Sunday, December 31, 2006

Life - My 2006 in Review

Today is the last day of 2006. My wife has this list of things that she has achieved in 2006 and her aspirations for 2007. Not much of a person to make resolutions and looking back into the past, I have learned however that reminding oneself of little achievements can bring up morale and put things into perspective. So here I go:

Achievements in 2006:

Managed to successfully transit into my new position in the new department, at least I am not the only staff in my department as was previously the case. (Long story.....). My new boss is a smart and nice guy to work for, demanding enough that I can learn something. Other colleagues are great people to work with.

Had my customary wedding ceremony in June and went for my honeymoon in Melbourne and Sydney.

Again successfully transited to working for a new boss in my department and new colleagues. (Long story again.....).

Got the promotion and pay raise that I was looking forward to.....

Setbacks in 2006:

Not really a setback but living together with another person is not easy and we have our moments.... still trying to fit our lives together.

My bosses left to start their own ventures.... another colleague left to work on HK. Once again, I was the only staff left in the department.

Anyway, I have good vibes about 2007 and I will not be making resolutions, if I wanna do something, I will go ahead and do it....... better post this before 12am....

Saturday, December 30, 2006

World Affairs - Saddam Execution - Death of a Dictator

Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging this morning. It marks the end of 3 decades of violent rule by a leader who ruled Iraq by fear. A short profile of the former Iraqi leader by BBC can be found here.

He brought Iraq to the brink of bankruptcy through an 8 year war with Iran from 1980-1988 and invaded Kuwait in 1990. The war with Iran ended in a ceasefire and Iraq was evicted from Kuwait in a short campaign by a US led multinational force which decimated the Iraqi forces. However, in the usual self delusional state of a psychotic dictator, Saddam declared the Gulf War, which he described as the Mother of all Battles, as a victory for Iraq.

In March 2003 , 2 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US and a coalition of nations invaded Iraq believing that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. Within 2 months, most of Iraq was under coalition control and Saddam Hussein went into hiding.

In December 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured in a special operations conducted by the US 4th Infantry Division and Special Forces.

Although Iraq is far away from Singapore and we are far removed from the action. I do keep myself updated on the war in Iraq, having served in the Singapore Armed Forces as a citizen soldier and currently in the reserves. The war in Iraq is very much different from the conventional warfare of the past and the US Army has suffered losses to insurgents who conducts ambushes and hit & run raids and who can simply disappear into the general population. I am not sure how the US can exit from Iraq but my heart goes out to the brave soldiers of the US Armed Forces.

As reported by Global Security:
The number of US casualties are as follows:

US named dead: 2,939
US reported dead: 63
US wounded: 22,401

The demise of Saddam Hussein hopefully ends another violent chapter in the history of Iraq and provides some good news to end the year.

Tech - Internet Access affected by Taiwan Quake

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake which hit Taiwan on Tuesday damaged 6 undersea cables carrying Internet and other traffic. I have experienced problems with slow Internet access in the office and most of the time the rectifications take a few hours but this time round there was no access for 2-3 days. Only local sites and emails to local addresses were accessible, I was trying to conduct research on a deal but Google was down, I sent emails but they bounced back... on the other hand there were many people on leave, taking advantage of the long weekend holiday and nothing much was done in the end. Finally did some real paperwork to wrap up the year.... my accountants have been chasing me for the paperwork anyway!

Around the world, the disruption to the Internet had a more profound effect on some. In China, a student's hope of studying in the US is threatened as he has a deadline to file his application to study for his MBA in the US (International Herald Tribune).

It is interesting to note that the Taiwan earthquake comes exactly 2 years after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami.

Well thankfully, most Internet services are up and we have a long weekend ahead of us, going back to work only on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Food - Ju Shin Jung - Korean BBQ

It was my wife's birthday last Saturday and I wanted to try a different cuisine for once. A colleague recommended this Korean BBQ place in West Coast that he said was quite good. I tried to Google and found that it had quite good reviews. I tried to make reservations but was told that they were full for the night and they directed me to their new outlet at East Coast.

