a camera lens’ two year journey

leicasafariedition

Imagine going on holiday to the US, visitng a national park, and finding a Leica lens sitting on a rock in the middle of the desert.

That’s what happened to Jorgen Loe Kvalberg from Norway. To his credit, he took the lens home and contacted Leica Norway about the find. Leica Norway contacted Leica HQ in Germany. From the serial number, they traced it to Leica USA and Samy’s Camera store in LA. The store manager checked records and found that the lens had been sold as part of a kit to someone named Arthur Galvao.

It turned out that Galvao had lost the lens in the national park two years earlier. One of the Samy’s Camera store rep was going to Germany for holiday, so he picked it up from Leica Germany and returned the lens to its owner in person.

So when we’re talking about a camera lens and it being sold as part of a kit, it’s not the bog standard 18-55mm that comes with an entry level Canon, we’re talking about a US$3,500 Leica lens that came with a $9,990 Leica M-P with 35mm f/2 Safari Edition camera.

All credit to Kvalberg, all the folks at Leica around the world, and the camera shop in California. What’s amazing is that the lens was still in perfect, if dusty, condition after sitting out in the desert for 2 years. I guess if it’d been sitting in damp conditions, it would have broken down after that time.

I also think it got found and safely returned to its owner because it’s a Leica lens. Not many people will bother checking for the owner of a 18-55mm Canon kit lens. If I found a Leica lens, I’ll know it’s valuable and will try to return it to an official office.

via petapixel

don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm

setfirekeepwarm

There was a mild incident earlier when someone yelled at us for something that wasn’t our fault; and this person wanted to let us know how much better, more knowledgeable, and more worthy they are compared with mere minions like us. It originated, ironically, from us wanting to be accommodating.

Ah well, can’t win them all. It bothered me for a minute, then I decided it wasn’t worth losing brain cells and raising my blood pressure for.

May be it’s my personality, or may be training over the years, I’m helpful but ultimately I don’t really care about things that have nothing to do with me. I’ll give up my seat for someone, but I don’t really care which stop they’re going. I’ll help you tidy up but I don’t care whether you keep that shirt or not. I’ll provide information but it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other what you do with it.

May be I’m being uncaring, or selfish, or unresponsive.

I’ve been trying to get mm to push back more too. She puts too much effort and invests too much of herself into situations and people who, while superficially appreciative, are basically using her. The charity she volunteers at, her lab professor, her family. From where I stand, I see them taking and taking and taking and giving nothing in return. I sent her this image to illustrate my point.

You’re not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

There’s so much self-help literature about this. You do not owe the world your nicemess. 5 signs you’re trying too hard to please everyone. 40 things about life I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself. On the last one, I don’t necessarily agree with all 40, some make sense:

  • #4 never be dismissive of things you don’t understand
  • #6 you only have so many fucks to give, ration them carefully
  • #17 you can’t argue with haters, because they’re not arguing with you
  • #34 not everything is someone’s fault

r/oldpeoplefacebook

oldpeoplefb

Saw this post on fb and in a fit of meanness, posted it on r/oldpeoplefacebook. Most of my reddit posts and comments get buried, but this one, oh boy, made it to the front page of r/all. It now has over 32,000 upvotes and my karma has shot up from 800-ish to almost 8,000.

I can see stats for the post’s journey to the front page. It took 3hrs 24mins from when it was first posted to reach r/all, and stayed there for 5hrs 10mins. The highest rank was 4 and there are over 600 comments. Most of it took place when I was asleep because I posted it before bed. I didn’t read all the comments, but most were decent by reddit standards. There are threads discussing memorialising the account of people who have passed away, and others gave examples of how friends and family maintain the account of deceased users. Some said it was sad, not funny, and I agree to an extent. See earlier post on why I think “I’m old, I don’t know computers” is an excuse for not making an effort.

Anyway, I now get to post on select subreddits for users who’ve made it to the front page. It’s supposed to be a big deal. Reddit is, after all, the front page of the internet.

happiness and people

peopleinacircle

Went over to meet mm in the afternoon. And we were joined by her mum’s friend P. Didn’t do much, just walked along the seafront near her place to the shopping centre and bought ice cream using my almost-expiring coupons. P has been super supportive of her mum and the family during her mum’s illness. She’s close enough to their family to be able to offer honest and practical advice. But there are still things mm can only tell me, not only because I understand, but I, luckily, have her trust.

P had to go home for dinner and we stayed around the shopping centre, browsing around supermarkets. Walked back and had Japanese set dinner–chirashi for me, grilled mackerel for her. Didn’t do much, but it was necessary social support.

There’s an article in the NYT called Happiness is Other People that seems quite poignant today.

There seems to be a trend that promotes self-awareness, self-discovery and self-everything, the starting point being: the search for contentment is an internal, personal quest that doesn’t involve other people. I totally embrace the concept of finding happiness internally or engaging in activities alone or in a group without interaction (eg running in a race with tens of thousands of people). A fb friend posted a question on what would make a perfect birthday and most people replied along the lines of spending time with loved ones, a nice meal, receiving presents. I remember one year, I took the day off work and told everyone not to contact me on the day. I didn’t think people would appreciate me posting that as a comment so I stayed silent.

There’s some pushback on all the internalising. Pretending to live in a virtual desert island doesn’t work all the time. It may be harmful rather than beneficial. There are studies that say lack of social interaction is as dangerous to health as smoking and obesity. NYT:

Self-reflection, introspection and some degree of solitude are important parts of a psychologically healthy life. But somewhere along the line we seem to have gotten the balance wrong. Because far from confirming our insistence that ‘happiness comes from within,’ a wide body of research tells us almost the exact opposite….if there is one point on which virtually every piece of research into the nature and causes of human happiness agrees, it is this: our happiness depends on other people.

I think it comes down, as with many things in life, to balance. Imagine a spectrum that has complete social isolation at one end and constant social interaction on the other, each of us falls somewhere in the middle. Some peole prefer to be surrounded by people all the time, some people want more “me time.” What I think is also of extreme importance, is the quality and worthwhileness of the interactions. It takes a lot of time, energy and commitment to maintain strong social connections; as someone on mefi said:

it’s about the same level of energy (emotional, physical, logistical) required for dating…it’s a constant struggle against a lot of ingrained ideas I have about what counts as a “worthwhile” investment of my time.

