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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

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It’s been a while since this blog featured a movie review, with the last one being Inception some 10 months ago. I guess there just wasn’t a movie I like enough to be writing a review since then.. until I managed to catch Source Code a few days ago.

Source Code movie poster

The movie currently score a pretty good 7.9/10 on IMDB, pretty good for a relatively low budget scifi. This movie sort of took Jake Gyllenhaal back to his Donnie Darko roots after the semi disaster that was Prince of Persia, Like Donnie Darko, this is another sci-fi film that has something to do with alternate history/universe theme. Something that the geek in me love seeing on big screen.

This is the second full featured film from Duncan Jone, the other being Moon, which was another sci-fi film with an even lower budget, but a must-watch if you’re a fan of hard scifi instead of space soap opera.

This review is going to have some spoilers/discussions, so for those who hasn’t watch the film, go watch it now!

source code train scene
the co-star is pretty cute!

Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Captain Colter Stevens wakes up in a train and found himself looking at a “stranger” female who clearly knows him, and when he went to the toilet, the person in the mirror wasn’t himself.

He attempt to get to know what happens, but 8 minutes later, the train to Chicago blew up, killing everyone on board…… and he woke up in a bunker strapped on a chair with a woman name Goodwin on the screen trying to explain to him what happened.

Apparently Colter Stevens was in the Source Code, a program that puts him into someone’s mind over the last 8 minutes of his life. In this case, 8 minutes in the train that got blown, his job was to find the bomber.

The plot is covered on wikipedia, so I guess I shall not repeat the story.

source code experiment room scene

While started out a little slow, the pace of the movie worked out pretty well at the end. I love the premies of the story even though it was as almost as far fetched as space aliens hanging out with human breathing the same atmosphere and being able to have hybrid children.

The one part that I wish to be different is perhaps the way the film ends. I think it would carry a little bit more of an impact if the movie ended at the freezing frame where everyone was laughing on the train listening to Russel Peters with Stevens and the girl kissing.

While the ending in the movie works well on the many world interpretation quantum mechanics postulate, it left a bit too sweet a taste and a bit too Hollywood for me.

This is a must watch movie for all geeks, and while you’re at it, get a copy of Moon and watch that too!

NBA playoffs 2011

For those of you who are following the NBA, the playoffs are finally here!

First round Eastern Conference would be Indiana vs Chicago, Philadelphia vs Miami, Atlanta vs Orlando, New York vs Boston, and Western Conference match ups are Memphis vs San Antonio, New Orleans vs Los Angeles Lakers, Portland vs Dallas, Dallas vs Oklahoma City.

I am gonna admit that I like the Miami Heat and want them to do well. I watched Lebron James live in Washington DC while he was  in a high school all stars games. The second round match up could be Miami vs Boston, and that’s gonna be mighty delicious!

I think Miami or Chicago’s gonna come out from the East, and Lakers might represent the West again, though I hope OKC or San Antonio (might be too old) can spoil it.

The problem with basketball games is that often time it is only interesting at in the last half an hour or so, and that American time zone isn’t very compatible with the one we’re in either, so Astro B.yond PVR to the rescue!

I’m gonna record all the games and make sure I don’t miss the important moments!

It is no doubt that many of you have heard about Godiva, the premium Belgium chocolatier, but I supposed some of you would be like me, who didn’t know about Lady Godiva at all.

The legend goes like this – Lady Godiva is a really hot Anglo-Sexon woman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to change her husband’s mind of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants.

Hence the logo of Godiva Chocolates is an outline of the naked Lady Godiva on her horse, covered only with her lush long hair.

the very first Godiva cafe, at Pavilion KL
the very first Godiva cafe, at Pavilion KL

Incidentally, the term Peeping Tom also came about from the same story. Everyone in the streets of Conventry had closed their doors and not look at Lady Godiva out of respect, but this perverted Tom dude did not. Hence peeping Tom.

Learn something new everyday huh?

super yummy Godiva chocolate cake
super yummy Godiva chocolate cake – Sight, Smell, Taste

A couple weeks ago I had the luxury of a food tasting session at the world’s very first Godiva cafe at Pavilion KL thanks to Winnie.

