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We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015

Korean food for my Lioness and yummylicious Angelica herb duck from 店小二 for me as we dine at home tonight, bidding year 2015 goodbye as it's coming to a close while year 2016 closes in.

Now that our stomachs are satisfied, we take to the neighbourhood street just in front of our nearest shopping center, where they've cordoned off all vehicle traffic from the long stretch of road for the purpose of celebrating the approaching new year.

Pasar Malam (night bazaar) stalls line almost the entire length of one side of the stretch of cordoned road and it's crowded at the stalls, just like how it's meant to be; It would be worrisome otherwise. We are keeping our eyes peeled for the Malay fried jackfruits that my Lioness loves as we browse the Pasar Malam wares.

Visiting Pasar Malams always bring back memories of my growing up years when they were more common. Mum used to bring me to them then, and now, I visit them with my sweetheart. It would be really nice if the three of us could visit one together some day - me and the two women of my life I am most grateful for, without whom I wouldn't be today. They are my 贵人.

The new year Pasar Malam has an open air section dedicated to screening an ongoing movie in progress for the neighbourhood folks, but what's really catching my eye is the roadside band playing at this bus stop with the singers standing right smack in the middle of the road singing in turns, microphone in hand. This is the first time I'm seeing a drummer using a bus stop bench as his drumming seat. How quaint but how refreshing. I'm actually finding myself smiling at the sight of this makeshift musical innovation.

The sight of the band makes me feel like I've been transported to some alternate reality; you see, I know this part of the neighbourhood really well since I pass by here often and every time I do, there would be no such thing as a band playing at the bus stop and a singer singing in the middle of the busy road where vehicles do their daily and nightly hustle and bustle. So it feels pleasantly weird and out-of-place what we're witnessing in front of us now, which is a far cry from the norm I've never imagined happening.

Such an unexpected kind of a break from the norm is a good thing for me, since it reminds me to always keep an open mind and make room in the realm of my imagination for new things to happen, which can be unanticipated deviations far removed from the conditioned norms of common everyday reality. To earn that, I have to get caught with my reality pants down by this makeshift band for the moment, though. God bless the musicians, my heart goes out to them. I just reminded myself to practice guitar more.

Looking back at year 2015 from the vantage point of its final day

Where do I even begin? It's hard to find a start point from a free-wheeling roller coaster ride, which 2015 has been for me. There have been a great deal of things to really worry about, sometimes almost to the point of helplessness. But there were lots of moments of hope and good things that happened too.

I had to deal with this one thing that I regretted losing, regrettably. But I always turn towards the brighter side after facing my own abyss and studying my areas of pain and losses squarely in their faces - not that I have much of a choice anyway since I've gotta move on somehow. We all have to. I guess 2015 has been a year of self-realisation when life has taught me to hang on to the will and the resilience to reach deep down inside of myself to not only pluck out my courage, but also to realise that when things go out of your life, you are making room for new things to come in.

I cannot make myself pretend that my losses didn't happen, since who would I be kidding if I did that? I owe it to myself when it comes to my own life. It's painful to face your pain and losses, no doubt, but if you acknowledge their reality and learn from them, only then, can you move on much wiser. 2015 has also been a year where I've uttered lots of prayers, which should come as no surprise thus far.

Prayers help. When you pray about your life, you are looking at the minute details of your own life at the same time - you open your own eyes to your own life, so to speak. You cannot present something to God which you choose to be blind to. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say that God helps those who help themselves. Those who have eyes, let them see and all that. Sounds easier than it actually is, though.

Even if you don't believe in God, having the courage to face your losses and pain will do more good in the long run than you just ignoring everything in denial and pretending they didn't happen, or downscaling their actual magnitude just to make yourself feel deceptively better. If you see where the traps and sinkholes in your life are and acknowledge their presences, you will learn and know where and how to avoid them from thereon. Turn a blind eye and chances are, you will blindly fall into them again. It's like History - those who forget their own are doomed to repeat their own mistakes and predicaments.

Pain can be a teacher, just make sure that each pain you experience in your life only has the chance to teach you just once. It's akin to: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Life's a mixed bag, so 2015 has not been all doom and gloom in its entirety, I'm glad to say. I broke my own running distance record during the second last day of the year. Earlier during March, I got my wonderful Galaxy Note 4, which I absolutely love and which has proven to be a trusty daily driver I'm really very happy with till this day. In fact, I consider it to be the best Note Samsung has ever made thus far, which is something I can't say for the detestable (in my opinion) Note 5 (or Nerfed 5, as I prefer to call it) from the standpoint of one who loved what the Note series had always stood for, which the Note 5 has deviated away from.

I can imagine you rolling your eyes at this point and muttering: "It's just a phone, what's he so happy about for?" LoL. Well, for one, I'm a mobile tech geek and practical mobile tech gives me nerdgasms. We are all happy when we come, no? Note that the key word here is 'practical'. That doesn't mean that newer toys like the Note 5 with seriously nerfed features (thus, making it impractical) is gonna make me ascend to cloud 9. The latest is not necessarily the greatest if they take away more than they give and charge you more money for it.

If being a geek equates to being a sucker, then they wouldn't have labelled the two by different terms. I'm a geek but I'm not your bitch, Samsung. Since you're courting after my money from me the consumer, I should make you my bitch instead and no cookies for you this time, Uncle Sammy. Flip the previous sentence around entirely to the opposite end of the scale in reverse-interpretation and you get a blind fanboy's perspective.

Secondly, your mobile phone (that's always on you) runs a huge part of your life if you hadn't realised it by now, so a capable phone that caters to your needs well means you run your life more efficiently and productively. That, my friends, is not to be underestimated or taken lightly for.

Just try living your life without your mobile for a couple of days and let's see how well you can cope. Heck, how easy or hard your work life can be and whether you keep yourself in the current loop of things, what with all the company WhatsApp group chats going on, all depend on your mobile device and your proficiency in mobile tech. I don't think I need to get into the online researches, social and play side of things outside of work, which we all manage huge chunks of with our mobile phones. This is why a good phone is so important in modern times - own a capable phone, know what you're doing and how you should go about doing it, and you manage your life capably. ♪Ta-da♪

Self-realisation. That's one of life's holy grails. I believe that self-realisation comes in a series of parts, since there are so many different aspects of a person's life - like the different parts of a machine that constitute the whole entire machinery.

If life's machinery is functioning well, we'll think nothing much of it since we'll be too busy enjoying our lives. But when a part of our life's machinery breaks down and grinds to a halt, we'll then be forced to take pause, look at the fault and figure out just how we should go about fixing it.

It sometimes takes pain to wake us up so that we can start fixing what's going wrong with our lives for the betterment of ourselves. 2015 has been kinda like that for me. I'm not complaining, since despite it all, I still think that life has been rather gentle with me and whatever issues that have happened, have happened within the limits I could still put up with. People across the globe have had it much much worse than me.

My ultimate conclusion on 2015: It has been a memorable year for me with lots of self-reflection. Heck, sometimes, it even felt magical. Despite the losses, I'm glad I could still manage to smile through it all (and there are such things as painful smiles) and survive to greet another new coming year as the clock ticks 2015 to a close. And there is always a humourous side to things; even if they should be cynical views that make you thumb your nose grudgingly at the situation, they can still be cynically funny still.

And being grateful for all the good things that have happened within the mix, I keep getting reminded that you gotta take the good along with the bad as a whole complete package of life and don't bitch so much. Man up. Afterall, I'm still alive and therein is where my chances lay in and therein, is my chance to better my life. We just gotta be willing to learn from it all. I gotta appreciate that I have the chance for that. Such is life. Such was 2015.

