where you can be sure of getting 100% value. if you were a cynic you might think this is just a strategy for flybuys to get people to spend their points in a way that won't cost flybuys as much as other rewards... (disclaimer: i don't actually know how the all the costs associated with running the flybuys program are borne, i'm just being cynical :p)

  3. i was going to put this one down as a win, but unfortunately that's somewhat inconclusive at the moment. i've been looking for a replacement digicam for some months, and was half set to buy a canon ixus 50 on my last trip overseas. i almost bought too, but for the dodgy salesman who tried to pass a 6 months labour + 6 months parts warranty off as a 12 month warranty. i know that buying locally gives me a standard 12 month warranty, so i didn't want to compromise on this respect just to get cheaper prices overseas and suffer a shorter international warranty. and so i returned home empty handed on that trip. then i found out about the updated ixus 55 model, and have been tracking prices for a few months. found a huge variation in prices, but thanks to staticice managed to find a best price of $479. slight hitch: i could choose between paying for shipping to get it from an interstate store, or pay 3% extra to use my credit card (my card allows me to get up to an additional year's warranty on items purchased with the card, and i want my warranty!) at the local store with the same lowest price, but which has no actual stock anyway. then i was inspired by another guy's success in getting his local store to match competitor's prices, so i gave photo continental a call, and lo and behold they are able to give me a quote for $500! (boo to all the suckers who pay the retail/sticker price of $588, and raspberries to union shopper and apesma electrical who are supposed to help the end consumer get lower prices, but couldn't even come close to the prices i got from my own research). PC also have no surcharge on credit card payments, and they have plenty of stock. schweet... PLUS i found out (not that it's anything new, but i just didn't make the connection before) that i can buy it "duty free" since i'm heading overseas again in a few weeks. thus i popped in there this afternoon and got myself a smaller, lighter, and generally better spec'ed machine than my current ixus 330 (which is still actually going quite well). anyways, happy with my purchase, i start playing with the actual hardware, and give the battery the initial charge. this is when i discover that the battery sit somewhat loose in the charger slot... definitely prone to move about if bumped. and in certain positions (still fully within the slot) it won't charge, or in one instance alternates between charging and not charging, accompanied by a feint ticking sound. some other positions come with a high pitched sound. now i'm very glad i bought it from a physical store nearby, but i still need to find time to get back there during business hours...

  4. oh and speaking of digital cameras and going overseas, i also had to get some passport photos taken so i can apply to renew my nearly expired passport (which, by the way, will be a new variety of epassports). i found out last time that singapore might not let me in with less than 6 months left on my passport, but by then it was too late to do anything about the matter(it was the night before my flight) , and thankfully it didn't turn out to be a problem. this time round i've only got about 2 months left, and don't want to push my luck. so i went to a photo lab place, asked to have passport photos done, and the guy whips out a digicam. shouldn't really have been surprised i guess... though the last time i had to get passport photos they used a specific camera that took 4 shots of your head simultaneously. this time it was with a normal digicam, single shot, touched up and replicated 6 times on a standard 6x4. 10 minutes and $9.50 later, i'm thinking that i could have done it myself and gotten the photo printed for 30-40c at any self-service printing station. another potential rip off job... but then there are quite specific requirements for the photos used for passports, and it might have taken a bit of tweaking to ensure conformity. ah well... the price of "instant"... though it wasn't quite fast enough to prevent me missing my bus.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

presenting everyone mature in Christ

this is a hand-made card i received from the 05 yf committee, cos i'm finally leaving and retiring from the fellowship i've called home for pretty much the entirety of my conscious christian journey in this town. i still find it hard to succintly and precisely answer the question of when i became a christian, but for the purposes of this post, i'm tracing my "conscious christian journey" back to 1994 when i remember putting my hand up in response to an "altar call" type invitation following a talk and Q&A session during a 1-day outing by a now-defunct cell group of cccb.

i did leave a few years back and was "semi-retired" for 2 years, but subsequently returned in a different role and have been filling that for the last 3 years. last night was my last committee meeting. another last. another goodbye of sorts... two others are also leaving, but they're physically moving away (out of town) as well. it's a slightly different feeling i think, to be leaving but still here. maybe a clean break is just that - cleaner in a more clear cut sense. i'm rambling... i don't quite know what i'm feeling / what to feel.

the card. it's 3D! the metal cross, yellow stars and blue butterflies are contained in a raised plastic enclosure. it's cool :) simple, but special. (and coveted by one of the others to receive a card! :p) the scripture reference is to colossians 1:28, which is yf's (not very often quoted/publicised) theme verse
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
amen to that, wherever we continue to serve.

