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30 December 2010

CowBoyBar Entering 2011

I confess.

It's true.

We, the Barflies are a bunch of lousy people.

We say stuff then too humji to admit when confronted face-to-face. We stab you in the back. We are hypocrites who say nice things in front of you, then diss you when you turn your back.

Yes. We, the CowBoyBar, are all that and more.

So?

As far as I am concerned, this is the CowBoyBar that I have grown to love. It is an eclectic melting pot of many people and equal as many personalities.

I have come to learn to love them and accept them all. Sure there are some pretty difficult ones but we just stay out of each other's way to maintain the peace in the bar.

It's true. We can't be very gum with each and everyone of them. Some more, some less. But at the very least, we always try our very best to accommodate and in the worst case scenario, siam one side lor.

The CowBoyBar, to borrow a cliche, is a hotel where people come in, people stay and people leave.

It's just part of the day in the CowBoyBar.

All I can say about the CowBoyBar is that it is not for everybody.

So it is pretty normal to have people come in, realise it's not their cuppa tea and then leave.

I won't say that those who leave are too good for the CowBoyBar but neither would I say that their are not good enough to be accepted.

I'd just say that the CowBoyBar is not suitable for the said person.

My only beef is that when one wishes to leave the group, don't make a big hoohah about you and how the CowBoyBar has wrong you.

If you want to leave, just leave.

I wish you well and will say a friendly and SINCERE hello should we meet on the streets.

Perhaps it was our mistake to open the doors just so easily. I remembered I have to show my banana just to be bestowed a Gunslinger.

Going into 2011, I say we close the door back again.

Happy New Year.

Sincerely,

JayWalk
Sherriff, CowBoyBar
- Voxeros

20 December 2010

RunForFunds 2010 - December Update

The 2010 StanChart Marathon just passed us by earlier this month and Adrian has finally ran his swansong marathon. Age is catching up and perhaps it is time for him to call it a day to the 42km challenge. 21km from now on?

Bear in mind that we are still in our thirties (dammit, not much time to call ourselves 30s already), we still have a lot of years ahead of us and as such, it is time to start pacing ourselves to ensure we have enough legs to walk to our respective graves by ourselves. Besides, I look very unglam in a walker and I can't pull off the suave gait of  Johnnie Walker with his walking stick.

Anyway, the theme of our project is RunForFunds where it was originally intended to tie the marathon to us. Now that all the aging Super Friends, with Adrian being the last, are no longer gunning for the full 42km, what would be the future for RunForFunds?

Granted that we'd probably be running the shorter 21km at the next StanChart Marathon (technically still a marathon event), I can't help but feel a little bit of the spirit is lost there.

Sigh.

How ah? Can we have new blood and fresh legs to carrying the torch?




You'd recall 7 days before the marathon on 5th December (Sunday), I was down with fever and a badly infected throat.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a knock-out punch for a marathon runner preparing for a race.

It would be dangerous to run even if one has a slight flu, much less an infection with fever. But with the wonders of antibiotics, adequate rest and (I believe) divine intervention, I made a full recovery 48 hours before the run.

To be honest, I wasn't feeling "top of the world" on Friday but because of my extensive training for the past 4 months, I knew I could finish the race (somehow).

But just in case my ego got the better of me and to assure my family that there would be no heroics, I consulted my family doc on Saturday who gave me an all clear.

This year's race had a new route which started at Orchard Road 19,000 runners started the 42km run at 0500h, only 15,000 completed it.

I wasn't surprised by the attrition rate.

People signed up but didn't train for it.

At 3km, I could see some folks walking and panting with hands on their hips.

I also saw couples walking hand-in-hand, sauntering down East Coast parkway at their 13km mark (and I, a slow runner, had already covered 28 km!)

These people had no intent to finish the race.

The start of my run wasn't great.

I was directed to the wrong starting pen and was caught up with the straddlers.

For the 1st 10 km, I was running more sideways than forward.

On any other day, I would have been extremely flustered.

But since it was my final marathon, I decided I should take it easy and soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the sites along the way (also took note of restaurants along Amoy Street…… a lot of Korean makan).