Also important, is having the strength to leave toxic connections. Is it a fear of losing out, or fear of isolation, or resistance to change? Most of us are guilty of keeping toxic connections that are draining and too needy. Almost impossible to leave when it’s family, and here is when those other quality and worthwhile connections that can help negate the negativity. Sometimes the mere availability of those positive connections can carry us through tough times. The thought that I can go to certain friends is enough, I don’t necessarily have to actually reach out to them.

At the moment, mm and I are each other’s social support and we’ve either isolated ourselves or through circumstances found ourselves isolated. All the more important to have more “us time” even if it’s just walking in the park to the shopping centre to get ice cream.

“I’m old, I don’t know computers”

toolbars

My anecdotal experience is the stereotype of older people not able to use technology is well and true. Far too often, we hear: “I’m old, I don’t know computers.” They don’t seem to have either the ability or desire to become familiar with tech related stuff. Random examples:

  • confusing chrome with google
  • can’t tell the difference between browser, url, and email address
  • thinking the on/off button on the monitor turns the computer on/off
  • getting flustered and in a panic when they can’t remember their username and password (how about clicking the ‘forget password’ link)
  • trying to explain their computer problem to you over the phone and expecting that you have Superman’s eyesight
  • no concept of memory, RAM, bandwidth, speed, wifi vs mobile data–no, a couple of whatsapp messages won’t eat into you 3GB monthly allowance
  • long email subject line as the content of the email
  • forwarding jokes/memes/health tips/multi-level marketing scam
  • can’t upload files, only now discovering facebook albums, not deleting duplicate or crappy pictures so their phone memory is full
  • on the one hand is paranoid about sending personal information online; on the other hand clicks on links without checking the url
  • wondering why the computer is so slow, and there are 10 installed toolbars

There are studies and articles about why people who didn’t grow up with technology find it difficult to learn. Small setbacks, like touchscreen sensitivity or small fonts, erode confidence and add fear. The elderly are definitely not unintelligent, there simply seems to be some sort of mental or psychological block, or it could be that learning agility slows with age. There’s an ELI5 explanation that uses language as analogy:

Imagine that you’ve made it through into your adult life using English. Then one day, you hear someone speaking LangX, a totally new language that they claim is going to change the world. For the next decade, only a few people speak it, and no one you know has ever really used it. Another decade later, and its catching on. You’ve heard kids using it, and its starting to gain traction, but it hasn’t really been important for you to learn it. You retire from work just as your workplace gets its first expert in LangX.

So you cruise into retirement, content knowing that you’ve worked your ass off, and now get to enjoy the simpler things in life. All of a sudden, everyone uses LangX, and no one speaks English any more. You go the the grocery store, or to the bank, and the employees get mad at you for using English. Your grandkids refuse to translate things for you anymore. Your kids keep buying you books written in LangX, thinking that that will help you learn the language.

I know a lot of people who are in the middle-age and senior age range who are very good at technology. They may or may not have a scientific or technical background; seems to me that they made the effort to learn and ask the right question. Computers are not new. Consoles like atari, commodore and sinclair were available by the early 1980s, the IBM PC with the 8088 processor was introduced in 1981, the original Mac appeared in 1984. By the 1990s, home computers were fairly common and relatively affordable–the first iMac, Dell, Compaq, all these names were familiar late 20th century brands.

All that happened 20 years ago.

Isn’t “I’m old, I don’t know computers” getting, well, old? Isn’t it one of the many excuses for mediocrity? Just like it’s not okay to use age as an excuse to be rude or entitled or misogynistic/racist/homophobic; it’s not okay to use it as an excuse to be lazy or complacent or negative. I’m not saying become a php expert or start writing apps, I’m saying learn how to google, learn what is a browser, learn how to swipe on a smartphone. Computers and devices are very user-friendly nowadays. A few weeks ago my aunt called mum via whatsapp, mum got in a panic and shoved the phone at me. The screen said swipe up to answer, so I swiped up to answer. What was so difficult about it?

Another day, she asked me to write an email reply, a simple thank you to someone. In the past I would have written it for her, just like I swiped her phone to answer the call for her. This time I said to do it herself but do it in front of me. She hit reply on her ipad, typed it all out and hit send. She missed a full stop but I didn’t correct her. She can do it herself, she just needs to stop automatically expecting that I’d do it just because she doesn’t want to.

We need to stop feeding the beast by giving in and doing it for them because it’ll be 100 times quicker and involve less hair-pulling attempts at explanation. It’s better in the long run.

buying presents

cheesechips2016

My cousin and family will be visiting, so mum and I went out to buy presents for them. Nothing too heavy or bulky. We’re poor present buyers so we decided to keep it simple and get food. Bought a variety of chocolate, biscuits and savoury snacks. Saw boxes of cheesey chips at a discount. The saleslady said they’re nice so we bought a few boxes for my niece and her grandparents who are also visiting. Opened a box ourselves to try and they are very good! Crispy and crunchy. Can taste the cheese flavour but not too salty. Went back and bought even more boxes, we ended up getting 15 boxes in total. I’ll give a box to mm and mum wants to give to her friends.

I was reading this thread about last minute gifts on reddit, this actually seems like a great idea:

I didn’t have any time or cash, so I bought a $2 photo album and photoshopped his face to a bunch of stock photos I found online. Made him laugh for hours.

I think it’ll be even funnier if OP had printed the stock photos and stuck the recipient’s face on them physically. I may do that for mm one day, find various generic photos like travelling, skiing, being a clown and replacing them with her head. Hahaha.

There are some hilarious gems in that thread, like:

a bottle of whiskey and a packet of white sauce

which people guessed was the gift buyer putting both items together at the shop and forgetting to take out his sauce. What about:

a pineapple, wrapped in newspaper

or:

A hedgehog exercise wheel.

