A walk in the park.

So.

A pretty hot day today. Seeing as I have been neglecting Cookie on her walks recently, I took her out for a much-needed walk. For her and for myself as well.

In these years of being in Melbourne, the park has always been a place of peace and enjoyment. I see people just sprawled on the grass, not giving two shits about anything else and just getting some shuteye in the shade. Couples who often bring two glasses and a bottle of wine, just enjoying in each other’s company. Families having a little picnic together. Dog lovers who risk getting caught by the park rangers (me included) by unleashing their dogs for some romp time. And the skateboarding fellows who are working hard on their tricks as always.

And there’s the odd act every now and then. I remember seeing a bunch of guys practising parkour on some park decorations, really cool. Not to mention this guy who tied rope between two trees for tightrope walking practice. And this bunch of people who played a game of hockey on unicycles, fascinating. And the interesting patron of the day, a bloke who’s working out the kinks in his bartender cocktail tricks; he’s really not bad juggling those bottles and mixers.

Cookie’s been really improving recently, she’s learnt to look around for me while running free and come sprinting back, tongue wagging and panting in excitement. Compare this to the past scenarios where she would run and totally forget about the existence of her owners. Well folks, this took like four years to accomplish! Slow progress but we got there in the end. I’m still wary of letting her off the leash at road junctions though, especially when the park is right opposite. She has this idea that the quickest way to the park is a straight diagonal. Which is entirely correct if cars and traffic lights did not exist.

It makes me happy that Cookie enjoys herself on walks. And I get to take a break from staying in the house all day long. Time for another walk soon.

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Two dudes and a dog.

That’s how life was like for the past two weeks while V was on her holiday back home – Stan, Cookie and me. Cookie doesn’t seem to realise that there’s one less person in the house, and carries on as usual. The good thing about having a short-term memory I guess, but I’m sure she’ll go amok and start leaping and yipping with joy once she sees V back home. Meanwhile, she’s doing her best to hide under the covers and stay warm. Yep, that’s how cold it’s been at night. I’m just not too used to sleeping alone in winter, so it’s a good thing V’s coming back on Sunday morning. The end is near!

One thing about guys, most of us don’t really care about food at times; roughing it out is fine. So I guess we actually saved quite a bit on groceries by eating the same stuff all the time. Like Stan says, “you can save money but your tastebuds will get bored.” Shopping time is drastically reduced too, we just grab what we want and get the fcuk out of the supermarket these days.

One sentence sums it up: stick to the game plan = save time and money.

iRobot Roomba versus vacuum cleaner? It’s a nobrainer.

(Disclaimer: this is going to sound like one of those cheesy marketing crap you seen on TV occasionally.)

So I headed over to Jason’s place last month for a housewarming party, and I was really impressed by how clean the floor was – spotless, to say the least. And he was pointing at something he called the Roomba, which apparently did the cleaning by itself? All you had to do was to set the timer and that’s it.

Now, I’ve been a lifelong hater of the vacuum cleaner; “a necessary evil” was about the best compliment I would give. It was clunky and noisy, I had to plug it into a wall point and lug it along, and there’s only so much ground you can cover with the power cord limitation. It was bad enough when the floor was tiled, and having to vacuum clean carpeted floor made it worse. Now for the ultimate finishing move, add dog hair into the mix.

The Roomba seemed like the perfect solution:

  • Automated cleaning – let it run while all of us are out, saves the noise.
  • No messy power cords – it ran on batteries and the best part,
  • It returned to its dock automatically after the cleaning
  • My only question was if it could handle carpets, but the website seemed to say it could so I was going to take it on pure blind faith. I’m a sucker for marketing statements.

The price was a little steep at almost $500, and I bet a hell lot of people cringed at that, including V. She was a little skeptical at the idea, but I decided to go on with it. Honestly, I reckon it’s just a matter of being penny wise, pound foolish in the end. How much is time worth to you? Is an hour of your time everyday for two years (two years = wild stab at MTBF of Roomba), worth five hundred bucks?

I know mine is.

