Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A charming place for breakfast

Young people love to hang out for coffee in the local shops along Kingsway. It is nice to sit on the sidewalk and watch people passing by. However, I am not young anymore. I prefer a more interesting ambiance where I can also enjoy peace and tranquility among people who appreciate the same.

One of these places is the tea house at Jell's Park. It has big glass windows looking into the park. People come in from their morning walk or simply meet up with friends for a chat. They are mostly older people or young mothers with their charge. Another place is the cafe at the Monash Library. There is a pubic library and an art gallery; two places where you will find unhurried people who are just interested in immersing themselves in the sublime world. Recently I found another place nearby. It is a little church cafe which serves coffee, scones and muffins. There is a church library and a bookstore. If you are by yourself, you can help yourselves to some of the books and do a little reading while enjoying the coffee.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Blogging from my mobile

This is my first attempt to blog from my mobile phone via email

p/s And it works perfectly well!

Audiogalaxy music app for Android

I have a digital collection of more than 4000 songs in my computer. Occasionally I want to listen to them, but I don't want to do that sitting at my computer all the time. I want to play from my Android phone wherever I am. Here how Audiogalaxy does it for me.

First I install Audiogalaxy on my computer, and the app on my Android phone. On my computer, the Audiogalaxy "helper" searches my hard disk drives and categorizes each and every song into Album, Artist, and Genre. It even locates the album covers for me! Now, with Audiogalaxy running as a background job* on the computer, I can launch Audiogalaxy on my mobile phone wherever I am, as long as I am connected to the internet.

On my mobile, as I select each song, it appears in a playlist. The songs are streamed to my phone and played continuously. There is a "genie" feature which will suggest and append similar songs to my selection. When my selection runs out, the genie takes over. It is like listening to a favourite radio station! I can choose the songs to suit my listening mood, and I can let the genie take over and stream similar songs for me the whole day long.

Apple would prefer you to purchase your songs from iTunes and manage your songs in the internet cloud. Google, Microsoft, Sony, Amazon, and many others are also trying to tap into the consumer pockets. At about $1 per song, I would have to pay $4000 to have the same collection. I think Audiogalaxy is fantastic if you already have a huge music library.

*Note: On the computer, Audiogalaxy must be running in the background and the computer must not be in standby or hibernation for the app to work on the phone. Otherwise, a message will tell you your Audiogalaxy helper is not running.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The king of democracy

Democracy has a king, and the king is the stock market.

A headline today in The Telegraph says "Spanish election fails to calm market fears." A few hours later, The Independent newspaper says "Madrid markets fall on return of the centre-right."

What I find interesting is the amount of emphasis on the stock market's reaction to the result of the Spanish election. The Independent reports "The markets were not assuaged by Mr. Rajoy's victory speech ......". Further on, it says "To the dismay of some PP officials, and the markets, ........."

There is just too much fanfare about how the stock market reacts to everything that happens around the world, especially in the political arena. And very often, the reaction is exaggerated and the market quickly bounces back to where it was. So why is the market reaction still so keenly observed?

Politicians everywhere are scared of making decisions that will spook the market. They want every vote of the general public, down to the lowest economic rung of society. But they make decisions to suit the market's wishes (the unseen power brokers with wealth to move the market), and not the voters' wishes. Such is the state of democracy today. This is why many once-prosperous developed countries are now in a pickle.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Human rights and criminal wrongs

We often hear of criminals using the "human rights" argument in appealing against their sentencing. For example, a rapist in the UK had been sentenced to deportation, but managed to remain in the UK when his lawyers argued that his human rights to remain with his family has been violated. There are too many examples to list here, as you just have to read the newspapers to find out that criminals seem to have more rights than ordinary folks in the eyes of today's blind justice system.

If we are playing by the rules, then the rules must have been written by the mob. Doesn't the law care about the rights of people who have been violated? Don't they have rights too? In the above, the rape victim has the right to walk around without being attacked. The public has the right to their home and neighbourhood not being threatened by a migrant rapist. So why are the judges so keen to uphold human rights for criminals while condemning the public to criminal wrongs?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cultural assimiliation

As a migrant to Australia, I am constantly reminded how quickly the migrant children of various races adopt the local culture. Everyone who comes to Australia at a very young age, or who is born here, invariably speaks with an Aussie accent, behaves like an Aussie, and thinks like an Aussie. This happens regardless of whether the child is of Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, or even Middle-eastern descent.

I find this very intriguing. My grandparents migrated from China to Malaysia, as do most of the grandparents of my peers. In Malaysia we held on very strongly to our Chinese culture, in terms of religious practice, customs, speech, and schooling. Even the Indians, who make up less than 10% of the population, retain their Indian heritage thoroughly. So why are the migrant children in Australia able to assimilate so quickly?

On the same token, the Chinese who went to Malacca emerged with a totally different culture - the Baba Nonya culture, which is neither Chinese nor Malay, but a curious blend of both.