This year's race was exceptionally tough because for a long stretch (29-36km), runners had to go round Marina reclaimed areas, on tracks beside construction sites.

There wasn't shade in these areas and the sun was blazing down on me and yes, I got sun burnt.

Morale of runners sunk to greater depths when occasional ambulances whizzed by with casualties of heat exhaustion (probably).

Thigh cramps also set in at this stage of the race.

It was quite a struggle but I could manage the pain.

I also received a lot of encouragement from fellow runners.

Must be because of my race tag........






At the 36 km mark, I turned into the AYE, opposite Marina Bay Sands, heading towards East Coast.

I looked up and saw a steep 2 km uphill run ahead of me (new route).

I was shocked and the shock waves obviously travelled from my head to my calves.

I've never experienced such massive calf muscle seizures before.

I stood rooted to the spot, not able to lift my foot at all.

With a huge stroke of luck, a medical staff happened to walk by.

I asked for help and he sat me down and massaged my rock-solid calves for 10 minutes (For the 1st minute, he was actually punching my calves to loosen the muscles).

I rested another 10 minutes before I could lift my foot an inch off the ground.

The medic asked if I wanted the ambulance to pick me up and I declined.

I told him I wanted to finish the race.

I've come too far to give up.

Besides, I could still force a smile for the cameraman ...........




It took me close to 2 hours to shuffle my feet 6 – 12 inches at a time to complete the last 6 km.

My average speed for the last 12 km was 5.4km/hr.

Any ah pek could have overtaken me comfortably….. really !!
(This year, the ah peks win).




Slowly but surely, I shuffled my way past the finished line.

From the pic, the pain is evident ??? :)

I've always told myself when I started running marathons in 2003 that if I took more than 6 hours to complete the race, I'd give it up.

This year, perhaps a self fulfilling prophesy, my finish time was 6h 16 min and 33 secs.




Amongst the finishers, I was 55th percentile.

As the results show, it is time to call it quits.

I'm happy with my 7 finisher's medals

However, it doesn't mean I'll stop running.

I love my pork lard (with meepok) too much give up exercise.

Next year, I'm signing up for the 21km run and will be aiming for a sub-2hr timing.

Maybe you can join me next year?


aL


- Voxeros

16 December 2010

Single Digit Weather



The signs were all there the night before.

A rain in the evening after many weeks of dry weather that led to traffic gridlocks all over the place. We were rooted to our spot on the road for 45 minutes before anyone gets to moved an inch. What originally was a 30-minute car ride, was blown into almost an hour-and-a-half.

By midnight, the rain escalated into a storm complete with the occasional lightning.

It was all quiet by morning. So quiet that I was awakened by the silence at 5am in the morning. Perhaps the cold lulled everyone into hibernating deep sleep.

The air was clean and crisp when I stepped out of the house. A rare occasion in this smog-filled land of TaoBao. The outdoor temperature was 7 degrees Celsius but factoring wind chill, it was 1 degree.

A big change from a comfy 21 degrees just the day earlier.

Not exactly my favourite temperature right now as it means I'd be forced to put on a jacket. My comfort zone is between 15 to 25 where I can continue to wear my short-sleeves and stay dry all the time.

The temperature is expecting rise up to 10 degrees Celsius (RealFeel: 5 degrees) and I wonder how I am going to go for my P230 run in this climate. I may have to switch to t-shirt instead of my usual tanktop. Running Shorts still? Definitely, I wouldn't trade it for trackpants. They are going to be way too hot when you get into the zone.

Glad this cold snap is temporary as temperature is expected to hit 16 degrees tomorrow and return to the 20s by Sunday.

- Voxeros

03 December 2010

My iPad - What I Have

Now that we have gone through what I like and what I don't about the iPad. Let's move on to what I have installed inside.

Here's my Top 10 apps in my iPad.

1 ) Free Memory (USD 0.99)

Remember I spoke about the memory leak problem as a result of multi-tasking function?

Running this little app not only allows you to see what has been eating into your memory, clicking "refresh" also let the app take a swipe of the memory and get back those that were out there in oblivion.