Friday, November 25, 2005

assorted video tales

miscellaneous video-related stuff from the last week or so...

the last few times i found myself able to take advantage of cheap days at the local cinemas, i have found that there really isn't anything i want to see (nevermind the difficulty in rounding up a like-minded and available movie buddy). even on my last trip to the video store i had a similar feeling and struggled to find something that i wanted to spend $2 to rent and watch. earlier this week princejay and i talked of doing a movie thing next week, and we both came to a similar conclusion about the lack of enticing offerings. they just don't seem to satisfy like they once did. is it the (quality of the) movies that have changed, or my tastes? is it that i've been fed on too abundant a diet of trash that i need a higher level of sophistication in my intake, or that i can no longer convince myself that the emptiness of what i watch has some faux substance / excuse for being?


i don't know how or when i first came across "joel on software", but i read the occasional article on it. i don't know why i read them, because i don't have anything to do with the world of software development. i guess i found those articles featured on the mailing list to be interesting and insightful, and i've never gotten around to unsubscribing :p anyways, one of the more recent articles announced the launch of the aardvark'd dvd - a documentary about how "Four interns are brought into Manhattan and given 12 weeks to design, develop, debug and ship a program that will change the way computer geeks around the world fix their friends' computers. Boondoggle Films presents a journey through the world of software development from the perspective of a unique upstart, four quirky interns, and the world of The Geek." maybe it's the last two words (and how they hit on my inner aspirations! haha) that did it for me, or maybe i just happened to be so underwhelmed by your typical multiplex films, but i was almost going to order a copy after checking out the trailer (ahh the cool things you can do with video google :). oh, and it probably did help that i had been following (some of) the progress of aardvark. i nearly fell off my chair when i saw the shipping costs to get from the states to here though... then i realised i was looking at the priority service -- normal post is less than 1/10th of the price :p still... ~USD$25 for something i'm probably only ever going to watch once, and quite likely never be able to share with anyone (i can't imagine too many people jumping at the chance to watch such a doco just for the heck of it).


i've purchased 3 DVDs on ebay. today i realised i've fallen prey to modern day pirates (of the electronic kind), for two of these discs are fakes. i recently decided to buy a copy of the soong sisters movie after coming across this blog entry, reading a bit about their story, and realising that i did recall this movie coming out some time ago but it had since fallen off my radar (and it's been about 8 years since the movie's release!). figured that even if the movie itself isn't earth-shattering, it'd at least be interesting to learn a bit more about the lives of these prominent people in china's history (to the extent that such things can be/are accurately portrayed in a commercial movie). the movie arrives and suspicions are aroused upon closer inspection - check out the photo of the dvd itself for instance. besides the atrocious spelling and grammatical errors (of which i count 8) on the disc, and the rather cheap look of the media itself (a bit subjective, and hard to describe/capture on photo... although vso inspector does confirm it to be a pressed rather than burnt disc), consider the following:
  1. at the very top of the disc, next to maggie cheung's head (middle woman), and a bit cut off, is maggie's chinese name in simplified chinese - everywhere else on the cover her name is written in traditional chinese, as it should be for something coming from HK. i have been unable to find any photos/images of the actual dvd to confirm what the disc should look like (can only find pics of the dvd box cover), but this makes me think that what i'm seeing is a non-genuine dvd label printed with artwork lifted from something used to promote the movie in china itself.
  2. next, consider the four little boxes near the bottom of the disc. the second box displays a logo which reads "compact disc digital video". from what i've been able to find out, this logo "may only be used on discs complying with the Video-CD specifications: the Philips-JVC-Matsushita-Sony Compact Disc Digital Video Specification (the WHITE Book)." now this is talking about compact disc media, thus this logo should NOT appear on a DVD!
  3. moving along to the right, the logo accompanying the "5.1 SURROUND" text is wrong. there is a similar logo on the box cover, which at least features 6 distinct black squares representing the 5+1 speakers (but which i think is also wrong because it has an additional white square, which doesn't match with any logos i've been able to find used by/for dolby-related purposes. anyways, the logo on the disc itself only has 4 squares/speakers! not quite the 5.1 claimed...
  4. then there's the region code logo... the one on the disc says it's region 1. the box says it's all regions. vso inspector says it's all regions. another printing mistake? the ebay seller asks me to "please excuse the manufacture's quality control" for the spelling errors, and claims to have spoken to the manufacturer about hiring a proofreader, citing the difficulties of finding "talented people to work for so little wages in asia". schyeah... for a pirating operation this may be a valid argument, for a big corporate body like mei ah (where this DVD is "supposed" to have come from), the line is a lot less likely to be swallowed.
  5. lastly the 3 chinese characters printed below these logo boxes... at first i thought it was 非毒品, which means something like "not drugs/poisonous". besides the obvious question of what in the world something like this is doing on a DVD, i also realised after pondering a moment that the middle character doesn't match up to what i originally thought it said... and that a homonym of 读, meaning "(to) read", had been substituted - another printing mistake?? but then a second closer look reveals that it's not even that character... it looks like the character for read but doesn't have the left radical. from what i've been able to find it's not a proper word without one of a few radicals with which it can be paired.
and there's more! as i've been typing this i've looked closer at the cover, and there's a mixture of traditional and simplified chinese printed... rather strange. plus the discovery of more english typos. and how the front cover very closely resembles, but consistently fails to 100% match, images i'm seeing of the proper artwork. the strong weight of evidence points to the work of a semi-professional pirate operation, albeit one lacking even basic QA, but with access to decent photoshopping (or similar) resources, and DVD manufacturing (stamping and printing) capabilities. anyhow, in the midst of researching and gathering evidence to discern genuine vs. pirated DVDs, i came across advice suggesting that my other purchase is also a dud. upon further checking, i slumped my shoulders and concede to being had... funny that the seller from that transaction is no longer registered on ebay? i don't know if that person was actively involved or just a pawn in the bigger game, but i was mildly surprised (maybe i was being a bit naive on this point) to discover a forum thread where sellers were openly discussing strategies to maximise their piracy profits via ebay...