Anyway, when we reached there, it was a brightly lit place with seats for 764. The service was prompt and the staff courteous and they also employed Korean service staff. I also saw a number of Korean families having dinner there (My take is that if Japanese go to a Japanese restaurant in Singapore, it should be worth going). Being new to Korean BBQ, we casually ordered the Boneless beef rib and Ginseng marinated pork ribs, which came with like a zillion side dishes (left) which are mostly vegetables namely cabbage (kimchi), radish and potato etc.

On a side note, we were given 2 pill like items and a bottle of cold tea and water . My wife thought the pills were sugar for the tea and I stupidly proceeded to place 1 of the "sugar pills" into my tea. Voila the pill started to expand vertically and I finally realised that it was a bloody hand towel.....

The staff helped with the cooking of the meat and they tasted great, but I would advise cooking your own meat so you can cook it the way you like. Apologies for the empty picture of the BBQ grill, the food was so good I only remembered to take a picture after we finished the food!

Their menu is not extensive but the food is pretty good.....

Ju Shin Jung Korean BBQ
27 West Coast Highway #01-18/19 YESS Centre 1F S117867

East Coast Park, next to Long Beach Seafood, near to McDonald's ( not too sure of actual address)

I'll give it a rating of 4/5

Life - Help with babysitting

I was reading Penelope Trunk's blog post on the difficulty of getting a good babysitter and I was thinking that here in Singapore, we are actually quite fortunate. Most of my friends who have kids are able to rely on their parents to help take of their kids while they pursue their careers as a dual income family is quite common. In the last couple of years I have attended my fair share of weddings, in 2004, I attended about 15 weddings! And now, the babies are coming and as such, conversations steer towards pregnancy and parenthood, with childcare being on top of most parents' minds. My mom helps my sister to take care of her 2 kids and she has been doing this for the past 10 years. My sister has recently shifted into the flat next to my Mom's and that makes things even easier. So I was thinking that when my turn comes, will I be able to get my Mom to help take care of the baby. Thankfully, my mother in law is a babysitter and she specialises in taking care of infants.... whew.

The issue here is that our parents' are getting on in their years and whether it is fair to get them to help out during their retirement years. We can always argue that it will provide them with an opportunity to interact with their grandchildren etc.. the debate continues. The optimal solution will be that my wife can take care of the baby full time and we can bring the baby to visit our parents often enough. Once again, life is seldom perfect and we often have to contend with the hand that we have been dealt.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the grandparents who have volunteered their time to help take care of their grandchildren... Kudos!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Books - New Harry Potter book title annnounced

Just heard from the grapevine (actually its Borders, I'm on their mailing list) that the title of the new Harry Potter book is out. Its going to be called - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Its the 7th book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling and I have enjoyed reading most of them. Although I have noticed that the stories are getting darker with each book.


With Dumbledore left dead at the end of the sixth novel, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Snape revealing his true colours, the schoolboy wizard and his friends Hermione and Ron are set for a battle with the dark forces and Lord Voldemort.

But one thing that is definitely not going to happen at the end of the final novel is Harry becoming one with Voldemort.

Writing in her rumours section of the site, Rowling said: "Harry will NOT merge with Voldemort to become a single entity, nor would Harry ever wish to command death eaters/dementors/inferi."

No doubt the last novel will sell as successfully as the previous six; Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince became the fastest selling book in history."

No news on the exact date of launch of the new book though its probably some time in 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cooking - Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

Managed to get home early today and decided to cook dinner, my wife is bringing back dried linguine from Marks and Spencer. We used to get our dried pasta from the supermarket by San Remo, but I decided to try M&S, it costs almost double but it tastes much better.

Anyway, the Chicken and Mushroom Pasta recipe is very simple to do. Its my own recipe!

