Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Oct 28, 2010 - Week 22 - "Getting large"

Made a scheduled routine visit to the hospital to check up on the twins. We're ecstatic to know that they're doing just fine. (No ultrasound pics, unfortunately)

They used to be oriented vertically. That is, one was on top of the other. But now, it seems that they've shifted and they're now laterally right next to each other. I've noticed this last night when I saw that my wife's belly suddenly seemed wider and more boxed shape.

Also, the part of the placenta that was detached was the uterus wall is now fully healed and firmly attached! Yay!

One of the twins appear to be larger than the other. But the difference is within normal range, so there's nothing to worry about. Each baby has roughly the same amount of amniotic fluid in their sac, so that's reassuring.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Oct 24, 2010 - Week 22 - "Maternity shots"

We decided to do our maternity shooting ourselves rather than paying professionals. It's not too difficult to mimick professional effects with a decent photo-editor. And doing it ourselves makes it more personal. Plus, we can do the shooting whenever we wanted.

I've a bunch of ideas for shot poses but they require an indoors studio environment which we just don't have. I'll have to see if I can find a shop that would sell me a large piece of white fabric for cheap (to use as backdrop).

In the meantime, my wife and I decided to have some fun and went outdoors for a couple of shots.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My PC is finally piracy-free

A year after it's release, I finally made the jump to Windows 7 on my desktop. I've been using Windows XP ever since 2001. Skipped the Vista upgrade because of all the negative press around it. Other than getting a more modern and refreshed OS, this represents a significant move for me in terms of ethics.

I've made an internal pact with myself: No more piracy.

Back in the day, I didn't believe in purchasing software. I would buy hardware but I didn't believe in paying more money just to use the hardware. It just didn't seem fair.

Even to this day, it's a bit painful to shell out the HKD 1,550 for Windows 7 Home Premium. But since that's the only piece of software that I need to pay for, it's easier to swallow. For everything else, I'll stick with free and or open-source alternatives. Most work just as well, if not better. If I add up the cost of all the commercial software counterparts, the savings really add up.

Photo Editing
GIMP vs Photoshop
Cost of Photoshop CS5 is USD 699

PDF creator
CutePDF vs Adobe Acrobat
Cost of Adobe Acrobat X Pro is USD 499

Office Suite
OpenOffice and Google Docs vs Microsoft Office
Cost of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 is USD 149.99

Optical Media Creation
InfraRecorder vs Nero
Cost of Nero Multimedia Suite 10 is USD 99.99

AVG vs Norton
Cost of Norton AntiVirus 2011 (for one year protection) is USD 39.99

DVD Video Player
Cost of WinDVD 2010 is USD 39.99

7-Zip vs WinZip
Cost of WinZip is USD 29.95

By staying away from the commercial stuff, I saved USD 1,557.91 (roughly over HKD 12,000). Suddenly the cost of the OS seems minuscule. For the first time, all my computing needs are satisfied while keeping a clear conscience.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gadget Retrospective

What type of gadgets did you use to carry back in the day? Ever looked back at them and think to yourself, "Wow, I can't believe how I used to think that was cool"?

Here's my trip down memory lane...
Late junior high years. I used to have a Sony Discman D-133. I thought it was terrible even back then. There was no memory buffer, so the audio would skip all the time. I remember I had to wrap a towel around it while I kept it in my backpack for shock-absorbing purposes. It had a tiny display which wasn't back-lit. It was overall ugly enough that taking it out to change tracks was embarrassing.

Early high school. I upgraded to a D-135 which had ESP (electronic skip protection). Basically, it buffers some of the audio in flash memory so that it can continue the playback even when the device was moved. This feature was pretty ineffective in my usage. I use to keep the device in my backpack and the audio would skip every time I stepped off a curb or went down more than 2 steps. To make matters worse, the ESP feature just absolutely kills the battery. It uses 100% more power than normal. Because of this, I hardly ever turn on ESP. It'll skip anyway, so I'd rather have long battery life. Oh, and the thing was a brick.