enough ranting and gripes. let's end on a more positive note... i leave you with some recent video discoveries worth checking out (for the broadband enabled):
  1. baby got book - a humorous parady of sir mix-a-lot's song, reworded to encourage more reading of the good book.
  2. incredible dribble - maybe some of the roar players could learn some control from this guy, showing off his skills with a soccer ball.
  3. nba tv broadband - delivering all the highlights from the nba. not that i follow, but there's some pretty basketball to be seen here :)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

queensland whimpers

perhaps somewhat against my better judgment, i went to watch a football (soccer) game tonight, and it did nothing to change my opinion of the sport. i understand that there are people who get rather fanatical about it all, but i just can't see the attraction.

anyways, the match was between the queensland roar and the newcastle jets. the roar lost. the game was mostly pretty boring, and opportunities to get excited were few and far between, with too few queenland shots at goal going anywhere threatening. there wasn't even much atmosphere in the crowd of 13000 (the keener fans in the group say that crowd numbers have been dropping because the team isn't winning). oh well... i decided to go along cos it was supposed to be a group outing, and i figured i'd try watching a soccer game at least once... plus i don't think i'd been to suncorp stadium before so that in itself was a new experience, though not one i'm in much of a hurry to repeat unless there's something more interesting to view. i can think of a lot more satisfying ways to spend my money and my time.

and i won't really miss the likes of those who think that being at a football match gives them a "right" to holler obscenities and abuse at players and officials, nevermind the comfort/sensibilities of any other patrons within earshot. at least some other fans try to be a bit more creative with their vocal outbursts... even then, it's not necessarily something to be proud of - quite a few of us in the group are christians, and one remarked to me that she didn't think it would be a good thing if others in the crowd knew we were christians, going by what can be seen (and judged?) in the external behaviour. i couldn't refute that sentiment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

i (don't) deserve better

a while back a friend taught me about love via his courtship and engagement with his now wife. soon after they met, a long distance relationship began, and the engagement and wedding followed in relatively quick succession. some people were surprised and understandably cautious about the speed with which this relationship developed, especially given how little time and opportunity they had to spend together in the period of time leading up to the decision to get married. but the lesson he taught me through this was that a marriage is so much more about a commitment of the will than it is about any emotions/feelings of the heart. that is why in the marriage vows, it is not to the "i do" of hollywood movies that you respond, but to a covenantal "i will" that you pledge. this is no doubt a great defence against the concept of "falling (in and) out of love"... that the one for whom you once said "i do", you now say "i don't". to say "i do" requires a response befitting the moment; to say "i will" requires a promise involving the rest of your life.

on the topic of what can go wrong in marriages and how to keep it from happening... Ravi Zacharias has this to say:
First and foremost, do not even flirt with the idea that there may have been somebody better out there or someone else with whom you may connect better. Infidelities are not always physical. Emotional vagaries of the mind can be equally dangerous to the health of one's marriage. Mind games can bring bigger losses than imagined and should be stifled early. Receiving the partner as a gift from God, "warts and all," is a commitment with which one begins. The hard thing about this is that both of you need to deeply believe this. One person alone on the path of unconditional love can find it terribly exhausting.

A sincere soul-searching is the most important step when trouble looms large. Affairs often begin because one person finds someone else he or she relates to better and with whom he or she experiences more intimacy or warmth, without all the burdens of carrying a family. It may just be that many marriages break up after years of raising a family because the concerns that have been shared after half a lifetime of bearing one another's burdens are too big to carry any longer. But this is where we have to step back and realize what love and marriage are all about. Marriage brings together not just a man and his wife but their children and their struggles. To suddenly drop the partner who has carried that load with you along life's journey for all these years for someone with no strings or worries attached is cruel. Marriage is not a commercial enterprise in which you replace a car you have tired of with another one. The truth is that the new car will lose its appeal, too, to say nothing about yourself. Someone has said that a man owes his success to his first wife, and he owes his second wife to his success.