What makes migrant group assimilate or not assimilate into the local culture? Is it spontaneous? Is it random? Is it the government policy? Surely this makes an interesting subject for any anthropology student.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Workplace ministry

The place where we work is the place that we come into most contact with people. It is the place where our life is laid bare to the world around us. What we say or do reflects the kind of person we are: a matured disciple of Christ, or a regular worldly person who otherwise goes to church once a week.

James 3:14-16 says: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." In the highly stressed work environment today, people tend to talk and share their grievances. As a Christian we can be easily caught up in this.

If a Christian wants to be an angel in a hellish workplace, he has to show godly wisdom. Continuing from the verses above, James says in verses 17-18: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

The godly wise

James 3:13 says:  "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."

I have been following a 12-day reading plan on wisdom. When I came across this verse, at first it did not mean much to me. On that day the verse kept turning over and over in my mind. Then it became crystal clear.

Who is wise and understanding among you? We usually think of them as people we turn to for advice. Many people also turn to professional counselors - people with a PhD in Psychology - when faced with problems in marriage, in children, or in dealing with depression. James has this to say: let the wise demonstrate their wisdom by their good life and by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Perhaps while seeking wisdom and advice from someone, you are inundated with lots of opinion instead. Run for your life! Proverbs 18:2 has this to say: "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kindle Fire vs Tablets/iPad

By introducing the Kindle Fire at an incredibly low price of US$200, some tablet manufacturers have panicked and surrendered without a fight. Most notably was the HP TouchPad that saw its price slashed to a mere $99. Acer halved its price on Iconia 500 recently, while ZTE was selling its tablet at $99 to an eager market a few months ago. Actually it has now emerged that what Amazon introduced was a specialty product, not a general-purpose tablet to compete head-on with the iPad and other tablets.

The Fire, and also the Nook, are clearly designed for reading and reading alone. They lack a camera, a microphone, 3G, bluetooth, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and video output. All these play a part in running many of the apps on the tablet. The camera is not just for taking pictures. With it you can do video call, and run the very interesting Google Goggles app. The microphone enables you to use voice recognition apps. GPS enables you to use many of the map-related functions. Video out allows you to use your tablet to play movies on the big screen. Accelerometer and gyroscope are great for more advanced games. Many apps will simply not work on the Kindle Fire or the Nook.

Tablet manufacturers can take it easy for now. The market for general purpose tablets is still in a flux. The price point has not been firmly established yet, unlike for Kindle Fire and Nook (which are what I call reader-based tablets). How much should you pay for a tablet? For unknown brands, and talking about the 7" tablets, you can expect to pay roughly* $200 (mostly made-in-China?). For branded ones, they are at $400 to $500 price points but will probably drop to $300+ before long as they come under increasing competition. As for the Touchpad saga, I think the HP CEO must have panicked and did not truly understand the tablet market at all.

* See http://www.dinodirect.com/ipads-tablets/currency-AUD.html

Monday, November 7, 2011

Teasure trove of nostalgic songs from the Far East

I have always enjoyed playing songs from my childhood days. If you have grown up in a small town you will know how neighbours loved to play their music at maximum volume to entertain everyone far and wide. Nobody seemed to mind. It brought music to people who would otherwise be unable to afford a good system, or who simply never learned to indulge in any form of entertainment. I was a young teenager then and the only music at my disposal an old radio with very poor reception. Also, in those days, 24-hour music on the radio was unheard of. You tune in to your favourite broadcast at a scheduled time, just like when you want to watch a favourite TV show.

Today I dug into a treasure trove of music from that era. Go to this website: http://questing.wordpress.com. Here you can get re-acquainted with names like Frankie Cheah, Francis Yip, Simon Junior, Agnes Chan, Anita Sarawak, P. Ramlee, etc. Did you now that actresses Nancy Sit and Fung Po Po also sang? Their singing prowess did not reach the halls of worldwide fame, but to hear their voices crooning the old hits is really a treat if you are looking for a escapade into nostalgia.

The website above does not play all the songs of these singers, unfortunately. However, you can quickly turn to Youtube and search for the singers to enjoy the rest of them. Happy listening!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

E-book technology - the new printing press

In ancient days books were a rarity. Only the rich could afford a small collection of books. Books were very expensive because they had to be painstakingly hand copied. The invention of the printing press around 1440AD reduced the price of books dramatically. This enabled the poor to gain knowledge and education, which enabled some to break loose from the bondage of poverty.

Ebooks are now set to do what the printing press did in those days. People in the remotest parts of the world are now able to get instant copies of electronic books, as well as accessing the internet with its unlimited storehouse of information.

Ironically, it is not the educated and the people of means who stand to benefit most from this new found and endless wealth of information. It is the poor who previously have no ready access to vast libraries of books, even those under the rule of the strictest regimes, they are the ones who will benefit them most. Who can ban an e-book? It can be circulated to everyone in the entire world at ZERO cost - a far, far cry from the days of hand copied manuscripts.