Sunday, July 31, 2011

Readability and color schemes

I'm not a big fan of black text on white background. On a lengthy content, the dark-on-light color scheme strains my eyes. Has this happened to you? For some time, I turned my blog into a white-on-black background, which I find, gives a nice emphasis to the photographs. But how about readability? After some research, I came to the conclusion that grey (light text on grey) is the most soothing color. Do you think so?


A palette of some of my favorite working colors for the web.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

50 Things Americans Should Know About Canada

Came across this list of interesting facts about Canada. While searching for the source, it led me to DurtyDan. They allow free sharing to promote Canada as a fun loving place, so please give credit back to them if you're using their articles.

"I have collected certain facts about Canada. If you use only two or three of them, to a Canadian it will look as if you know a lot about our country. They will be impressed.

THE LIST

1. We DO NOT have snow all year round. We DO NOT live in igloos. We DO NOT ride around on dog sleds. We DO NOT have to check the back yard for polar bears, before we let our kids go out to play.

2. Stop asking if we know somebody in Canada, when you find out we're Canadian. We DON'T know everybody in Canada.

3. Canadians do not find, "Say 'eh' for me," to be particularly funny.

4. Our president is called a Prime Minister.

5. We have never had a Prime Minister assassinated. Although we've been tempted, a few times.

6. We're a lot bigger than you, in land mass, but our population is considerably less. The populations of Los Angeles and New York City would be around 30 million people. The entire nation of Canada has around 32 million people. Due to the fact that most of our country is in the northern latitudes, we huddle close to the border, for warmth.

7. In the War of 1812, we kicked your butts. The reason why your Whitehouse is white is because we set fire to it and it was whitewashed to hide the damage (for propaganda purposes). The west wing was almost completely gutted. Some Americans will say that THEY won the war. However, to win, a party must reach their objective. Your objective was to take over British North America (what Canada was called then), our goal was to stop you. You don't have any more northern territory along the Canada/US border than you did before 1812. So who won? (Alaska doesn't count, you BOUGHT that state from Russia.)

8. A form of baseball was played in Toronto three weeks before Alexander Doubleday played the 'first' game of baseball in your country.

9. We do not find the term "Canuck" derogatory, like Americans find "Yank" derogatory. It apparently originated during World War One. Your soldiers were call "dough-boys" ours were called "Johnny Canucks". I think the British coined the term, but I'm not sure.

10. We did not have a "Wild West". The forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties), the Northwest Mounted Police, kept the peace. Due to the fact that they were a national police force, you could not escape their jurisdiction. They always got their man. Or woman. We have had our share of outlaws, though. Many famous pirates had their headquarters on the east coast of Canada.

11. Speaking of Mounties, they do not all ride horses. So don't try to outrun them if you see their lights in your rear view mirror.

12. We get the same TV shows and channels as you do. So don't ask "Do you get [name of show] up there in Canada?"

13. We are not "just like Americans", we have our own national identity, we just haven't figured out what it is, yet. Someone once said that, "Canadians are unarmed Americans with health care." That pretty much sums it up, I guess. We are internationally (but unofficially) known as the "World's Most Polite Nation."

14. Our national animal is the beaver. Sure it's just a rodent, but they're not even CLOSE to being extinct. You can still get money for beaver pelts. It is NOT our main unit of exchange, we have money, just like you.

15. We do not find the fact that Americans wear Canadian flag pins (so they can get better treatment in Europe) very amusing. So stop it.

16. Contrary to popular belief, the Klondike Gold Rush happened mostly in Canada, not Alaska. American prospectors were stopped at the border and had their liquor, gambling paraphernalia and firearms confiscated by the Mounties.

17. We have Thanksgiving in October, so we don't look like copycats (it IS an American originated holiday, after all). However, we celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Passover and other holidays at the same time you do.

18. We were formed, as a nation, in 1867.

19. We do not trade in beaver pelts, blankets and gunpowder. We have currency. Unlike you, however, we have a two dollar bill. (Although you had them during your bi-centennial celebration.) Actually, our two dollar bill is a COIN. Our bills have pictures of birds on them and are multi-coloured. Our one dollar coin has a picture of a loon on it, so it's called a "Loonie". The two dollar coin has a picture of a polar bear on it, so it's called a "Toonie". (Don't ask, I'm as confused as you are on this one.) There are plans afoot to mint a five-dollar coin, we have no idea what to call it.

