Let's say you stepped into the shower, and you're about done half your shower routine already. Suddenly, you need to pee. So tell me, do you pee in the shower?

Yeah, me too.


After searching around the market for a replacement to my dearly departed Canon S400 camera, I've become bitter with the current offerings.

Tons of users on the DPReview forums like to chime in about their resentment against the current "megapixel race" -- where consumer cameras are cramming more and more megapixels into smaller and smaller cameras -- with complete disregard to the physics of light. What this ultimately results in is a substantial decrease in low-light picture-taking performance: photos indoors, at clubs, even just in mid-bright lighting.

So I finally decided on a model that would give me a picture that starts to rival the performance of my 3-year-old camera: the Canon Powershot G7. The problem is, this kind of image quality used to be available on a $400 average-rated consumer camera, and now to get the same thing I've had to fork out $500 for what's considered a pro-sumer model!

Basically, the next step up is a DSLR!
This beast is huge. I'm mean, it's really huge.
And it's hefty. It's practically 3/4lb!

It has so many manual settings and functions on it that on my first day out with it, it's taught me that I know absolutely nothing about photography. I guess it has a lot of room for me to grow into, in the sort of way that you could buy a toddler an adult's full 3-piece suit to grow into.

I wonder if this is going to ironically turn me away from wanting a DSLR, and send me back into the small consumer pocket cameras that I despise so much at the moment.

Renew Now! At 10x Your Previous Contract Rate!

It continues: I called California Fitness head office to complain and the lady there (who handles membership transfers) told me that for me to continue, the cost should "only" be $6999NT/year ($200US). I guess that's better than $57000NT ($1700US). But I'm going to call her back and complain again because my original should be $20US ($700NT) per year instead!

I told them that nobody informed me my $20/year would be erased! So she is checking now. They said they would contact 24 Hour Fitness (US headquarters) overnight and then get a response for me yesterday or today. Otherwise, $6999 is still acceptable to me, I guess -- it's the cheapest option I have at the moment -- but it's still 10 times what I "should" be paying. I'd much rather pay $699NT instead.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

What a day.

This afternoon, I downed a Redbull in anticipation of a great workout and headed to California Fitness. Then the guy checking my card says my membership ends today; do I want to continue?? Interesting that they wouldn't warn me over the past two weeks I've been going regularly, or even bother to call me about it. (In any case, I was watching it, but I thought it expired in May.)

So instead of working out, I spend an hour reviewing their stupid "promotions", none of which are nearly as good as I had before. (Back in 24 Hour Fitness in 2003, I pre-over-paid $949 for three years, which granted me the right to $20US per year thereafter.)

Gym membershps here are twice what they cost in North America: they're roughly $1600-2000NT/mo ($45-60US), unless you prepay for 5 years ($57000NT, $1700US) to lower that monthly average to around $1000NT/mo ($30US/mo). There are various other confusing-as-mobile-phone-plans schemes, but that's the gist of it.

And I find out that my $20-per-year-thereafter got cancelled when they transferred my membership to Taiwan, and they never even mentioned to me that this would be a consequence. (The contracts are in English and also no mention of this; I checked.)

Hmm. So when they signed me over, they basically just cost me another $30,000NT ($1000US) without telling me it would. Well, that sucks. And I was still high on the Redbull, which just made me super-aggressive and pissed off while they told me the "good deals" for memberships.

So I go to the competing chain to talk about memberships (which are really no better), and come back out to find my scooter towed. Towed way out to the boonies. I had to take the MRT and then walk another 20 minutes to get to the tow lot to get my bike back. That's another $30US in fines, and more wasted time.

As I peeled out of that area, I took a wrong turn ... and noticed after 15 minutes' riding that I was headed in the wrong direction (east)! Get this: I actually left Taipei City and headed into the next county over! Took me another 50 minutes to ride back to the darts bar, where I got my ass kicked in the competition (while still in my sweaty gym clothes).

I'm about ready to go postal. The gym is giving me 3 days leeway to figure out whether I want to continue or cancel my membership with them and tomorrow, I get to argue with their head office on the phone.
Great, more fun.

There's a mosquito in here, but I can't find it to kill it. I really need to; that will make me feel better about the sh!t I went through today.

Another Perspective

Travelling the same city streets using a different mode of transportation can give you a completely new perspective on how people move around the city, and indeed around each other. Last Thursday, I went for a 90-minute inline-skate tour through Taipei, 60 minutes of which were navigating the city streets and trying to stay on the major roads that had nice, smooth, wide sidewalks ... and no construction.

Here are some observations from that day:

- Inline skates are like foreigners in Taipei -- they are constantly gawked at.
- Because they're so alien, most motorists -- especially pedestrians, cyclists, and scooterists -- don't really know how to react to or plan for them. This makes encounters sometimes nerve-racking, for both sides.
- The city-planned bicycle routes are great for bikes, but still sometimes too rough for the small wheels of rollerblades.
- Children are fascinated by them, and I hope they are enamoured enough to try it out, encouraging the city to put more resources towards rollerblade-friendly paths.

Go Big or Go Home

This camera decision is really bothering me. I've played with ...

- Canon SD800IS in Vietnam (12 days, 1900 shots)
- Canon SD900 in Thailand (5 days, 900 shots)
- Panasonic DMC-FX07 for all the times in between

And I have to say that I am utterly unimpressed with any of these cameras' low-light and noise performances. My old S400 -- rest in peace -- kicked these cameras' asses! Of course, the new ones have a ton more features and the new movie modes are awesome, but they've forgotten about the essence of light and physics; they need to go back to the basics.

Anyway, it seems that I might be closer to my anticipated future big-honking-DSLR purchase than I expected. Dammit, I take that back, I take that back! I don't want a DSLR just yet. I think I just rather go with a bigger camera size than the slip-in-your-pocket types, like the Canon G7 or the Canon S3IS.

So that's a long-winded explanation to my questions:
What models?
And why?


I can't believe it. How it happened has left such a bad taste in my mouth, such a dark memory of that time, that -- even six months later -- I get recurring dreams of bumping into those people again. And in my dreams, I confront them the way I should have half a year ago but didn't. When will I be free of this??

I'm BaKK Now

So yeah, I'm back from a long weekend in Bangkok. I didn't have any expectations before I went -- and I had barely done any reading into the history of the country and its cultures -- except for the obvious reputation for its prostitution industry and horrible traffic (and trafficking).

I have to say that I'm really impressed with the city and its peoples. Bangkok is actually very modern, and still retains the deep traditions that are instilled via religion and customs. Respect for the royal family is incredibly visible -- at any one point, you can find 10% of the people on the street wearing the symbolic yellow shirts, so much so that it looks like the official national uniform!

Despite its dense population, I've noticed that people are generally respectful of your private space, and surprisingly polite. I dare say they're more courteous than the Taiwanese are. When a Thai girl bumped into my table at the food court, she actually stopped, turned around, and looked me in the eye when she apologized. In contrast, on the flight back, we were docked at the gate and getting ready to de-plane ... and a Taiwanese lady squeezed her way through 5 of us to get to the back with nary a word of "excuse me".

Huh. That's a nice "welcome home".

PS: I also bought a new pair of shoes and threw out my raggedy old ones, which had travelled with me through USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali.

Grin from ...

One uses soap (or body wash or shower gel) on one's body.
One uses facial soap (or cleanser or whatever) on one's face, and possibly the front part of the neck.
But which of those two products do you use on your ears?