Happy new year, dear gentle reader. Go forth into year 2016 with the heart of a lion.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

To The 15 Christmas Eves Ago Me

Year 2000. Christmas Eve. Some time past 11pm at night.

I've just had my late fried rice dinner all by myself at this small little 煮炒 place situated under this apartment block that I like to frequent. The 煮炒 place may be small, since it's only about the size of 2 typical provision shops but their fried rice is sure as yummy heck big on taste. I may be all by my lonesome self this Christmas eve night but at least I could enjoy a plate of fried rice I really truly liked, nevermind the hour too late for having dinner that's more qualified as supper as the night approaches close to Christmas.

Walking away from the 煮炒 place heading towards home, my surrounding is dark since the rows of shops I am passing by are all closed by now. Apartment blocks here are well-lit but for some reason, this stretch is always dark this late at night. I'm the only soul traversing through this lonely and dark environment while everyone else must be in town partying it up for the Christmas countdown, skin to skin in crowded and noisy environments where too many perspiring and sticky humans are being contained together in celebratory spaces probably too small for entire crowds, like sheeps in a pen. Sounds like fun.

"It's Christmas eve," I begin to think to myself and that's when it hits me all of a sudden; An overwhelming sense of extreme loneliness comes out of nowhere and envelopes my entire being both inside and out.. I think the forceful magnitude in sweeping strength of it just caused me to stagger in my steps there for a moment. I'm getting hit full in the face and gut by an emotional tsunami and I've never felt such a powerful sense of loneliness before in my life. Never ever. I am discovering for myself first-hand how it feels like to be drowned alive by an overwhelming emotional force.

Dear God, this is really painful.

I'm having the urge to cry but I'm force-swallowing the lump in my throat and choking back the tears. My goodness, what is happening to me?

Christmas Eve 2015

Dear self from 15 years ago:

Ever since the 6th of April, year 2000, you started your journey of solitude with its accompanying loneliness, plunging head-first down a seemingly dark spiral of uncertainty that you didn't even voluntarily consent to put yourself through in the first place. This, self, will be the limbo period of your life just before its major turning point 2 years down the road from where you are now. Until then, you will have to deal with your current situation.

Even though what you are going through now isn't hopelessly bad (you are still alive, count your blessings) and you even enjoy the situation as an unexpected twist in the whole plot of things, the most difficult challenge of this time period is the loneliness you will have to occassionaly deal with. You deal with it not just inside your head but at the same time, you have to reach deep into the dark recesses of your psyche to tackle it from within too. If it comes from within, then that's where the wrestling ring actually is.

Your solitude is your double-edged sword; you enjoy it but once in awhile, its associated loneliness with a sharp point can cut you up. It's like smiling through the pain. But solitude and loneliness can't kill you, because you always enjoy the moments with yourself. You like to hear yourself think and you like having thought conversations with yourself. You love your 'lone wolf' moments but you are not invincible and you are still human. No man can remain in his cave forever without ever coming out of it for a breather and some social interaction.

Sometimes, you consciously choose to be away from friends and partyings just to be with yourself and spend personal time on your own hobbies and interests, shutting out the rest of the world and leaving your friends wondering if you've gone to become a hermit for good all of a sudden without so much as a goodbye. Of course, you prove them wrong, albeit momentarily, everytime you decide to emerge from your cave. They've been either only half-wrong or half-right or both, since in essence, you really are a part-time hermit.

Like an elusive Viet Cong choosing when to appear and fight and when to disappear seemingly into thin air suddenly, you mostly call the shots when it comes to when your friends can see you.

You are a case of extremities: you let yourself go and party HARD whenever you let yourself to but you will never allow frivolous partyings and social gatherings to dominate more time over your own personal pursuits and hobbies. So indeed, loneliness can't kill you but it still can hurt you when the solitude lasts for too overly long sometimes. Yes, you are very resilient towards it but you are still human with feelings and the need for companionship when the dust settles.

Extremities can be difficult to understand and comprehend and you are a mystery even to myself, but I will have to accept you unsolved for what you are because I am you. That makes us human, since how many people can truly proclaim with complete unwavering conviction that they truly understand themselves completely inside-out? And that's discounting the fact that all of us can change over time and become a different person - even if not completely, mostly at least in certain aspects. As such, do not think that your situation has taken hold as a permanent and unchanging one, self.

While you are on your journey to discover yourself as you really are, you need to allow room for changes. Be true to yourself but allow yourself to grow.

Are you truly absolutely alone where you are now, past self? You are not and you know it.. well, at least periodically. Mum, your buddies Joe and Jason - these 3 persons are people you better remember to cherish and appreciate without reservation. They are the ones who have been there for you whenever you needed someone. You always see them there everytime you emerge from your shell. It's true that in trying times, one discovers who exactly are one's true friends.

They still stick by you in mind and heart everytime you retreat into your cave. Sometimes, they will come knocking softly on your cave's door to make sure you are doing okay and that's something that always warms you. Everytime you emerge from your cave, you see them waiting for you out there. So no, I know that you know that you are not truly alone even though it can seem that way on the surface. You lucky man.

There is also another calm and quiet presence that has always been there for you whenever you close your eyes to focus your attention on it and when you stare up at the stars during the quiet of the night and reach out to it with your heart as you let the created remind you of their creator. It's God. You get your peace and strength whenever you ask for it, didn't you? Remember to be always grateful, for you are actually blessed. The stars in the night sky will continue to remind you.

That Christmas eve night during year 2000 was the strongest display in intensity of your loneliness. It got to the point of being mind-blowing when something you always thought you enjoyed suddenly turns around and punches you hard in the guts, wasn't it? You staggered in your steps because you didn't expect your loneliness to suddenly transform its face into a sinister monstrosity you didn't know it had on its other side.

Has it occurred to you that perhaps, loneliness itself has gotten enough of you at that point in time and needed its own respite away from you, so it had to tear you apart from the inside that night? Yes, it did hurt. A lot. So much so that I can still remember just how intense it was on Christmas eve night 15 long years later.

From where you are now 15 years ago this night, you don't know that I will turn around to look far back into the distant past at you, do you? You are not aware about this but I've got news for you, past self. If you could just hang on, you will be glad you did. I know because I am you from your future looking back at you at your moment in time.

1 year and 4 months later from that Christmas eve night at your point in time, you will come to be acquainted with your Lioness for the first time on the 6th of April, year 2002. That's right, on the exact date of the second anniversary of your drastic journey of solitude and loneliness, all thanks to mIRC Chat and you being attracted to the user ID 'Venus' while you sit in front of your computer in your peaceful quiet room of solitude. Your finger operating your computer mouse will not be able to resist and you will click on that name 'Venus'.

That, self, will be the moment in time when your entire life up to that point starts to go through a major metamorphosis, like the proverbial scorpion soaring out of its own ashes as a transformed phoenix. If that metamorphosis could be measured on the Richter Scale, it would be a major mega earthquake. How your world is gonna get rocked. HARD.

Ends up, with the passage of time from thereon, your Lioness will devote herself to you and love you. You will thank God for just how blessed you are, convinced that you are the luckiest man on earth for having her. Heck, you will even question God just what it was that you did to deserve her. She will be the best thing that happens to you and from that point on, you will have to put in some effort just trying to remember how loneliness used to feel like.

