Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How I will celebrate this Christmas

As I was doing gardening yesterday, an elderly neighbour stopped and chatted with me. She told me how she enjoyed the Christmas decorations I have put up. To be honest I gave last year a miss, but I didn't tell her that. I remember now that this same neighbour has mentioned to me before how much she liked my Christmas tree.

Yesterday, this same neighbour told me that when we heard our carolling, she "felt sad". I don't know what she meant by that, but she said she felt like going into my house and join us. She would be most welcome, I told her. I think many older people reminisce about the good old days when the sound of carolling was everywhere. I think many people love to see Christmas decorations lighting up their street. It creates a holiday atmosphere for everyone.

Yes, I think I'll make it a point to put up my Christmas tree every year, because it is not just for me. It is also for my neighbours. I will make it a point to play the carols loud enough for my neighbours to hear. If a carolling team comes up the door, I'll make them sing long enough for the neighbours to enjoy. After all, what better opportunity is there to proclaim the birth of Christ to our neighbours?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sharing photos in Dropbox

Whenever I take photos at a function, people often ask me to send their pictures to them. I used to think Facebook is good for this purpose, but due to privacy concerns, I now choose to do so via the "Photo" folder in Dropbox.

Facebook if great for sharing photos if you enjoy having your photos viewed by anyone and everyone. Many people are actually uneasy about this because it can potentially go viral. Also, many people feel that their safety is compromised by Facebook's endless linking of one person to another. Some people actually asked to have certain pictures deleted after viewing it, while others specifically asked for their photos not to be put on Facebook.

Dropbox, on the other hand,  is wonderful for sharing photos with ease and without encumbrances. When you sign up for an free Dropbox account, in addition to your own private folder, there is also a folder called "Photos". Create your own subfolder in here, copy the link (highlight subfolder>>Dropbox>>copy public gallery link), and email the link to your friends. Your friends can then view the photos easily, and choose to download any pictures they want and at the original resolution. You cannot navigate to any other subfolders (thus ensuring privacy), unlike sharing photos in any other online albums.

To see my sample photo subfolder, use this link I have copied:

To see a full demo of Dropbox or to sign up for an account, go to:

Monday, August 29, 2011

A lovely drive to a wedding

I attended a wedding yesterday. The venue was at a wedding reception area up in the Dandenong Ranges. The drive there was a treat in itself, just like another one I had attended before in another place in the Dandenongs. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. Spring flowers cover the road shoulders, while the crispy clean air makes the greenery looks fresh and vibrant. The journey took about 40 mins, of which the last 20 minutes was a pleasant drive up the mountain road. By the time I reached there, I was already in the mood for a magical time. I must say a wedding reception that is preceded by a lovely drive certainly takes the cake. So if you are planning for a wedding, make sure the drive to the venue is a pleasant and memorable one!

Monday, August 22, 2011

What is good value?

Here is an excellent article which I'd like to rehash. The article is called "Factoring Value", written by Mike Johnston in The Online Photographer. The link to this article is: . 

Here it goes. The value of something depends on:

Use—the more you use it, the greater the value. Ladies know that a handbag that goes along with any dress get more use, hence is more value-able, than one that is hard to match clothes.
Results— anything that enables you to obtain the results you want will have some value.
Longevity—durability of an item is good value only if you keep on using it. Unfortunately, the things we dislike most tend to be proportionately more durable than those we like.
Payback—replacement batteries always cost a lot more at tourist hot spots. The retailers know that when you are out of battery, you are out of luck. An item will immediately have a heightened value when we urgently need it!
Pleasure of ownership—the writer calls it the opposite of "a fool's economy" (" buy something cheaper than you wanted because it's more "responsible" or a better deal, but you don't get any pleasure out of owning or using it. In that way, a smaller, less costly, more "sensible" purchase can actually be more of a waste of money"). Unfortunately, too many people use this to justify spending more than they can afford.
Resale value—car salesmen frequently use this in their sales pitch.
The deal—I recently passed up an opportunity to buy a Panasonic GF1 on clearance at half the usual price. I was not shopping for a camera, but on hindsight this was one good value that I should have grabbed.

Think of something significant you have just bought. What value did you see in justifying the puchase? If you hit three of more of the above, you're on the dollar!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Sometimes it is useful to be able to just create a softcopy output (i.e. a pdf file) instead of a printed copy. A softcopy can be readily emailed to other people, or stored in the computer to be printed at a later date.

One very useful freeware that can do this job is called PDFCreator. I have used this software for many years now. Once downloaded and installed on your computer, it will become your virtual printer. When you send a document to print, the selection of printers will include "PDFCreator". Selecting this option will enable you to preview the document, change setup (like landscape or portrait mode selection, etc), and save it to a designated location on your computer as a pdf file.

I have found this software to be very useful when I carry out transactions on the internet. Instead of printing a receipt, I just "print" it to my virtual printer and store the receipt as a softcopy.

