Saturday, October 11, 2008

an eulogy for my grandmother

my grandmother was buried today, next to her husband, and trailing him by almost 11 years. the following eulogy was written by some of her children and is taken from her memorial service program:

EULOGY - Late Mrs Chiu Hua Wong

Chiu Hua Wong was born in 1918 in Ming Chin district near Foochow in China. When she was eight years old, she migrated to Sarawak with her father and elder brother. The family was so poor that at the age of 9 she had to go to work as a maid for a well-off relative's family in another village which was a day's journey away. Daily she had to get up at 4 am to cook, wash, look after smaller children and also take care of pigs, chicken and ducks.

When she was 12, her mother came from China to join them. She was still working and could not go home to see her mum. After being bullied by a cousin in that family, she longed for her mother and cried for days. Then she asked permission from Auntie to go home to see her mother and promised to return to serve the family. She knew that that large family depended on her service and would not let her leave. Finally they granted her permission to visit her mother in her home village. When the motor boat moved away from the jetty, she called out telling her Auntie that she would not be back!

At 18, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour after attending the evangelistic meetings conducted by Dr. John Sung. She reflected often that she was so filled with joy that she even dared to give a short testimony at the meeting. It was an incredible thing to do for a girl who had never been to school. She wanted badly to read the Bible so she bought a small New Testament. Every time she opened the Bible, she prayed that God would teach her to read. She surprised herself that she could make out most characters and understand what was said. She firmly believed that it was Jesus himself who taught her to read. This was God's miracle to her and she would read the Bible everyday.

At 21 in 1939, she married Ping Duang Wong, a man 10 years older and a foot taller. She knew that he was a Christian and of good character. She gave birth to 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls. "All her children arise and call her blessed" (Proverbs 30:28) because she had led them all in the way of the Lord. She had 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

In 1947, she became a pastor's wife when Mr. Ping Duang Wong accepted a pastor's post in the village Sg. Tulai without any formal theological training. She was a very supportive and faithful pastor's wife. At Sunday lunch, our table was always overflowing with elderly people or relatives staying for lunch.

In 1976, she migrated to Australia and became an Australian citizen in 1986.

After being widowed, she lived in Wishart Christian Village and recently in Jeta Gardens where she was known as "the lady with the sweet smile." God had given her a gift of endearing herself to everyone she met. We give thanks to God for her life which has been a wonderful witness and encouragement for us all.

Her favourite verses are found in Proverbs 30:7-9:
Two things I ask of you, O Lord; Do not refuse me before I die; Keep falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches. But give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you And say, 'Who is the Lord?" Or I may become poor and steal, And so dishonor the name of my God.
God has indeed answered her prayer.

[edit 13.10.2008 - my cousin has posted up some old photos in memory of my grandparents]

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

don't wait 'til you say goodbye

the title of this post comes from another blog i happened to read today, and some words resonated with me.
[S]aying goodbye fundamentally changes our perspective. Why is it that we stop and give thanks when we are about to lose something?
All this reminded me of the Mike and Mechanics 80s anthem, ‘The living years’. For those who can't remember (or weren't there), it was a song about a guy looking back after his father's death, and realizing that he wished he'd said more to his dad while he was still alive. Why is it that we are so self-centred—that we only stop to give thanks when something is being taken away from us?
he was writing about saying goodbye as a result of leaving a ministry that he had been involved in for some years. but as he alluded to in the latter quote, it's the same sort of thing when someone in your life stops living.

my (paternal) grandmother passed away this morning. i can't say i knew her very well... though having lived only a stone's throw away for the first 10-odd years of my life in Australia, and not that much further away thereafter, i can't help but feel i should have made more of an effort to change that situation, despite the generational and language gaps that exist.

i tend to be one of those strong(?), silent types who doesn't typically say very much. this is a reminder that i need to work on verbalising more, especially in thanksgiving. i can start by giving thanks for the life my 'ah ma' lived, most of which i know about through stories my father tells of his younger years. i am thankful for the legacy that she and my 'ah gong' gave to their children in living their lives under the headship of Christ. E and i pray we may be able to continue such a legacy, should God bless us with such opportunity/ies.

