Monday, June 30, 2008

Portrait Photography

Blogger Neo is an avid photographer, and he particularly likes to take pictures of beautiful women. Female blogger, Huei, on the other hand, likes to “camwhore”. So I think it is time to write something on portrait photographer.

Admittedly, I am not a good photographer. However, after a few years of “playing with camera”, I have learned a thing or two. I compile some tips for taking portraits here, some of which apply to general photography too…


Many people hardly hold their cameras in vertical position. But if you are shooting portrait, learn to shoot in vertical (portrait) position more often.


Try to apply The Rule of Thirds. (Google to learn more about it.)


Focus on the subject’s eyes.


Do not always shoot at eye level. Occasionally shoot from low or high angle.

This photo was taken from high angle.


If you are using wide-angle lens and intending to take a full-body-length portrait, avoid shooting at eye level. This will make the subject’s legs look short!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

50% of GDP

One of my MBA classmates is an agent of direct selling, also know as multi-level marketing (MLM). In the class, she told us that direct selling has a very bright future, and the sales from it will amount to 50% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of this country.

I am not sure if I can trust her. As far as I know, shopping is the national pastime of Malaysians. In Klang Valley, we shop at KLCC, Starhill, MidValley, Sunway Pyramid and 1 Utama, among others. Penangites shop at Queensbury Mall. Johoreans may even cross the strait to spend their weekend at Singapore’s Orchard Road.

Just imagine: if we opt for direct selling, we will get our goods from our uplines or directly from warehouse. How boring could it be?

I am not against direct selling. I am just thinking that the projected sales figure (50% of GDP) is too optimistic.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Change lifestyle, but how?

On June 4, 2008, Malaysian government raised the petrol price by more than 40% and diesel price by more than 60%. The government urged the people to “change their lifestyles” as a mean to cope with the inflation that ensued.

I wish I could, but how? As a working people who studies MBA on part-time basis, I have near zero entertainment. I don’t go to disco and the last time I went into a karaoke lounge was in the year 2006.

Some commuters switch to using public transport, but I can’t. I drive about 35 minutes to get to my office. If I take public transport, the traveling time will surely more than double. Now, for two days a week, I attend my MBA class right after work. If I take public transport, I won’t make it.

Even on the days when I have no class, I would like to rush home to do my homework, or jog in the park. Malaysian blogger who lives in Singapore, Noel, routinely jogs in the HDB flat area until very late. But this is Malaysia. The park is not safe after dark.

Some naïve government officers tell us to plant vegetables at our backyards. C’mon, I live in city, not kampong. How much land do I have? Furthermore, chemical fertilizer has become more expensive, while organic fertilizer a.k.a. chicken’s dropping is not available.

I think there is very little I can do to change my lifestyle. It would be better if the government changes its spending patterns and does not waste taxpayers’ money.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Organic Food, Food Crisis & the Environment

Is organic food good for your health and good for the environment?

I recently came across an interesting article on WebMD, which tells us the myths about organic food. I reproduce part of it here…



Organics don't contaminate soil and groundwater with pesticides and chemicals like regular farming does, but there's a surprising downside: Since organic farming is only about half as productive as conventional farming, it requires far more land to produce the same amount of food. Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues estimates that modern high-yield farming has saved 15 million square miles of wildlife habitat, and that if the world switched to organic farming, we'd need to cut down 10 million square miles of forest. Less-productive farming could also lead to even less food for the world's undernourished.


To read the full article, click the link below:

6 Myths About Organic Food

Now, with mercury rising and food crisis looming, do you still think organic food is the way to go?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

中国功夫 vs. 泰国拳





Friday, June 20, 2008

Model Shots

Originally posted on June 17, 2008.
Updated with more photos!



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Party Over

When I was an undergraduate, I ate chap fun (economic rice) everyday, and rode a motorcycle to the campus. I didn’t own a car until after I started to work.

After working for a number of years, I decided to take up MBA. I discovered that many of my younger classmates were full-time students with little or no working experience. All of them drove to the university.

We were required to study between two and five subjects every semester. As a working adult, I could only cope with two at any time. Many of the full-time students took three subjects, but they somehow believed that they had a harder life than me. One of them asked me, “You take two subjects only ah!??” Another said, “You take two subjects only, must be very easy lah…”

“These kids are lucky.” I thought. They grew up in the age of abundance. They did not need to worry about earning money. Well, that’s until June 4, 2008.

