11 March 2006

FOUR!

BlackRX has pointed out that nVidia now allows four graphics processors to be linked via SLI! (Scalable Link Interface). FOUR! WOO HOO! Astounding! Quad-SLI system here we come!

I am drooling! Absolute EVIL!
The last US Navy F-14 Tomcats retires

Apparently, the last two squadrons of F-14s Tomcats have been retired in the US Navy. This is the end of an era in naval aviation.

The only operators of the F-14 today is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with about seven to twenty operational fighters.

The replacement for the US Navy? The F-18E/F Super Hornet which is a distinct new aircraft and not merely a new variant of the F-18A/B/C/D series.
Saturday!

There's some big IT show in Suntec City. Hmm.. Well, I think I will probably head down to the Time Machine Studio at Millennia's Walk instead. Perhaps, they may have something new from Concord Publications. Maybe, just maybe, 'Medieval Knights' and 'Spec Ops 37' may be in. I'll probably bring a sketchbook along too.

There appears to be a photo essay on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh in Spec Ops. Wow! Unbelievable. I look forward to the images.


Hmm.. The interior artwork appears passable from the webpage.

Meanwhile Mr.Unstoppable Sniper wants to play Battlefield 2 at Orchard Cineleisure level 9 tonight. I wonder if the Great Grand Grand Admiral of Japan and Mr.Elder God* wants to play too.

*Technically, he's an Old One.
The Toilet in Shanghai


This is a toilet in a restaurant in an industrial park in the outskirts of Shanghai. Simply unbelievable. I had heard horror stories of toilets in China being holes in the ground. This one blew me away. Unbelievable. Hole in the ground. Heh.

Five Reasons why Shanghai rocks

Five Reasons why Shanghai rocks (and Singapore doesn't)...

1. is when you wave at an empty cab in a busy street in Shanghai, it actually stops. Amazing!

2. is the joy from not having to see yet another sad poser in a Starbucks or cafe hunched over an iBook or some Mac notebook pretending to type when they are actually viewing porn or doing nothing. Are these things the new phallic symbols? Is this dick-stroking in public?

3. is discovering that the public toilets in Shanghai can be cleaner than Singapore! Oh dear, Asian toilets, surely, an atrocity of sorts...

4. is not having to see another loser who insist on displaying their iPod ostentatiously like some medal for courage. C'mon, it's not cleavage or a buttcrack or jewellery. You don't have to display your materialistic tendencies, we know you have got money to buy electronic trinkets, so, what the fuck? Sadly, it may be a matter of time before the Shanghainese adopt this odious practice (if they are not already overrun by odious iPod-toting Singaporeans). Ewww..

5. is the relief from hearing any fucktards speaking in Singlish. Phew!

10 March 2006

Wheeee! It's Friday!

The weekend is here! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Death or Glory

I'm currently reading 'Death or Glory', a pulp SF novel set in the world of Warhammer 40 000. Sandy Mitchell's 'Ciaphias Cain' is a cowardly commissar who goes through adventures unwillingly and these novels are in the same vein as the funny Flashman novels. A Ciaphias Cain novel is simply pure delight.
Condominiums and Apartment Blocks in Shanghai


Graffiti is present everywhere. Even on the walls of the grim, grey concrete blocks of the sixties and seventies. This is possibly a typical apartment block built when China was pretty much a centrally-controlled economy.

More typical apartment blocks. These are newer, probably built in the eighties and early nineties after Deng Xiaopeng opened China up.

A new apartment block. Notice that one in four apartments mounts a satellite TV dish? Some units have even mounted two! Satellite TV dishes are illegal for private citizens in China (and Singapore too). Yet, the Chinese ignore the authorities. You won't see this sort of behaviour in democratic Singapore eh? No sir! Heh.

Yet more condominiums. The city of Shanghai is literally littered with hundreds of these sparkling new condominium blocks (and I am not exaggerating. I am probably underestimating the numbers by quite a bit). And the local residents live in them. And no, foreign expatriates from Europe and the USA don't live in apartment blocks, they live in proper houses with gardens!


Most of these new condominiums were built in the last five years. China a menace to the USA? Not likely. The Chinese are too busy doing business and building a good life. Like these nice nice condominiums. There is, however, a hitch. I think they do not have a concept of maintaining a maintenance and sinking fund. There isn't any real building management. (Hear that, Aik Koon?) The older condominiums and apartment blocks are badly maintained with chipping paint, dank corridors, blacked out foyers and lifts!


These condominiums here are supposedly built by CapitaLand of Singapore. A Shanghainese told me that they find these things ugly, and he also added that they were quite like the 'famous' or infamous 'HDB'* flats in Singapore. And the Shanghainese also told me that they generally do not like them. Unfortunately, he is under the impression that CapitaLand built HDB flats in Singapore though the reality is that it is not responsible for the HDB flats in Singapore.