Your Lioness will be the one who ultimately defeats your loneliness and the one and only place it can retreat to where it can never get out from is in your memories of it. What used to be loneliness will then be taken over by personal space which your Lioness will know when to give you. She understands that you need your own time for your own hobbies and personal pursuits; things that are no different from breathing that keeps you alive and functioning.

Even though you can have your own personal space when you need it, you will also come to realize that if you should ever lose her, you will end up a very broken man. Even though she will be the reason why you need to expend some effort in trying to recall how loneliness used to feel like, you will never forget what happened to you on Christmas eve night during year 2000.

If you tell yourself to hang on now and make it further to year 2007, you are gonna start having the time of your life - you will have the job of your dreams, you will have the money and you will fly to places you never dreamed you would have the chance to visit. How well-travelled you will be indeed and you will absolutely love every moment of it. Hokkaido and Taipei especially will become your favourite places on earth out of all the places you will travel to. You will once again tell yourself just how truly blessed and lucky you are.

And here's something else that will make you jump for joy too.. Ready? In year 2009, you will manage to hunt down, buy and own the padauk Washburn N4, the electric guitar you've been pining for since 1993. Orgasmic, yeah? I know, you find that almost impossible to happen at where you are now in your moment in time but it will happen. You will have the good things that life has to offer.

But life is like a lift that goes up and down and it sometimes can malfunction and become stuck. Your dream job life will last for 6 years before everything starts to slowly fall apart in year 2013. You will then have to brave a few storms as well as a rather shitty job and while you ride it out and fight to keep your feet firmly on the ground, guess who will continue to stick by you and cheer you on?

This time, your companion is sure as heck not loneliness, which is already as good as long dead and you are better equipped for the fight because your situation is leaps and bounds better than your situation during year 2000. Heck, you had close to nothing back then and it was really a miracle that you made it out.

I can't tell you more beyond this point because I am writing this to you at this point in time during Christmas eve night in year 2015 and I can't glimpse into the future. But just you wait for the lift of life to start moving up again. When life falls down flat on its face, it will eventually have to get up again if you don't give up before it repeats the whole cycle. That's just how life is. You will give up for good if you forget that it's not a one direction trip. So take heart and be brave as a lion, not just for yourself but for her too.

At the same time, and just as importantly, keep your eyes on the stars during the quiet of the night and let them remind you of what they've been reminding you all along. God helps those who help themselves.

So past self from 15 Christmas eves ago, that sense of overwhelming loneliness you are now feeling as you are walking home in the quiet and dark night sure feels like being in the pits, huh? Well, don't you allow it to swallow you up whole, because you will end up surviving it all in the end.

Trust me on this, at least until Christmas eve of 2015. Beyond that, I will have to wait for my future self to look back on us to tell us about our life ahead from this point on. I know that you know that I know - That's because I was you and you will become me. We are me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Online Deathmatch

Wars fought on land, sea and air; traditionally so. And now, in this day and age of technological advancements, cyberspace has already joined in the fray.

I'm not sure how Anonymous is gonna pull this one off, considering things can't die permanent deaths on the Internet and respawn points can come to be anywhere - Cyber Necromancy, if you will. If the dimensions of cyberspace could be measured physically, I wouldn't be surprised if its scale turns out to be on par with the ever-expanding universe's.

I think this is gonna boil down to recurring ad nauseam cat and mouse. But still, something desperately needs to be done and you know what they say: like Ninjas, an anonymous enemy you can't identify makes for the deadliest of foes.

Keeping my eyes peeled on the frag scoreboard of this one as the insanity of current tragedies unleashed upon the world unfold before us.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pondered Non-Random Thought

War. Terrorism. Murder. Atrocities. It's not that the world has suddenly gone nuts before our eyes. How could it when it has always been crazy and never quite right in the head all along to begin with? History is the best witness to that and History's job as our witness to the mess we are making is still ongoing. If History had a heart, it would have been shattered countless times over.

If us humans had the sort of perception, collective consciousness and memory that wouldn't temporarily shove aside all mindful awareness of past events even when our attention is funneled and focused on what's happening before us all right here, right now in the present, we would all probably have already fainted from fright by being able to piece together and perceive the horror as a collective whole in its entirety; up to the point we all are now so far from ever since Man came to be.

Suppose we manage to colonize another planet like Mars some day, it will only end up meeting the same fate as Earth - slowly but surely, it gets torn apart by human conflict. Same shit, different place, that's all.

Wake me up when we can all manage to finally see eye-to-eye with one another. Until then, we all have to continue to put up with these recurring nightmares. My condolences.

Damn, the troublemakers that we are.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy Birthday To..

..me. Another year, another +1 to getting older. Ugh. Nevermind, I'll evoke my mind over matter powers and convince myself that if I don't mind it, then it doesn't matter.

Regardless of the mind games I'm playing with myself today, my birthday calls for a celebration with my Lioness on the actual day itself. My family has celebrated for me just a few days earlier and I always reserve the actual day to be spent with my Lioness and she took leave for today just for that, how sweet of her.

The plan for today is to go have lunch first at Thien Kee Steamboat Restaurant, which is a Hainanese restaurant situated at the basement of Golden Mile Tower for starters, which I have chosen (we are diplomatic enough to let the birthday boy choose the venue) because I missed the Hainanese chicken rice and the satay there, nevermind the steamboat which I have decided to skip because I no longer could eat as much as I used to be able to since 3 years ago when I was younger.

Another good thing about going to Thien Kee today to have lunch is that it's a weekday, so we can have our lunch in peace and quiet and be able to hear each other talk without a noisy crowd in the background. I happen to consider myself being quite alergic to a huge throng of people except for when I'm in a club or attending a Rock concert. I'll take crazy guitar solos at breakneck speed and thunderous drumming at high decibels over hearing people around me burp any day, even if they should burp in tune and in harmony with one another. Gee, I almost absent-mindedly tagged this blog post with the 'Music' blog label.

Sure enough, upon arriving at the restaurant, I can't help but smirk when we see that the place is almost vacant. Ah, the liberating feeling of spaciousness and adequate personal space in this city state has already become a rarity these days ever since 3 general elections ago when everyone's aggro circle shrunk big time, resulting in quite a shocking result for the incumbent during the following second last election. Mice crowded into a cage like sardines end up doing desperate crazy stuff and humans are no different.

Hey wait, it's my birthday, why am I side-tracking into politics here? That would sooooo ruin my celebratory mood, leaving a bad taste in my mouth and run contrary to me trying to enjoy a good lunch with my loved one, so forget about what I just said in the previous paragraph.

And besides, I've made it a point to always shut out the crap outside of our little heart-shaped bubble whenever I'm with her. An almost vacant restaurant sure helps with that, how very conducive indeed.

I've mentioned that I can't eat too much and the same holds true for my Lioness, so we ordered a plate of 2 white chicken drumsticks, 2 plates of chicken rice's rice, a plate of Hainanese-style 猪排 (pork chop) and 10 sticks of pork satay.

I'm here mainly for the renowned chicken rice and satay because for the past few times spanning across many years when I came here to eat, they never dissapointed me thus far. I think the last time when I came here was a year ago. Yup, Thien Kee has been doing business here in Golden Mile Tower for many years already, actually. My Lioness ordered the 猪排 because reviews on the Internet recommend this dish and she wants to try it out.

Now that all the dishes are served to us except for the satay which takes more time to prepare, I decide to skip the idea of taking a photo shot of our lunch in its entirety inclusive of the satay all in one photo. That's because we are both getting hungry by now and waiting for the satay to arrive later doesn't seem like a good idea, so I'll take an individual shot of it when it comes later. Time to chow down on what's before us first.

