Archive for August 2010

The science behind the Youth Olympic Games Cauldron

I’m sure you have seen the impressive Youth Olympic Games Cauldron. Have you ever wonder how they make that Fire Tornado? Well, here is a video explaining the science behind it.

Clever huh? The Cauldron looks great.

Speaking of the Cauldron, I love this photo from the YOG opening ceremony.

That’s Darren Choy running toward the Youth Olympics Cauldron.

First Look: Nokia E5

Got a quick look at the budget Nokia E5 recently. Before we start, let’s get our expectation sorted out first. This is a budget phone. You won’t get any fanciful specs. Just a low end and cheap phone. But being cheap doesn’t mean that it have to look cheap. Some how the Nokia E5 looks rather decent and feels pretty solid. I’ve seen some budget phone that scream “I’m a cheap phone!!!” when you use it. The Nokia E5 isn’t one of them. In fact, you might be able to fool people into thinking that this phone is rather expensive.

Besides the looks, the keyboard is pretty responsive and nice to type with. I’m surprised that it is not a El-Cheapo keyboard. This keyboard is pretty decent. But then, of course you can’t compare it with the expensive phones like Nokia E72 or BlackBerry 9700 keyboard. It’s a different league. At this price point, I would say I’m impressed with the keyboard.

The Nokia E5 runs on Symbian OS (No prize for guessing this correct). I quite like the main screen where you can add up to 25 contacts for quick access. Nokia seems to be positioning the Nokia E5 as a budget messaging device. Setting up emails account is a breeze. The Nokia E5 come pre-installed with the Facebook app. One application that caught my attention is the Microsoft Communicator Mobile. Microsoft Communicator allows you to check the availability of your colleagues through the company directory and message them. Quite a number of companies are using Microsoft Communicator Mobile. It’s like an internal MSN. My company is using it too. Although it is good to have that application on the phone, I wonder if I can ever get my IT dept to approve me to use Microsoft Communicator on my mobile.

There is a 5 megapixel camera without autofocus. Picture quality is normal but personally I’m not a fan of it. Either give me a camera with autofocus or none at all. Oh well. I’m not sure exactly how well the Nokia E5 will sell in Singapore. After all, we prefer higher end phones and don’t mind paying a bit extra. But it sure looks like a winner in the emerging markets.

The Nokia E5 cost $398 without contract. Pretty attractive price point. Comes in Black or White. More colours will be available later this year. Did I mention that it comes with Ovi Map which has free turn by turn navigation?

In short, the Nokia E5 is a cheap phone that doesn’t feel cheap. I’ll do a more detailed review when I get my hands on the review unit.

YOG – Now is not the time

Been reading a lot about the Youth Olympic Games lately. Most of them are negative. I posted 2 article that I found online which I think are from a different perspective and worth a read. If you haven’t read them, please take some time to read this and this. I hope these perspective from the other side would change your opinion about YOG.

So here is my opinion about the Youth Olympic Games. At first, I don’t really care much. I’m not very supportive when it comes to sports simply because the scene is dominated by foreign talents. I hated the foreign talent scheme since day one. I felt that we should spend all those money and effort on our own citizen. Winning or losing isn’t really important. Most importantly, we are represented by real Singaporeans. To me, the foreign talents can only be winner but never a champion. They will not be able to inspire me. And I’m sure this applies to a lot of Singaporeans too.

But my perspective of YOG changed when I read about that facebook note by Ridz’s friend. It strikes me that the YOG is not just about the foreign talents. It’s actually benefiting most of our youth in one way or another. I wouldn’t say all the youths benefited from YOG because some of them didn’t care about it. But for those who cared about it, they gained a priceless once in a lifetime experience. Something that none of us here is able to understand because there wasn’t a YOG when we were still young.

I know there are a lot of problems with the YOG. The YOG spending has exceeded the budget by more than 3 times. Schools students are forced to buy tickets to watch the matches. Some school terms delayed because of YOG. Cars need to give way to YOG bus or face a fine. The public are not interested in the YOG activities. Volunteers’ food looks like dog food. Students forced to help out for YOG. Not enough international media coverage. Some people using YOG for their own political gains. Etc etc etc….. the list goes on and on and on. I guess you know more than me.

I agree with some of the points being raised by Singaporeans. I will not go into details on which point I agree and which point I disagree because now is not the time. Now is not the time to point finger. Now is not the time to demand an explanation. Now is not the time to ask why the spending exceed 3 times the budget. Now is not the time to ask why our volunteers are being treated badly. Now is not the time to ask why there isn’t enough international media coverage. Now is not the time to ask if there is a need to issue fine to cars that doesn’t give way to the YOG bus. Now is not the time to ask who is responsible for all these.