I do not own a hedgehog.

or

a disposable emergency rain poncho

or (this is reddit, after all)

When I was 9 my grandmother got me a pubic hair trimmer.

egg turns into rick grimes

TIL The same Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes on the Walking is the same Andrew Lincoln who was Egg on This Life. Egg the football-mad slacker!

This Life was very important to me. It followed the life of 5 twentysomething lawyers who was just starting their careers in the City. It was the tail-end of the yuppie era, when things were still good in the world–1997 would see the beginning of the financial crisis, with Asian markets collapsing in 1997 and the LTCM bailout in 1998, both of which were, in hindsight, precursors of what was to come in the next 10 years.

Anyway, I was around the same age as the This Life protagonists and many of us then identified with one or more of the characters. It was gripping drama. More memorable that it only lasted 2 seasons.

Egg wasn’t the most memorable character; he was almost a side character really. I’m in awe of Andrew Lincoln though, to make the transition to US tv in such a convincing manner. When I started watching the Walking Dead I had no idea he’s British, let alone tweaked that he was Egg. Here’s Egg practicing his shooting skills, that will come into use later as Rick.

kristin chenoweth in concert

chitheatrekchenoweth01

 

We went to see Kristen Chenoweth in concert at the Chicago theatre. I don’t get many chances to see live concerts, and I think this is the second concert I attended in a theatre setting; I remember seeing kd lang in singapore when I was travelling there a lot. Oh and I saw Fleetwood Mac at Wembley when I was in college, that was it.

 

chitheatrekchenoweth02

 

It’s also the first time I’ve been inside the Chicago theatre. It’s such an iconic landmark, especially in the city of its name. We had nice stall seats, about 2/3rds of the way down. A slight incline meant I was able to see the stage with no problems.

The concert was great. A 11-person band including string and brass sections. The musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell played wonderfully on the piano.

Ms Chenoweth herself. Ahhh. What a voice. We were treated to Moon River, Somewhere over the Rainbow, Popular and an emotional Bring Him Home. She was personable, lively and had great presence. She sipped from a Cubs cup and told of her steak dinner at Gibson’s, conncecting her with the audience. During her tour she always sings For Good with a member of the audience or an invited guest—this time she had a young local singer Jess Godwin, who is certainly destined for a great career. She also invited a group of local youngsters to join her for the last few numbers. And she shared the stage with them, generously giving them credit and attention.

 

Pics not allowed, so here’s a youtube video of her singing.

 
 

long run and lying about running marathons

20.25km 2.57.42hr 8.47min/km

The last >10mile long run before the race, next weekend’s scheduled run is 8 miles. Sigh, it’s end of September and still 33ºC and 90%+ humidity. No breeze at all. I could feel sweat dripping down my back and it’s quite uncomfortable running in clothes that are completely soaked, even though they are made from dry-fit material.

At my last stop, one of the people who were cleaning at the park said that it’ll start raining soon. That’s it, it felt exactly like the oppressive heat that comes before a thunderstorm. True enough, it started raining after lunch.

I’m very relieved that it’s the start of the taper. Feeling tired both physically and mentally. I know I only got up to 20 miles once, and today I was supposed to go up to 15 miles / 25km but I simply was wiped out. Just hoping the training is enough and fingers crossed for better weather conditions at the race. Cold (10ºC will be perfect), dry and a little wind.

fakemarathon

On the topic of marathon training, someone posted a screenshot on runnit, of someone’s job application. The question was “Describe a time when you had to set and achieve an ambitious personal goal.” The applicant went into a detailed account of how he trainied for the portland marathon in 2.5 months, getting to 15-20 miles two to three times a week and exactly 26 miles at least once. He claimed he finished his first marathon in around 2hrs.

When I posted on fb, all of the friends who answered spotted the lie. The marathon world record is 2.03, and portland’s record is 2.17 so there’s no way this first timer with 10 weeks’ training could finish in around 2hrs. The training he described was improbable too. Seemed like someone downloaded a few training plans and pretended to have followed them.

It takes a lot of training and talent to be so close to 2hrs. People don’t realise how fast the elites really run. This was a few years ago on the NYC subway, when people were challenged to beat Ryan Hall over a short distance. Even Ryan himself showed up. Have to remember that he runs at that pace for 26.2 miles.

 

two kinds of people

An interesting tumblr with drawings highlighting the difference between different types of people. More or less, extroverts vs introverts, type A vs type B, neat vs messy. Some of them quite true.

2types01

People seem to have either zero notifications or unread emails, or 30,000 of them. I’m the one of the right. Notifications on the iphone are limited to line, whatspp and phone. Absolutely no push email notirications. I clear notifications, missed calls immediately. I’m also proudly inbox zero.

2types02

Actually I organise my books alphabetically so I’m neither.

2types03

When it comes to sandwiches, I’m the one on the left. I don’t mind triangles, and I understand the argument that they are more aesthetically pleasing. I just find rectangular sandwiches less messy.

vlm 2015 #handinhand #thankspaula

London Marathon on Sunday. 35th anniversary of the first one, how time flies. And I remember the two winners at the end crossing the finishing line together holding hands, even though I can’t remember their names. I’m annoyed that it, like most major races, has been hijacked by charities. I recognise the need for charitable giving but forcing people to cough up or raise thousands of pounds as a condition of entry is ridiculous.

I didn’t watch the livestream, so I’m browsing around people’s home videos and interviews. The biggest moments for me are those of Paula Radcliffe. Starting with club runners, the first female club finisher at 2:36:55. No one cared that much about her time. The story of how a running store ran out of women’s running shoes after her world record in 2003 is one example of how she inspired so many to run.

I hope against hope that marathons don’t become over-commercialised and too focused on charities. The argument is I could race in lower profile races. That’s true. I do still want to experience the crowd and buzz of London one day.

two inspiring running stories

Couple of inspiring running-related stories in the news, one in humid Miami and one in snowy Boston.

Miami: twin pushes disabled sister at half marathon

ridersrace

Spotted via runnersworld, the inspiring story of how a runner pushed her disabled sister to finish a half marathon together.