So I hopped over to eBay after that, and bought the iRobot Roomba 560, which is the model that comes with the scheduler. It was shipped from the States, and took approximately a week and a half to arrive – expedited UPS is good : )

Side blurp: People interested in getting a Roomba locally can look at Roomba Australia, which is operated by Salton. They seem to have a wide list of partner retailers that stock the Roomba, so getting one should be fairly easy.

The first week of cleaning was a little horrible, because the Roomba almost always ended up with a full load of dust and hairs in its bin. I was pretty sure it was all the accumulated gunk from our inefficient cleaning so far, and I turned out to be right. Two weeks later, the load in the Roomba’s bin lessened a great deal and the carpet actually feels like carpet now. Life is good : )

Cleaning
The best part is, it’s not that hard to clean the Roomba, so everyone’s pretty happy to take turns cleaning it out. Empty the bin, clear the brushes of hairs and that’s it for daily maintenance.

Disaster
The only major accident I had so far was with the Roomba accidentally crossing the line into Cookie’s poo. That was a disastrous evening which ended with me taking the Roomba apart, cleaning it piece by piece. I used one of the virtual walls (provided in the box) to zone off the poop zone after that; I was careless the first time, but there’s no way I’m going to let it happen again. The virtual wall uses a C battery, which is supposed to keep it active on Auto mode for six months. I’m still keeping a wary eye on it now, so we’ll see how long the battery lasts.

Photography: Random

The only time I have for photography on weekdays? On the way to work in the morning, and on the way home in the evening. Same route, same stuff. Trying to find the difference in every day I guess?


Waiting at the traffic junction got a little too boring, so I snapped one. It’s amazing how much easier everything gets, when ISO3200 is available. Less handshake, period. I’d probably up the aperture a few stops for increased DOF – if I had an IS lens. That said, I’m honestly wondering how much shallower an f/1.4 lens gets.


Steps are always interesting; regular patterns = great. I took this one without looking through the viewfinder, because lying down on the ground on a street would’ve looked odd.


Hidden Autobot?


This one didn’t look too bad, but I’ll try other variations of this shot on other days – there seems to be something lacking on this, haven’t figured it out yet.


This one’s pretty good, but a tad too bright perhaps.


Finishing off the daily post: as usual, Cookie looks the best. I think I need to read and experiment more on composition, hmm. Taking street shots with a short prime lens is proving to be more challenging than I originally thought.

Photography: Cookie, aperture and ISO

Trying to capture thoughts before I lose the mood.


I was taking pictures on a moving train today; not the best idea in the world, but one does what one can. I think this picture would’ve been better, if I had done a tighter crop.


You reckon?


Some guy sitting in front of me this morning. Hello there.


Here’s a quick snap of me with the camera – elevator mirror = good.


Pic of the day. I spent about an hour playing with indoor shots on Cookie before catching Inglourious Basterds. (I love this flick.)

ISO is so much more helpful on a DSLR; does not create as much noise on the image in comparison to the old A540. Even at ISO3200, it still gives relatively decent image quality. Add a wide open aperture at 1.8, and lighting’s pretty good even without flash. I’m still pretty inspired by the works of Jeff Ascough. Bloody no flash, damn.


Here’s flying Cookie – couldn’t have done it without the settings mentioned earlier.


Drawback to wide open aperture? Shallow DOF, as illustrated here. Oh well.

More to come later.

Photography: Jay Chou 0, Cookie 1

RIP Jay Chou concert tour 2008 figurine, Singapore Edition. Apparently Cookie decided this figurine looked like a nice toy to chew on while I was at work today; I have since disabused her of that erroneous notion, and she will probably be fleeing from all Jay Chou figurines in future.

Three reasons why I did not haul Cookie up by the scruff of her neck, yank the window open and hurl that bloody dog right out:

  • Call it fate if you will, but I have a spare of the figurine.
  • She shares the same sentiments towards SG.
  • Window limitation. Throwing through the window yes, but not open + throw.

Blardy hell.

*Morose self-consolation: the picture actually looks bloody good.