[edit 10.10.2008 - a friend (who will soon have the opportunity) has just written something that echoes the legacy thought.]

Saturday, August 02, 2008

a bluer shade of white

after my previous foray into the world of performance (looking) headlights, i've discovered the existence of halogen bulbs which are filled with xenon gas. this, of course, allows the marketers to legitimately use the word xenon in association with these products.

nevertheless, these should not be confused with the actual HID lamps which, while also filled with xenon gas, do not have a filament (a feature of halogen bulbs), use a different technology to produce light, and have different power requirements. however, the filling of a halogen bulb with xenon gas does result in a bluer light. there are also some halogen bulbs which are coated with a blue film to achieve a similar look. to quote an ebay guide on the topic:
Xenon gas-filled bulbs and other halogen 'xenon' bulbs are simply a standard halogen bulb that is either coated with a blue film on the outside and/or filled with a gas to imitate the look of a true xenon HID bulb. These bulbs produces much less light than xenon HID bulbs and often less than that of a standard halogen bulb. Xenon gas-filled bulbs also suffer from a short 6-month life-span.
i don't know that they necessarily produce less light than a standard halogen, though i suppose any coating would attenuate the light output. and i hope the short life span doesn't prove that accurate, but should i need to purchase any more bulbs, i'll know to look on ebay where where i can get a pair for about 1/3 what i paid for my current ones!

for more information on HID xenons, see also for example

Monday, July 28, 2008

a whiter shade of headlight

i'd seen the cars on the road - the ones with headlights throwing out bright white light, sometimes with a tinge of blue. i'd been curious for some time now about how to get that for my car. the standard weaker looking yellowy tinge just doesn't quite cut it.

recently, one of my headlight bulbs died. thus began my search for a whiter light.

a lot of the marketing for brighter, whiter (or bluer) headlights throw around the word "xenon" with reckless abandon. after a bit of reading, my initial thoughts of getting proper HID (high intensity discharge) xenon lights were quickly dashed when i learned that installing this gear is nowhere near as straighforward (nor economical!) as simply switching bulbs... in the end i opted for this set of Calibra "Xenon Blue" bulbs, which are really halogen lamps, of course - there's nothing xenon about them. the pair cost $27.99 from my local supercheap auto, which was a much better price than a similar single bulb selling at a competitor about 100m away.

the colour temperature of 4000K is supposedly more white than the yellowy tinge of most standard bulbs (and at the bottom range of what xenon lamp emit), which is essentially the difference i was looking for. they do look visibly whiter to the naked eye (though not quite blue!), and that will suffice me until the next replacement, at which time i might try to find out whether there is a better breed of white halogen, for i'm sure that not every car i see with strong white lights are using HIDs...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

becoming a ClimateSmart home


The Queensland Government has announced a new service to help Queenslanders tackle climate change and reduce their greenhouse emissions around the home.

The new ClimateSmart Home Service, which will start from 1 January 2009, will improve energy efficiency in households across Queensland.

The service will operate in a similar manner to the successful Home WaterWise Service.

For a $50 service fee, a qualified tradesperson will visit your home to conduct an energy audit, provide energy advice, install energy saving tools such as a household energy monitor and a water efficient showerhead, and also supply 15 compact fluorescent light globes.

i missed out on the home waterwise service cos apparently a previous owner had already applied for it, so since reading about this recently i decided it's not too early to register online for this climatesmart home service :)

Monday, June 09, 2008

kooroomba: the plan

who? me, my wife, some friends
+ anyone else who wants to come along

what? a winter outing / social / day trip

when? saturday 5 july 2008

where? kooroomba, boonah, scenic rim region
(about 1hour+ drive from downtown brisbane)

why? tour the lavender farm,
taste the wine (if that's your thing),
eat the food (lunch),
give your camera a workout,
hang out with friends (or maybe meet some new ones),
get some vitamin D (hopefully),
get out of the house :)

how? RSVP to me by sun 22 june,
indicating your responses/preferences (if any) to the below:

food options
the restaurant has an a la carte menu (which can be found here). if i can get a confirmed group of 20 or more to go, i will make a group booking and either take advantage of the group menu (dearer option) or the great aussie roast (cheaper option)... will most likely go for the cheaper option unless a majority of people prefer the fancier stuff.