20. November the 11th is called Remembrance Day, up here. It is a day when all Canadians honour our war dead and the veterans who are still amongst us. It's significance is that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Armistice was signed, ending World War One.

21. Not every Canadian speaks French. In fact, Canada is the only country where speaking French is not cool.

22. We spell words differently. Honour, valour, defence, neighbour, colour, centre and other words are from the British way of spelling. We also pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "zed", not "zee".

23. The Queen of England is not our national leader. She's' just a figure head and somebody to put on our money with the birds. (Some Royalists in Canada will have something different to say about his, but they're a minority.)

24. In Canada the term "bilingual" does not mean the person can speak two languages, it specifically means "speaks both English and French". Canada has two official languages, they are (coincidentally) English and French.

25. Members of our Senate are appointed by the national party in power. It is a life time position. Even though they are not elected by the people, they can still control government legislation.

26. Our states are called Provinces. We even have three Territories.

*

A territory is created through federal law. In this case, Crown (government) lands in the territories are retained by the federal government in the Crown in right of Canada. This differs from the provinces, which own provincial lands in the Crown in right of the province.
*

Secondly, in a territory, federal Parliament may enter into provincial-type affairs, such as school curriculum.
*

Thirdly, territorial governments are not included in the Constitutional amending formula (this is the way Canada decides if we want to change something in the Canadian Constitution). Provinces get a vote when a change is proposed — territories don't.

The provinces and territories are, from east to west:

PROVINCE "PROVINCIAL KNICKNAME" & CAPITAL

Newfoundland and Labrador, "The Rock", St. John's

Nova Scotia, "Canada's Atlantic Playground", Halifax

New Brunswick, "Picture Province", Fredericton

Prince Edward Island, "Home of Confederation", Charlottetown

Quebec, "La Belle Province", Quebec City

Ontario, "Canada's Heartland", Toronto

Manitoba, "Keystone Province", Winnipeg

Saskatchewan, "Canada's breadbasket ", Regina

Alberta, "Wild Rose Province", Edmonton

British Columbia, "Pacific Playground", Victoria

Yukon Territories, Whitehorse

Northwest Territories, "The beautiful land", Yellowknife

Nunavut, "Our Land" (the Inuit homeland), Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay)

27. Our governors are called Premiers.

28. Our Federal Governments are formed by the party who received the majority of votes (just like your system). Unlike your system, we do not vote for the person who we would want to be leader of our nation, we vote for the local representative in the territory they are responsible for (called a Riding). The party who had the most local representatives (seats) voted in -- is the ruling party. The party who came in second is known as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. (This is done because we have more than two national parties.) The Opposition's job is to keep the ruling party honest and prevent them from getting into any skulduggery. (It doesn't always work.) We have elections every four years, but the ruling party can call an election earlier, if they so choose.

29. Our Prime Minister does not have a limit on how many terms in office they can do. The record is held by Liberal leader Pierre Eliot Trudeau who stayed leader of the country for around 16 years. It is known as the Trudeau Era.

30. We have had a women Prime Minister. Her name was Kim Campbell. She was Deputy Prime Minister (that's what we call our Vice President) when the Prime Minister of that time, Brian Mulroney, quit. There was an election shortly after that (the Deputy PM is not allowed to finish the term, like the Vice President is).

31. You don't have to be born in Canada, to be Prime Minister.

32. Many Canadians have never played hockey in their lives. There are many who do not like hockey.

33. Besides, our national sport is not hockey, it's lacrosse. It's one of the few sports that originated on the North American continent, it was played by the natives.

34. We didn't invent hockey, we just made it better.

35. Canadian football is different. The Canadian Football League (CFL) has larger end-zones, the football is bigger, and they have one more 'down'. We don't support it much and a few teams have gone bankrupt. Despite the fact that many say it is better than American football, others (who don't particularly like Canadian football) use the expression "run, pass, kick" to describe the game. Apparently, they feel this best describes every offensive strategy in the CFL.

36. Even if an "American" team wins the Stanley Cup (the "World Series" of hockey) it doesn't matter to us, because all your best players are Canadian.

37. On the other hand, if a "Canadian" team wins the World Series we ignore the fact that all our baseball players are American.

38. New York City has more murders in a week than the entire nation of Canada does all year.

39. We have no right to keep and bear arms. So leave your guns home if you're visiting, otherwise they'll be confiscated at the border. We have very strict gun laws, and fully automatic weapons are pretty much illegal. It almost takes an Act of God to get a licence to own a pistol. (This may be a contributing factor as to why we only have about 600 homicides a year, nation-wide.)