From its very inception, kill the thought that there is somebody better out there, with arms wide open, just waiting to bring you perfect happiness. Freedom from joint responsibilities and concerns is always idealized in the short term but is never realized. The greater the degree of immersion in another's life, the greater is the "pain" of living. That is just the way it is. The greater the involvement in another's life, the greater is the demand for sacrifice. We are not here to be coddled and made to feel better. There is no perfect person out there, and "better" can be a very misleading term.
-- from I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah (ch 7 / p. 137-9)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

back dormitory boys

i didn't realise when i first came across these lads a few weeks back, but they're no one hit wonders! more on the asian backstreet boys here... includes info, links, and collection of video clips. it's a bit mind-boggling that two guys miming to songs in front of their computer can attain such fame in (what i presume is) a short span of time.

another interesting find is tian's other site called hanzi smatter - a sort of reverse engrish, "dedicated to the misuse of chinese characters in western culture"... more mind-bogglingness!

Monday, November 14, 2005

falling without grace

have you ever (tried to) run so fast that your legs can't move fast enough to keep up with the rest of your body? that was me yesterday... trying to play touch footy. i'm not usually a fan of touch, mostly because i don't like any of the sports involving an olive-shaped ball (except maybe a spot of league come state of origin time), and also because i'm not very good at it. i actually thought we were going to play basketball, but the others were already on the field and kicking the ball around when i arrived, so i joined in.

when the pros play, they're often diving to score tries and make the act look so easy... even graceful (if you can attribute that kind of adjective to the typical rugby league player??). i've never been one to fall gracefully. in fact, i avoid falling, and anything that looks like it could lead to falling, like the plague -- jumping around on a trampoline for example, an activity from which i'm rather paranoid of bouncing off and doing myself great damage. this is because when i was younger, almost every fall would result in a broken bone, chipped tooth, or at the very least some broken skin.

my dad knows how to fall properly - he once fell off a ladder (or was it a roof?) and instinctively performed a somersault/roll manouvre to break his fall and dust himself off afterwards. he had kung fu training though, so that doesn't count :p i think i've managed to fall that way twice, quite by accident on both occasions. once when i was bounding down a hill and gravity got the better of me just at the end of my descent, and the other time when the front wheel of my bike met a solid kerb (i didn't have enough skills to jump it, and was going too quickly to stop or avoid it) and the impact sent me sailing over the handle bars.

anyways, back to yesterday, and my legs racing away at full capacity striving for the try line after somehow managing to make a break from our own half. i was already feeling a loss of balance some way out from the line, realising with a bit of a worry that i probably couldn't stop myself without falling over... then a tap on my back from the chasing defender helped me on my way to the ground. i don't know how to fall properly, neither how to dive without hurting myself. the last time i took a dive on that ground was in summer, playing cricket, and much broken skin ensued. thankfully this time round the spot where i fell happened to have thicker grass, and the recent rain meant the ground was also more slippery and softer. so i survived with only a slight graze, nice grass stains on my clothes, and my pedometer stayed on to count every step :p later in the game, i went for a coast to coast, and took another dive. this time i managed to stay within the field of play and got the try :)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

starting at the beginning

it's funny what you can find when you go digging into your belongings... tonight i found two packs of gum that expired two years ago... :| they were sealed in blister packs, which is probably just as well! last thursday night i went through my (somewhat organised, in my own way :p) mess of room looking for a book, trying to remember where i placed it. it's called "I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah" (subtitled "Moving from Romance to Lasting Love") and is written by Ravi Zacharias.

it was purchased over a year ago but i had never read it. there are many more books in my possession which have been in an unread state for much longer, but for some reason (not quite the same ones as those which prompted me to buy the book in the first place) i felt like it's time to read it. this post doesn't so much relate to the subject proper, rather it's to share an appreciation of a few paragraphs which made an impression. it reminded me that the starting point for anything is God; not starting with God makes a world of difference to how one's life is lived, and the topic of living as though there were no God is also covered by one of the latest boundless articles. anyways, onto the quote... and yet another excerpt :)
In those first few words [of Genesis], "In the beginning God..." lies the paradigm of how everything in this world of time and space began. God, in His power, brought it to be. I think it was Dr. Billy Graham who once said, "I have no problem believing that the whale swallowed Jonah. I would have even believed it if Jonah had swallowed the whale." If you will pardon the pun, that is not flippant gullibility. That is the defining truth that underlies whether the supernatural is part and parcel of our lives or just a pipe dream. A. W. Tozer said, "Give me Genesis 1:1, and the rest of the Bible poses no problems for me." Once you accept the reality of God as not merely an assumption but the undeniable foundation of our very lives, many other deductions for life follow.

The distinguished philosopher Mortimer Adler, who was co-editor of The Great Books of the Western World, was once asked a very obvious question. This compilation of books contains essays on every major subject addressed by Western thinkers over the centuries. The longest article is on God. When an interviewer asked Adler why this was so, he replied, "More consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question." Adler was absolutely right. The consequences of sacredness and profanity are worlds apart. If life is from God, then life is essentially sacred. If God is not necessary for life, then life is profane. The word profane means "outside the temple" -- that is, God has no jurisdiction over life or part in it. "In the beginning God..." must be the generating dictum of all our choices and commitments.
food for thought, don't you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

here by the grace of God

inspired by the tales of "life in the old days" my dad told while a FOM joined us for dinner last night, i found myself sitting at the dinner table with mum tonight, and thought i'd ask something conversational rather than focus on my food or other matters like i usually do. so i asked her if she misses her childhood, and instead she ends up asking, and telling me a bit about mine, of which i have but sketchy memories.