provide your own private transport (ie drive / get a lift from someone). please arrange a ride or a designated driver for your car if you plan on drinking. the directions are on the website. let me know if
  • you want to travel together (ie convoy)
  • you can take people in your car
  • you need a ride (i'll put you in touch with people who have space, assuming there are any)

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related posts: "hometown affair"

Thursday, June 05, 2008

beijing olympic garden pictures

saw some pretty cool pictures from beijing's olympic garden via a forwarded email i got at work. rather than repost them i thought i'd try to search for the source online. found this site as a likely candidate:
Beijing Olympic Garden - My Secret Garden 我的秘密花园

interestingly i also found a set of 3 albums on, the photos in which look exactly the same as the site above (though there weren't as many photos). wonder whether they were from the same person or if one (or both??) people ripped the pics from someone else...

anyways, worth a look for the wow effect :) here are a few of my favs to whet your appetite:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Fair Lady - advance VIP tickets

The Brisbane leg of My Fair Lady - the Musical will perform at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC from 31 August – 27 September with the following session times:
  • Tuesday – 6.30pm
  • Wednesday – Saturday - 7.30pm
  • Saturday and Wednesday Matinees – 1.30pm

General ticket sales begin on 16 June, but from now until 15 June, I can book A reserve VIP tickets at $82.90 each (plus any applicable booking fees and charges; not valid Friday or Saturday night sessions).

Let me know if you'd like one/some.

Friday, May 30, 2008

the great contact lens rebate saga

i last presented a simple recipe for getting a great deal on your contact lenses. what should have been a fairly straighforward plan took 5 weeks to complete. here's the full story:
  • 15/4: rang direct contact lenses, ordered 8 boxes of oasys (6 lenses/box, or 1 year's supply), getting them to match the best competitor's price (from now contacts) @$31/box + $8.25 shipping, total order $256.25
  • 16/4: invoice issued by direct contact lenses, listing 1 entry of item number 852 x quantity 8. this got me a bit confused when i actually received the invoice because item number 852 is used to denote a pair of disposable contact lenses. each box is for one eye - i ordered 8 boxes, or 4 pairs.
  • 28/4?: logged onto medibank's website and entered my online claim for optical benefit for "852 (contact lens pair 12 month supply)", seeing as this most accurately describes what i purchased. at the same time i updated my bank account details to have the benefit paid into my new account.
  • 30/4: got email notification that my claim status had changed, logged in and saw that i had received $50 payable benefit. based on previous claims, i was expecting to receive $200 benefit for one year's supply of contacts (@$50/3 month period).
  • rang medibank and was told that the payment was $50 because the benefit payable is $50 per 852 – to get $200 benefit the invoice would have needed to show 4 entries of 852. moreover this could not be changed as the claim had been processed. if the invoice is incorrect, i would need to get the provider to reissue correct details and fax to medibank's extras help desk. no notification will issue about the status of the claim, but i could call back in a few weeks as they’re about 2-3 weeks behind in processing manual claims. great.
  • rang direct contact lenses to request reissue of invoice, with 1 copy sent to me by post, and another copy to medibank by fax. the person who answered the phone (not the same girl who took my original order) seemed to know what i was talking about with the 4 entries business, which makes me wonder why the invoice wasn't written out that way in the first place...
  • sometime in early may: received mail from medibank dated 30/4 confirming update of EFT details, and a cheque payment of $50 issued in favour of the provider!
  • rang medibank to why money wasn't paid to me - apparently my online claim indicated the account had not been paid. i would need to show the paid invoice to get the claim changed (cancel provider cheque, reissue to me).
  • 9/5: visited my nearest medibank branch to show them my invoice and request reissue of cheque.
  • also queried the $50/line of item number 852 issue, and was told (with what i'm sure was a sigh and a roll of the eyes from the customer service representative) that the information i was previously given is incorrect. after waiting some 15 minutes while she double and triple checked with a colleague and manager (was my case so out of the ordinary?) she cancelled the $50 cheque to my provider, amended my claim to include additional benefits payable, told me that payment will issue for $200, and i walked away thinking this would be the end of the whole thing.
  • 12/5: letter was issued notifying that my revised claim has been processed for EFT payment. i waited a few days after getting the letter and wondered why it hadn't shown up in my bank account. then i rechecked the confirmation letter from 30/4 and found that the account number had an extra digit at the end!
  • 19/5?: rang to update EFT details, confirmed that a replacement cheque had already been issued because the previous EFT payment was rejected.
  • 21/5: received my replacement cheque for $200, banked it a few days later.

