quotes ranting

Social media is a toilet stall door

I have a new piece of advice to live by, and to add to my list of sage advice, that I will dispense to my kids and (when drunk) to my friends:

Treat posts on social media the way you would treat messages scrawled on a bathroom stall.

This sums up the shithole of information that is the internet, and in particular the current manifestation of it we call “social media”. Maybe one of those “for a good time call <insert your best friend/enemy/ex’s number here>” messages in a truck-stop bathroom is actually from the person whole number is given and they actually are looking for a good time… but a large dose of skepticism will keep you free from venereal diseases, staring on a milk carton or at least the embarrassment of actually talking to someone on the other end of the line about where you got their number.

I’m paraphrasing this for Richard Geib’s post “The “Delta Variant” of COVID-19 in the United States and the Ghost of Charles Darwin” [] where he is talking about people not choosing to get vaccinated due to reading things on Facebook:

You read it on social media and automatically believed it? Much of what one reads on social media is like the scrawls on bathroom stalls — caveat emptor. Do you live in a cave and not know this?

Richard Geib

I’m sure a lot of people out there will object that they didn’t automatically believe it, that they did their research… but let me explain the issue with social media research… No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

Remember, he was trying to get off the drugs…

We can add this to the list of sage advice:

photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2013

In 2013 I used the iPhone 4S [] I got in 2011 and a new iPhone 5s []. Both are 8 megapixel and output images that are 3,264 by 2,448 pixels, I don’t see much difference in the quality of the photos in general, though Wikipedia lists improvements in the sensor and a lower f-stop for the 5s.

My favorite photo taken on my mobile in 2013 is from the “The Art of The Brick” [] exhibit at the ArtScience Museum [] at Marina Bay Sands. The exhibit is comprised of numerous sculptures made entirely out of Lego Bricks by Nathan Sawaya. I’ve always liked Lego and decided before I had kids that Lego would be an important toy for them. As such my daughters have way too many Legos. My younger daughter was only 8 months old, too young for Legos, especially since everything went into the mouth for her at that age… but my older daughter enjoyed the exhibit, though she hardly remembers it today. I didn’t take my DSLR with me the day we went so only mobile photos.

Not only my favorite mobile photo of the year, but this was my favorite sculpture of the exhibit.

Next up, another art work, this one hanging in the atrium at Millenia Walk. An anatomically correct balloon man.

Just hanging around.

Last one for the 4s: this is a good example of getting amazing detail out of the 4s’ camera. Taken on a rainy afternoon at Millenia Walk in the small parking lot where there are always a lot of expensive cars.


As for the 5s, there are not a ton of photos, given it was late September when I got it. But I’ve picked two that are good.

The first is a shot taken on a business trip to Seattle. After some working sessions in the morning we took a walk down to Miners Landing at pier 57 to get lunch. It had been raining, a light misty rain, most of the morning but cleared up just before we left and the blue skies started to open up as we got to pier 57.


The last mobile photo for 2013 is one that inspired me. I took it while waiting for a coffee one evening at Starbucks. I pointed my camera phone up at the lamps hanging over the counter where the baristas deliver the food and drinks to you and got this:

The first “Looking up at Lamps” photo I took.

I never posted this one but I continued to take photos like this pointing the phone camera up at lamps in restaurants, pubs, shops and anywhere I thought I could get a cool shot. Today there are 58 other shots in my “Looking up at Lamps” [] album on Flickr. And you can read more about them in this post here on confusion [].


Little Women and the MCU

My younger daughter, who will be nine this month, is a big fan of the MCU. As much as I was a fan of Star Wars when I was a kid. It’s also fun to have someone who wants to watch action movies, as George Lucas said it’s great to have someone who understand explosions. She is eagerly awaiting the release of Black Widow [] and also Shang-Chi []. Black Widow is one of her favorite characters and Shang-Chi is, well, Asian so close to home.

Since the MCU has been on a bit of a hiatus in the age of COVID-19 we have been re-watching the many of the movies. Not all of them but a lot of them, we’ve been in second wave COVID lockdown for the summer school holidays, so movies galore. Last week we made it to the final leg of the “Infinity Saga”; Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.

Captain Marvel is one of my daughter’s favorite MCU characters (can you see a pattern here?). and while I didn’t think Captain Marvel was a great movie, it is fun. And while being a fun movie it managed to server another purpose, it was the first MCU film to have a solo female lead character.

Facebook post at the time, 8 March 2019

Remember that even before the movie came out it sparked a skirmish in the culture wars []? Whatever you think about the controversy the movie was an empowering story for a 6 year old girl. And bravo to Disney for making superhero movies that remember that there are girls out there to who like explosions. I remember reading somewhere, that Disney bought Marvel and Star Wars since they didn’t have properties for older boys but they have not just focused on the boys, they have continued to make stories with female characters, in both supporting and lead roles, that aren’t just damsels in distress or eye candy for their male fans; not just fan service.