Okay, my observations. These condominiums have large surfaces of glass. Large windows. They may work in a tropical environment if the air-conditioning is switched on twenty-four hours a day. However, in Shanghai, it may just be a bad idea. Large windows imply that there will be a lot of heat lost in winter. In general, the typical Shanghainese family will not use their heaters**, preferring to economise. In summer, when temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius, the apartments with its large glass windows become greenhouses. Thus, these apartments are cold in winter and hot in summer...

On a last note, as manpower is plentiful and inexpensive, I see at least two security guards for each apartment block, one at the door and the other at the office, in front of the close-circuit TV. There is also guards at the gate and car park! Shanghai is supposedly a rather safe and crime-free city though I see a steel door in front of the normal wooden door of each apartment unit!

*HDB - Housing Development Board. This is an organisation within the government in Singapore that builds subsidised flats for the citizens. They have been so successful in the last thirty years that 80% of all Singaporeans live in them. They are not horrid pigeonholes as the Shanghainese above may have implied. Oh, do senior civil servants live in HDB flats?
**My observation. I was there during a cold spell when temperatures dropped from 17 degrees Celsius to 1 degree. Ack.

09 March 2006

Regional Corporate Tax Rates

It will appear that the corporate tax rate here is competitive.

Australia - 30%
China - 33%
Hong Kong - 17.5%
India - 33.66%
Indonesia - 30%
Japan - 40.69%
Malaysia - 28%
New Zealand - 33%
Philippines - 35%
Singapore - 20%
South Korea - 27.5%
Taiwan - 25%

It will also appear that only Hong Kong has a lower corporate tax rate. However, from what I have heard, with deductions and other tax write-offs, Singapore is not far off compared to Hong Kong.
The Undiscovered Mind

I bought 'The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation' by John Horgan, an ex-writer for the Scientific American, from Kinokuniya at Liang Court earlier. This should be an interesting read. I am somewhat sceptical of this writer's ability though.
Asian Aerospace 2006: Missiles


The missiles from the Asian Aerospace 2006. It goes without saying that the missiles are either scale models or inert missiles.

The Rafael Python 5, Derby and Spice 2000.

The Raytheon Maverick.

The Marte Mk 2. This is a 1:2 scale model.

The Aspide 2000.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder.

I wonder about some of the more recent missile programmes. Marte, Aspide 2000, Derby, Python 5. I suspect that the production runs of these missiles are miniscule. Perhaps, they are replacements for expired missiles. I understand that a lot of them have shelf lifes of about two decades...

08 March 2006

Books I am reading

I finished reading 'Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle To Baghdad' by Jason Conroy and Ron Martz last night. I am currently in the midst of Jared Diamond's 'Collapse: How Societies choose to fail or succeed', Nicholas Ostler's 'Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World', Anthony Swofford's 'Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles' and a couple of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40 000 novels. Heh.


There's also the unfinished Angela Carter novel and a few others.

What are you reading? I am always curious to know what everyone is reading at present.
Shi Trade

When I was at the 16th East China Fair 2006 in the Shanghai New International Expo Cetnre at Pudong, Shanghai, I noticed a booth of a firm named 'Shanghai Shenhong Economic Relation & Trade Co. Ltd'. I am not too sure what this company does but it did registered its website as: www.shitrade.com .

It is, clearly, not a good name, and an unfortunate one at that.
More Posts

There will be a lot more upcoming posts of my visits to the Asian Aerospace 2006 and Shanghai. There will, of course, be the usual short commentary on books, games, music and so forth. I will be spacing them out. I don't want to overdo things.

As for drawings, I have a few new ones. I will need to scan them. As for Illustration Friday sketches, well, I haven't had the time. I have been preoccupied with stuff.
16th East China Fair 2006 in Pudong, Shanghai

I was at the 16th East China Fair 2006 last week. This huge event was held in conjunction with a textiles and garments fair at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. Trade fairs are, of course, common in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangdong and so forth. For instance, there is the 99th Canton Fair, and the Shanghai Paper World, a new one organised by the organisers of the Frankfurt Paper World, the largest stationery exhibition in the world.

The scale of the 16th East China Fair 2006 dwarfed anything I had seen in Singapore with six halls of general products and four halls consisting of textiles and garments. It was simply staggering. Each hall, which is a modern structure of steel and glass, not unlike the size of a terminal of Singapore's Changi airport, would house hundreds of booths.

There were all kinds of products, from mugs to deckchairs to ballpoint pens. The range of products was staggering.

On a sidenote, as noted earlier, the security checks at the entrance is thorough.