40. The border between Canada and the Republic of the United States holds the title of the "World's Longest Undefended Border".

41. Our side of Niagra falls is nicer looking than your side. In fact, even when Americans use images of the Falls in advertising and movies, they film the Canadian side. It's called Horse Shoe Falls, by the way.

42. That movie you thought was filmed in New York, or Seattle, or Chicago, or Los Angeles -- may have just been filmed in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto.

43. On average four hundred thousand Americans visit Canada each year.

44. Canada has rednecks, too.

45. We pay anywhere from forty to forty-five percent income tax. This does not include Provincial Sales Tax (from 0% to 11% of many purchases, dependent on the particular province) or the national sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax (7% of any purchase over $1.00). Visitors to our country can get the GST they paid reimbursed by filling out a simple form.

46. Our country got its name by mistake. When Jaques Cartier, a French explorer, came to the new world (around where present day Nova Scotia is) they met with local Natives who invited them to their 'kanata' or village. The Jesuit priest with Cartier's party (who was supposed to be providing translation services) misunderstood the native's meaning and told Cartier the name of the country was "Kanata" or Canada.

47. Canada is the only nation to have committed genocide (the complete eradication of a race of people). The Beothuk (bee-ah-took) natives of Newfoundland were hunted like animals. The last one died in prison in the early 1800's. There are no more Beothuk natives left in the world.

48. We call Eskimos "Inuit", because that's what they call themselves.

49. We own the North Pole, and therefore Santa Claus is Canadian. The internationally recognized mailing address for jolly old St. Nick is:

Santa Claus
North Pole
Canada
H0H 0H0

So you better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is a Canuck.

50. Forget about Columbus and Plymouth Rock. Canada was the first place in North America to be settled by Europeans. There was a Viking colony, established by Leif Ericson, circa 1000 B.C. However, natives attacked the settlements and the Vikings decided that it would be better for everybody if they just went home."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canada's Invisible Immigrants

An interesting article from The Globe And Mail's editorial, dated September 5th, 2010.

Canada takes pride in being a country of immigrants. Scholars devote much time to researching the social and economic outcomes of newcomers, most of whom hail from visible-minority communities. It is fitting, then, that someone has delved into Canada’s fourth-largest immigration source: Americans.

These invisible immigrants – there are one million, more than at any time since the Vietnam War – are a unique group. According to a leading American geographer, they come to Canada not for economic opportunities, but for the country’s set of values.

Of course, every immigrant’s motivations are intensely personal. However, extensive research by Susan Hardwick, a professor at the University of Oregon, shows that the over-arching inspiration for moving north of the border is an idealistic one.

Americans are attracted by their view of Canada’s more liberal culture. That includes support for a universal public health-care system, positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians, gun control laws and multiculturalism.

In British Columbia, for example, Prof. Hardwick found that most recent arrivals from the U.S. reported their primary reason for leaving was the idea that Canada is a safe refuge for liberal thinkers and idealists.

There are also a growing number of what she calls “midlife mavericks,” who are seeking new lives in what they see as the promised land.

The trend, it seems, is enduring. Reciprocal migration means Canadians need not worry about the brain drain south.

Prof. Hardwick attributes the spike in American immigration, in part, to dissatisfaction with the conservative policies of former president George W. Bush’s years in office.

Now that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is in the White House, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper leads a Conservative minority government, will liberal Americans sour on Canada? Early research results show that American immigrants are not inclined to move back, especially in light of Canada’s stronger economy.

As well, given Tea Party activism, anti-immigration policies in states such as Arizona, and popularity of commentators such as Glenn Beck, liberal Americans remain unsettled by U.S. political culture.

American-Canadians are enthusiastic Canadians. Even those who retain dual citizenship embrace their new identity. Two-thirds of American immigrants have a “very strong” sense of belonging to Canada, according to the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Study. For many, Canada is the “America idealized” in the post-9/11 world, says Prof. Hardwick.

American-Canadians also earn higher salaries and are more educated than other immigrant groups in Canada.

Canadians should embrace these newcomers, and be careful not to tar them as overly individualistic, flag-waving or materialistic – stereotypical traits often, wrongly, associated with Americans.

The presence of American immigrants is doing as much to shape Canada as the influence of newcomers from China, South Asia and the Philippines.