One of the dumb thing about it, is that you may have to swipe the memory a few times before getting all the hogged memory back, albeit not 100%. There will be times where you really have no choice but to do a shut-down and a restart when the leaked memory is just to stubborn to be recovered.

Free Memory is somewhat like a shoeshine sponge. You may be able to bring some sheen back to the shoe very quickly but once in a while, you will still need to give that pair of shoes a good old brush polishing.

Unlike the name of the app, this utility is unfortunately, not free. I damn buay song paying for a solution to a product flaw. Apple should foot bill for this. Bad Jobs!! Bad!!!

Note: This is an iPhone app but it works just as fine on the iPad. 


2) VLC Player (Free)


If you play videos on the iPad, then VLC media player is a must-have.

This little fella plays every damn format available (well almost every one of them sans the odd weird encoding).

Loading videos into the iPad is also a breeze. Just connect your iPad to your computer > fire up your iTunes > go to your iPad > click the App tab > scroll down to File Sharing > click to highlight VLC > then pick out the videos that you wish to transfer to the iPad. > that's it.

By the way, did I mention that I think that iTunes is a piece of crap software? Sluggish like nobody business. The only consolation is that the speed of the file transfer is very fast but that probably has nothing to do with iTunes anyway.


3) TuneIn Radio (USD 1.99)

Now that we have covered video, let's move on the audio. I got this just that I can listen to radio stations back home. Class 95FM, Gold 90.5, Lush 99.9 just to name a few. In case you haven't spotted then trend, they are all Mediacorp stations.


Sadly, Power 98 isn't on the list or I would have enjoyed tuning in to Power Cruising on weekday evenings.

A nifty feature is the alarm clock where it starts playing the broadcast at the time that you've set. It sorta becomes my radio clock belting out songs, banter from the trio of The Flying Dutchman, Vernetta Lopez and Glenn Ong every morning at 6am.

With the radio waves slowly nudging me awake, I sometimes mistook myself to be waking up in Singapore.

Afternote (14 Jul 2012): When starting up TuneIn radio, the app needs to access their server to get the playlist. Unfortunately, the Great Firewall of Ch1na (GFW) had in recent months blocked the access, rendering this app unusable without a bypass solution. I have since switched to LeonRadio (USD 1.99) which worked beautifully in Ch1na. The only downside albeit minor, is the absence of a wake-up alarm that TuneIn has.

4) iCab Mobile (USD 1.99)

I personally do not like the Safari browser that comes with the iPad as the default browser.

I find it sluggish. It is like the Windows equivalent of the Internet Explorer.

iCab Mobile is slightly faster in my opinion (it may be a placebo effect) but the one feature it has that trumps Safari is the multiple tabbed browsing capabilty.



5) Plurkid (USD 1.99)

I am a heavy Plurker and granted that I can just as easily plurk using any browser, those who have done so this way would have realised that while the screen is bigger with the iPad (yay!), the dialogue box for keying in your responses is stupidly tiny (boo!). It is only big enough to fit 3 or 4 words and you probably have to remember what you typed as it scroll into the abyss on the left.

Dumb.

Plurkid addresses this critical problem for a small fee. If you can live with the tiny dialogue box and don't plurk as fervently as I, don't spend the money.


6) Accuweather (Free)

It may not be useful to the non-traveling Singaporean whose home weather is nothing but Sunny With Chances of Shower, temperature ranging from 24 to 32 Celsius year-round.

It is however something that I need on a daily basis as I travel extensively in temperate regions.

I also need to monitor the weather of all my offices and Accuweather's interface does exactly this as it give you a one-glance-see-all layout.

I switched over from The Weather Channel where the latter has more bells and whistles like video weather reports etc, but that's overkill for me and I don't think I want to waste my time and bandwidth going into such detail.


7) XE Currency (Free)

Importing from other countries is a big part of my job here and monitoring currency rates on a daily basis is a daily routine for me.

Like Accuweather, XE Currency also have a one-glance-see-all layout for me to see how the USD relates to the HKD, relates to the CNY, relates to the SGD, relates to the NTD, relates to the THB. All in a single glance.

Point to note is that the rates on it are Inter-bank rates i.e. you may have to pad a few points to get the rates that you will be negotiating with the banks on that day.