Happily eating away on the chicken rice meal and the 猪排 which my Lioness says does live up to the positive online reviews, the satay finally arrives. Gosh, am I tongue-tinglingly pleased to find out that the pork satay tastes just as yummylicious as it has ever tasted throughout all these years. Even my Lioness, who seldom eats satay, can't help but give it the thumbs up.

If you come here and can only eat just one thing alone for whatever reason, go for the satay, it's really that good if they can maintain whatever method and recipe they are using to marinate and barbecue these sticks of juicy succulent goodness. Just remember to ask for the satay gravy if you don't see it served together with the satay, since this time around, the dude who brought the dish out to us forgot about the gravy and I had to ask a waitress to bring us a bowl of it.

I gave praise and highlight to the satay but don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Hainanese chicken rice and the 猪排 aren't nice, they are. It's just that the satay tastes the best to me out of all the varied dishes. Mum told me that when my brother-in-law came here just a few days ago, he ended up eating 5 servings of the chicken rice's rice alone, which is incredible to me since I don't think I could finish that many bowls of rice myself all in one go.

So yeah, you can come over to Thien Kee to try out the food here yourself if you haven't done so. One thing though, their prices have inflated as compared to what I remembered when I came here in the past. The total cost for our lunch here inclusive of our 2 cups of lime juices is more than 30 bucks. It's not too bad at all but the prices have definitely increased.

When we asked for the bill just now and this madam came over to our table to tabulate the bill item-by-item using impromptu arithmetic, I asked her politely in Hainanese to break the costs of the billed items down for me since I wanted to be in the loop regarding the mathematics she was muttering under her breath to herself earlier. Since it's my birthday, my Lioness is giving me the lunch treat and I just wanted to make sure that she doesn't end up overpaying, that's all.

Okie dokie, now that we are both energised by our delicious lunch with happy tastebuds still tingling with delightful satisfaction, it's time to leave Golden Mile Tower and head off elsewhere to continue with our dating. Until next time, dear gentle reader, I hope you have a great lunch today too.

Happy Birthday, self.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hands-On With The Galaxy Note 5

I went to the store today to check out the Galaxy Note 5 in person, knowing fully well that I was already disappointed with the device before I even laid my hands on it. This blog post explains why.

One step forward, few steps back.

I've always been a fan of the Galaxy Note series: Feature-packed multi-tasking workhorses with killer displays, powerful hardware internals and a very much underestimated and underutilized S Pen that's more fun to use than it looks - The Note has always been a kickass productivity tool and multimedia device for both work and play, its potential utilized to its peak best by eclectic power users who demand a lot out of their gadgets to get things done, and who know how to go about doing so. These were the reasons why the Note had been considered to be more of a niche product, but I think that is no longer the case.

The Galaxy Note 5 is a nice phone in its own right - until you look back at the Notes before it and see what they had all along but now taken away; especially when you look at the Note 4 in comparison. There are those who are intimately familiar with the series saying that the Note 4 is the last true Galaxy Note Samsung produced, and that's something I agree with.

From the very first Galaxy Note all the way to the fourth one, they all came with staple features the Notes had always been synonymously associated with - expandable storage and removable batteries. The Galaxy Note 5 is the very first Note produced with these features abandoned and thrown to the winds in the name of going all glass; which most people will protect with cases anyway (because it's GLASS and at the same time, a fingerprint hyper magnet) and thus, covering up all that so-called glassy premium look. All that glass then becomes moot. Heck, even Apple knew enough to abandon an all-glass build.

It's easy for anyone to go "Ooooh" and "Aaahhh" when they lay their eyes on the Note 5 display sets in the store and become enamored of the so-called build quality. If you are discerning enough and not superficial enough to be easily fooled by shiny frontal exterior, you will flip the device over to its back and be utterly disgusted by all the oily smudges of fingerprints embedded all over the glass back. I'm disgusted by the back of the display set I'm holding in my hand and I wonder just how long a Note 5 owner could go before finally caving in and buying a case.

And if you think far enough and realize that glass is fragile (duh) and thus, you will use a case which covers it anyway in order to protect it, having a polycarbonate removable back like the one the Note 4 is sporting, which allows for expandable storage and a removable battery, would have been a much more practical, expansive and durable approach.

The Galaxy Note 5 has strayed away from the identity and formulae of its own series: it is no longer a practical take-no-prisoners power-user's device; it has instead, become an average consumer's bling-bling flagship phone that's pretty to look at but with features nerfed left, right and center. Maybe that is just exactly what Samsung intended. Funny thing is though, I thought it was the role of the S series all along to cater to the average consumers who don't demand more out of their phones instead. Here is where Samsung's Note 5 has lost me.

But the Note 5 still has its strengths: It's narrower than all the previous Notes for better and easier handling, a much much better touch-based fingerprint scanner. To me, the new fingerprint scanner on the Note 5 is the only notable upgrade over my Note 4, since swipe-based fingerprint scanners just can't cut it and can actually be a hassle to use one-handed. Just one single notable upgrade that's significant enough while the cons in the following paragraph are all downgrades for me.

For the cons: No more expandable storage, no more quick conveniences provided by removable batteries (to add insult to injury, the Note 5 has a 3000 mAH non-removable battery that's smaller in capacity than the Note 4's 3220 mAH removable one). Bulky and clunky wired power banks be damned. They also took away the fun IR blaster. That's too many cons to far outweigh one significant pro. Yes I know, the Note 5's CPU and hardware internals are faster, but wake me up when the Note 4's own hardware is no longer capable enough to keep pace with the mobile demands in 2015.

Conclusion: Nerfed beauty

I'll just say my conclusive opinion straight: The Note 5 is the bimbo of the Galaxy Note series - all looks but lacking the substance that used to distinguish the series apart from the competition. That's a stab in the back for loyal Note power users who have stuck with the series all these long while - myself included.

But if you don't see the need to demand that much out of your smartphone (and there's nothing wrong with that) and you don't need the now-missing staple Note features, I think the Note 5 can be a good choice for you if you somehow feel that the price for it is justifiable. But for me, the staple-Note-features loyalist, I won't be giving Samsung my money for the Note Nerfed 5.

In my non-fiction book, the Note 5 is the contradictive pariah of the entire Note family. I'm saying this because I happen to have a need for the staple Note features which have very much proven useful for me all along.

It's gonna be a bitch for me to dig out the S Dagger now stuck in my back. Thanks for nothing, Samsung.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Note 5's Screen-Off Memo For Your Other Galaxy Notes

Pull out the Galaxy Note 5's S Pen while the screen is locked or off and you'll see the Screen Off Memo launched, allowing you to immediately jot down notes or doodles without having to unlock the Note 5. Once you are done, you can either click on the Save button manually or just slide the S Pen back into the phone and the memo automatically gets saved in S Notes.

How very handy, especially in situations like when your boss suddenly ambushes you from out of nowhere in the office and starts shooting off a bunch of instructions you need to remember. You can throw a smirk his way when you are done as you put your S Pen back into your Note - a gesture of victory that you have survived his ambush with fully detailed memo filed before he can blink again.

Some bosses can be creepy like that and so it's always a good idea to be always ready. Hopefully, your boss will get convinced soon enough to decide to give you a justified pay raise for the swift productivity and efficiency on your part after your S Pen saves you a few more times from his ambushes with the Screen Off Memo feature.