  1. 2 x chicken thighs
  2. 1 pack of small Portobello mushrooms
  3. 2 pieces of Garlic
  4. Olive oil
  5. Dried spices such as basil, ground thyme, black pepper, salt
First, remove the bones from the chicken thighs, rub salt and black pepper over the chicken meat.

Cut the mushrooms into bite size chunks and sauteed in a frying pan using olive oil and let it simmer. Add a pinch of dried basil, ground thyme, salt and black pepper for seasoning.

Wipe the chicken meat dry with paper towels and then charbroil the chicken meat on a grilling pan with olive oil until slightly golden brown. Once done, put aside to cool and cut into smaller pieces.

Boil water for the pasta and put the dried pasta in once the water boils, good pasta should be al dente which means the pasta still retains a bit of tension upon biting. You may have to try it out a few times yourself and take a look at how restaurant's pasta taste and feel like, especially their tensile strength.

Place the chicken meat (with the sauce) into the mushroom and simmer for 1 minute. Once the pasta is al dente, transfer it into the chicken and mushroom and mix well for about 1 minute.

Serves 2

Enjoy and do taste everything along the way and add seasoning if you feel the taste is not enough. Every person has different taste buds so you will need to adjust the seasoning required. I am more of a intuitive cook and do not necessary follow a particular recipe to the letter, always feel free to experiment!

Tech - Building a simple Media Centre

A media centre PC allows you to record television shows to a hard disk, play your favourite movies and shows on your large screen TV, have your entire MP3 collection play through your stereo, access news from Internet on your TV and generally act as an all-purpose media jukebox.

I was not willing to spend money building a dedicated Media Centre PC, as I do not really record TV shows. What I have done is to use my existing hardware and software to make a simple Media Centre.

This is what I currently have at home:
  1. 37" Panasonic Plasma TV
  2. A Pioneer home theatre system with CD/DVD-R/MP3/WMA playback, FM Tuner etc
  3. A Compaq Presario Laptop with WiFi
  4. Digital Cable TV encoder/decoder
  5. Linksys WRT54G wireless router
Video Output:

My Plasma TV has a PC monitor input, which means I can use an extension cable to link my Laptop monitor output to my Plasma.

Audio Output:

Using a 3.5mm to RCA cable, I can connect my Laptop's sound to my Line In of my Pioneer HTS.


I use i-Tunes to play music, Windows Media Player 11 to play avi/M-PEG4 videos, I download mostly series like Lost, 24, Heroes, Prison Break, House and most of them have been recorded with HD, so the quality is already very good. I have just downloaded MediaPortal, an open source software similar to Windows Media Centre, to handle my Laptop's media (will try it out and review it later).

Playing Videos:

When I want to watch my favourite downloaded shows, all I need to do is to play it, WM11 will start, I will switch my video output to the Plasma, connect my audio to the HTS and voila.... Playing a HD quality episode of Prison Break on my Plasma.

Playing Music:

Run i-Tunes, select my playlist, album or artist etc, click play, make sure my audio is connected to the HTS and no need to change CDs... (just make sure when you get a new CD, you rip it into the Laptop, thats it.). I can also use my iPod or my Tre0 650 to play music using the same method. In my opinion, there is no need to spend money on a iPod dock that can connect to your stereo. The 3.5mm to RCA cable cost me at most S$8. An example of a iPod stereo docks is from Kensington . Take note that you may have to increase the volume on your iPod to about 75-80% of peak volume for the music to be clear.

I can even surf the net on my Plasma. It may sound a bit complicated, I must admit there are a few cabling issues to sort out, but it serves my purposes well. There are many other ways to configure, you can just use an old PC with enough storage for your media but the your TV will become the only video output though. I have placed my Laptop on my TV console and beside my HTS, so the cabling is not too difficult and my Laptop is connected wirelessly to my router which rests inside my storeroom, so there's 1 less cable to worry about. I also recommend using wireless mouse and keyboard so that you can be mobile, I can even surf the net from my kitchen.