8) FileApp (Free)

I mentioned in my earlier entry where I brought my iPad on my business trip instead of the usual laptop since I only need my documents on a read-only basis.

FileApp here does exactly that as it supports Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint formats. Adobe Acrobat PDF is supported too.

Loading it into the iPad is easy via the same way as VLC (see above) or wirelessly via the internet e.g. Dropbox or straight from web mail.


9) Galaxy On Fire 2 (USD 6.99)

Once in a while, one should kick back and slot in a bit of recreation.

I am not big on gaming but I bought this as it reminded my of the good old days of the Wing Commander series which I loved.

Come to think of it, given that there is there element of trading in there, I would say that this is closer to that of the Privateer series which is a spin-off of the actual Wing Commander series.

I remembered how I needed to souped up my 486 to have a whopping 8mb RAM (whoa!) and a Diamond Stealth 32 graphics card just to be able to load the game.

Oh how far technology has come along where a little oversize PDA by the name of iPad can now render the same game (well sort of) with better graphics and audio.


10) South China Morning Post (Free for now)

I am a subscriber to this Hong Kong broadsheet and I am paying a whopping RMB 4000 per year to have the papers delivered to me Monday to Friday (Saturday & Sunday gets lumped together with Monday's delivery).

Right now, it is on a trial basis as the iPad version of this newspaper has not been officially launched. Once it is up, subscription is expected to be around HKD 900 annually which is a gigantic discount for me.

However, I am not liking what I have been seeing so far as the app does not have an auto-download feature where I was hoping my iPad could download while I sleep and be available first thing in the morning.

Manual download was terrible and it took ages to complete. Hopefully when the app is finalised, this problem gets resolved. Otherwise, I may have to continue to pay RMB 4000 to get my daily news fix.

One more thing, I may need to adjust to not having my newspaper in non-paper form. Still resisting the temptation to bring the iPad into the bathroom.

Afternote (14 Jul 2012): I have since ditched South China Morning Post in favour of another Hong Kong broadsheet. The Standard is a free app although the content is not quite as good as the incumbent.

Image Credits: http://www.iphonefaq.org; http://a4.mzstatic.com; http://www.tapscape.com http://a1.phobos.apple.com; http://www.ipad-application-reviews.com; http://wpcdn.padgadget.com; http://appstorehq-production.s3.amazonaws.com; http://image.17173.com

- Voxeros

02 December 2010

My iPad - What I Dislike


Ok, we did what I liked about the iPad. Here's what I don't like about the iPad or parts for it that I feel is dumb.

  1. Weight

    Compared to the laptop, it is much lighter. However, as a device that you are considering to carry around with you all day, this is actually very heavy and even more so as the day dragged on. I was attending an event last Sunday and I carry this with me and by the end of the day, my arm was about to drop off.

    For those who still remember the TV series Las Vegas, the character restaurant hostess, Delinda, is often spotted carrying a tablet to manage her tables. That alone for those, who know their tech, is purely fiction both in the weight as well as battery juice department. Now that iPad is lighter and packs more juice, it is sadly still fictionally feasible.

  2. Memory Leak

    With iOS4 comes multi-tasking and with multi-tasking comes memory leak. In case any one hadn't noticed, iPhone/iPad apps does not come with an OFF button i.e. you can't shut down an application. pre-iOS4 models is fine with it as single-tasking means closing of the app whenever you hit the home button.

    However, now that you have multi-tasking, hitting the home button only brings it to the background and still running and hogging a chunk of resources. As you open more and more applications, the dwindling memory will eventually jam up the entire machine forcing you to either task kill the apps individually or do a reboot to start afresh.

    Dumb.

  3. 3G Connectivity

    I have the 3G model where I took the sim card, from my China Unicom WCDMA USB Mobile Broadband Stick, and inserted it into the iPad.

    Sad to say, the 3G speed on the iPad is significantly more sluggish than the originally USB stick.

  4. Apple Store

    One thing I hate about Apple is telling you what you can do, and what you can't. Over here, it tells you that you can't download Apps from other places except their store. Android Market is just as guilty but at the very least it doesn't totally prevent you from visiting alternative apk sites.