mum talked a fair bit about a time when i was seriously ill and spent a few weeks in hospital with a constant fever. apparently the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. meanwhile i wasted away on a drip diet. it might have been some sort of liver condition, and supposedly i had some samples taken from my bone or marrow for testing as well. "was it a spinal tap??" i asked incredulously, horrified at the pain that must have involved (and making a rather non-medically informed association between that term/procedure and the image of someone sticking a needle into the back of a small child). mum wasn't sure what exactly was involved, but it sounded pretty serious anyway.

i asked her if she was scared that i would die. she said that our local doctor, who actually lived in the bigger city where i was hospitalised, would visit on his way home every day to look in on me. and he wouldn't dare say anything -- she thinks because the hospital staff had no idea why i was sick, and thus no hope that i would get better. i was discharged after a few weeks (not sure why), barely able to walk when i got home, and eventually i got better (again, not sure why).

i only really have one image of me being in hospital at that time, and there's not much pain or suffering associated with that image. she says it's good that i don't remember. the other thing she said which kinda struck me was that usually when kids have fevers that high for so long, there's a real risk of brain damage. but i've turned out to be, in the words of yogi, smarter than the average bear (that's my paraphrase of what mum said :p).

with that last comment, she left the table to attend to housework, and me to sit and soak it all in.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

God's judgements (part 2)

the fourth kind of judgment happened when Jesus died on the cross. in this act of judgment, we see the just God who "cannot ignore evil [...], just forget the crimes we have committed and forgive the guilty as if what they did didn't matter", take our punishment on himself. he suffered, so that we don't have to. when we realise the error of our ways and change, turning back to our creator, he gives us a new life, and the promise of eternal life after (physical) death, being a part of the new heavens and new earth. doesn't it make sense to follow him?

over the last week or so, i've been much encouraged to hear the stories of a number of people who have recently done just that:
  1. here's what one of the people from church/yf shared about two of his friends, let's call them F1 and F2...
    ...but God is awesome guys. I'm sure all of you know that he's awesome but I've got another two reasons why he is!

    [...] two of my friends [...] recently committed their lives to Jesus. Come on guys how good is that? Some of you may have seen [F1] go up the front at the southside evangelistic service last sunday (I was in shock...i cried) and I actually just found out tonight that [F2] was saved about two weeks ago! (I'm also in shock..i gave him the biggest man hug ever) It fills my heart with such joy to see them come to God and really see the way he's worked in their lives! Through this, I've been really encouraged and just been praising God every moment of the day for the great things he has done. I've been seeing [F1] every day this week in Uni and she's just so filled with joy all the time. She's longing to learn more (" I want to go to church right now!" and "Tell me your favourite bible verses!") and the change in her life is amazing. You can't argue with our Lord's power dudes....It's awe inspiring! These two changed lives are a living testament to that.

    A few praise points
    • That prayer works! I've been praying for these guys every night for about a year now and at times i've been discouraged because they were really not interested. But like always, God works when you least expect and now they're his children! Trust me guys, prayer is the most powerful tool we have and it WORKS!
    • Christian Friends! Besides prayer the reason these two came to know god was that all the christians around them either evangelised to them or just led good examples in their lives that made them think there was something 'different' about christians. [F2]'s journey actually got kickstarted on YF CAMP 05! So a big shout out to all the guys that had a chat to him there.

    I just really wanted to share how joyous an occasion this is for me. It makes me realise how great God is. I just ask that you continue praying for these two new members of our family and want to encourage you to get out there and shine your light to all your non christian friends. If God is willing he'll use you! I'll leave you with something that my friend [F1] randomly said to me the other day

    "I always wondered how Christians could be so happy all the time...but now I know..." Cool huh? :-)

  2. while visiting unichurch last sunday, i ran into a student who i first met 2 years ago in convo club. he came up to me after the service, told me that he had become a christian about 6 months ago, and wanted to say thanks for being part of his journey. i can't say i contributed much, other than have a few conversations during the convo club sessions and camps i attended that year. i actually remember thinking after parting ways (i had to stop going after getting a job) that i didn't know how to "break through" to him and his ways of thinking. and there was lots more i could have actually done to help address the questions he had, but i didn't follow through. i feel a bit ashamed to receive any thanks, and can only say that God alone deserves the praise and glory. i'm glad he's now part of the family, and seems well settled in the local church there, though he'll soon be graduating and returning to his home country.