To download the latest version of this software, go to:

Here is the printer selection screen, with PDFCreator installed:

Friday, August 19, 2011

The craft of photography

Some people, including many photographers, regard photography as an art. As a photographer, I have always been uncomfortable with being labelled an artist. To me photography is more a craft than an art. As a craft, it lies somewhere between an art and a science. It is a skill that can be duplicated in most people, given the right equipment and the right instruction. It is not a unique ability. For example, when a model shoot has been set up, all the photographers shooting at the same model will end up with a similarly good image.

I like what Paul Robinson (an accomplished photographer) says: "(The craft of photography) is the skillful operation of equipment (camera and post-production) as well as the achievement of ideas gained during the process along with pre-visualized results. It also includes the basics of composition, lighting, colour, tone, and presentation."

The above is a wonderful summary of what photography is all about. In particular, I agree that post-production processing is a necessary skill. Without some skill in this area, one will not be able to join the ranks of those who exhibit in the most competitive salons in the world. I also like how Paul Robinson includes presentation as part of the craft of photography. Indeed everyone who practices this craft should have a showcase for his work. This could be prints, an online gallery, or perhaps a slideshow or a photobook.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Longevity moon cakes

Moon cakes are already on sale at the local Asian grocery shops two months before the Lantern Festival. The cakes seem to have perpetual shelf life. I imagine that it would take at least a month from the time of production in China or Hong Kong, importation into Australia, and finally arrival at the grocery shelf. Assuming they are still good for consumption a few weeks after the Lantern Festival, the moon cakes must have a shelf life of at least 4 months. Imagine the pastry and egg yolk being able to last that long; I could use some of the stuff they put in there to make my body last forever. Some foodstuff shouldn't really have expiry date - we will guarantee to expire before the foodstuff does.

Sample pages of my first photobook

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rotten Apple

Apple Inc is one company I used to admire. They became great by producing great products. Unlike Microsoft, they did not stifle the competition or corner the market in order to climb to the top. Now that Apple has become the largest corporation in the world by market capitalization, it seems that the Apple that I knew has turned rotten.

It now wants to corner the e-book market. There is an ongoing class action suit against Apple and 5 US publisers for price collusion. In the lawsuit, the filing says that "As a direct result of this anti competitive conduct as intended by the conspiracy, the price of eBooks has soared. The price of new bestselling eBooks increased to an average of $12 – $15—an increase of 33 to 50 percent." To add further squeeze to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, it is demanding a big royalty for purchases made through Amazon's or B&N's apps on the iPad. (The good news is that Amazon has now come up with an alternative solution - the Kindle Cloud Reader - to circumvent Apple's attempt to control the ebook market through its apps store.).

Apple has a cash horde of more than US$70bil. It is using this war chest to sue its competitors into oblivion. It has taken Samsung to court for copyright infringement, causing Samsung to withdraw its 10.1" tablet from the market. It is also suing Motorola and others for patent infringements. Clearly Apple is on a rampage. It seems like Apple is suing every major competitor simultaneously. Is this how a great company behaves? I hope this is the turning point for Apple. Perhaps it is time for Apple to be humbled. Stop buying Apple products.

London rioters

My first reaction was that the rioting was senseless and criminal in nature. The rioters have no excuse to do what they did. Regardless of what causes them to act this way, they ought to face the court of law and bear responsibility for what they did.

Now that I have that out of the way, I would like to say that the government should do some soul searching to see why there are so many disgruntled youths around. Is it because British industrialist have exported away all the jobs they should have reserved for their youths? Is it because politicians have taken away the rights of parents to punish their kids and made it illegal for parents to cane their children and discipline them when they are young? In their unending quest for political correctness, politicians have even gone to the ridiculous extent of protecting criminals by concealing the names of hardcore criminals such as murderers and rapists. The list can go on and on. If this sounds familiar to you, all that is happening in the UK is also happening in all the other developed countries of the world. To be sure, every one of these countries has the same undercurrent that can simultaneously erupt into a street riot.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Free market, it ain't

How will the current stock market turmoil play out? Probably in much the same way as it has always been. The monster (the stock market) will eventually be restrained and subdued. Like those at the betting table of a casino, the punters will count their losses or gains and then wait for the next round to begin.

The stock market, contrary to what politicians and financial experts like to tell you, does not operate in a supply-demand situation. It is built on a house of cards - a very big and strong one - that is not allowed to fail. Governments are run by people with lots of vested interest in the stock market, and financial experts make their fortune from leading more punters to the stock market. Together, governments and financial experts make policies to ensure the stock market is always upbeat. Indirectly, this creates an aura of prosperity for everyone, but really more so to enrich the power brokers. That is why governments want people to put their superannuation in the stock market and make policies to suit that objective. When everyone is bought into it, it is so much easier to legislate self-serving economic policies.