To be honest, I haven’t had Godiva more than a few times, and my very first experience was actually from the xmas eve party 2009 exchange gift from Su Ann, a bottle of Godiva hazelnut chocolate spread.

Godiva chocolates, drinks, coffee, cakes
chocolate drinks, and chocolate cakes that goes well with hot black coffee

The cafe offers the usual stuff you’d find at any Godiva outlets – chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, the aforementioned chocolate hazelnut spread, and other Godiva chocolate products/gifts. However, the cafe also offers really awesome chocolate cakes (at RM 15 a slice, really good value if you ask me), coffee, brownies, mocha frappuccino, chocolate drinks and more.

Of course, there’s also the tastefully romantic dining area at one end of level 2 in Pavilion that doesn’t carry too much foot traffic.

Winnie and KY at Godiva cafe
Winnie the reluctant make-shift Godiva model, KY

Over the lunch session, I tried a slice of chocolate cake that’s topped with a chocolate truffle that turned out to be easily the best chocolate cake I’ve had. There’s also the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream that went well black coffee, 6 pieces of those famous Godiva chocolate truffles, and also a few slices of 80% chocolate squares.

Oh, I also had the chocolate drinks warmed by a candle under the pot too, rich and flavorful.

chocolate goodies for you to take home, or as gifts
chocolate goodies for you to take home, or as gifts

To be honest, everything tasted wonderful on it’s own, but on a food tasting session, there’s only that much rich tasting chocolate one can take before feeling “muak”. Fortunately the black coffee somewhat refreshes the tongue a little bit.

Ultimately, I think Godiva Cafe is definitely a place worth visit, especially if you bring a date over tea time. The cake at RM 15 a slice offers great value too.

map to Pavilion KL

Address:
Godiva Chocolatier Cafe
Level 2, Pavilion
Jln Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur

GPS: 3.148872, 101.713368
Tel: 03-2142 5252

I’m a pretty enthusiastic photography hobbyist, and a little bit in videography too.

I’m one of the earliest adopters in digital photography, with my very first digital camera a 3.2 megapixel Kodak model that runs on 4 AA battery with 32mb internal memory, then a Canon Powershot G3, Canon 400D DLSR, Canon S90 compact camera, and the Olympus E-PL1. Haze and I also have a couple GoPro HERO HD super compact camcorders.

Sony SLT A33 camera

The last toy I have to play with (at least for a couple weeks anyway) is the new Sony SLT-A33L A-mount camera. A 14.2 Megapixel SLR system that with 18-55 kit lens.

Calling this camera SLR might be slightly misleading though, for it is has a pretty nifty trick tucked in its sleeves – the SLT, or Single Lens Translucent mirror Technology.

Traditional SLR usually comes with a prism and has a mirror that needs to be flipped up whenever a picture is to be taken, while some 4/3 systems such as the E-PL1 do away with the mirror and hardware autofocus to have a reduce the size of the camera (while also using a smaller sensor).

In the latest SLT lineup from Sony, a translucent mirror is placed just before the sensor, reflecting 30% light to the hardware autofocus system and 70% to the sensor. This achieve several things:

  • auto-focus as fast as any DSLR
  • smaller size than traditional DSLR
  • much quieter shutter
  • very fast burst mode (SLT-A33L can do 7 fps, with SLT-A55 shooting 10 fps)
  • ability to use any Sony A-mount, Minolta, Konica-Minolta AF lenses and strobes

Sony SLT A33 rear view and LCD

The camera feels solid and well constructed, I particularly like the flip down (and turn-around) 3″ LCD screen, it’s crystal clear with 921.6k pixel resolution and makes it not only easy for some of you to camwhore, but very handy when it comes to taking photos or videos in crowded area or when you want to get that macro shot close to ground level.