  3. then, just yesterday, more news of another new brother who had been doing christianity explained and made his commitment to follow Christ on sunday.
all made possible because of the fourth type of judgment -- it is indeed in the death of Christ that we (truly) live:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
(from v2 of "In Christ Alone" by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

God's judgements (part 1)

quoting more stuff, cos i don't currently have any original thoughts of my own :p plus i appreciate the wording/phrasing of these bites from an article on "The Four judgments of God", by Phillip Jensen + Kirsten Birkett, as published in issue #326 (November 2005) of the Briefing.

the first way in which God exercises his judgment is by letting us live by our decisions, a process described in romans 1:18-25...
We're so perverse that, even if we want to follow God's way, we fail dismally. But part of God's punishment for our perversity is to let us lead the lives we've chosen. That's why the world is in such a bad state that you wonder if there's a God at all. And so we invent the problem of evil, saying that a loving and powerful God could not possibly allow the world to be as it is. But it's evidence of God's love, his respect and consideration for us, and his justifiable anger at us, that he lets the world be as bad as it is. We don't want him as our God? He gives us up to our choice. All the worse for us.
the second has to do with specific punishments for particular sins, which we only know to be specific when informed so by the word of God (eg. the plagues being punishment on Pharoah/Egypt for not letting Israel go).

the third is the day of judgment ie judgment after death...
Judgment after death may be a fearful prospect, but the opposite -- annihilation -- is awful too. If there is only 'ceasing to be', then all your actions are meaningless. Any good you do is pointless; you'll end up in the coffin just like the serial murderer. If death is all, you may resolve the horror of judgment after death, but the cost is high: you create the angst of a life that is totally absurd and pointless.
so there is going to be a day when God will destroy the present world and create a new one where evil does not exist...
People often ask, "Why doesn't God destroy evil?" The answer is that he will. "Why doesn't he do it now?" The person asking that question ought to think carefully about what they are asking; for, when God destroys evil, he will destroy all evil. In everything. In everyone. In you.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

throwing off that which hinders

more extractions...
In Hebrews 12, living the Christian life is likened to running a race:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith...
It is interesting to see that the writer does not say whether the [weights] to be thrown off are good or bad. They could have been very good things or activities that they were now being called upon to give up [...] the principle that is being explained in these verses is this: if at any time or in any circumstance the thing or activity gets in the way of growing like Christ, it is at that time or in that circumstance to be discarded.

When I travel overseas, I have never yet found a way to cut down on my luggage [...] I carry away and bring home clothes that I have never even put on. Generally, the overcoat I wear is stuffed with hankies and underwear to disguise the true weight of my carry-on luggage!

Our writer is saying something like this: "You cannot run in a race if you wear your overcoat and especially if the pockets are full. You might make it in a short dash, but the Christian life is a marathon."

He is calling on us to be rigorous in self-examination, and to understand that growing Christlike is so important that we should not let anything hinder it. It is possible to be hindered by some thing, which, even though it is not sinful within itself, nevertheless gets in the way of holiness. [....]

There is nothing wrong with spending a weekend at the snow. However, if it means leaving your Sunday School class without a teacher on Sunday, then you don't have to be a genius to know whether the good (going to the snow) has robbed you of the best (teaching your Sunday School class). Now it is possible to be sufficiently far-sighted to see that if you take on the task of teaching Sunday School you will never be able to have a weekend at the snow. To choose not to do Sunday School teaching for this reason is to stuff the overcoat with everything you own.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

throwing off the sin which clings

(with reference to hebrews 12:1)
We must put sin behind us. By this, the writer [of Hebrews] means the sinful issues which dog our footsteps every moment. We may have recognized the sin for what it is, we may have confessed it and we may have asked for forgiveness, but the step of saying to ourselves, "This must come to an end. I renounce it", seems not to have happened. Our writer says to us, "Do it!" Now is the time to act.

He expects that we will be self-disciplined and ruthless towards sin. He is telling us to recognize it for what it is, and then to call on God to strengthen us so that we will rigorously fight against it and renounce it. Sin is to be seen for what it is, something that is totally incongruous with the Christian walk. It matters not at all how many times we may have failed in a particular matter in the past. There is a story told about someone who has been bugged by a persistent sin. He had give in to temptation yet again, and in his prayers he confessed his sin by saying, "Oh God, I've done it again", to which God replied, "Done what?"

God completely forgives us, and we should believe him and act accordingly.
an extract (from an extract) from "A Sinner's Guide to Holiness" by John Chapman

Friday, November 04, 2005

yes virginia, i do speak english

went for a walk just now to post a letter and to try out my new navy crocs caymans 1, and was about to cross the street to the post box when i saw a car coming, and waited for it to pass. the driver pulls up, says "hey" and looks like he's about to ask me a question, then thinks better of it, before speaking again and asks "mate do you speak english?"

so i put on my best ocker accent and reply with a resolute "yeah mate!"

to which he responded with a bit of laugh, and i proceed to give him the directions he needed to be on his way to the airport.

i suppose i don't begrudge him for questioning whether i was indeed conversant with the lingua franca of the land - after all, there are many in society who don't speak it (well) - but i guess it could come across as a bit of an affront to someone whose command of the language quite probably exceeds that of most truer and bluer locals2.

anyways, it reminded me of the time when i was a uni student doing vacation work in mackay, and shooting hoops at the half-court next to where i was staying. some local kids came along and started shooting too. i was having a good run with my shots, and one of the kids made some complimentary remark to which i uttered some acknowledgement. no sooner had i spoken the words did he reply, with wide-eyed amazement "gee you speak good english for a japanese!"

me: *pause*... i'm not japanese...