Oh, and speaking of the S Pen, remember to never put the S Pen ass-backwards back into the Note 5 or it will get stuck if you push it in far enough, making the Note 5 seem like it's having an erection gone awry after an overdose of viagra. If that should happen, unloading a whole full tube of KY Jelly into the slot for the S Pen won't save you but this could. #PenGate

If you would like to have the Screen Off Memo feature similar to the Note 5's but you own instead a Note 2, Note 3 or a Note 4, you can still have it and you don't even need to be rooted. All you need to do is to install it as an APK file (you need to enable 'Unknown Sources' under your phone's 'Security' settings to side-load downloaded APK files) and you are good to go.

Here's the link to the XDA thread made by the author of the app where you can read more about the app's features. Even though the thread has been posted in the Galaxy Note 3 forum, the app works for the other Galaxy Notes too but I'm not sure about the Note 1 though. As you can see in the first photo, it's working as intended on my Note 4. Hmm, even though there's no point in doing so, I wonder what would happen if you install the app on the Note 5, assuming it lets you install it at all to begin with.

The download links to the app are at the bottom of the first post within the XDA thread. Pick the link with the app's latest version number to download, then install the app by clicking on the downloaded .apk file. The reason why I don't provide a direct download link to the latest version of the app at the time of this blog post (which is version 1.3) is because: should any newer subsequent version(s) get uploaded in the future, the link I would have provided here if I did, would have become a link to an older / obsolete version. As such, it's best to link to the XDA thread itself.

Just like on the Note 5, the Screen Off Memo app kicks in when you pull out the S Pen while your screen is locked or off, NOT when it's unlocked. Well, it's called 'Screen Off Memo'. However, you can still launch the app while the screen is already unlocked and on by tapping the app's icon in the App Drawer. And just like on the Note 5, putting your S Pen back into your device after you are done with your memo-taking automatically saves the memo which you can access within S Notes.

If you find yourself running out of writing space while using the app or should you need to make another memo, just tap the '+' at the top. You can make as many new pages or memos as you need all in one sitting and each additional page or memo gets saved as a seperate individual memo in S Notes. In that regard technically, a new page and a new memo mean essentially the same thing. I'm giving you the heads-up about this just in case you end up trying to find 'page 2' from within 'page 1', know what I mean? Page 2 would actually be the next seperate memo within S Notes. It ought to be the same on the Note 5 too if I'm not mistaken.

Any bugs or issues?
Other than just one minor issue I came across only occasionally, but which is very easily resolvable, everything else is working properly as intended. The minor issue in question is: After you restart your phone or when you lock your screen to test out the app for the very first time just after installing it, the Screen Off memo may or may not launch when you pull out your S Pen. However, it always launches during subsequent times each and every time from my experience with the app so far.

As you can probably tell already, the easy fix for this, if you are experiencing the same issue, is to pull out the S Pen once after every phone restart just to ensure that the app will launch when you next need it. You don't even need to pull the S Pen out completely, you just need to pull it outwards a little until you hear the usual unsheathing sound it makes. You can then push the S Pen back in again and forget about it.

The whole process doesn't take more than a second for me and I only need to do this just once after every phone restart just to be sure. No biggie and I only restart my phone once in a while whenever I need to do the hanky panky with my custom TWRP recovery. Alternatively, you can launch the app to 'wake it' by clicking on the app's icon from within your App Drawer.

Like I've mentioned, this bug happens only sometimes upon phone restarts, as opposed to every single time. So I'm just going for the paranoid overkill just to be sure each time; You know, it's an OCD thing on the side of certainty and all that Jazz a shrink would probably use as an explanation.

In Closing
By the way, since the app involves interaction with the lock screen in ways, I've given it administrator privileges just for the assurance that it works optimally (Settings ⇒ Security ⇒ Device Administrators). Just make sure the app is checked under 'Device Administrators' if you choose to do the same.

Finally, if you don't need to use the app when you pull out the S Pen while the screen is locked or off, just tap the Back capacitive button on the lower right of your Note and the app closes and goes away. Alternatively, tapping the 'X' at the top of the Screen Off Memo does the same.

If your boss happens to be the really nasty kind and he's jealous of your productivity and efficiency aided by your Note's tech prowess while he secretly mumbles curses at his iPhone under his breath, he might be plotting to steal your S Pen from you just to make himself feel better about himself. Who knows, shrugs.

The pen is always mightier than the sword and creepy bosses, so always keep your best weapon close to you even when your screen is off.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Wound of 70 Years Yet To Be Fully Healed

I was surprised to see the above in the Classified section of our national newspaper today (the Classified app, actually. Yup, we should all use less paper when we can - save the trees, save God's green earth and save ourselves).

The print above is an acknowledgement of Japan's aggression in Asia during World War 2 and a written expression of current times anti-war sentiments by 12,791 Japanese citizens. The significance and relevancy is there because my own country was victimised too during World War 2, where wholesale massacres of civilians by Japanese Imperial troops took place.

I was surprised by the article above but it was a rather pleasant surprise seeing anti-war Japanese citizens acknowledging their past and standing up against their current military policy pushed and endorsed by their Prime Minister Shinzō Abe (安倍 晋三), that now allows for the deployment of Japanese troops overseas to engage in warfare. Before this and after her formal surrender at the end of the Second World War, Japan could only have her own self-contained military defense force meant strictly and solely for self-defense within her own turf. So that is no longer the case now that Japan is freed from the shackles that tied up and limited her military prowess.

Watch out, world, Samurai sword is on the loose again. Unapologetically. If said sword tags itself with #Bushido, then according to what history has taught the world, the situation ought to gain some notches up the horror scale. Apparently, the horror seems lost on Shinzo Abe, along with the heartaches. I think one would certainly be amused to see Abe trying to crash a kamikaze plane himself right smack into the faces of his enemies instead of him just cheering others on to do it in his place. A perceptive man once said that wars are declared by older men while the young do all the fighting and dying. Ouch.

Protesting Japanese citizens protest because they perceive the lifting of Japan's military restrictions as leading Japan towards a possible déjà vu revival of World War 2-esque Japanese Imperialism and militarism as well as a possible path to conflicts of aggression in Asia (mainly with China as the biggest target, while not discounting the possibility of other Asian nations getting dragged into the ring as well) with the current hotly debated ownership of the Senkaku 钓鱼台 islands and the natural resources there as a springboard - which the current gist and crux of it all really hinges on in essence. History has always seen Man fighting over resources.

The 钓鱼台 islands situation

Stripping away dubious political mumbo jumbo and the so-called historical claims by Japan, if you look at the world map where the 钓鱼台 (or 钓鱼岛) islands are located, you can see that they are plain obvious being geographically closest to Taiwan that it probably makes you wonder just how and why Japan is making the claim that they possess rightful ownership over the islands and whether if that is really justifiable. Japan's colonization of Taiwan has ended before you were even born, Abe.

Oh, and the United States is actually standing on the side of Japan regarding these contested islands, as evident in their joint military exercises in the region. I don't think the U.S. of A has forgotten Pearl Harbour so quickly but rather, somebody else has now become the current arch-rival for both Uncle Sam and Uncle Bushido. I can imagine the Bushido man getting emboldened with the Stars and Stripes on his side. We'll consider this in more detail later but for now, let's get back to the 钓鱼台 islands issue:

If you lean towards the notion that Taiwan belongs rightfully to China, then you lean towards the notion that the 钓鱼台 islands belong to China, assuming that you find Japan's claim of ownership dubious, that is. If, on the flip side of the coin, you think that Taiwan as part of mainland China is a debatable subject, then chances are, you are inclined to think that the islands belong rightfully to Taiwan - again, if you are finding that Japan's claim of rightful ownership to be dubious.