Canadians should resist the urge to repeat negative clich├ęs about the U.S., and view Americans as among the most buoyant new Canadians.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade vanilla extract

I was told that in order to bake a great cake, you need quality ingredients. From butter, to eggs, to vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract is one of the most expensive spices, and should be distinguished from vanilla essence or flavor, which is synthetic. Although both can be substituted for one another in a recipe, vanilla extract is the preferable ingredient if you want your cake to have a wonderful flavor.

Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid, and reading the history of pollination by hand can be quite amusing. After some research, I was surprised to find that it is possible to make your own vanilla extract. All you need is 180ml of vodka, 1 whole vanilla bean, and an airtight empty bottle. It was suggested to cut the bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Cover tight and let steep for at least 6 months.

In this experiment, I used a 175ml bottle of vodka, added 3 vanilla beans (instead of 1), and let steep for 6 months. The result was satisfactory, and economical. So far, I used it in all my baking, including the chiffon cake.


Tip: a good vanilla bean should be moist, plump, tender, shiny and black. It can be hard to find.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Onion News on Twitter and Facebook

This is amazingly hilarious.

A stalking e-mother talks about why Twitter is her favorite: it allows her to virtually follow her son's every move. She can hear his every thoughts, "it's like a dream come true".


Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids

Another report about Facebook.


CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Transformers Bumblebee

I was cleaning up my pictures archive, and found these photos of Bumblebee Transformers.

Bumblebee Transformers

It was the closest I could get to him :)

Bumblebee Transformers full body

Chevrolet Camaro


Friday, July 22, 2011

WebPutty CSS editing tool

Finally edited my blogger template: removed borders for the widgets and unified the background colors. It looks much cleaner now, especially at the bottom page. Funny how these minor changes can make such a big difference.

I used webputty.net, a new CSS editor that allows users to preview the changes instantly and also to update them to their website with a click of a button.

(1) Log in with your Gmail account ;
(2) Copy and paste in your template the Java script provided by WebPutty.net;


(3) Tips from DH: back up the HTML/CSS source code first, then delete all "style" codes in your original template to avoid overlapping;
(4) Start editing on WebPutty. Hooray for the two column panes!


A single account can be used to edit several websites.


According to WebPutty's front page, it's free for early adopters. Have fun!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Subway

We're big time fans of Subway's Italian B.M.T. Parmesan oregano bread, all dressed, with mayo and mustard. Delicious!

Subway Italian B.M.T.

Subway Italian B.M.T.

Subway Italian B.M.T.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Therapy dog

Can't get angry when you see this 6 3 months old beagle. She's too adorable.

beagle

beagle

She's loving her bones to the max.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Comfort zone

The new Blogger GUI looks completely different. My initial reactions weren't positive, it can be confusing at times. What used to be second nature is now unfamiliar.

I could have opted to return to the normal (old) one, but forced myself to get accustomed to the new version. Told myself that change is inevitable, and I just need to adapt to it. After a few days of experimenting, I'm starting to get used to it.

I kinda like it now.

drinks

Friday, July 15, 2011

Smart objects

Recently, I wanted to experiment more on smart objects in Photoshop. They do wonders. I find they're even better than the cropping tool. These photos were taken a while back with Nikon D60 and lens 18-55mm. I miss them... for the vibrant colors they gave me. I recollect that no processing was used in these photos, in terms of sharpness and contrast.

rattan-2

rattan-1

coasters-1

water-glass-2

water-glass-1

water-glass

plate

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Haruki Murakami


"A certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect."
- Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

steel

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teva Itunda

Amphibious footwear, pronounced "teh-va" not "tee-va".

It's light, comfortable and doesn't make your feet sweat in summer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Easy guacamole recipe

Mmm... delicious and easy guacamole dip recipe for nachos, great for summer B.B.Q. Love this recipe (from Allrecipes.com)!