If you’re not familiar with “Fan Service” let’s let Wikipedia get you up to speed:

Fan service, fanservice or service cut, is material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience, often sexual in nature, such as nudity. The term originated in Japanese in the anime and manga fandom, but has been used in other languages and media.

Fan Service [] article on Wikipedia (emphasis mine)

Wikipedia is being nice, mostly it’s a way for media to parade their female characters in the tightest or skimpiest or otherwise sexiest outfits they can. It’s not a new thing, I remember 90’s anime traded on VHS tapes that had “fan service”. And while I’m sure there is fan service targeted at audiences who want to look at guys out there it’s nowhere near as ubiquitous as scantily clad women.

Be honest, almost all “Fan Service” is girls in skimpy outfits…

And speaking of fan service, and getting back to watching the final leg of the Infinity Saga with my daughter, there is a scene in Endgame during the final battle that pissed off a lot of (male?) fans. During the climactic battle there is a scene where all the female superheros of the MCU appear in a single shot. Even watching Endgame in the theater and caught up in the action it felt unnecessary and forced; out of place and in your face. Watching the movie again, at home, for me, it’s worse, it doesn’t fit with the narrative to me and I can see why people see the heavy hand of a studio wanting to be inclusive and “woke” in it. But for my daughter? She loves it, she pauses it and names all the characters.

Endgame was filled with this different, more family friendly, type of fan service: Captain America taking up Mjolnir, proving his worthiness and finally getting to say “Avenger, assemble” being two major examples. Fan service it is, but in a way that takes the term away from it’s sexist roots.

What separates those two scenes with Cap from the (almost) all-the-MCU-ladies shot is that Caps senses served a narrative purpose. I failed to find any purpose in the al-the-MCU-ladies shot. (I did read there was a narrative reason [], but it sounds like it was after-the-fact inserted, so the scene was truly forced, and it’s purpose was not clear to me when watching or re-watching the movie…) I think trying to single out the ladies as a single group at once didn’t work, better to have had more screen time kicking the baddies asses throughout the epic battle (Captain Marvel and Wanda had some good fight scenes but less so the other ladies.)

Anyway I’m getting off topic… the point is that one persons eye rolling, cringe scene can be another persons fan service and inspiration. And as the father of two girls I’m glad they have role models outside of princesses. I’m glad Disney has expanded on the role of female characters in Star Wars and make the women of Marvel more empowered and empowering and less just eye candy for the boys.


Summer sunset


Amazing sunset today in Singapore.

photography ranting

All rules…

As seen in Amsterdam []…
photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2012

Twenty-twelve, my second daughter was born so even more of my mobile photos are filled with pictures of the kids to embarrass them with in the future; crying baby face, bath-time soapy hair, singing along with the My Little Pony theme song in the car.

I used the iPhone 4S [] all year, having gotten it at the end of 2011, the 8 mega-pixel camera was a definite step up from the 5 mega-pixel camera of the iPhone 4 and even more over my old iPhone 3GS’es 3 mega-pixel camera!

As I said last time, in good light the iPhone 4S took very good photos. Low light was still an issue, has been up to this day, night mode on the newer iPhones just over does the noise reduction, the photos look good on the iPhone screen but not when viewed on your computer or TV. But photos taken in even halfway decent light look great. It still makes a big difference if you can set the phone on something to keep it stable though.

The first photo I chose for 2012 is a photo where I had a stable surface to set the phone on when taking the shot. And this photo is actually one of the sharpest mobile photos I’ve ever taken, just a random snail in my condo:

He might have a bit of a problem with an ant…

Next up two shots of the housing blocks across the street from me, one in full daylight and one in late afternoon golden sunlight. Both look great:

Block 174 in full daylight, note the bird ;-)
Block 173 in late afternoon light

Next we have a couple of lower light shots that worked well, though you can see the graininess if you look. First, a shot taken in Changi Airport while waiting for a late night flight. This figurine was clipped to my work bag for years. At some point I lost him, not sure where. He was seriously beat up even in 2012:

Popobe New Violence Darth Vader bear

Last two: Escalators at Paragon shopping mall on Orchard Road here in Singapore and looking up at an art installation in Millenia Walk shopping mall’s main atrium.

Escalators at Paragon
Art at Millenia Walk
photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2011

I spent most of 2011 with an Apple iPhone 3GS [] which I got in 2009 [] and used for all of 2010 [].

Most of my interesting snapshots for 2011 are from in and around Suntec City []. I started working at an office in Suntec in 2010 and have been there ever since… though I mostly work from home since the COVID-19 lock-down and at this point I don’t have any plans to go back to the office day-in and day-out. Once in a while to meet people is enough.