Movie - Deja Vu

Went to catch Deja Vu last week at GV Grand Great World City. The story starts off with an explosion on a New Orleans ferry which kills 541 people (mostly Navy people) and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is called in to investigate. He's then roped in to a new outfit by FBI Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer, who seems to have put on a fair bit of weigh, remember him in Top Secret?) that is able to look into the actual past and try to determine who the terrorist is. Of cos they lie to him that they are using satellite imagery from 4 days ago and are not able to change anything. Doug's investigation eventually leads him to believe that the system is actually a time machine that can actually send items or people back into the past. The terrorist is identified as Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel), who was rejected by the Navy when he tried to sign up due to psychological problems and now he wants to prove his patriotism and punish the US government.

The movie is engaging and quite fast paced. The concept of time travel and its effects is a bit difficult to understand but you will realise why the ending has to be so. Its definitely not your usual action thriller movie.

I'll give it 4/5 rating

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Music - Lisa Ono - Bossa Nova

Lisa Ono was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where her father owned a club. She writes and sings her own songs and is able to sing in a multitude of languages, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, just to name a few. I attended her Romance Latino concert in Singapore last year and she sang 夜来香 in Mandarin, I was very impressed. I was introduced to her music a couple of years back and have been a big fan since. Her voice is smoothing and low and one of my all time favourites is her cover of Moon River. Her latest album, Jambalaya - Bossa Americana, brings us a Bossa Nova feel to old American favourites like Country Road and Jambalaya. I'll play her songs in the background as I read, work and do other stuff.... its great as background music! Not your mainstream music definitely.

Her albums that I own:
  1. Pretty World
  2. Romance Latino Vol.1
  3. Romance Latino Vol.2
  4. Romance Latino Vol.3
  5. Jambalaya - Bossa Americana
  6. Dans Mon Ile
  7. Questa Bossa Mia
  8. Bossa Carioca
  9. Naima

Cooking - Roast Chicken - Recipe from Jamie Oliver

Recently bought Jamie Oliver's cookbook Jamie's Dinners and tried out one of the recipes, Roast Chicken. You do not really need much, fresh chicken, lemon, garlic, potatoes, streaky bacon, thyme and thats it. It is important to use sea salt and black pepper over the chicken and leave it to marinade. If possible, try to keep the chicken at room temperature before you cook it, which means bringing it out of the fridge half an hour before cooking. It does take a bit of time, 45 minutes in the oven, add in potatoes and bacon and then another 45 minutes. I think the main idea is the boiling of the lemon and garlic, using them to stuff the chicken, which gives the chicken its great taste. I will not post the recipe here, but some of my friends have tried it when I cooked for them and they all gave high marks for it. Its simple and easy to do, just need to start cooking early due to the time taken. (Actual product - left), my friends finished everything to the last morsel.

Get his recipe book, its full of interesting recipes.

On my end, I have elected to leave out the potatoes and just concentrate on the chicken with the bacon over it.

Tech - Website - Giveaway of the day

Stumbled upon this website while going through Lifehacker. Its a website that offer licensed software for free! Usually for a limited time period of about 1 day. You download the software, activte it using the details provided and voila, the software's free for you to use. The software must be downloaded and installed within the 1 day time period for it to be free.

Not sure what is their business model is, but I am sure they have some tie ups with software companies to provide this service, in return for access to their registered users. I do not particularly mind, since it benefits me. Just downloaded my 1st software, Direct Audio Converter and CD Ripper. Will review it after trying it. Go take a look, you never know whats the Giveaway. They have even started a Game giveaway of the day....