If the stock market were to operate in a totally free-market condition, governments that overspend will have to bear its consequences. Those in power may be replaced by a new team. Companies, no matter how large, will be allowed to fail. The rich may find their fortunes gone and the poor will have a chance to take their place. This is what the free market theory is all about, isn't it? Right now, governments in Europe and America are frantically trying to prevent the stock market from further slide. Yes, it is to prevents an economic meltdown that will affect everybody's lives. But ask yourself then why their proposed solutions are always to save the companies first, and why America's US$800bil bailout in the GFC went to save the financial institutions and not the people's jobs.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The big deal about a name

Giving someone or something a name signifies possession. When a child is born, he is given a name by the parents. It is as if the parents are declaring their ownership rights. Likewise, when a company is developing a new product, a name is given. Even projects are given names, even though no products may be involved. In the Bible, we see that King Nebuchadnezzar gave new names to Daniel and his friends, ostensibly to show that they belong to him now.

One might say that God started it all. In Genesis 2:19-20, it says "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals." This implies that God gave mankind dominion over all the animals and all the birds.

Now, when a child reaches the age of 21, he declares himself an independent adult. Why is it that he doesn't get a new name to symbolize that he is no longer under anyone's authority? Should he? Would he? Probably the answer is "no", yet many at that age behave like they have a new name.

And for the ladies, here is something to think about. By Western tradition, the woman gets a new name when she gets married; her husband's. What do you think of that?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My first photobook

I have just finished making my first photobook. I've just uploaded it to the online store, paid for it through PayPal, and now I am just waiting for it to be delivered. Here is my experience.

Getting started...
I got a few recommended sources from my camera club members. I chose Photobook Australia. I downloaded a copy of its free software, the Photobook Designer. If you have created a slideshow before, you will find the workflow very similar. It took me just a few minutes to get used to the software., and a couple of days to master it completely. It is that simple.

Designing the book...
Photobook Designer is the first photobook software I have used, but I must say it is pretty impressive. It allows me to experiment with different cropping and different aspect ratio, as well as rotating the picture. It lets me set the background colour, add title and captions, stack pictures one upon another, etc. I can open and close different folders in my hard drive to select just the photos I want. In short, it can do practically everything I expected it to.

Sending it to print...
Ordering a printed album is as easy as ordering prints for my images. Just click on File>>Order in Photobook Designer and it will automatically lead you to place an order through their website. Once payment is made, it will ask you to upload the project file, or save the file to other media.

In the old days everyone had a prized wedding album with laminated pages. Over the years the laminate invariably comes unstuck, the pages turn yellow and the photos fade away. The modern photobook is really a far better option. It is now easier to reproduce.One can do so in any shape, sizes and quality level. In this day and age, I am sure no newly wedded couple will be without one.

To see sample photobooks, go to

Thursday, August 4, 2011

War on crime

Who are we kidding? The war on crime has never been a real "war."

In today's news, a German court awarded more than $4020 in damages to as child murderer. The public was outraged when the regional court ruled that the human dignity of Magnus Gaefgen has been violated  because during questioning police threatened him with "unimaginable pain." As it turns out, Gaefgen had already killed the child while under interrogation by police. In the bid to be politically correct, an imbecile judge has given more dignity to the criminal than to the parents of the child. The judge did not consider the unimaginable pain the parents had to suffer forever, while all the criminal had to do was to confess to what he had done and he would be spared the pain.

The war on crime has never been a real war. In war, adversaries will do anything to gain victory, including torturing prisoners. Our democratic system is formed on the basis of doing what is best for the greater good, yet Western governments are failing to do exactly that when it comes to war on crime. Criminals have more rights to humane treatment than the people they victimize. Their identities are hidden by privacy laws. In detention they are given free board and lodging; and they can sue the government for ill treatment and hardship unless they are given all the amenities you can find at home. If there is a war on crime, then the criminals must be winning hands down. Even white-collared corporate executives are turning to crime, for crying out loud. Everyone is having a party on this war on crime, thanks to politically correct brain-dead judges.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Entering the PSA competition

Today I finally took my first step in entering an international photography competition. Granted, this is a competition that anybody can enter. There is no minimum criteria, so I am not going to talk about what a great photographer I am just because I submitted my first entry to the Photographic Society of America.

This is a logical step for me to take. It aligns my line of sight straight to the final destination of my pursuit in photography. It is a necessary step for accruing points towards getting a recognition from the Australian Photographic Society, of which I am now a member. If any image is accepted into a national or international competition, I get some points.

As I shift my sight to competitions beginning this year, I also find that my taste in photography is changing. I become more perceptive of images that are designed to sit in photography competitions, and those that are made for commercial purposes. Cliched shots are great for improving one's shooting skills. They do well at local levels, but have no great potential in high level competitions.

So what do I shoot now? I'll still shoot the same things, but hopefully more thoughtfully and less prayerfully.