so, after all this, i'm out of pocket $56.25 for a year's worth of contact lenses and a pack of contact lens solution. not a bad deal, but rather more drawn out and troublesome than it should have been.

ps. have just noticed an ad by clearlycontacts which claims they will beat all competitors prices by 110%. might be worth checking out after you use up the free welcome pack deal from direct contact lenses...

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related posts: how to get a great deal on your contacts

Monday, May 26, 2008

how to get a great deal on your contacts

here's a simple recipe:
  1. get/know your contact lens script
  2. search online for the cheapest price you can get
  3. call contact lens direct and get them to match your best price
  4. receive a free welcome pack (solutions) with your first order
  5. claim any benefits you may be entitled to from your private health fund

the actual execution proved a little less straightforward than i anticipated, but that's a story for another post. for a demonstration of how much you could save, consider this:

  • i checked out 15 websites selling contact lenses - some were sites i already knew of, others were found by googling
  • the price of box of acuvue oasys (6-pack) ranged from $31 to $45. i won't even bother considering how much your local shop/optometrist will charge you for them (nothing against any optometrists i personally know :)
  • shipping can be as much as $13, often depending on quantity (number of boxes / other items / total weight), though most places will give you free shipping if your order exceeds a certain $value
  • the total cost of a year's supply of oasys lenses (8 boxes + shipping) can range from about $256 to $360
  • notes from my "research" can be viewed at

NB. contact lens direct don't actually offer a good price on oasys at all - they charge $51 per box ($20 more than the cheapest i found)! but they do offer to match competitors prices. and the only reason i considered using them rather than just going to the competitor is their "welcome pack" offer, which is good for a one off freebie of a solution pack, saving you another good $20-odd. i still stand by my previous recommendation of Net Optical for low prices and consistently excellent service.
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related posts: Net Optical - for savings on contact lenses

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"hometown affair"

rebecca sparrow, author of "the way we live" column for the sunday mail, recently (may 18 edition of the "event" liftout) wrote of her revelation after returning from backpacking around britain and europe, and finding life in her hometown of brisbane just a little boring by comparison (dubbing the place brisboring).

"Eventually common sense kicked in. Other cities were more interesting, more exciting, more vibrant because I actually got off my … backside and did stuff.

When you're backpacking, TV isn't an option. Nobody sits around wishing they could snuggle up and watch season five of The Sopranos on DVD in the communal lounge.

No, when you're a traveller you actually leave your dorm. You scour the newspaper for local events. You pay attention to the colourful flyers and posters that decorate the city and you -- gasp! -- actually go!

Imagine that. Imagine looking at the newspaper's listings of what's on today and actually attending some of the stuff instead of just thinking about it…. Put the DVDs away today and head outside. You may just fall in love with you own hometown."

ok so if you're cynical you might think how convenient that she's writing for a publication that just so happens to report/promote/advertise events. or you really do believe (fuelled by actual experience) that brisbane (or substitute your own hometown) truly is a pretty boring place, with nothing to offer your unsatiated interests, no matter how much you try to dress it up or talk it up. nevertheless, i reckon there's a whole lot of stuff happening around the traps that you might just find to be a better way of spending your leisure time than curled up in front of the box, or griping about the fact that there's nothing to do.

i for one do tend to trawl through the papers for things that might seem interesting, whether i'm at home or travelling overseas. and every now and then i follow through with one of these options. some turn out to be duds - the marketing might have been great and i got suckered, or it turns out it just wasn't my cup of tea - and some turn out to be fun/interesting/memorable. that's life. live it.