Anyway, here’s the brief spec (full specs here)

  • 14.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • 7fps Continuous Shooting with Auto-Focus
  • Quick AF Full HD Movie Recording
  • Liveview with Quick AF
  • 3D Sweep Paranoma
  • Electronic Viewfinder (invaluable in places where LCD is distracting to others)
  • 15-point phase-detection AF array with 3 cross-type AF points
  • ISO 12800 sensitivity (with Jpeg only at ISO 25600)

That’s some serious specs for something with a suggested retail price of RM 2,399 including a kit lens.

Here’re some shots:

test night shot with Sony SLT A33

I set the camera to P mode, disabled flash, and with Auto-ISO, snap, and got the above picture. The Sony Steady Shot came into play and is really a bless, I could have never taken a photo at 1/15s shutter speed so effortlessly.

sony SLT A33 test shot at night

With the full suite of SLR capabilities including aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and full manual mode, you can do quite a lot with this camera. The above picture is taken at 1/15s with aperture priority at ISO1600.

cendawan the Bengal cat

This picture of Cendawan the Bengal cat is shot at 1/100s in ISO 3200, I set the camera to full auto mode. A slow camera can only take blur pictures of an awake cat, or sharp pictures of sleeping cat.

A video to amuse you, Cendawan the Bengal cat playing fetch, shot in Full HD

Hong Kong street food (tai pai tong)

I also took the STL-A33 along to Hong Kong (more posts on that soon), this photo is taken we had dinner at a road side “tai pai tong”. Shot at ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/320s. The food was very good by the way!

Disneyland fireworks

Fireworks aren’t the easiest scene to capture, but this camera does a very good job by just setting to Auto with no flash.

Mongkok, Sony SLT-A33 and A55 advertisement

Finally, a shot taken at the busiest spot in Hong Kong – Mongkok. Notice the poster of SLT-A55 and SLT-A33 on display?

note: all photos shown above are straight out of the camera, resized, with no additional edits.

I’ve always been a bit of a reader, from trivial wikipedia articles to ESPN sports analysis, and of course, books. This is how I spend my one hour or so LRT rides everyday.

Reading beats standing idle looking at strangers that slowly became nameless familiar faces over the months, reading also beats listening to music in the train unless a better way is found in to deal with my spontaneous dancing/karaoke sessions on public transport property.

Barnes and Noble Nook
my ebook reader – the Barnes and Noble Nook

I was one of the earliest adopters of ebook. In fact, back in 2003 I had a little Sony Clie PDA that I used to read on. The tiny screen displays pretty crisp colors, but suffers from the drawbacks of having relatively small memory, and rather miserable battery life. It was tough to find ebooks then too.

Then came the age of smart phones, I tried reading on my phones with mobipocket and so on but gave up eventually. The screens were too small, and LCD with back light was never kind to the eyes.

Many argues that physical book is best and that nothing beats the feel and smell and whatever, but I disagree. Book is good, but ebook readers with e-Ink technology are awesome. How about being able to store thousands of books in your hand, with built in dictionary, and weigh only as much as a typical book? Of course, there are more features too.

Barnes and Noble Nook, size comparison

Since most ebook readers use e-ink screens from the same company (and they are awesome, you can read under direct sun, battery life lasts over a week), choosing a reader for me became a slightly harder task.

After quite an extensive research, I narrowed down the choices to Kindle and Nook, and finally I got myself a Barnes and Noble Nook Wifi model, and this is why:

  • reads ePub (the most popular ebook format, lacking in Kindle), PDF, HTML, and graphics
  • has a webkit browser (like firefox/chrome) and wifi access
  • based on Android and has a community built firmware at Nookdev.com (with other open source apps too)
  • 2 screen design with color touch screen at the bottom for navigation
  • ability to add microSD card to extend the 2GB built in storage (Kindle doesn’t allow that)
  • plays MP3, comes with 3.5mm universal stereo phone jack
  • user replaceable battery
  • relatively light at 320 grams or so (less than half the weight of an iPad)
  • relatively low price at US $149

The only problem was well, Barnes and Noble doesn’t ship the Nook to Malaysia, and you can’t buy ebooks directly from B&N without some tricks. But fear not, there are many ways to skin this cat.