07 March 2006

Hilarious Stuff

"It probably took about 20 or 30 minutes to get root on the box. Initially, I tried looking around the box for certain misconfigurations and other obvious things, but then I decided to use some unpublished exploits--of which there are a lot for Mac OS X," Gwerdna told ZDNet Australia. "

http://news.com.com/Winner+mocks+OS+X+hacking+contest/2100-1002_3-6046197.html?tag=nefd.pulse

Obviously Apple has never been very forthcoming with anything...

"...because he exploited a vulnerability that has not yet been made public or patched by Apple Computer. "

"Gwerdna concluded that OS X contains "easy pickings" when it comes to vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to break into Apple's operating system. "

"In January, security researcher Neil Archibald, who has already been credited with finding numerous vulnerabilities in OS X, told ZDNet Australia that he knows of numerous security vulnerabilities in Apple's operating system that could be exploited by attackers.
"The only thing which has kept Mac OS X relatively safe up until now is the fact that the market share is significantly lower than that of Microsoft Windows or the more common Unix platforms...If this situation was to change, in my opinion, things could be a lot worse on Mac OS X than they currently are on other operating systems," Archibald said at the time. "


This is so funny. Mac Heads are probably going to be in denial again. There's probably going to be an explosion and there will be tirades directed at the people who published this.* Oh, the parallels with the Islamic fanatics and .... I won't say more. Needless to this, I am highly amused.**

*There are already 113 comments on the CNet site. The reactions are extremely funny.
**Before any Mac Heads decide to launch salvos at me, well, I was an Apple II user from 1982-1989 and a Mac user from around 1985-1989 and for a while in 1999.
Suffer Well

'Suffer Well' is the third single release from Depeche Mode's 'Playing the Angel' and is the first Dave Gahan penned single ever.

As usual the cover is rather forgettable and bland. Depeche Mode covers used to be stark, iconic and memorable. A few became classics in their own right. For all Anton Corbijn classic black and white photography and work, the design of this one is a turkey, as is the covers of the previous few singles and albums.

Not unexpectedly, the regular single is rather lacklustre:

1. Suffer Well
2. Better Days

And the limited edition single:

1. Suffer Well - Tiga Remix
2. Suffer Well - Narcotic Thrust Vocal Dub
3. Suffer Well - Alter Ego Remix
4. Suffer Well - M83 Remix
5. Suffer Well - Metope Vocal Remix
6. Suffer Well - Metope Remix

Mute continues their normal practice of releasing a myriad of different media formats with different track listings. All in the name of money-grabbing. The true-blue complete-ist fan will have to maintain record players, cassette decks (previously), and other media players just to hear all the different versions. Can't they at least have all the versions on one single media format? Like CDs? Diehard fans will still surely buy them. To force a fan to maintain record players, cassette decks, mp3 players, etc is ridiculous...

Terrible.
The Tea Shoppe in Shanghai

This is a place where traditional Chinese tea is sold. Teas of various types are found in these bundles including high quality types.

Bundles of tea of various types line the shelves. These circular bundles are tea leaves pressed into a cake form.

Later, some of these bundles are then repackaged into the familiar boxes and round containers as seen here.

A huge block of low grade tea leaves. A cup full of tea leaves is easily extracted. These are then put in a porcelain container where one pours boiling water. A few washes later, several cups can be extracted and drunk. The colour is a light to moderate yellow. The smell is distinctive and strong.


Yet more bundles of Chinese tea. Chinese tea is distinctively different from English tea. It is drunk as it is, without the accompaniment of sugar or milk. On a final note, I do sell Chinese tea wholesale. Thus, if you to purchase some, you can drop me an email.

06 March 2006

Security in Shanghai

On security precautions in China, the Chinese do apparently take Islamic terror and other terrorists (probably their Muslim separatists) quite seriously. They may not have policemen armed with submachine guns (SMGs) at every corner and they don't, but they do have many metal-detectors in public areas, for instance the 16th East China Fair 2006 and the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The checks are quite thorough and they are not the cursory look-overs. I am impressed.
Residential projects in Shangai

It will appear that CapitaLand is launching two residential projects in Shanghai. CapitaLand China has launched a property showcase in Singapore recently featuring three of its residential developments in China and they includes the Westwood Green and Oasis Riveria in Shanghai and Orchid Garden in Beijing. The Westwood Green, which comprises of 429 terrace houses, is located in the so-called upmarket Min Hang District, in Puxi wherever that is, and is near the Shanghai American School and other international schools. The Oasis Riveria, a 17-story development, is sited on the bank of Shanghai's Suzhou Creek. I have photos of a CapitaLand residential project which I will put up later. And I will also relate the comments and sentiments of a Shanghainese I know regarding those blocks of condominiums.
Observations of Shanghai Part II

The famous Peace Hotel on the Bund. A building dating from the twenties and thirties.