to this end, i'm thinking about kicking off the BATIYOH initiative (mystery prize if you figure out what that means!) by organising a winter day trip to koorooomba, a vineyard / lavender farm / restaurant in boonah, about an hour out of town in the scenic rim. i'll be taking my wife regardless of whether or not i get any other takers, but the more the merrier eh? will post up details soon - let me know if you're interested :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

going beyond CTP (part 2)

now that we've learnt the basics of what CTP is/does, you may notice that CTP only covers other people (the third party). government legislation for CTP does not provide compensation for the injured driver "at fault" in an accident. this is where the CTP insurers can provide an add-on product or incentive benefit to fill this gap. there are various names for this additional insurance, but they are all free / included with your CTP insurance, and they all aim to provide some form of benefit to the at fault driver for injuries s/he may sustain in an accident.

in addition to the premium, there are differences in the various covers provided to the at fault driver by each insurer. for example, the maximum claim per policy currently ranges from $250,000 up to $2,000,000 between the queensland CTP insurers. there are also differences in what's covered, and time limits for claiming etc. listed below (in no particular order) are each of the six licenced CTP insurers in queensland, along with brief details of significant differences in their offerings, plus links (where applicable) to find further information. my notes are offered as a guide only, and you should rely upon the actual policy documents to make any final decisions.

the last 4 insurers on the list are all currently charging the same price for CTP for my class of vehicle. for me, it seems clear after checking out the options that i can, for the same price, get a lot more benefit (which i hope i'll never actually need to use!) by switching to another insurer for my next registration period... which i've just done with a 3 minute phone call to queensland transport. too easy.

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related posts:
going beyond CTP (part 1)
saving on CTP

Thursday, May 15, 2008

going beyond CTP (part 1)

just got my car rego renewal letter in the mail a few days ago, so it's time for a CTP lesson, which i might have learnt last year had i bothered to look into things a bit more, but obviously i didn't...

CTP, or compulsory third party insurance, covers your liability for personal injury to other parties in the event of a motor vehicle accident. the compulsory bit is self-explanatory, as having CTP insurance is a condition of registering your vehicle (and you'd be a fool to drive an unregistered vehicle on the road). the third party refers to the injured person, the first and second parties being the owner/driver of the vehicle that is "at fault", and the the CTP insurer of the vehicle at fault.

the queensland government, through the motor accident insurance commission, sets a maximum and minimum range for CTP premiums and the various CTP insurers file a premium within this range every 3 months. hence the premiums of each insurer may (and usually change) every 3 months. there are a number of levies and fees included in the CTP premium. my current renewal period sees a variance of $10.20 between the lowest and the highest premiums charged.

however, price may not be the only factor you should consider when choosing your CTP insurer, as we shall see in the next post...

for more information about CTP, see:
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related posts: saving on CTP

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

disincentive to save water

having now lived in my townhouse for about half a year, i recently paid the bill my first full 3 months of water usage (the previous bill being for a 3 month period, part of which related to the time before i moved in).

during this 3 month period, two people live in the house. we had guests stay for about one week (4 adults and a child), but we were away overseas for about two weeks, so on average we have two people in the house. we:

  • have a new water efficient front loader washing machine
  • recycle the grey water from 1-2 times per week we do laundry
  • recycle some of the water used during cooking (eg. the water used to wash rice)
  • don't use our garden taps (i think i've turned on one taps once, and that was just to rinse a bucket)
  • water our minimal collection of outdoor plants (when it's not raining) using a watering can
  • take very short showers (ok... i don't, but my wife does!)
  • don't have a pool
  • haven't washed the car, or any part of the outside of the house, or water the lawn

and yet our average daily household consumption for the period was 400L. when compared to the daily target of 140L/person under the current south east queensland water restrictions, we look positively wasteful. even the bill tells me that i'm dragging the ball - my local area household daily average is about 320L and the brisbane average is about 290L.

there are no water leaks that i've discovered or am otherwise aware of, besides a touchy toilet which i'm in the process of taming. the real culprit, i suspect, is my neighbourhood. that's right, i'm blaming everyone else who lives in my townhouse complex, and the complex itself. you see, one of the joys of being a lot owner in a strata title scheme is that i get the privilege of paying for the average water usage of the entire complex. (i don't know if this is the case for all strata title schemes, but it's certainly so for the one in which i live.)