Whichever of the 2 considerations above and either way, the million moolah question is: Is it really valid and justifiable for Japan to claim rightful ownership over the islands when they are geographically closest to Taiwan / China?

One would probably think that the situation is a ludicrous one in consideration of the fat cats in Japan who are asserting so-called rightful ownership over the islands as sanctioned by their claimed version of history, since by just looking at the world map of the contested area, your eyes are probably telling you that that is akin and parallel to claiming the front yard of someone else as belonging to you when your own house is in another neighbourhood a greater distance away.


As for the United States being bedfellows with Japan on this, if you read between the lines of related current events and the news, it's because of the thorn in Uncle Sam's hide - China. You know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and I egg my friend on in harassing my enemy and all that jazz. What better way to intimidate my enemy than to use my enemy's enemy who has once pillaged the land and slaughtered the people of my enemy to stir the pot - especially when said enemy has not forgiven so-called friend over incidents like the Nanking massacre (WARNING: graphic content). Oops, it looks like you've probably grown some horns on your head there, Uncle Sam.

So one ought to have discerned that Uncle Sam doesn't like fortune cookies if one has been keeping oneself abreast with related current world happenings, especially about the things disguised beneath the carpet of look-good politics in the face of the rapid expansion of China and her military muscle at breakneck speed, not to mention the effective ranges of her latest missiles. Shudder. Oh, and there are $keleton$ in the not-so-dusty-yet closet too, Sam.

In case you were wondering why the United States aided China against Japan during the Second World War but have changed her stance since (after the Chinese civil war), well, it was the non-Communist Kuomingtang (國民黨) government that was the government of China during then that the United States aided before the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war when the Chinese Communist Party took over China. We will see hell freeze over before the United States become lovey-dovey buddies with the Commies.

Nature's resources in the ring of the 钓鱼台 islands is the source and focal point of the current tension going on in that region of Asia that dragged in the American military muscle on a grander scale and the buildup of said muscle is on everyone's side in the region (inclusive of the Philippines, India and Vietnam, besides Japan) except for, of course, China. The goal here is to contain and confine China to prevent her continued expansion in the region.

The polar bear from the North sashays into the fray

Apparently, China stands alone in all these.. Oh wait. Not completely alone if you consider the recent Russian intimidations towards Japan. Russia may not have seemingly gotten itself directly involved with the 钓鱼岛 islands but when you are buddies with China and you are doing the hanky panky at Japan's doorstep, then from China's point of view, that's as good as 'my enemy's enemy (which makes it my friend) harassing my enemy at his doorstep while I tussle it out at the front'. And it's not like China and Russia are running things in subtlety.

Sigh. What a mess.

12,791 consciences and counting

The underlying spite and anger towards Japan in Asia, like how Kimchi doesn't see eye-to-eye with Sushi and vice-versa, for example, has its main roots still firmly planted in World War 2. Japan's co-prosperity sphere plan in Asia during then turned out to really mean prosperity solely for Japan herself and brutal sufferings for her neighbours and the rest of Asia.

Germany has been man enough to face up to their past, apologised without reservations, shown remorse and acted accordingly. But Japan? I don't think it's fair to put the full blame squarely on the shoulders of the current generation for the atrocious mistakes committed by the previous generation - if the current generation does not turn a blind eye of denial on the past mistakes made. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for a part of Japan's society, she still has her share of denials and white-washings of historical events.

But there is a glimmer of hope for Asia's wound yet to be fully healed. We now know that there are at least 12,791 consciences in Japan's society brave enough and responsible enough to face up to their own history. However, the glimmer of hope seems to come in bigger numerical numbers within Japanese society that is actively crusading to give peace a chance, though I'm hoping there are no political rivals of Abe among them who are hitching a ride just for the opportunity to take advantage of the situation solely for political motives and gains.

Above all, I hope any subsequent and further protests in Japan will remain peaceful and not degenerate into violence. I hope no one gets hurt. I won't know what to make of it if the crusade for peace sees blood flowing at the same time.

In the past, seeing large scale active protests by Japanese citizens against their goverment authorities and policies during the period before and within the World War 2 years was something unthinkable to Japanese society then. Times have certainly changed but certain hard lessons that endure through the passage of time and etched permanently on the pages of history will always remain true, relevant and constant.

You know what they say, he who forgets history will be doomed to repeat it. Those who remember and who can see past all the white-washings, reality distortion fields and denials are actually the ones that are doing the forgetful among them and the rest of the world a really big favour.

Make Love, Fuck War.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Watered-Down Dollars & $ense

Either ignoring or taking into account dubious business theories and the mumbo jumbos of economics, you know the human race has become suicidal when it costs more to be healthy.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

低头族: Escalator Hoggers

'低头族' literally means 'Clan of the lowered heads' and it comically refers to folks who seemingly have their eyes constantly glued to the screens of their smartphones or tablets at every available opportunity during most of their waking moments. '低头族' is just a more polite way of describing someone as a 'smartphone addict'.

Especially since the advent of social drama-- media like --Fakebook Facebook, more and more peeps now have a lowered angle field of vision focused on their smart devices. If you are in the train or in a bus, just steal peeks at what the folks around you are looking at on their smart devices and chances are, besides the gamers, texters and video junkies, you will probably see that most of them are looking at their Facebook feeds.

Be it social media, texting or doing whatever else on smartphones, I'm sure we've all heard about or probably even seen just how some people got themselves or others into trouble or a world of hurt; because their awareness of the immediate surroundings outside of their funneled attention focused on the screens of their devices became cursory, diluted and peripheral. Results can range between comical or downright catastrophic in intensity. And no, fatal accidents are not solely confined to just within Japan alone while the rest of the world is immune, of course.

It ain't worth a rat's arse getting yourself or others hurt because of a smartphone, if you ask me, and that's coming from a geek who loves his gadgets. Remembering to remind oneself that one is a living breathing human first and foremost before being a geek can be challenging in modern times when mobile technology is so awesome and makes life so much more productive and convenient at your fingertips (if you know how to make use of your device's tech to its full potential, that is. Not everyone with a smartphone actually knows what they are doing).

Mobile tech rocks but sadly, we've also reached the point where we need to retrain ourselves to look up and forward from our gadgets, especially in places where our own safety as well as the safety of others around us depend on our awareness of what's around us. One of these places, in my opinion and experience, is when we are on moving escalators. It doesn't matter if we are going downwards or upwards, what I'm gonna talk about next applies to both directions.

At the escalator
Earlier this morning, I was taking the escalator at the train station up towards the train platform and just in front of me was this hip-looking lady rocking a Galaxy S6 Edge. Since I got on the escalator a couple of paces just behind her, I kept an unoccupied escalator step between me and her. I could afford the space because it was just past the morning peak hours and it wasn't that crowded. I always leave space between me and the person in front of me whenever I'm on the escalator if the situation allows me to. Good thing I did as you shall find out later.

Miss Hip had her eyes glued to her S6 Edge as she was riding up the escalator and that's understandable, considering how gorgeous the screen display of the S6 Edge is, yeah? 577 ppi pixel density packs some serious eye candy. It's just too bad that her admiration for that screen won't be able to last her that long through the day without her having to run to the charger because the sealed-in 2600 mAh battery sucks donkey balls.

Sorry, I couldn't resist taking a jibe at Samsung there who has decided to abandon practical and useful features and gone whoring itself on the iBandwagon.