My oldest daughter started day care in Suntec in 2011. I would pick her up at 6 each day and we would wait for my wife to pick us both up. next to large koi pond at Suntec. The first photos I chose for 2011 is from one afternoon while we waited. Next to the koi pond there was a restaurant with a red neon sign and on this particular day it was quite dark at 6, cloudy but not yet storming. At 6PM the outdoor lights in Singapore are not on (most are on automatic timers from about 7PM to 7AM, being very close to the equator the day is almost exactly 12 hours long, shifting less than 15 minutes (see here []). The dark clouds and lack of streetlights allowed the neon red to turn the pond into pool of glowing red blood:

Neon light reflected off water

I always wanted to get that shot with my DSLR but the few times I went back there was too much sunlight or white lights from the streetlights. I never got lucky and the koi pond is long gone now, a victim of renovation.

A few months after my daughter started daycare we had to change centers as the one in Suntec close. They arranged an offer to transfer all the students who wanted to another center in Millenia Walk [] just next door. So for the next few years I walked over the Millenia most days. Millenia has a bunch of sculptures around it and one in particular I had to pass by every day. It’s a tall spiral of stacked square marble by Philip Johnson [] and it’s positioned in such a way that it catches the late sun during the golden hour. I took many photos of it over the years that my daughters were in day care in Millenia Walk. This is one of the best:

Sculpture by Philip Johnson at Millenia Walk.

Given the time of day, 6PM and it being a weekday (Wednesday the internet tells me) the next photo was probably also taken when I was walking over to Millenia:

Just a bit of blue sky

Then, in October, the iPhone 4S [] was released. And a serious jump in camera quality, from 3 megapixel to 8 megapixel. 8 megapixels is a respectable digital camera, you can actually print photos at this resolution out as standard size photos and they look good. All assuming you had good light, but at this point the iPhone entered an era where it was as good as a mass market point-and-shoot. And since other phones had even better cameras by now this was really the end of the dedicated point-and-shoot as a viable product. You can still get them ten years on but now there are only a few models to choose from. Back in 2010, 2011 there were dozens and they were quite popular. Yet another gadget the smartphone subsumed.

I only have one photo from 2011 taken with the 4S to share. Taken at work during a conference call. A long time hobby of mine, during long conference calls, was to play with Buckyballs! (Note that the original (?) Buckyballs no longer exist due to a long running issue around safety in the US and a lawsuit back in 2012, but I’ll always call them Buckyballs. There are a number of companies still selling Neodymium Magnetic Toys [], check out Zen Magnets [], you can see some of the amazing things people build in their gallery). Here’s a shot looking down a tube of Buckyballs:


Before we end 2011, I’ve got one more. I don’t do a lot of overt manipulation of most of my photos. I adjust the white balance, play with the exposure and curves, add a vignette, etc. but I don’t “photoshop” them for the most part. However, I do play around with more drastic editing some times, and on my phone I have an app called Camera+ [] (they are on Camera+2 now, but this photo was edited with the original). Here is one photo that I messed with in Camera+ as it was not a good photo, but I was able to get something cool out if it after adding a bunch of filters and such:


This was taken at the old Suntec Convention Center, the enterance off of Beach Road, before the MRT station was built and before the Suntec renovations in 2012-2014. There was some sort of power outage that day creating dramatic shadows as people came into the Convention Center on a sunny day.

quotes ranting

Studying the math

Anything that is not replenished by nature as fast as we’re using it cannot be part of a successful future.

Prof. Tom Murphy, in Ultimate Success from his Do the Math [] blog

That’s the sad truth, we are depleting things faster than the earth can replenish them. And whether you acknowledge humans as the primary driver of climate change or not, you should understand that humanity is using things faster then they can be replenished and that’s going to be a problem at some point. If you use the sugar or milk faster then you can get to the shop to replace it you have to do without… how do you do without energy when we run out of coal and oil and gas?

I’ve been reading UCSD Professor Tom Murphy’s Do The Math [] blog since close to the beginning, back in 2011 I think (at least that’s when I quoted him the first time []). It dropped off the radar for a while, no posts for a couple of years but in the past few weeks it’s come back. And for a good reason, Prof. Murphy has turned the central premise of the blog into a proper textbook, that you can read online or download for free at eScholarship [] or purchase an actual physical copy at Lulu [].