[1] had been searching for some sandal/mule-type footwear for a while, and saw these while browsing rebelsports online to use up a voucher i had - they're supposedly quite popular in the states, so i figured i'd play early adopter here in the antipodes :)
[2] not that i'm trying to be arrogant, but if my school results are anything to go by...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

pygmy porcine poem

the one who casts pearls before swine
should instead, on pork, wine and dine.
some things in life are just not worth the effort in bothering...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

a day of lasts

  1. quite unexpectedly, today was the last day our church meetings will be held at the current place/time. we've been forced to move again, less than 18 months after our last move. thankfully this time isn't to do with politics and people issues, and i'm hoping the change will be good. the building we were renting has to have some repairs done, so it's unavailable for hire until early next year. funnily enough our temporary home will be the place where the southside congregation started out back in the day - i remember going there during my high school years!

  2. it could also represent the last time i'll have to wake up early sunday mornings, seeing as we're moving to an afternoon timeslot which will mean i can sleep in. perhaps it's a sad indictment that the extra sleep is the first thing that i think of... :p however i think i'll actually take advantage of the opportunity to do a spot of visiting - it's something that came up in conversation with accc last week, and now i can do so without risking any guilt/conscience issues for skipping out on my regular church :)

  3. the afternoon saw me attend the last bible study for the year for yf, and it struck me that it's shaping up to be my last one ever. was reminded of this by the fact that other people are leaving/won't be around next year... and i'm about to bow out as well, for the second time. it's not quite the same as 5 years ago, when i was about to enter my (semi-)retirement from yf... i'm a different person, at a different stage of life, yf itself is different now, and besides which i really can't remember how/what i was thinking/feeling about all this, half a decade ago! funnily enough i'm planning to return to clay next year (it's something i've tried to do this year but have been mostly unable to, due to clashing commitments), and 5 years ago i left yf to move to clay... did anyone just notice two identical black cats passing by??
it's been a strange sort of day because of the above realisations, and also because of what happened at church this morning. we had an evangelistic service with a guest speaker. i wasn't expecting much... mostly because some of the speakers in the past haven't really preached the gospel at all. there was good engagement with the congregation, and use of technology/multimedia to drive home the message, the actual details of which i struggle to recall. before i was done thinking "what did he actually say??" it was time to get back up to sing "you loved me" (quite appropriate/fitting lyrics). and as i stood there, after pastor made the altar call/invitation to respond, and sang this song, and saw people coming up with tears in their eyes, something hit me and i started getting a bit teary too. now i'm fairly certain i'm not a sympathetic crier, but honestly i have no idea what prompted my tears.
  • was it because i was moved by the message? no, because i can't even remember much of its content...
  • was it because i was moved by the people's response? (there were other people in the congregation crying as well) i don't think so, since i can't be sure whether they were responding to the gospel - if i had consciously registered that the good news had been faithfully preached, and that the Spirit had moved people to repentance and faith, then that would certainly be a cause for rejoicing... but since i can't remember much of what was actually said...
  • was it because i was moved by the song? i don't know, i've liked the song since i first learnt it in kylc some years back, but it's never had this sort of impact... although this would not be the first time that singing a familiar song has produced an unexpected result.
i suppose emotions can't always be logically analysed and "explained", though there is still something niggly about the cause/trigger for my own tears... maybe it was just something that struck/affected me at a sub-conscious level. is that, too, a cause for concern??

Saturday, October 29, 2005

spoke too soon...

isn't it always the way? you speak words which come back to be eaten...

my experience with the new router dropped far, far below any semblance of plug 'n' play, after i actually plugged in a phone to start using voip. to be fair, after a whole lot of trialling and testing, plus reading the whirlpool forums to see other people's experiences with similar products, i'm quite convinced that the problem isn't so much with the router (tho it's still taking upwards of 15 minutes to achieve line sync under certain conditions) as it is with the supplied belkin splitter - quite the dodgy piece of hardware, and source of much head-scratching and wasted time. am now running with a substitute setup to emulate the splitter functionality (good thing i had some gear that i prepared earlier), and this is running with a lot more stability. wonder whether my splitter will get replaced with something that actually works properly... wait and see how customer support respond to my email.

meanwhile the boys piled into my not-much-room of a room after BSL last night to view some of the oddness to be found on google video. one of these being a clip of two asian dudes miming along to the backstreet boys' i want it that way - pretty stupid but funny viewing, better than their first effort, and inspiring a female duo copycat with a spice girls number, an effort which doesn't even come close... wonder if these boys got their inspiration from the korean chin2 lads?!

oh and i can't talk about strange videos without going past the lord of the tight pants from kollaboration 2002. one of the guys found this online and we re-enacted it as part of the entertainment for our youth group's sister's night earlier this year. it was one of the silliest but funniest things i've been a part of, and quite a good workout at that ;) here's a shot of some of us in action...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

the band just got broader :)

my broadband, that is...