Ingredients:
  • 3 avocados - peeled, pitted, and mashed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Directions:

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

Interesting nutritional value of avocados:
  • High intake of avocados can help decrease blood cholesterol levels
  • Avocados are rich in potassium, vitamins B, E and K.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Royal Selangor Pewter Visitor Centre

royal-selangor-visitor-center

The Royal Selangor Visitor Center is on the top list of attractions in KL on TripAdvisor. According to Wiki, Royal Selangor is not only the largest pewter manufacturer and retailer in the world, but also proudly recognized as a Malaysian brand icon. It's been there for four generations (amazing!), and they have expanded into jewelry, silverware, and even hand painted collectibles. It is a must visit not only for tourists, but also for locals alike.

royal-selangor-visitor-center-1

tin-dredge
Tin dredge

royal-selangor-visitor-center

royal-selangor-visitor-center
Giant money tree

royal-selangor-visitor-center-refreshment
Refreshment during the visit

The visitor center is modern and comprises of the museum and gallery, the factory, the modern cafe, and the gift shop. The admission is FREE and they allow you photograph as much as you like. The staffs are very friendly and they look so happy working at Royal Selangor. Loyal workers of 5 years and over are commemorated with this wall of hand prints around the center.

Wall-of-fame-2

Wall-of-fame-1

A friendly staff will be available to guide the visitors around. If visitors chose to, they can opt for the School of Hard Knocks, which is located inside the factory area, and where they can knock their own pewter bowl with their name on it ;) Each session last about 20 minutes max. There is a minimal fee of RM60 per person (prior booking is advisable), and you get to bring back your pewter bowl nicely wrapped in a gift box, as well as a certificate.

school-of-hard-knocks-1

school-of-hard-knocks-2

school-of-hard-knocks-3

From the gallery, museum, and factory, visitors will finally be led to the gift shop, which comprises of a wide variety of items, some of them can't be found at other branches. Remember to ask your guide for the story of the lucky pumpkin tea pot, it will sure make you want to purchase one. The history of Royal Selangor was written into a beautiful hardcover book by the great-granddaughter, and can also be purchased at the shop. Even if you are not Malaysian, you feel so proud for what Mr. Yong Koon and his later generations have successfully accomplished in the Malaysian pewter industry.

royal-selangor-visitor-center

royal-selangor-visitor-center-4

The visitor center is open every day, even on holidays, and can be reached from Wangsa Maju RapidKL station and taxi, and is only 10 minutes away from the city centre.

royal-selangor-visitor-center-6

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

About criticism and leadership

Episode 19, Season 4 Chuck Versus the Muuurder

Director Bently talking to Chuck, "You know what your problem is? You want people to like you too much. A good leadership doesn't care about that."

In life, you can't have everyone to like you, and you can't be a good leader if you're affected by this. Just be confident and do what is right.

On the same line of thoughts, why not accept criticism positively with appreciation and allow yourself to improve. As this great article from Zenhabits mentions, most criticism is not an attack/insult on you as a person, but rather on your actions. It's up to you to be the better person, or react angrily and regret later.

Chuck Pictures, Images and Photos

Photo credit: nyarty

Monday, July 4, 2011

Indoor rock climbing

I've been viewing the photo archives, and found enough pictures to be compiled into a list of interesting things to do in KL. Here's one part of this series, which will be posted in separate blog posts.

Let's start with the less mundane, indoor rock climbing.

indoor-rock-climbing-5

When I think of rock climbing, I picture ropes, harness, and a vertical climb. But have you ever thought of doing a lateral wall climbing? That's right, you traverse the wall horizontally from left to right, or vice versa, without gears, except for your climbing shoes. There's no minimum age for this activity that requires agility, strength, and balance.

indoor-rock-climbing

If you enroll for the first time, a friendly instructor will be assigned to show you the basic techniques, as well as how best to fall and other safety measures. Climbing shoes are provided, along with a member card, and a key to a locker to store your belongings while you're enjoying the climb. The cost is RM35 all inclusive (for beginners class), plus RM3 for a chalk bag. If you go there in a group, the staff will gladly encourage you to rent only one chalk bag for the whole group.

Subsequent visit will cost only RM10-12 per entry. Check their website for other packages and classes: madmonkeyz.my. The location is about 10-15 minutes away from the city center, a walkable distance from Wangsa Maju Rapid KL station. Madmonkeyz also sells rock climbing gears.

rock-climbing-shoes

I was somewhat intrigued by the rock climbing shoes. It is not the regular shoes where you snugly rest your feet. It's usually one or two sizes smaller than your regular shoe size, and whereby your front toes are supposed to crimp inside to get a good grip of the rocks.

indoor-rock-climbing-2

I notice that when you analyze too much while climbing (i.e. thinking of the techniques, rock numbers), you'll be stuck on the wall. At times, we tend to forget that our legs are more important than our finger grips. I guess the best way to climb is to act blonde and just go with the flow.