My fellow Singaporeans….. NOW is not the time.

Now is the time for us to welcome the young athletes from all around the world. Now is the time to support our young athletes. Now is the time for us to be a good host. Now is the time to show the world what Singapore is capable of. Now is the time to give the young athletes a chance to perform. Now is the time for the young athletes to compete and share their experience. Now is the time for them to learn about sportmanship. Now is the time for them to compete in a fair manner without doping.

Now is the time to let the world’s attention be placed on the sporting talents of our future generation and not those issues surrounding the whole Youth Olympic Games.

I’m also unhappy with some of the things that the YOG committee did. For example, I know that they release balloon dove during the opening ceremony. If you have been reading my blog long enough, you know that balloon release is my pet peeve. I didn’t blog about it becuase NOW is not the time. I’m also very curious how did the spending exceed the budget more than 3 times. MORE than 3 times!! That’s a lot of money. Who is incharge of budgeting? And why didn’t the IOC get more international media attention for us? Why didn’t the YOG committee managed to get the general public to be more involved in the games. Why didn’t the organizing committee get better food and benefits for the hardworking volunteers? Someone have a lot of explaining to do. But now is not the time.

There is a right time for everything. Now is not the time to ask who should be held responsible. Let’s not steal the media attention away from the young athletes. They trained hard for this moment. Give them 12 days to show the world what they are capable of. This is their time. This is their moment. This is their glory.

For those who don’t support YOG, all I ask of you is to hold your complaint until the end of YOG. Don’t ruin the hard effort put in by others. For those who support YOG, please give all the young athletes your fullest support. They deserved it. Let’s make this the best Youth Olympic Games ever. Let’s set the Singapore standard for all future YOG country to follow.

It is said that in the ancient times, countries at war would cease fire during Olympic period so that they can compete in the games. I hope the war of words will cease fire during this Youth Olympic period. We will settle the scores later. Now is not the time.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi deleted scene

George Lucas recently announced that there are official plans to release the entire Star Wars Saga (episode 1 to 6) in a Blu-ray package. The new edition would also include a long lost deleted scene. In that scene, Darth Vader is trying to a contact Luke using the force and getting him to join him at the dark side. We then see Luke, concealed by a hood, building his lightsaber in what some sources say is Obi-Wan’s house. (Although it looks more like a normal cave to me) This scene is supposed to happen before C3PO and R2-D2 went to Jabba the Hutt’s palace.

The cut scene was shown at Star Wars Celebration V. Fortunately for us, someone sneak a video camera in. BUT unfortunately for us, LucasArts has issued a take down notice and Youtube is taking down all the video they can find as we speak. So I don’t know how long will this video be available. If you can’t see it, that means it has been taken down.

But but but….. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said that he don’t remember filming that part. Note that we can’t see the face clearly in the video. So there could be a chance that the video is shot using a body double. Or Mark did film that shot but he forgotten about it. Or some people are speculating that the shot is filmed recently to be included into the Blu-ray edition. You be the judge.

But it’s amazing how many times George Lucas can release the same film over and over again and again. So what’s next after Blu-ray edition? 3D edition? Hmmm….

YOG – Another story from the other side

Here is another blog entry on the Youth Olympic Games by a friend of mine. I guess I’ll share it here for all those who still doubt the need for Singapore to host YOG.

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Another one armed post, because my left arm is still in a cast, but also because I feel that this is an opinion I want to share, hopefully to offer a different point of view, and perhaps one that’s positive as well.

I’m going to be talking about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, so I’d better offer a full disclosure and disclaimer before we carry on:

“I am one of the trainers conducting the Digital Media Workshop for the athletes and coaches as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), and I enter the Youth Olympic Village and interact with athletes, coaches, volunteers and people part of the organising committee on a daily basis. These opinions expressed, are my own, and are by no means affiliated to my employers or the organising committee, and based solely on my personal experience and account. My identity is fully public, and I am currently unaware of any communications directives, but I am taking a risk on my personal reputation, because I believe my opinion matters to the public discourse.”