I got my nook from ipmart and paid some RM 800 including shipping and a nice leather sleeve. Alternatively, you can also get them via other shop/shipping sites like vshub or USunlocked. If you’re interested in buying ebooks from B&N directly, you can use a debit card with US billing address from services like the one from USunlocked (US $10 to get the card).

There are also free ebooks from the likes of Project Gutenberg as well as some other sources, use your imagination.

Believe it or not, the ebook readers sold at MPH are more expensive, and comes with quite a bit less features than the Nook, terrible.

I’ve had the Nook for about a month now, read half a dozen books on it and only had to charge it 3-4 times so far. The experience in fantastic, and I highly recommend anyone who love to read consider one of these e-ink readers seriously.

Thanks to David Lian, I’ve got myself a review unit of the highly anticipated Nokia XpressMusic 5800 phone for a couple weeks to play with. The phone has been returned since and I am currently suffering withdrawal symptoms. I constantly try to touch icons on my N82 and try to move the screens around to scroll web pages.. ahh.

However, I shall not digress, here is my take on the XpressMusic 5800.

Nokia XpressMusic 5800
full screen qwerty keyboard & hand writing recognition

Size and Form Factor:
First off, I really like the fact that the phone is only as big as the N82 and weigh pretty much the same. Most other touch screen phones such as the various Windows Mobile devices are generally much larger and wider, and thus not terribly usable especially when you try to operate it with only one hand. The 5800 fits nicely in the pocket and snugs into my palm comfortably.

On the side of the phone you find 2 volume buttons, a slider for lock/unlock, and a dedicated camera button. A power button can be found on top of the device, and just underneath the screen exists the call button in green, menu button in white, and the hang up button in red. I find the semi-minimalistic approach pretty nifty when it comes to answering calls and adjusting volumes (especially when you are playing music and browsing web pages, not needing to flip applications back and forth is really useful)

Nokia XpressMusic 5800
mini qwerty, simulated keypad, XpressMusic player

As a Media Device:
XpressMusic phones, as the name suggests, is aim at music lovers. In this regard, the 5800 does not disappoint. The device is bundled with an 8gb microSD card, stereo headphones, and very impressive external speakers that can fill up a small room pretty good.

The 640×360 resolution screen (qHD – quarter HD) is a godsend for browsing webpages. If you compare that to the N82’s 240×320 display, it fits exactly 3 times as much information on the screen. Double tap on the screen when viewing a webpage will zoom it to “very large” size, double tap again to restore back to original resolution, very useful. You can also zoom the display of a webpage in and out by percentage.

The 3.2 megapixel camera though, is rather noisy at low light condition and the pictures are miles away from the capability of my trusted N82. Put in the 5MP camera and xenon flash and the phone would be unstoppable.

Input Methods:
As some of you might have already known, the 5800 employs resistive touchscreen technology (instead of capacitive such as the iPhone). The benefit of this technology is that a stylus (and indeed provided), finger, or even nails, can be used. Skin contact is not necessary.

There are actually four different ways to input text. There is the full screen qwerty keyboard, best operate with both thumbs; the mini qwerty that is usually tapped with stylus; the simulated keypad option with T9 support; and handwriting recognition that supports both English and Chinese input. No fancy two finger gestures to zoom in and out of a webpage, but your China-imported girlfriend with nail extension can compose an SMS to you.

Personally I find myself reverting back to the simulated keypad with T9 a lot. As you touch the screen, a very subtle vibration gives you an affirmation of your action. A nice touch.

Overall:
I think Nokia has done it right with their first touch-enabled phone, the UI is rather polished for a review/prototype unit. There is almost no learning curve for Symbian S60 users, everything is pretty intuitive and straight forward, and it is an improvement in many aspects except for the lackluster camera performance.

There are several missing features on my wish list, such as a speed dial screen with more than just 4 numbers and tabbed browsing. I trust that some of these things will be corrected in future firmware releases.

Anyway, I captured a short video of the phone with my N82. Single take and unedited.

By the way, the XpressMusic 5800 is going to be launched on the evening of 9.01.09 at Pavilion. This is going to be a public event with live performances, games with prizes to win, and as David promised, lots of fun. I’m going to be there, are you?