Miss Hip's eyes were still glued to her Edge's screen when she reached the top of the escalator. So she stepped off the moving escalator (eyes still on her screen) while I was still being moved forward heading straight towards her back. What happened next makes me glad that I left an unoccupied escalator step between me and her and had the space in-between us.

You see, when she stepped off the escalator, her head was still bowed with her eyes and attention still on her phone and her mind must have been totally preoccupied still with whatever was displayed on the screen of her phone - that's because she was walking at a snail's pace while I was moving at escalator speed right smack towards her.

It was a good thing that the escalator was wide enough and it was a doubly good thing there was a little space between me and her, because these factors combined afforded me enough time to react by side-stepping to the right, avoiding a direct collision with her. Still, it was a rather close call. If it wasn't for the fact that it was just past the morning peak hours, I probably wouldn't have had the luxuries of reaction time and escape space because the escalator would have been crowded otherwise.

Let's exercise our imagination: What would have happened if I collided straight onto Miss Hip? Moving escalator speed crashing onto snail's pace ought to result in quite a bump and jolt. Who should we blame if either one or both of us get hurt as a result or if she dropped her pretty but no stamina phone (jibe jibe) from the collision impact and the screen cracked?

If it had been a crowded situation, I think I would have been forced right onto Miss Hip anyway, considering the crowd behind me would have had no choice but push me forward due to the non-stop constant motion of the escalator. Then what, Miss Hip would shout 'molest' and get me into trouble with something I didn't even commit? Or if she should drop her phone and get her screen cracked, demand that I give her financial compensation so that not only could she replace her screen with a brand new one, but also to buy more portable battery chargers to function as electronic viagra for her S6 Edge with poor libido prowess? Jibe jibe jibe.

And what if she or me trips and the crowd behind us pile up and trip over us and people get physically hurt as a result? All these possibilities can happen just because somebody refuses to move away from the escalator at normal walking speed but instead, makes you start wondering whether she has her feet bound Qing dynasty-style and can only take minute baby steps. Turns out, it's the bloody smartphone.

Correction: It's the person using the smartphone and becoming oblivious to what's going on around.

Now you know how to create human dominoes in public and you heard it here first. All you need is a crowded escalator, a dose of selfishness and tossing your awareness of your surroundings away while your smartphone leads you by the nose with your head bowed as an acknowledgement of your slavery by your gadget, nevermind the tsunami of people crashing towards you from behind.

Look, I'm no angel myself and I've actually caught myself guilty of the same thing a couple of times in the past. Each time, I've chastised myself and since then, I've been making an effort to remind myself to either turn off the screen of my phone, or at least look away from it with eyes front and smartphone down before I step onto escalators and do the same thing again when I'm about to step off. I allow myself to take glances at my phone in-between since that's the part when I'm supposed to be stationary. Just watch out when you're nearing the escalator's end. It's not that difficult to train yourself to do that till it becomes a habitual thing.

There was actually another occassion a few years back when this dude in front of me on this crowded escalator did the same thing Miss Hip did. At the very last second, I had to do a half-jump to whatever pathetically diminutive space on the other side I could squeeze into to avoid a full-on collision with the dude, but I allowed myself to use my shoulder to bump into that dude while I made a loud and irritated "TSK!!" and I threw a pissed-off glance at him for good measure - for his own good.

It took a moment for the dude to break out of his smartphone-mesmerized state. When he finally 'woke up' with this stunned look on his face, he apologised and quickly got out of the way of the crowd piling up right behind him. I stole a glance on his smartphone's screen and saw that he was on Facebook. The zombie apocalypse is already upon us, didn't you know?

Stay smart, stay safe
So there you have it, don't let your smart device make you dumb and don't let yourself and others around you get hurt in any way, it's not worth it. It only costs you a few seconds to look away from your gadget at both ends of an escalator and those few seconds could save you from getting tripped, human wave-tsunamied or worse.. Oh, and you could also $ave your $martphone from getting dropped and damaged too.

Man, first world problems sure are problematic.

The phone we hold in our hands is supposed to be a smart device and we are all supposedly already living in a smart age, so the proper way to enjoy our smart techy toys is to use them in a human-smart way. So stay safe out there, watch your back and watch out for the zombies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hello, iGalaxy Note

First, the tech news regarding the subject matter for today's blog entry here.

As a consumer who is neither on Apple's or Samsung's payroll and at the same time, not being an unquestioning blind worshipper of brands, I don't actually have to care about who copies who. All I care about ultimately is having the best possible features and functionalities on my gadgets and devices.

To me, myself and I, my own and my loved ones' needs are most important to me and I don't have to have a shred of worry about the coffers of giant corporations I don't draw a single cent from, since they ought to be able to take care of themselves miles better than I can take care of myself with the gargantuan dough they possess, you see.

However, if you are the biggest jerk and bully in the playground who is always elbowing and shoving your way around attempting to monopolise the entire playground and behaving like an entitled spoilt brat, even uncaring but discerning folks will start to shun and loathe you. So..

If it wasn't for their patent sprees, I'd have said: "Go for the multi-window, Apple. That's what tablets deserve, thumbs up".

But because Apple has been the industry's biggest hypocritical patent troll, litigating against those whom they perceive as copycats while unapologetically, copying from those they sue.. Well, just to be in line with and in accordance to Apple's ethos for relevancy here, I'll instead go with:

You ought to shove your litigations up your own 'where the sun doesn't shine' place for copying Samsung for this, Apple. May your so-called 'multi-tasking' on your iGalaxy-Note-Wannabe choke on its dimunitive RAM.

That is all :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Galaxy S6 & S6 Edge

I know I'm kinda late to the party but I finally went down to the Samsung store to check out the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge today. I'm late because the truth is, I wasn't in a hurry and perhaps this blog post will explain why.

Breaking the mold
'Novel' and 'Controversial'. I think these two words best describe the Galaxy S6 and even more so for the S6 Edge.

Besides a revamped and much toned down TouchWiz, both variants of the Galaxy S6 are novel for the S series because they are the first in the series to have deviated from the standard conventional build of every other previous S series phones; that is, a new design language from plastic to an all metal and glass build.

Sure, there are other devices from other manufacturers out there with a metallic build, like the HTC M series, for example, but the S6 is a first for its own S family and therein lies its novelty. The S6 is nice and cold to the touch but ugh, those fingerprints all over the glass.. Nothing a handsome case can't solve though, but slapping on a case would make all the metal and glass kinda moot.

Do you case up your phone? If you do, wouldn't it be better or more practical to have like say, a faux leather removable back that allows you to replace the battery on-the-go easily? Don't get me wrong, that wasn't a sarcastic dig at the S6 at all, no sir, it's just a thought that you might wanna consider if you find yourself mesmerised by the build material to the point that you almost forgot your habit of casing up your devices and thus, hide all the build eye candy.

Both variants of the Galaxy S6 are controversial because they have caused a split akin to civil war among the once united fans in the Samsung community due to the removal of the micro SD expandable storage as well as the removal of the removable battery options; both of which still are and were the hallmarks of the Note and S series respectively, even though other phones like the LG G4 has expandable storage and removable battery too.

Looking through my Google+ feed lately and seeing fans debate (the word 'debate' here is the white-washed meaning for 'flaming') either for, or against the removal of the above-mentioned 2 features is enough to remind me just how controversial the S6 is. Even Note fans who are worried the next Note will head down the S6's route get sucked into the fray like straws to a ferocious tornado. Such debates can sometimes even spiral out of control into online verbal-murder territory. I can imagine the smashed keyboards caused by angry typing fists and the average non-geeky consumer would be horrified.