Twins Nichole and Jennifer Rider were both runners and athletes through school. In 1995, Nichole was in a car accident that paralysed her from the neck down. Eventually she regained enough mobility to kayak and handcycle. At last week’s Miami Half Marathon, Jennifer and a friend took turns pushing Nichole, the trio finishing the race in 2:06. They were racing to raise awareness for a new organisation Thumbs Up International that aims to match able-bodied runners, swimmers and cyclists with those who need help in participating in races.

I really like this idea, this is something I’d rather do than sign up for a charity place. I’m slow, so pushing or guiding someone will definitely slow me down even more, but I don’t mind. It’s also potentially challenging to match personalities too. Hmm, reminds me of a story idea I have on the backburner, of two people forced together to train and race in exactly the same scenario (able-bodied and less able-bodied).

Thumbs Up is Miami-based only right now, won’t be it great if the idea is picked up by one of the big races?

Boston: local bartender shovels Boston Marathon finish line

bostonsnow

Boston and other parts of the northeast part of the US got hammered by snow this week. Someone took a pic of a good samaritan shoveling snow from the Boston Marathon finish line, which is permanently painted on a street. This led to a twitter search for #WhoShoveledTheFinishLine.

 

Boston Marathon has a very special place in the hearts of both the people of Boston and to runners, moreso after the bombing in 2013. The good samaritan was eventually identified as Chris Laudani, a local bartender, who said he cleared the finish line because it:

isn’t just a strip of paint in the road. It means so much more to us as a community of Boston and of runners

Ironically 4 out of 5 of his Boston Marathon finishes were as a bandit. There is a long tradition of banditing Boston, but that’s another discussion. He’s been offered an official place this year, so there’s a happy ending to the story.

 

pool invaders

poolinvaders

Remembering that I live next to the pool, sometimes I get disturbed by people and staff walking and talking outside. In the middle of the night, this couple decided to sneak into the pool. 12.30am. And the pool is closed, and covered as it’s only open at weekends during May. These two were smoking, drinking, kicking the water and chatting. I watched for a while, annoyed that they’re out there: I hate when people loiter outside at night and I don’t feel completely safe until they’re gone. But they weren’t doing anything, I lost interest and went back to bed.

p.s. yes, topless.

nos amis le roast beef

morefrance

I was watching an old episode of Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, the one where he arrived at Languedoc and met up with some English people living in rural France. Ah, that’s something that has been a fancy of mine, having a holiday home somewhere in France. Provence, Franche-Comte or Alsace. Sigh. Definitely just a fancy.

One bit that got me LOLing was when he met Helena Frith Powell, who was telling him about a book she had written about living in France and how to help the French understand their new neighbours. The way she described the poor French people’s new neighbours as “nos amis le roast beef” was funny.

more unfortunate words

engrishword

So misuse, misintepretation and mistranslation between languages occur in all directions. I found this website with examples of poor usage of asian languages in western culture. People even send in pictures of their tattooes to ask whether they got what they asked for. A lot of surprises and disappointments when the explanation comes through in the comments — far too many of these Chinese / Japanese / Korean character tattooes are made up of complete gibberish. Or truncated words. Upside down. With missing parts. Just flinging together some random strokes, circles and dots doesn’t a word make. And it’s permanent.

One of the most unfortunate is this boy’s sweater, the character translates roughly to hemorrhoid. Oh dear.

idiots on the track

mvpark005

What the hell is up with stupid idiot running groups? This coach brings his teams for training on the track around the same time as I go for runs. The track has 6 lanes and these idiots think they own the entire track. They do warm ups, run in the opposite direction and STOP suddenly with no regard for other runners. The coach yells a half-hearted “look out for others” but these idiots are oblivious.

Track etiquette is common sense and easily googled:

  • run anti-clockwise — I’ve done clockwise on a long run just to break up the monotony, I ran on the outermost lane and watched out for other runners
  • the fastest lane is on the inside — omg these stupid middle-eastern women who walk three abreast on the inside lane breaks me
  • never block the track, ie stand around chatting or doing pushups or talking on the phone
  • never stop suddenly, move to the side and stop
  • no bikes, dogs (fucking dogs), skateboards, rollerblades, kids or people who are not running on the track
  • no kicking a football around or playing basketball or other sports that are inappropriate on the track
  • be aware of others

Sadly, only the very few will do this. I bought a sonic dog repeller, I so wish there is a human equivalent.

the truth of what we know

assumenothing

Overheard recently at work:

A: did you hear, [our intern who recently left] got a job at Goldman Sachs
B: Where’s that? A law firm?

I did a double take. True, if you asked 10 people on the street, only a small percentage would have heard of GS. But we are in the same industry, they are a big player, so that was unexpected. To give Person B the benefit of doubt, they are fairly junior and will learn more about our competitors as time goes on. I just assumed that if I talk about Goldman, or JP Morgan, or (sigh) Merrill, people would be suitably impressed or, as the case may be nowadays, repulsed. To be met with a “who?” is disconcerting.

I was also reading the article in the NY Times about how Nokia’s engineering driven culture has put them behind the likes of Apple in terms of design and therefore sales of their smartphones. They are talking about hardware engineering vs software and design engineering of course. One of the commenters said that engineers know instinctively figure out how to use a device just by playing around with it, but they

don’t understand that the rest of the population doesn’t think like them. To them, the user interface they created makes perfect sense and the rest of the world are idiots for not understanding it.

So the lesson today is, assume nothing. I assumed everyone has heard of a leading investment bank, or to go back one step, everyone knows what an investment bank is; but that’s just not true. Engineers assume everyone know how to use the camera on their iphone. The reality is very far from those assumptions. People aren’t like us.

country stereotypes

europestereotypes

via kottke, a map of Europe according to Americans. There are other stereotypes, including Europe according to Britain (most of mainland Europe = Evil Federated Empire of Europe), France, Germany and Italy. Pretty accurate, IMO.

Reminds me of a recent joke that was circulating around fb:

A teacher at an International School gave a class assignment: “Describe your own personal opinion of the food shortage in other countries around the world.”

African student: what is “food”?
European student: what is “shortage”?
Chinese student: what is “personal opinion”?
American student: what is “other countries”?

hate running groups, hate dogs

One of the reasons I don’t like running in a group is that they occupy the whole pavement and don’t allow enough space for other people. Hog the water fountains too. I was doing a nice 8k and this group (fleet feet? cara?) was having a briefing in a big circle and, yes, spread themselves out on the entire corner. I ran smack in the middle of their circle, I didn’t care.