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TV Drama - Heroes

A new drama from NBC, about a group of people who find that they have extraordinary abilties, including flying, stopping time, self healing etc. A theory of the next step in human evolution. Its not X-men, there are no uniforms and definitely no advanced aircraft taking off from a school basketball court. The subtitles between the 2 Japanese guys are comic book like and Hiro, the time stopping guy is quite funny. This series is quite addictive and my wife is also into it. We are currently in the middle of Season 1. It stars Ali Larter of Final Destination fame, as a woman who has an alter ego (her dead twin sister) which takes over and is capable of extreme violence, leading to murder. Take a look here

Books - Bill Bryson (Funniest writer I know)

Ever since I started reading Bill Bryson books about 2 years ago, I have not stopped and am clamouring for more. His latest title - Life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is a childhood memoirs about growing up in America in the 1950's and 1960's. As usual, he gives us a light hearted account of a childhood dominated by the shadow of the Cold War and where crowds gathered to watch a nuclear test in Nevada. His other travel narratives such as, Down Under, Neither Here Nor There are extremely funny and once you start reading, you will not want to put them down.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill attempts in his own humourous way to explain how our universe, galaxy and earth works, from flora, fauna, geography to zoology. He also highlights the stupidity of mankind that have let animal and plant species go extinct, polluting our only earth. Definitely for the layman out there.... wherever he's lying.... Haha.

Do pick up his books and I am sure you will be hooked.

Tech - Sony Earphones - MDR-EX90SL

My old Sony earphones MDREX71SL (left) which have lasted me for 4 years, since 2002, decided to retire during my trip to Bali. Usually when my earphones retire.... only one side does, so its quite frustrating cos the other side still works but there's nothing I can do abt it! Anyway, my advice is not to buy white earphones cos they yellow with time, not sure abt those iPod ones. the reason I love my old earphones is that they are small and they fit snugly into your ear with silicone earbuds (they are called in-ear earphones), so it has kind of a noise cancelling effect. I was using those normal earphones for a couple of days while waiting to get the new ones. Wah lau! It was damn painful, which hardened my conviction to get the in-ear ones and I decided to stick with Sony. My old earphones have suffered a fair bit of abuse under me and they still lasted 4 years, so I am impressed with Sony for their earphones.

Went to the Sony Gallery at Wisma Atria with a buddy of mine and was intending to get an upgraded and black colour model of my old earphones. I spotted a new pair of earphones - the MDR-EX90SL (left) looking sleek and enticing. And for S$9 more at S$89, I decided to try it out.

Just saw that Bose has come out with their own in-ear earphones, looks good but at a whopping US$99.95, about S$155, its out of my league.

Its been great so far, the sound is crisp and clear from my Treo, I am not really an audiophile, so this new pair of earphones works great for me! The earphones come with 3 sizes of ear buds, S, M, L and I think M will fit most folks and I still have the ones from the old earphones even though they are grey, doesn't bother me.

Tech - A unique case for my Treo 650

My Treo 650 carrying case is getting a bit worn out and I was thinking of getting a new one. Checking through, a favourite Treo related website, I found an online seller of handmade fabric cases at They also make bags for Apple laptops, iPods, Palm PDAs (including Treos), the Nokia N-series of mobile phones and Canon IXUS cameras. Very interesting indeed and I have ordered a case for my Treo (left, thats the fabric I'll be getting), a case for my wife's iPod (since I have seen her drop it twice, she's using an oversized sunglass cloth bag) and a Cable Turtle for my new Sony earphones (will review them later on). Go check it out, I have recommended the site to many of my friends and they really like the designs and fabric used (Kimono, Coduroy and Tweed etc)

Virgin post - How to format my blog?

How should I format my blog.... probably what I will do is to to have a title as to what i want to ramble about.... cos i will be writing all sorts of nonsense and till I get a grip on blogging...

Topics will start like this -

Tech - for technology and gadgets

Movie - for movies that I have just watched and my thoughts

Music - Albums or certain tracks that I wanna ramble about

Books - For books that I have read....

TV Drama - Some of the latest serial dramas from the States - Sorry but Singapore serial dramas totally cannot make it, remember VR Man? Wah piangz

Cooking - Something that I do from time to time, with various success....

Life - most of the other stuff in my life... i think....

These are the categories for now!