On this historic day, June 5, 2008, Malaysian government raised the gasoline price by more than 40%, and the diesel price by more than 60%. The age of abundance has come to an abrupt end. We now enter the age of high inflation.

My younger classmates – if they do not wish to burden their parents – should start to look for a job. Or, if they are not ready to enter the real world, then at least they should complete the study fast. Party time is over!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

McDonald’s Location Strategy

I prefer Burger King’s Whopper to Big Mac. But in the last one year, I went to McDonald’s more often than Burger King.

The canteen of my company sells mainly spicy food. As I want to cut down on spicy food intake, I often have my lunch outside the company, and the most convenient location is a McDonald’s restaurant attached to a petrol station. (Many people point out that fast food is not good for health, but I believe spicy food is worse.)

While its competitors’ outlets are mostly in shopping malls, McDonald’s has diversified in terms of locations. It has set up many stores at petrol stations. Other than being more convenient to working people like me, there are several other advantages:

  • Unlike the restaurants in shopping malls, McDonald’s at petrol stations can be opened 24 hours.
  • They can offer drive-through service.

Now you know why McDonald’s is the world’s number 1 fast food chain

WARNING: Drive through service can be bad for the environment.

Friday, June 13, 2008



- 陶杰《香港边缘化》

大马一些马来领袖,认为华人善于经商,就呼吁马来人向华人学习。其实华人看到那一门生意赚钱,便一窝蜂去搞,到了市场饱和,就“揽住一齐死”。不信?看看星马两地的 kopitiam 和港式餐厅吧。

相反的,美国人懂得进军少竞争的 niche market,管理大师 Michael Porter 的市场策略,其中一条就是 “product differentiation”,或产品区别。要学经商,还是向美国佬偷师吧。

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hybrid Vehicles in Malaysia?

Toyota Prius Hybrid Vehicle

In response to the gasoline price hike on June 5, a reader wrote to The Star, accusing Malaysian government for not introducing gas-electric hybrid vehicles to the country.

Hybrid vehicles, as we know, are generally very fuel efficient. Unfortunately, they are also pricier than vehicles that run on conventional engines. In the U.S., it is said that hybrid vehicles have a “$3,000 price premium” over comparable conventional vehicles. When the gasoline price in Malaysia was at RM1.92/liter, nobody, save for some die-hard environmentalists and celebrities, would ever consider owning them.

Even at RM2.70/liter, I seriously doubt they are economical for the majority of us. In order to save enough on fuel to offset the “price premium”, you probably need to drive over 2,000 km every month, mostly in city. Hybrid vehicles are most suitable for driving in the city, where traffic is stop-and-go.

In some countries, governments boost their image by buying green vehicles for official use. Unfortunately, Malaysia has a few “national car makers” which haven’t ventured into the hybrid technology yet. Don’t bet that our government will do the same thing.

So, will hybrid vehicles ever become main stream in this country? We are not completely hopeless. If the gasoline price breaches the RM3.00 per liter level, the car dealers may have incentive to import hybrid vehicles. Also, as the technology matures, and as the car makers achieve “economies of scale”, the price of hybrid vehicle should come down. Maybe one of you will be driving a Toyota Prius within the next 5 years.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Random Shots - June


Canon's Cannon...

Flowers in Cameron Highlands...

(I no longer remember the name of this flower. Can anyone help me?)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Some Thoughts on Oil Shock

Datuk Seri Idris Jala, CEO of Malaysia Airlines, believed that there was no global fuel shortage. (The Star, June 5, 2008)

Idris Jala was a former senior executive with Shell. Speaking at International Air Transport Association annual general meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey recently, he said,

“Look at the oil tankers at sea. If they are not moving and just floating out at sea, that means they have no crude or processed oil to transport. That is not happening and this can only mean there is no shortage.”

I am not sure if his reasoning is correct. We know that there is shortage when demand exceeds supply. Based on the example given by the MAS CEO, we can deduce that supply for crude oil is consistent. What has not been mentioned is that demand is on the rise.

Furthermore, the fact that there is no shortage now doesn’t mean there is no shortage in the near future. After all, crude oil is traded in futures market.