I think there are many things to find inconvenient or uncomfortable about the Youth Olympic Games. It inconveniences us, our students are being forced to volunteer, crap food gets served, the budget blew itself by three times, we have to give way to the transport buses, there is little International coverage about the games, there is the unbalanced reporting done by our own mainstream press. Yes, these are all facts reported by alternative media in Singapore, and it really shows that the games are not as perfect as you might believe (but then again, nothing is), and definitely reasons for any concerned citizen to voice out. I myself as a contributing member of society, and the public, will of course hold the relevant parties to task by asking questions, but for the next 12 days, maybe I will just cool off.

I’m going to at least try to make this about the athletes who have come to Singapore to compete, who have been given the opportunity as one of the best in their sports back home, to come out here and compete with the best from other countries. To me, there’s something special about seeing so many different cultures in one venue. To learn, to compete, to know what it means to fight, do your best, and also make friends.

This is what I’ve seen when I was watching some highlights from the sports being played so far. Athletes doing their absolute best, giving their all and not giving up. Winning as individuals or teams, losing graciously but still with a fire in their eyes to improve, to make it for the next one, to know that even if they won, they are still not good enough, and want to get better. The camaraderie in teammates, the understanding that even if we’re all from different cultures, we’re all still together in one place, competing, making friends, understanding a little bit more about each other, hopefully working toward a future.

And the excitement of the volunteers who wanted to be there! I mean, these kids WANTED to be part of the Youth Olympics! They wanted to meet athletes, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to learn, mingle, interact, share. I recognise that these volunteers are different from the ones who were forced into volunteering or making up numbers, but they are there nonetheless, and I simply think they deserve a bit more of our support.

Maybe I’m taking things a little personally. Maybe. I know once the games end, my contract would have ended, and I’ll just go back to being ‘lil old me and be my usual snarky, overly critical self again. But maybe some of this ‘Olympic’ spirit has rubbed off on me, this belief that the human race can be something greater, can work together for something good, and that every time I read a cynical comment online, it almost seems like it’s telling the athletes and youth volunteers:

“We wish you were never here. You caused so much inconvenience for us, and it would just have been simpler if the Youth Olympics never happened, or happened here.”

But like I said, maybe I’m taking things too personally, it just sounds that way when I read the comments, and I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that despite the snarky, cynical comments we make about the games, we actually still believe in the youth. Those competing, those who chose to volunteer, and that maybe even those who were forced, can actually start reaping the benefits of this experience. It really is a global forum of 3,600 youths from around the world. How many of us can claim to have experienced that? Maybe for the next 12 days, this is about them, not us.

Maybe we don’t agree with how the party was planned, maybe we don’t like the host of the party we were invited to (Or rather, it feels more like our housemates organised a house party and didn’t bother to check with us), but if the other fact to the gawdy party decorations or cheesy music, is that people are genuinely having a good time, and making friends, are we the ones shortchanging ourselves by hating so much, and not seeing it from the point of view of the party guests?

I know this is an unfair sentiment. I don’t think that if you were forced to volunteer when you didn’t want to, is by any means a justification of the powers and authorities over you to force you to do something you didn’t want to. But maybe, we can try to understand that not enough people stepped up to the plate. Maybe it would have been ideal that we would jump at the opportunity to volunteer or attend the games, but we didn’t. I know it’s not a reprieve, but it makes me ask myself that question. Why didn’t I? Why did I wait till I got a job to feel this way? I believe we share similar sentiments of not wanting to support the games at first, but to feel this support for the games is actually a recent phenomena for me as well. Now, I just want to do my part, and that’s why I’m putting this entry on the line, to get shot down by people who vehemently oppose the games.

But to those of you who are open to being a part of this, who want to see the glass as half full (instead of half empty) I just encourage you to see for yourself, the spirit and heart of the athletes, volunteers and performers. This is something the $300+ million could not buy. You ask yourself what it means to be Singaporean? Well, it doesn’t mean you do everything your government tells you to do. It means you think for yourself, and decide what it means to be a Singaporean, and what differentiates you from the rest of the world. If you’re proud of your differences, shortcomings and triumphs, I think you can be proud that you are able to help host the dreams and aspirations of youth athletes the world over, that we were chosen to be a host, whether the world is watching or not, to be someone special to someone else.

I’m dedicating this post to you. You who wanted to be here, to be part of something bigger than yourself, who wanted to experience something special in your life, who wanted to know there’s a whole world out there, who dared to dream big, who wanted to meet someone new, who sees defeat as a natural part of life, who wants to make a difference, who believes in a future. This is for you.

I hope this blog entry, together with the previous note that I’ve posted, will change your point of view on the YOG. It has changed my point of view.

Maybe I should blog about my own person opinion soon. OK. Maybe write it tonight. Pray I got the time.