Related, dogs and dog owners need to disappear off the face of the earth. They are the pits in terms of occupying useless space. Hate, hate, hate.

UK-US a world apart

The New York Times had an interesting article today about, yet again, a Brit’s impression of Americans. Ultimately, I agree with the author, that Americans are polite though personally I find them overly friendly. And the reason for the loud American phenomenon:

Americans have no fear of being overheard. Civic life in Britain is predicated on the idea that everyone just about conceals his loathing of everyone else.

Ah, so true, so true! It’s a glass half full vs glass half empty scenario. In America, everyone is assumed to be nice; in Britain, other people’s presence are merely tolerated. So much irony.
Talking about irony, I totally laughed at this:

A couple of years ago a survey indicated that British Muslims were the most fed-up of any in Europe: a sign, paradoxically, of profound assimilation.

dog owners can die and go to hell

I HATE DOGS. I HATE DOG OWNERS MORE.

If you are walking your dog in a public place, ie a park or on the pavement, it is NOT OKAY to let your dog off the leash. It is NOT OKAY regardless of leash status, to let your dog go up to another person with its stupid tongue hanging out and sniffing the other person and generally invading the other person’s personal space. This person is sharing that public space with you.

THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE PETRIFIED OF DOGS.

It’s NOT OKAY to say things like, “he’s harmless” or “he doesn’t bite” because clearly you do not understand my fear. It’s not about how harmless or cute your darling Fido is, it’s about how I do not want him near me and it’s your responsibility to control him.

Substitute “dog” with “tarantula” or “snake” and try to understand. I’m actually okay about holding snakes, imagine if I were holding one and you walk past me and I let the snake wrap itself around you. Get it now? Keep you stupid dog OUT OF MY WAY, I have as much right to enjoy the road as you do, and I don’t understand how my 30 minute run can be spoiled by three of you not controlling your dogs in public. That’s right. 30 minutes and I get harassed by 3 separate dogs.

Yes, all you dog owners can die and go to hell. I’m sure some of you are considerate but most of you do not understand. I am not going to apologise for my stance.

rachel maddow

omg, i’m getting this giant totally inappropriate crush on Rachel Maddow. She’s so smart. She’s on twitter. She cares about technorati searches. Yet she claims to be just a normal person. Here she is interviewing John Hodgman, another crushworthy guy — he’s “PC” on the mac vs pc ads (I know, I know, Justin Long has the better hair but John is a cutie). Mr Hodgman has a new book out on fake trivia and he’s guest blogging on boing boing. All round coolness.

Back to Dr Maddow. She’s got huge attention as her new msnbc show is doing great in ratings. A whole slew of articles on her: new york times magazine AND arts section, washington post, la times and time magazine, too many to list.

my ex-boss

Over 10 years ago, I started as a completely fresh employee, with very little knowledge of anything in our business. I reported to my ex-boss, who joined a few weeks after me. We were the only 2 people in our team in those early days, and I learned so much from her. She was patient with me, and I worked hard. She sent me all over the world, and even suggested that I went to a new company when they offered me a good job.

Had lunch with her today, it was a long time since we’d met up. I really must make an effort to keep in touch better because she’s become more a friend than ex-colleague / ex-boss.

Once in a blue moon you meet someone who has a lasting influence on your life. I’m the lucky one.

working social

We had a couple of new colleagues join today, so we took them out for lunch. It’s kinda traditional, this take new colleagues out to lunch business, isn’t it? All my team members are nice people, they work hard and they are knowledgeable in their areas. But I wonder if I’d socialise with them outside of work?

The answer is obvious. No.

Absolutely not because I don’t like them. But cos … work is work and outside of work is outside.

Which is a weird declaration considering I had dinner with ex-colleagues today. I guess when the work relationship ends, you really keep in touch with people whose friendships you value. There is a common topic, of ex-work, but to sustain the relationship, there has to be other topics to keep the group gelled.

stupid

The newest feed in my greader, the daily wtf, a story about…stupidity.

This morning, I had to deal with one of our HR secretaries, and it was déjà vu.

When I first started to work for this place I was in HR. I had passed my interviews and was doing paperwork as part of the hiring process. The HR secretary and I had the following conversation:

Her: Can I have the phone number of the consulting company where you worked for the past 6 years?
Me: I was self employed. I am the owner and sole employee of the consulting company and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
Her: No, I need to call to verify!
Me: …But you’ll just be calling me.
Her: I have to call — what’s the number?
Me: The number of the office is [my cell number].
(note: I’m standing 2 feet directly in front of her. She dials the phone and I answer.)
Her: Hello — this is Paula from Initrode Global, calling in reference to Snoofle’s employment.
Me (both into the cell phone and to her): I know, I’m standing right in front of you.
Her (into the phone): Could you please verify the dates of Snoofle’s employment at VirtuDyne, Intelligenuity and Initech?
Me (reading from my résumé that is laying on her desk in front of her): VirtuDyne: a1 to b1, Intelligenuity: a2 to b2, and Initech: a3 to b3.
Her: Great, thank you! *click*
Me (directly to her): …Did you not notice that you were talking to me right here in front of you?
Her: I know, but I have to call to check these things.

At this point I walked away, wondering if the rest of the company would be just as WTF-y.

teamwork

We need to hire an intern to write us a database — the poor man’s version of PeopleSoft or Oracle. My colleague and I interviewed 3 candidates this week and it was so obvious. All candidates had relevant IT background, all had the necessary qualifications. But the chemistry with the one we chose was so palpable that we didn’t need to communicate — 5 minutes into the interview and we both decided, unanimously and without needing to even look at the other, that this was the one we wanted.

Sometimes when picking a team, it’s not just what is on paper, it’s how comfortable we all feel in each other’s company. This candidate has a slightly unusual background, but his enthusiasm and thoughtfulness won us over. He actually commented that this didn’t feel like an interview, more like meeting new friends. We felt the chemistry was both ways.