Anyway, if Idris Jala is right, the oil price should eventually drop, as speculators sell their oil futures. The MAS CEO thought that US$40 was the “fair value” for a barrel of crude.

Now, while I am feeling the pinch of the oil shock, I hope the crude price will NOT drop to $40 per barrel. At that level, we will not give a thought to renewable energy and energy conservation. Perhaps a figure between $80 and $100 is just right.

As for the price at Malaysian pumps, maybe in the RM2.40 – RM2.70 range.

Friday, June 06, 2008



某个国家的宗教领袖公开焚烧星条旗,引起美国人大为不满。这国家有学生在美国求学,并享受美国政府提供的优惠,但他们也参加了示威游行。在美国国会,有人提议将这批学生驱逐出境。但议员们认为,这些学生有权利表达他们的意见,将他们驱逐出国不符合美国精神,并说:“我们不咬那只咬我们的狗。” (We don’t bite the dog that bites us.)

中国四川省发生了大地震后,美国影星 Sharon Stone 发表“业力” (Karma) 论,在中国掀起大风波。中国戏院全面封杀她的影片,上海博庫書城也決定將她的影視作品全部下架退回,並且表示永遠不再採購她的影視作品。另一方面,香港歌手肥妈称她为“所有中国人血统的公敌”。Sharon Stone 较后道歉,但中国人的愤怒并没有因此平息下来。

Sharon Stone 在中国人水深火热的当儿发表业力论,无疑是缺少了同情心。但她只是荷李活一个过气明星,她主演的 Basic Instinct 在戏院上映时,许多中国网友都还在玩泥沙。中国全面封杀她,第一是小题大做,第二显示中国人对祖国缺乏信心,第三说明中国人爱利用他们的经济实力来达到政治目标,第四令人觉得,中国依然没有北京政府一心所追求的“软实力”。


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Web Design 101

If you are an observant surfer, you probably have noticed that my blog page has a minimalist design – white background, no ads, no chat box…

A blog that I visited had a couple of graphical ads by Advertlets plus about a dozen widgets such as ‘shoutbox’, MyBlogLog and ‘Life traffic feed’. The page took forever to load, and the CPU usage of my computer shot up to 100%.

They ‘add-ons’ have another drawback – they distracts readers from the main contents, which are the posts. Of course, this is not to say that they are useless, but we must try to strike a balance. Why, do you think, is Google’s page so simple?

Web design 101:

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My struggle with RAW


I notice that there are some bloggers, Huei and Neo for example, who are avid photographers. So I decided to write something on digital photography.


RAW is sometimes described as digital negative. A RAW image is an unprocessed image. It requires special software to convert the RAW images into viewable formats such as JPEG or TIFF. The advantage of RAW is that it gives us more rooms to fine-tune the images, so we are supposed to get better pictures. The disadvantage is that we need to convert the images, which is an additional step.

The prevailing view among digital photographers is that: If you don’t shoot RAW, you are no ‘pro’.

As a kiasu Canon user, I have also shot RAW, and used the following software to convert the images into JPEG format:

Canon RAW Image Task (RIT)

Nothing much we can do with RIT aside from adjusting white balance. If white balance has been set right during shooting, there is really little advantage of using RIT.

Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)

One advantage of DPP over RIT is that we can select the so-called Picture Styles. For example, if I shoot landscape, I select Landscape Picture Style in DPP. If I shoot portrait, I select Portrait Picture Style. However, when I set the Picture Style of a Thai girl image to Portrait, her skin tone didn’t look natural. Perhaps the Portrait Picture Style works best for Japanese.

Adobe PhotoShop Elements

At default settings, RAW images from Elements are extremely dull, and it takes a lot of tuning to get a decent picture. Elements is, however, more powerful than the two free software from Canon. Another advantage is that we can use the Adobe software to open RAW files of other cameras.

As a working adult who study part time, I find processing, and fine-tuning, RAW images to be too time consuming. Today I often shoot RAW+JPEG. If the JPEG images are OK, I just don’t bother to touch the RAW files. If I ever want to process RAW files, I use the Canon software.


While many digital camera users think that shooting RAW makes you more ‘pro’, there are actually some professional photographers who disagree. Here is one.

Canon Digital Photo Professional