  5. Peripheral Support

    Still on the what-you-can-do,-what-you-can't-do department, the iPad does not allow you to connect to peripherals. You can't plug in a USB drive to gain access to external storage nor plug-in a USB mouse. Everything is proprietary which will cost you your liver and a kidney.

  6. Touchscreen Keyboard

    If there is one word to describe the touchscreen keyboard, it's retarded. The response is unable to keep up with my typing. Then again, could it be due to the fact than sensitivity is somewhat impeded by the presence of the screen protector layer?

    Also, keyboard should be 5 rows not 4, dammit!!

    Granted I understand that on the iPhone, 4 rows is deployed as a result of real estate constrains but now that we have iPad big screen, we need the buttons to be so big for what? I'd rather put in the numeric top row like a good Qwerty keyboard should be.
- Voxeros

01 December 2010

My iPad - What I Like


The iPad is something that I have wanted for many years now. Not the actual Apple product per se but a light and straight forward device (Instant ON, Palm OS-like One Touch Access) for some simple computing, checking email, browsing web and instant messaging as well as a battery life that allows you to leave the charger at the hotel room for the day.

From the Psion, to the Palm, to the Visor Platinum, to the Sony Clie, to the WinCE notebook. I've tried them all but none could give me the perfect fit to my requirement.

I was ahead of my time. By a decade.

Now comes the iPad which fulfills all of the above and below are a few points of what I like I about it.

  1. Weight

    I recently went on a business trip to Shanghai where I left my laptop behind and brought the iPad along to see if I can survive with it alone.

    It passed with flying colours. It is light and portable, making going through the airport security somewhat less clumsy. With everything (wallet, phones, coins, etc in the carry-on bag), it's just a bag, an iPad and me. Going through security was actually easier.

    I remember the early days where every available minute on the road is spent preparing spreadsheet after spreadsheet, presentation slide after presentation slide, pdf quotations after pdf quotations. A full fledged laptop was required. But now that I am at the stage (for quite some time already) where I have amassed my personal army within the organisation to do all that for me, I just needed something that fulfill the function of a read-only device. I have paid my dues churning out stuff for my bosses to look good in front of the board. Now it's my turn to be pampered.

    I use FileApp (Free) to fulfill this function.
     
  2. Instant On

    Back to the good old days of the Palm OS where we don't have to endure the dumbass boot-up eternity of Windows. For fellow Windows users, a way to get around this is not to shut-down the laptop. I never do. Instead, I put it to sleep whenever I go offline. With the laptop so intertwined with our daily lives, it is only a matter of a couple of hours before the laptop is opened up again to see the light of day. So why bother to shut down?
     
  3. Big Touch-Screen

    My last laptop was the IBM Thinkpad X40 Tablet and my present one is the HP Touchsmart TM2. Both are big touchscreens. Size does matter which is why I resisted moving to the iPhone from my trusty Nokia E90, even though the latter is not touch-screen. Granted that the iPhone has a rather generous screen for a mobile phone but mind you, once the on-screen keyboard comes up, there is very little real estate left.
     
  4. Battery Life

    At one point in time, I did consider the Fujitsu P-series as my choice for a laptop simply because you can swap out the DVD drive and put in a second battery to give you a total of 11 hours of juice, on top of the fact that it has a touch-screen.

    Problem is that batteries are not light. As if one is not heavy enough, you now have 2. That would certainly put the laptop over 2kg. Bad for the shoulders especially carrying them for prolonged periods of time.

    Point to note, your laptop weight must include the accessories that you intend to carry with you. The second battery, the external DVD drive, the mouse and of course the super heavy power brick that you can't survive beyond 4 hours without.

    With the iPad battery life rated at 10 hours, you can leave the power brick, albeit a tiny one back at the hotel or check-in luggage. There is no second battery and hardly any peripherals, the total weight is as close to the iPad weight as possible sans perhaps the protective carry cover.
As much as I gushed about the iPad, there are some parts of it that I am unhappy with. Stay tuned for the next entry where I shall talk about them in greater detail.

- Voxeros
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