Contrast the soaring steel structures at Pudong with the stately, august trading houses and banks on the Bund being the old symbols of the hated colonial powers, and to use the vocabulary of the communists, 'the imperialists', (of which they undoubtedly included Japan, a predatory and aspiring Asiatic power), the drives to outdo each other through building stupendous skyscrapers and tall trading houses appear not dissimilar, merely being a gulf of eighty years.



A huge mall and office block owned by Capitaland (yes, Singapore's Capitaland) at Nanjing Road (Nanking Road).


The amusing bit is the monument at one end of the Bund. It is a concrete structure built in 1991 to commemorate the city's liberation (ie conquest) by the commies. The People's Heroes Monument is a symbol of the new masters, the communists of Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong). Commercial buildings, the symbols of capitalism and that of a symbol of cruel totalitarian power share the Bund. There is also a statue of the portly Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong, at the Bund. What a means of sending a message, of telling who the new political masters are.


Old house dating from the colonial era. A house like this would typically house several families under one roof. Those days are numbered as tall shiny new condominiums are replacing them.

In view of the opening of China in 1980 and the adoption of a capitalist machanism to regulate the economy, the erection of these symbols in the not too distant past appear ironic. However, it is logical as it would also serve as a reminder of the political continuity between generations despite the adoption of a new economic paradigm. No more centralised state-controlled planning. The new ideology of the new communists is pragmatism.

Old grey building built in the usual communist-style of the fifties to the seventies.


Another view of old Shanghai. Old houses.



Shophouses lie amidst tall apartment blocks, malls and office blocks. The old and the new.


Strange house. This appears to be a fancy.*

*I don't know the history and origin of this particular structure. I shall look it up. I will have more to say on this later.

Addendum

My old friend said that the building is a restaurant at present. Xiao Nan Kuo at 1398 Nanjing Road. It is a Chinese restaurant serving Shanghainese crusine. He refers me to this blog entry: http://www.ymchee.com/archives/2004_11.html

He doesn't know the builders or the original occupants or the history either. Pity.

Addendum 2

My friend has more information:

He refers me to this:
http://www.chinanewsweek.com.cn/2003-10-23/1/2429.html

and this:
http://www.mollervilla.com/en/main.asp

So, it is the Heng Shan Moller Villa Hotel. A boutique hotel.

And more photos:
http://www.forest53.com/gallery/gallery_show.asp?id=42

05 March 2006

Totalitar

The new Spetsnaz release. Quoting Todd Durrant of A Different Drum:

"Spetsnaz "Totalitar" -- Spetsnaz is most widely known as the closest clone of Nitzer Ebb that has ever hit the EBM scene. Having started as a Nitzer Ebb cover band (from what I've been told by Swedish friends), they cracked into the scene with their debut album a couple years ago and created a name for themselves. This new album continues with the slamming beats, repeating bass patterns, and yelled, chanted vocals. Pop in the album when you want to stomp around the room and yell for a while, but don't plan on doing any relaxing by the fireplace with Spetsnaz."
Observations of Shanghai Part 1

Shanghai. How shall one describe it? A city of superlatives. That is the one word that comes to mind. Everything is on a huge scale. And there isn't anyplace that I can't think of that merits a comparison except New York City. Even then...


An open space outside the Orient Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai.


The sheer number of high-rises fills one's eyes as far as one can see. A city of unimaginable size with tall glittering towers of all shapes and sizes and different architectural styles including Neo-Classical, Art Decor, Art Moderne (possibly) Internationalist, Constrictivism but mostly eclectic. Fantastic fabrications of all kinds with tower blocks of glass and steel, concrete monoliths, trading houses left from the colonial powers in the nineteen twenties and more. There are old commercial buildings from the thirties mixed with the very latest in architectural thinking. There are old wooden tenements amidst the European houses of the twenties.

Old tenements amidst the soaring apartment blocks.
Shanghai is a city of the old and the new.

Shanghai is like a scene from a science fiction film of the fifties with impossible soaring tower blocks. The Orient Pearl TV Tower with its two bulbous platforms would not have looked out of place in Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'. The two suspension bridges spanning the calm brown waters of the Huangpu river frames the metropolis of purportedly twenty million souls.


The skyline of Pudong, Shanghai amidst the morning mist. The Orient Pearl TV Tower stands prominent.

The golden Jin Mao Building with its eighty-eight floors and its form deliberately mimicking a pagoda in a superficial way with its 'stepped' appearance seems to signal a new reality. Capitalism is here! Economic growth and progress for all!

The sobering fact is that the majority of high-rises in this vast urban sprawl was built in the last five years! That very fact simply staggers the imagination.

The Jin Mao Building. I think it is actually taller than the Orient Pearl TV Tower.