my complex has 66 lots, and we all share the one water meter. so each lot owner pays 1/66th of the total usage of the complex. the complex does have a (pitifully) small pool and spa, and an irrigation system for the gardens on the common property. but it has also got a rainwater tank. so whether it's the complex or the other residents in the complex, i'm sure i'm paying for other people's water usage. doing the maths shows that for every additional kilolitre of water i use, i would only need to spend about 1.8c, with the rest being "subsidised" by my fellow lotowners. conversely, for every additional kilolitre of water that one of the other 65 lots uses, i have to pay an extra 1.8c.

if i were cynical i'd say that's an invitation to use more water so that you're not the sucker of a water miser who still ends up paying for the usage of the not so miserly! but i suppose it's still worthwhile to develop good water saving habits in case i move out of such a scheme in future...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

30% discount for "Chinese Spectacular" (brisbane)

i've seen various posters and brochures the past few months spruiking the Divine Performing Arts Chinese Spectacular event coming to town in a few days. never really caught my fancy but in case you want to go and haven't yet bought tickets, you should call 1300 852 787 to book your seats, and quote "200804" to claim a 30% discount on tickets.

this info came via my work social club, and claims to hail from the organisers themselves ie it's the Divine Performing Arts folks who are offering the discount, possibly to fill seats in the last days of ticket selling (so i don't know if this offer is valid for other cities on their tour).

show times for brisbane:
Monday April 7th 7:30pm
Tuesday April 8th 1:30pm and 7:30pm

Normal / With 30% discount
$68 / $47
$98 / $68.60
$128 / $89.60
$158 / $110.60

Friday, February 15, 2008

passport photos on the cheap (DIY option)

[edit 20100608 - claims to be able to do the conversion for free, though i've not tried it myself]

i needed to supply 2 passport photos. i could:
  1. pay $12.95 to get it done at a photo lab, and wait overnight to pick up the result (granted, i was asking quite late in the shopping day)
  2. try doing it myself via a digital camera, some editing, and organising my own printing
i figured it couldn't be that difficult to DIY, and that surely there was some photo editing software with a built in passport photo function, or some standalone program that could do the job. take a source portrait photo, click a few buttons or run a wizard, and voila - 6 heads on a standard 4x6" print. well, i didn't find anything in the former category, but did come across two in the latter which looked ok. one is freeware, the other ~US$10:
  • DIY Passport Photos by ASP Information Services
    a small app which either didn't install well on my pc, or that simply doesn't come with any explanation other than what it does (the name/title basically says it all), menus items which when clicked on don't do anything, and no help files. the result is a bit hit and miss in terms of proper sizing.
  • Passport Photo 1.5.3 by OnTheGoSoft
    a much better looking program with fuller features that allows you to either print (to paper) or save to jpeg file your choice of number of passport photos in the exact size you specify. costs US$9.95 to register and remove the watermark from the trial version.
being me, i went with the free option thinking it's all good, and printed the photo the next day for 20c, and then found that the photos were too big! i ended up with 6 50x50mm shots on a 4x6" print, whereas the standard passport photo size (for australia anyway) is 35x45mm. without any documentation on how to configure the output, i played around for a while to generate a version 2 image (but was running out of time to actually get it printed), which was closer to 35x45mm but not quite there.

then i tried the trial version of passport photo 1.5.3 and found that it did exactly what i wanted in a fraction of the time that the guesswork of DIY passport photos required! but i didn't end up paying for it cos i didn't have time to do another print, and my non-standard size photos (which i managed to trim to be closer to 40x50mm) were useable, cos they really just needed a small photo of my face :)

but, should i require a standard passport photo in the future, i would seriously consider forking out the money to register passport photo - i would break even after one use, compared to getting it done in a photo lab. there's too much mucking around and uncertainly with DIY passport photos - it's probably a bit premature as a product, and gets you there but not quite, whereas passport photos 1.5.3 gets you there exactly. why isn't something like this a standard feature of photo editing software like crop and red-eye reduction etc? that would have made life that little bit easier...

  • there was another program that looked half promising: IDPhotoStudio by KC Softwares. couldn't download the installation file though, so didn't try it out. it *looks* like it's only good for printing directly to a printer, so probably not useful if you don't have your own photo printer.
  • singapore's immigration and checkpoint authority has some tips on taking passport photos using a digital camera.
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related posts: rip(ped) off