The blog is an amazing way to get into some of the hard science behind the debt we, humanity, have and continue to build up to fund our planet destroying growth. But let me let the blog speak for itself:

[Do the Math] takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth. The approach is often playfully quantitative, with the aim of arriving at a fresh perspective on our world. Posts stress estimation over exactness, because in many cases a reasonably complete picture can be developed without lots of decimal places. Estimations of this type can be used to bring clarity to complex issues, or to evaluate the potential of proposed energy solutions. Hopefully, readers will gain the courage and techniques to start making valuable estimations of their own. The blog begins with a two-part assessment of the implications of continued growth, then settles down to tackle a variety of cute questions relating to energy storage, biofuels, home energy, transport, climate change, etc.

Prof. Tom Murphy, in About this Blog from his Do the Math [] blog

I ordered the book from Lulu and it just arrived the other day. Now to find the willpower to read an honest to goodness textbook for the first time in years. I think more people should have a decent understanding of the basic mathematics and scientific concepts behind these issues, so it’s time to put my money where my mouth is (actually I need to put my time where my mouth is and read…) Most normal people are not going to read the full textbook, but I encourage you to go and read some or all of the blog. Start here with the Guide to Posts [], you can read by subject, focus on Growth and Sustainability or Alternative Energy or the very important why change is Easier Said than Done.

Whatever order you want to read the blog or the textbook in, please do it. More people should understand the basics of the trap we built for ourselves and what we need to be do to get out of it.

photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2010

A new decade. But, ehm, same iPhone 3GS I ended 2009 [] with. The 3GS actually took some decent photos in 2010. Decent enough that I have actually uploaded some of them to my Flickr []. So here we go, my best mobile photos of 2010.

First up, two related photos. I have a enduring fascination for taking photos straight up at interesting ceilings. Too often people don’t look up unless they are told to. So maybe it’s the unexpected perspective or the fact that I don’t see many photos of ceilings but I have taken a lot over the years. Here are two from Singapore, old and modern.

The old, is the dome of the National Museum of Singapore [], with it’s blue and white stained glass windows:

Dome of the National Museum of Singapore.

The modern, is the glass cone ceiling of Wheelock Place on Orchard Road:

Wheelock Place. Off center.

Enough architecture, now for some nature. Colorful, if dying, nature in the form of a fern leaf someone on a sidewalk in Singapore. Mostly leaves come in two colors in Singapore – Green or Brown, for a few week a year, if we have a good dry season, you can see yellow leaves but for most of the year it’s just Green or Brown. The fern leaf is unusually colorful.

Death of a fern.

Next up, more nature, but not from Singapore, this sunset was taken in Woburn, Massachusetts in the US. On a trip for a job, I was walking back to my hotel from dinner. You don’t get many dramatic sunsets in Singapore, we don’t get the low angle that the more northerly or southerly latitudes do, so I noticed that sunset every day in Woburn.

Almost the Windows XP hill.

And I’ll leave it at that. Next stop 2011.

photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2009

We started the iPhone era in 2008, camera quality went backwards, as discussed [] last time. I spent most of 2009 with the iPhone 3G so the photos are not great. Also, and most importantly, the vast majority of my mobile phone photos —and a lot of videos— are of my daughter, born in mid-2008. I gave up on the Sony camcorder I purchased to take lots of videos of her because it was too damn much work to edit them into something that I could watch on the TV or phone. The videos on the iPhone were small but they got used a lot more.

So, anyway, what photos do I have that are not of my wife or daughter or other people I know? Not much. Out of the 425 photos in my archive from 2009, fully 80% of of people. Not leaving much to choose my “best photos” from, but here you go.

First up, two shots, for side-by-side comparison of the weather on two days from my desk, ignore the reflection of the office lights:

Rainy day from the office
Sunny day from the office

Next a random shot of tree leaves… looking up against a cloudy sky for a silhouette effect. I like the trees in Singapore that grow up and spread a single layer of leaves over a vast area, like what we called “Rain Trees” in videos of the African Savanna. I’m guessing it’s not the same tree but same shape when you see them from afar. The single layer of leaves means you get to see this intricate pattern against the sky. This is not the best example, not is the photo high quality, even for the iPhone 3G camera as it was taken handheld so thing are a bit blurry. You could get better photos by setting the phone on a stable surface, but c’est la vie.

Canopy silhouette

Here is a better example of what the iPhone 3G’s camera could do. I guess the light was better, as it’s a lot less blurry this time. The subject is… interesting. I assume I took it to show someone and have a laugh. For those not familiar, it is common in Southeast Asia to get take away drinks, hot and cold, in plastic bags with little plastic straps to hold on or hang on things. You see people carry them whenever you are near a food court of local coffee shop, you see them hanging from nobs and levers on trucks and taxis. And, once in a while, you see them left hanging from random fence posts or tree branches. They look like tree has a colostomy bags to me:

Arboreal colostomy bag

OK, one more. This is the only one taken on the better camera of the iPhone 3GS [] I got when it was released in Singapore in late 2009. A bit Big Brother this cluster of cameras in Raffles place:

What you looking at?