Later highschool years, I used to have a Sony MZ R-55 MiniDisc player/recorder. I used to love the thing. But now, the limitations of it are apparent.

  • Each disc was limited to 80minutes of audio which is stored in an uncompressed format. It would have made much more sense if it allowed for mp3 format. That way, you would be able to store 700 minutes of audio per disc.
  • The ability to record music digitally was a big deal back then. Previously, you would only be able to record analog via cassette tape. However, getting digital media on MDs was a hassle. They record in real-time so it was slow. And you had to have the proper equipment (ie, optical cable & CD player that supports optical out, etc).
  • Tagging music. Another big deal back then was the ability to label the audio tracks. But you had to do this manually one by one using a dial on the player. It was such a hassle but for some reason, I had put up with it.
  • Formfactor. The device was bulky. Display was small. Buttons were small. Battery performance was acceptable if it was used only to playback audio. Once you use it to record, battery dies down after 2 or 3 hours.
Right when I started university, my R-55 ended up dead. I moved back to the US; in my attempt to charge the device, I forgot about the voltage requirements and fried the thing. I then switched to the MZ-E80 MiniDisc player. By then the MiniDisc days were numbered as the MP3 format started to take over.

For most of university, I had this on me most of the time: Creative MuVo TX MP3 player with 256MB of flash storage
Actually, this is one of my favorite gadgets I've ever had for the following reasons:

  • Long battery life even though it runs on a single AAA battery (about 12hrs).
  • It has a built-in mic which I used to record lectures.
  • It's ridiculously small and light.
  • Has a backlit display.
  • It doubles has a USB flash memory drive.
  • No wires or cables.
Even if I subject it to today's standards, it's not that bad. The only things you can really fault are:

  • Lack of rechargeable battery.
  • Insufficient storage capacity at 256MB. (But hey, flash memory was a lot more expensive back then)
  • Tiny display
So, that's it. By 2006, I switched to iPods and then eventually smartphones. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Oct 12, 2010 - Week 20 - "Kick"

I felt one of our babies' kick for the first time. My wife has felt the occasional kicking for a while now. But it's the first time for me. Feeling for it wasn't easy. I decided to just lay my hand on my wife's belly until I felt something. Several minutes passed and my wife asked me
"Are you really just going to keep your hand there the whole night?"
To which I responded
"Yes, of course."
A couple minutes later and it happened. Just for a split second, I felt a tiny pulse against my palm. That was it.

Ask any expecting father this and he'll agree. It's not easy caring for your pregnant wife and preparing for the arrival of your kids. Add your day job to the mix and it nears unbearable. But along the way, you are presented with reminders that at the end, it's all worth it. That kick I felt was one such reminder.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Oct 8, 2010 - Week 19 - "From innie to outie"

Everything was fine in last week's hospital checkup; and everything continues to be fine in this week's doctor checkup.

In fact, the doctor has advised that strict bed rest was no longer required. Also, our visits no longer need to be so frequent. For a while, it was every 2 weeks. We'll revisit again in a month. This is great news! (both physiologically and financially!)

On a humorous note, my wife's bellybutton has gone through an interesting transformation. It used to be an innie. Now, it looks like it's transitioning into becoming an outie. It currently resembles a miniature pocket of a marsupial. We're pretty sure she can hide an almond in there.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Public posing on Hong Kong Police motorbikes

A funny bit of news in the paper today. Please see here and here for details.
Here's the quick & dirty rundown:

  • Hong Kong Police were out conducting crowd control on the evening of Oct 1 (National Day).
  • Members of the public decided to pose with the police for photos.
  • Members of the public even mounted the police motorbikes for photos.

Whether or not this is acceptable is up for debate. But here's an excerpt taken from the South China Morning Post article.
A police spokesman said officers were on crowd-control duty at the time and the force required officers to be "lenient and pragmatic" to suit the festival atmosphere. He said officers were allowed to take photos with the public upon request, but police would look into the situation where some people sat on police bikes.
Hmm, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that after careful deliberation, the police would not find themselves at fault for this...