We made the offer in the afternoon, and already received a thank you email. I want this to work. We only have approval for a fixed term, but if the product is good, I’m sure we can sell it to management to continue development.

spa cooks

It’s been a long time, but I was trolling around the twop forums over New Year’s Day catching up on TAR, Survivor and Kid Nation. Then I went over to the rec room and checked out the pixel challenges. There was one for “Blank and Blank go Blank” and since I’ve been almost overdosing on watching food programs lately I made one:

twop20080101

I would have added one of Ramsay taking his shirt off (he seems inordinately fond of taking his shirt off and putting a chef’s jacket on, on tv) but I couldn’t find a good one.

women can take their diamonds; I’ll have a gold-plated mbp please

I watched as a small object tumbled out of my colleague’s hand and into the dark murky sewers the other day. I couldn’t see what it was but she said it was a diamond earring. Yikes.

So why would anyone want to put bits of stone all over their bodies — that are prone to being lost or stolen and cost a whole lot more than their size would suggest? Here’s what I think of diamonds. They’re pretty, sparkly and um a form of carbon. I mean, yes they’re expensive because they’re rare — or are they rare because they’re expensive? Like most of the Earth’s supply of carbon is as graphite or silica, it must be elitist to be one of those rare carbon atom that makes it into a diamond.

diamond graphite

Alright. I’ll stop it with the science geek mode. So really, why do women love diamonds? The answer, apparently, is History, Hollywood and Hope:

  • History — revered from ancient times, it’s an appreciation of the effort and expertise needed to get it from a rough rock to the dazzling white light form.
  • Hollywood — represents all that is glamorous about owning a diamond. I’ve yet to meet someone who wears a large diamond and not want to show it off. It’s a status symbol, as well as a sign that someone somewhere treats the wearer (okay, I’m gonna be gender-vague from now on) is loved and worthy. It’s like saying, “How much am I worth? Look at the price tag” but a little more subtly.
  • Hope — people normally want to be wanted; and possession of such an object of desire may be a way of vicariously living through that desire.

I get it; but I don’t really get it.

Now, I’m far to prone to be attracted to gadget-y stuff. So imagine my reaction when I saw the gold-plated macbook pro on engadget. Slobber slobber drool drool. To be honest I’m not entirely convinced about the gold-plating but the diamond encrusted apple logo sure catches the eye.

gold mbp

Luxury laptops are nothing new, nor is putting diamonds on all sorts of gadgets — like swiss army knives, iPod shuffles, Nokia N95, even a mouse. Diamonds are diamonds. Not even the suave leather bound thinkpad reserve is as nice as the mbp.

gold mbp

So while women like diamonds as rings or necklaces or somehow displaying on their bodies, I want it on my mbp. Let’s not mention that laptops have a habit of becoming outdated when new ones are released; and I’m not sure how we can open the casing up to add RAM. Hee.

ETA: and the blinging continues with the 24-carat gold iPhone.

a rare rant about stereotypes

cover cabride

This was the cover of the local weekly freebie magazine. Alright, you say. It’s a free magazine what do you expect, you ask. But this is supposed to be a hip magazine, I counter. It lists the newest restaurants, bars and indie films. It syndicates Dan Savage, for crying out loud.

And yet, it had an article this week that talked about how there are more women than men, and how as a woman’s success (and with it implied intelligence and wealth) increases, her chances of catching a man decreases.

Oh, lordy.

How incredibly sexist. How incredibly heterosexual.

As an example of how modern women think, the authors of the article paraded out several women, including a fortysomething media consultant who said,

It’s a matter of sophistication and higher expectations … Women are attracted by the whole lifestyle — expensive dinners on holidays and birthdays, a nicer apartment. Emotionally, women also expect more, and material things are symbols of more.

Talk about shallow. If this sort of sugar daddy worship is the best representation of this generation of high achieving career women, then I truly live in fear. Sophisticated blah! Ms Media Consultant knows nothing but her comfort zone and traditional thoughts. She’d march in Pride cos she likes the pretty rainbow colours but as soon as she hears what Pride is about, she’ll hightail out of town faster than lightning.

My objection is that there’s the fundamental assumption that people need to be in some sort of coupledom. Now may be it’s my own experience but being in a relationship, while nice, isn’t the be all and end all of anything. Despite all the romances I’ve read lately, it’s not enough to convince me that such deep emotional connection can be maintained over any length of time. Proponents speak of affection and companionship; again I’ll say nice but not sufficient to sustain the investment needed.

Okay, that was kinda extreme. I’m not against relationships because that would make me a huge hyprocrite, and not fair to mm. This is the wrong place to talk about bbmm though. But it brings me neatly to my next objection of the article, which is it always a heterosexual stereotype? Why does a woman always looking for a man exclusively? Where is the tolerance? Where is the open mind?

This is maddening. I give up. I’m gonna stick to writing about macs, iPhones and posting pictures of food.

different classes

What are we, clueless? Classless? Are the boundaries blurring? Remember the grocer’s daughter from Grantham? Or how Tony Blair said “we’re all middle class now”?

I can’t remember the source, because it’s from when I was really young, before the internet age … but anyway, the difference between how a British person and an American views class is typified by their reaction on seeing a Rolls Royce on the road. The Brit, especially someone who grew up during New Labour, will spit at it calling the owners tossers or wankers. The American will say “someday I’ll own that.”

The Times ran a series of articles where columnists wrote about their take on their own class. We had upper, upper middle, middle, lower middle and working class. It’s interesting, in the article about upper class Lord Onslow first apologised for having “been accused of being upper class” and then goes on to say that his upper-classness is distinguished by his finding “it almost impossible to force the word toilet between [his] lips.”

And the bell curve brings us to the three levels of middle class. Upper middle class people are the ones who shop at the gourmet supermarkets, embrace eastern spirituality (in the comfort of their living room), drive Beamers and Audi’s. But they are also the ones with university degrees and classic professional jobs who bang on about how working-class they are, like Damon Albarn singing Country House in a mockney accent or the posh chick telling Jarvis Cocker she wants to live like Common People.