goodbye ASSL1, hello brand spanking new belkin ADSL2+ modem/router with wifi and voip! here it is sitting on top of my old d-link router, and with an old phone plugged in to test voip.

been waiting a few weeks for confirmation of reduced pricing on this hardware for existing customers, and i'm happy to say that my isp came through in rewarding loyalty with an $80 discount. even though i'd waited some time for the hardware, the unit sat around for a few days before i got around to installing it. was supposed have my weekly meet with noodlez, but that became a drive to quest for ice-cream, which turned into some pearl milk tea (i decided to try "barley" flavour, which wasn't too bad...) anyways we ended up back at my place to play with the new toy.

i'm impressed - it got here within 4 days of ordering, and came pre-configured for my account. except for the rather sparse documentation and the unexpectedly longer times to retrain/sync the connection (and how the router reboots for almost every configuration change), it was essentially a plug and play experience. after hooking up the wired connections, i got out my pda and we went for a walk down the street, travelling about 3 houses down before the wireless signal got out of range. also did a quick test of the voip functionality, but will have to do the changeover of the main house phones another time to start taking advantage of the lower call rates.

so what can i do with all this speed (currently getting 5Mbps+ download and just under 1Mbps upload) at my disposal? how bout some sermon podcasting? hmmm... if only i could listen as quickly as i can download! :p

Saturday, October 22, 2005

speaking of singapore...

two brushes with whispers of singapore today:
  1. while hanging out with the ACCC, found out that they're looking to do a STEP program next year, possibly on board the Doulos, which could involve singapore being one of the ports... made me wonder if i should look into that too, as i had previously considered visiting the doulos before my friends and supportees finish their term in december, but that was before family commitments required my leave to be used for other purposes (funnily enough, to go to singapore!). going on STEP with at least (the comfort of knowing there are) some people i know could be an option... and i have been mulling over doing some form of short term trip next year... so could this be a tap on the shoulders? or am i just being drawn to the prospect of combining service and play (not that they're necessarily mutually exclusive) with the mention of that country? anyways, although i have access to up to an additional 8 weeks of purchased leave, i might not be able to arrange to take it at the right time, especially if i stay in my current role, for the STEP dates may land smack bang in the midst of our busy season of the year. all of which makes the fact that i forgot to send off a job application for an internal transfer to a different section (which should be more flexible with leave timings), due by COB yesterday, all the more D'OH! will have to try for a late submission first thing monday, and leave the opening of doors for God to handle.
  2. went to a meeting tonight where pastor chris chia from singapore's arpc was the guest speaker - it was supposed to be for the CiA youth group, but there were quite a few parents and other visitors like myself also present. though i had somewhat met him on his last two visits to our church, and might have been greeted by him upon entering the hall for morning service when i visited arpc last month, tonight was probably the first time we had exchanged words sufficient to pass for conversation. of course, he didn't remember me from the recordings and questioning during his previous talks here... not that i expected him to :p it was good of him to take time out of his holidays to "work", and i hope the words spoken helps to bear fruit in the lives of the listeners.

Friday, October 21, 2005

everybody's leaving town

seems that a lot of people will be away at various stages during the summer holidays. all the more reason to be seeking out my own fun, i say :p

i'm rekindling my love affair with the straits nations and returning there for my third visit within 16 months come my summer break in about two months' time. this time the primary reason is to attend (yet) another wedding dinner in KL, and of course i'll be tacking on things like the visiting of other friends in KL and SG, the eating of fine local fare, and whatever other happenings in which i can manage to involve myself... including hopefully capturing some more nice nightscapes like the one below :)

oh ok so it's not *really* a love affair - i just said that to make it sound more exotic ;) but this trip is currently shaping up to be a lot less planned than my previous ones. i decided on a whim to make the trek because i could (thanks to public service holidays on top of the standard public holidays, i get a whole week and a bit off without needing to make a dent in my annual leave account), and it sounded like a crazy enough idea to fly 8 hours to attend a wedding where i won't know a single soul. that's except the bride, whom i've never met. who says i'm not adventurous, eh? hehe.

so far, the dinner is the only thing actually on the itinerary. the rest is a big blank. i'm sure something will work itself out between now and then... i'm not sure when i became this carefree - usually i'd be a lot more particular about the particulars. maybe i've just lost the will to be bothered any longer.

maybe i *should* just leave everything to the last minute. having booked my tickets two weeks ago (buying direct from the airline worked out to be cheaper than going through any travel agent/ticketing agent) on a sale and bonus (frequent flyer) points promotion, they've now brought out another sale with even more bonus points, which i could have had for ~$2 more if only i wanted two weeks. how was i to know right? will have sufficient points by the end of this trip to be upgraded to an elite silver membership in krisflyer, which sounds rather grand and previously thought to be out of my travelling reaches... and would be nice except i'll probably not have a chance to use it before it expires.

but... like the last few times when i've been in singapore and said/thought: gee i don't know if/when i'll ever be back here again... i guess i should learn to never say never :)