The middle-middle class, like all middle-of-the-road people, are not going to set the world on fire. Instead they keep the economy running, they support the rainforests and the royals. The lower middle class on the other hand, are unflashy, a bit trad, safety-first, and unintellectual.

Obviously, everyone aspires to be working class. Because it’s individual, init? It’s thumbing your nose at the Establishment, init? Plus, secretly we all want to be as cool as John Lennon.

the loner being

via mefi, the field guide to the loner. Duh, talk about pointing out the obvious — loners don’t have the pathological fear of social contact or as pathetic as society would have us believe. Apparently three-quarters of the population is classified as extroverts, which means the other quarter are not understood. Introverts basically interact with the world in a different way than extroverts.

According to Jonathan Cheek, a psychologist at Wellesley College, some people simply have a low need for affiliation. These “loners-by-preference” may have inherited their temperament; or simply not having many friends as a child or growing up in a family that values privacy.

I’m 100% introverted according to the esteemed Jung Typology Test. More specifically I’m type ISTJ — 100% introverted, 25% sensing, 75% thinking and 56% judging. So I guess I need a field guide to understand me? Hee.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of social interaction, that would make me autistic. I’m not shut off from the world, that would make me a hermit. I’m not socially inept, that would make me shy. I’m simply not interested in the other 6.7 billion people I have to share my living planet with.

If I need to interact with people and I can do it tolerably successfully. I do okay at work and within my tiny social circle. But for me interacting with people is a lot of work. I have to think about what they want, what they may be thinking and all that shit, it takes me away from time that I can be spending with myself. I get bored with it eventually.

So yeah, the long and short of it is … I don’t like people. Oh, to debunk the myth of lonely person living alone surrounded by cats, I don’t like pets either.

friends at work

yahoo finance had an article called “four ways to make a bad job good.” The first one is: Make a friend at work.

People with one friend at work are much more likely to find their work interesting. And people with three friends at work are virtually guaranteed to be very satisfied with their life, according to extensive research from Gallup published in the book “Vital Friends” by Tom Rath.

Not surprising because of the amount of time we spend at work. If we have to sit there in the office for 8, 10 hours and the environment is unfriendly and hostile, we’re not likely to feel comfortable. I think the message is that we need friends at work as well outside of work; and work friends have a lot in common.

Feeling it recently. I’ve been at my present company for almost 5 years now, and it’s only been the last year or so that I’ve made close friends. And it’s made such a huge difference. The team worked really well, and we had fun.

Problem is, since the recent management change, morale is low and many of us “oldies” have been sidelined, whether deliberately or unintentionally it’s hard to judge. We’ve had a few resignations, and it’s the friends I made. Several of them will be leaving in the course of the next few weeks and I’m sad to see them go. I support their leaving because they have good reasons, but it only means life in the office will only get worse.

In related news, I met a few people at [competitor] today. Don’t want to jinx things or think about it too much, I’m approaching it with a positive and wait-and-see attitude.

I own her, not

From feministing, via the Chicago Metblog, funny sign in a Chicago coffee shop.

I think it’s harmless and funny. mm will agree too. But some feminists seem to believe (rightly so, given their standpoint) that the fun is at the expense of women. Am I a jerk for not agreeing? mm isn’t a possession, but I definitely won’t hold Filter responsible if I lost her. To wildly (groan) misquote Oscar Wilde, to lose one’s gf looks like carelessness.

lucy and aleksey get married!

First of all, you need to have a little understanding about the mindset of people who work at investment banks — I think they arrange for arrogance and supreme self-belief to be blasted through the air-conditioning so it goes directly into our lungs.

The City has been giggling at two stories lately, and now it seems they may be converging.

First is the story of Lucy Gao, an intern at Citigroup in London. She was organising her 21st birthday bash and sent an email to her guests regarding procedures to attend said bash at the Ritz. Among the advice:

Advise 1: It goes without saying that the more upper-class you dress, the less likely you shall be denied entry.

Advise 2: Photos will be taken between 10pm and 10.30pm, and these will be distributed when processed, therefore you may want to be well-groomed! (wink)

Guests are also allocated preferred arrival time, presumably so that the doormen at the Ritz won’t be overwhelmed with gorgeous young things. Any guest experiencing difficulty in getting to the Ritz (oh gosh, how hard is it to jump in a taxi and say “The Ritz” to the cabbie? They’ve all got the Knowledge) may call Ms Gao’s PA, who will be available between 8.30 and 10pm.

Okay, back up a second. She’s an intern. I’d hate to see her when she grows up to a full-fledged Associate. She later claims that the email was a joke. Probably, but I won’t be surprised that some of it was serious.

The second story is that of Yale student Aleksey Vayner, who sent a 11 page CV as well as a video to UBS in search of a job. The video, in the style of the Office, has him being “interviewed” and extoling about successes and how “impossible is nothing.” He is also shown lifting weights, serving a tennis ball at 140mph, ballroom dancing and cracking open half a dozen bricks using a karate chop.

It’s so preposterous that you can’t help applauding the kid for trying. It was meant as a joke, but it falls flat somehow, and he’s now the laughing stock of the Street. To give him credit, he was trying to stand out amongst the thousands of wannabe i-bankers, but as Forbes magazine said, “Vayner’s video would be great if he was applying to write satire for The Onion. But for banks, it’s a flop.”

So now, the Biggest Rumour of them all, that “Lucy and Aleksey are getting married.” Check out the invitation to the wedding party. If you believe it, you’ll believe anything. Heehee.

better than bathrooms on planes

Okay, I don’t normally frequently post stuff that’s more than PG-13 (um, except the one about the customised paddles or the other one about the SMS-enabled vibe) but I just gotta admire how entrepreneurial this guy is.

Via USA Today. Now couples who want to join the mile high club but don’t want to be rushed, or cramped into tiny smelly airplane bathrooms (cos, not many people dare, or have the opportunity to, do it in the passenger cabin) should make their way to Atlanta.

$299 buys them a whole hour in the secluded cabin of a specially customised Piper Cherokee 6 that is guaranteed to reach an altitude of at least 5,280 feet, an ultra discreet pilot, a bottle of champagne and a certificate. Oh, and “you get to keep your sheets as a souvenir of this special event.” Although I have reservations about the sheets, they’re this awful pink colour.

This seems a tad too deliberate for me. I thought part of getting to be a member of the mile high club involves a certain degree of illicitness, adventure … and the fear of being seen / found out. That’s the adrenalin rush that makes it so titillating. Paying for it and enjoying an hour of fun is all very well, but it doesn’t beat the real thing.

IMHO, YMMV and all that.

dinner party

Went to my new boss’ place for a dinner party tonight, altogether there were seven of us. Her helper made curry — chicken with coconut and beef with lemongrass and I think red curry. The chicken was spicier actually. I made chocolate mousse — both dark and white chocolate versions, which went down very well.

I like this social aspect of my new boss. She’s from the UK and has worked all over the world. Since she’s also been hired to head up diversity she places a high value on work life balance. It was an enjoyable dinner party.

front and back

From here is city news. For Operations, substitute any back office function like Finance, Tax, Corporate Services, HR, IT.

A man flying in a hot air balloon realised that he was lost. He spots a man down below and descends. “Excuse me,” he shouts. “Can you help me ? I promised a friend that I’d meet him half hour ago, but I’m lost. Where am I?”

“You are in a hot air balloon,” the man below replied. “You are hovering approximately 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“Thanks,” replied the lost balloonist. “You must work in Operations.”

“I do,” said the man below. “But how did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of it all, and the fact is that I’m still lost!”

“And you my friend,” said the man below, “must work in Front Office.”

“I do,” said the balloonist. “But how come you knew that?”

“Well,” replied the man with his feet on the ground, “you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You made a promise which you are not going to keep, and you are now looking to me to solve your problems. And the fact is that you are in exactly the same predicament you were in before we meet, yet somehow all the blame is now being laid on me!”

teamwork

Woke up this morning and the person in my writing group who was supposed to post today was sick, and couldn’t post.

We mobilised quickly, got one of the writers who was supposed to post in 2 weeks’ time to swap; and put together a quick “we interrupt your regularly scheduled programming” announcement. It was great teamwork.

In chat this morning were a couple of newbies, teenagers. Came in and went crazy with the emoticons, so we put them on ignore. They whined and complained that we weren’t talking to them. So we did … raised a conversation topic and asked everyone to discuss. Then they complained that we were using big words. OMG that’s so hilarious. One of them in particular was rude and tried to shock. We worked pretty well together as a group to let them know in no uncertain terms that their behaviour was unacceptable.

I mean, come into a chatroom for the first time, the most important thing to do is to listen for a while to get a feel of the participants; and then be polite and respectful. It’s the internet, but manners are important too.

The baiting was so fun that I stayed home and didn’t get a chance to run my errands before needing to go out again.

home food

I met up with my ex-colleague and 2 friends from GS. At one point a few years ago we were all working in the same area, albeit at different companies. It would have been a vendor’s wet dream, to have the 4 of us at the same table — we were, and still are, at 4 of the most prestigious companies in our industry.

But only P is in that area now, it’s strange how people moved on.

Anyway we met at a Japanese restaurant that had been newly renovated. Set dinner — salad, sashimi, yakitori, sirloin steak, grilled fish, cold udon and ice cream. The fish in particular was a large portion and I was very full afterwards.

I haven’t been eating well since I came back from India — even before, I was eating out constantly.

This week also, I made roasted carrot and tomato soup. I made the stock first, from the turkey carcass I had in the freezer. It’s a good recipe:

4-5 large carrots
3-4 large tomatoes
1 onion
3 sticks celery
3 cloves garlic
Stock / water

Dice all the vegetables, season and roast at 200°C until browned. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Pour stock into baking dish and de-glaze. Combine stock and vegetables and blitz till smooth. Season, add milk if desired.

leave me alone, loser

via boing boing (where else?), a counterscript to use on telemarketers

My usual reaction to telemarketers is “where did you get this phone number?” followed by a diatribe on how I did not give permission etc. That’s on a good day. On a bad day I’d swear at them, then hangup.

So this new method, of asking them questions, like having them spell their name, ask about how much they earn, do they get dental plan … is cunningly hilarious, as are the comebacks when they get upset.

counterscript

I wonder if I’ll have the patience though. I think I’ll end up reverting to my usual rude-o method.

all good things

eventually come to an end. Especially since I get into them, having yet again discovered them late in the day.

Belle de Jour is hanging up her weblogging boots (or would that be 4-inch stilettos). It’s one of the frankest diaries out there, and one of the more controversial, with more than its fair share of critics. Though there’s been speculation that it’s all fake, I took the writing at face value and enjoyed it all. I’m just sorry I didn’t come across it earlier, only finding it after reading the Guardian article.

A few days ago I read that psimetis is going on hiatus, may be even permanent hiatus, in order to get back to RL. So, no more Brave Eyes, no more veracity-verse, no more Master Will or Master T or Nazi Buff. And to think that between June and now I must have read Brave Eyes more than 6 times, to learn that there was originally a Part 2 but now it’s probably never going to see light of day. Sigh.

Devastated? May be disappointed. Resigned. But these writers did it all for nothing, no more than an intense interest, and probably a big chunk is for themselves. They don’t owe us readers anything. Zippity zip. We just have to be grateful for what they’ve shared and hope that they can return someday.

the people next doors

I don’t know how many people live next doors. There seems to be more people than comfortable for an apartment that size. I’ve seen 5 adults and a baby. May be some of them are only visiting, I never hear the baby cry all the time. They put their laundry outside on the podium, funny thing is they like to walk about in their pajamas, it’s kinda ridiculous actually, cos it’s a public place.

Sometimes I run into them in the corridor, but there is never any greeting. Even if we get into the lift together there’s no acknowldegement.

One of the adult sons was leaving at the same time as me this morning. He kept muttering to himself all the say down, such a weird guy. Walked like he’s in a stumbly sort of hurry too. I was waiting for the bus and I got on the next one. Didn’t notice him at the bus stop … turns out he’d walked to the next one along … weird.

He was in work clothes, white shirt, dark pants but … gasp … white socks and black shoes. Argh!