Boy, seeing squads of flamethrowers go at one another can be quite a sight to behold. Online deathmatches are no longer confined to just games ever since bulletin boards and are very much amplified in today's social media age. Look what the convenience cat of evolving technology dragged in. In this regard, the S6 breaking its own family's conventional mold is like cracking open Pandora's box at the same time. +1 to first world problems.

Where Art Thou Headed, O' Uncle Sammy?

Both S6 variants are certainly beautiful phones but it is the S6 Edge that catches more of my eye and interest because of both of its edge displays. The screen displays on both the S6 and S6 Edge are visual delights to behold with their high resolution (1440 X 2560 pixels) and insanely dense pixel density (577 ppi). You can see the detailed specs of the S6 here and the S6 Edge's specs here.

And by the way, they are both packing an ass-kicking killer camera I'm very much impressed with.

Overall, I prefer the S6 Edge but am I feeling tempted into buying one? Nope. Despite the improved camera and high ppi, I am still a Note guy through and through.. For now at least, until something else that can cater to my mobile needs better happens to come along in the future. I very much prefer the bigger screen of the Note series, their bigger batteries and the S Pen. To me, the Note is a productivity workhorse that also gives me a better multimedia and gaming experience over the S series because of the bigger screen.

I find it odd that the standard Note 4 packs a bigger battery over the Note Edge while the S6 Edge is packing a bigger battery over the standard S6. Even so, I am not comfortable with the tested general screen on time of the S6 Edge as according to the multitude of reviews and tests out there. Any phone that can't have the stamina to churn out at least 5 hours of screen of time on a single full charge is something I would avoid.

And no, I don't like using power banks because I loathe the clunky idea of having to use my phone while tethered to something dangling off of it which can restrict my arm movement - one careless abrupt swing and you might either see your power bank doing somersaults in the air or you might stress or damage the connecting points and ports. A charging case with its own internal battery would be the better option but it does add to the overall bulk and weight.

If you are a cubicle warrior with easy access to a wired or Qi charger (wireless charging is a feature that comes out of the box for both S6 variants) and you can rest your phone safely down on your office table most of the time, the lower battery resilience of the S6 shouldn't bother you that much, if at all. But for the rest of us without easy access to chargers when out and about, especially the road warriors, we have to be mindful that the most powerful smartphone becomes a dead brick whenever it runs out of juice.

We can now see why some Samsung fans are vocal about the decision to do away with the removable and replaceable battery (along with expandable storage), which is arguably a better and more convenient option than having to run to your charger on a frequent basis. To rub salt on the wound, the Galaxy S5 comes with a removable 2800 mAh battery while for the S6 and S6 Edge, they come with 2550 mAh and 2600 mAh batteries respectively.

Sure, Samsung says the S6 comes with a more power-efficient processor that translates to mean better battery life but still, you be the judge when it comes to real world usage and arrive at your own conclusions regarding the matter. Lots of YouTube tech reviewers have already done that and you can easily search for such review videos.

The curious question stands: If the new Exynos processor can really result in much better efficient battery management, then why couldn't Samsung put a battery at least as big in capacity as that of the S5's and make awesome even more awesome instead of cutting down on capacity?

I don't know about you but I consider it an annoyance if I have to charge my phone twice or more times within the day. Such is the price to pay for going all metal and glass and uni-body with a small battery. Looks can sometimes come with sacrifices.

But wait, there have been quite considerable amounts of feedback that some users running on Lollipop (5.0+ versions), even for Note 4 users who have upgraded to the OS, are experiencing worse battery life as compared to KitKat. So if poorer battery life has been introduced by Lollipop 5.0+ (which has memory leak issues) and since the S6 runs Lollipop out of the box, perhaps the battery life of the S6 ought to have been better by default than it currently is.

If it's really Lollipop's issue, perhaps a future update could see the S6 with much improved battery life as originally intended. Who knows.

What's amusing on the other side of the now-divided Samsung camp from my vantage point on the opposite turf of the newly-created border, are the fans who used to brag about expandable storage and removable battery against wall-huggers (a justifiable and valid boast in comparison with most of the competition out there) but who have suddenly done an about-face and are now condemning the very things they once boasted and flaunted about. Heh. That happened so quickly it's scarily bipolar. Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde who?

The way I see it, you praise features because they have proven themselves to be useful and convenient for you, but it is not very bright to encourage your favourite manufacturer to remove these very same features just because you wanna demonstrate your loyalty and flaunt to the world that you're a fan of the manufacturer. For such folks, they have placed themselves on the altar of sacrifice of that which they worship. Not everyone can walk up to a sacrifice altar voluntarily while smiling from ear to ear. Amazing.

Die-hard fanboys and girls who have placed the coffers of that which they worship on a pedestal higher than their own needs and wants have my sympathy - especially if they are not even on the payroll of the company they oh so adore. We may pity them but it's just too bad that they can't have a shred of sympathy for themselves. Darwin would have been very much heartbroken.

And they have it ass-backwards too: Manufacturers and companies should cater to the demands of consumers rather than the other way around. Fail to speak with your wallet and they have your whole wallet.

On the flip side of the coin, those who are not blindly brand-loyal and who genuinely prefer the changes and have honestly changed their minds in preference of the new after some critical mental processes, are the much needed exceptions whom I'll gladly give a listening ear to despite the differences in opinions. There is still hope, Darwin, even though I don't buy into your theory since monkeys have always remained monkeys so far as we have witnessed and they have never evolved into something else right in front of our eyes.

Back on track: it is a fact that in the case of the S6, even though it has no expandable storage, its more advanced internal memory does allow things to run faster and smoother. Now that is a very much valid debating point against slower expandable external storage.

When it comes to the edge features of the S6 Edge in comparison to that of the Note Edge's, I can't help but conclude that the edge features of the S6 Edge is nothing much and falls short in potential in comparison. Hell, there isn't even an apps shortcut panel that the Note Edge is rocking with.

So far, I haven't come across any news yet that Samsung plans to develop more expanded edge features for the S6 Edge, which is an unfortunate under-utilisation of potential in my non-fiction book.

It's all pros and cons regarding the S6, as with everything else in life. As such, I cannot tell you that the S6 and S6 Edge completely suck donkey balls and neither can I tell you that the Note series is perfect and flawless in comparison - because it's not. No phone is. It just so happens that the Note caters to my work and play needs the best despite it not being 100% perfect, that's all. That being said, I think the Note kicks serious ass. Unapologetically.

If you have to listen to differing opinions regarding both S6 variants, do yourself a favour and stay away from the die-hard fanboys who have thrown critical thinking to the winds and who have become masters at the art of self-hypnosis that they use to justify their purchases and to reassure themselves of their undying loyalty to their superstar.

There are already cults in the mobile industry, so potential buyers beware of who you ask your questions. You know something is questionable with someone's credibility when they keep talking about the pros while denying or hiding the cons, considering that everything material has both a good and a bad side.

Update: Alternatively, you can hang on for the S6 Active with better specs and features like water resistance and a bigger battery. Just bear in mind that the Note 5 is just around the corner if you don't mind considering a phablet.

Even though I prefer the Note series and I don't think I will switch back to the S series ever since I moved on to the Note series from the S3, I think that for folks who are normal users and are more comfortable with the smaller physical dimensions of a smartphone as opposed to that of a phablet's, will probably find lots of things to like about the zippy S6 or S6 Edge. Heck, just fire up the camera and play with it if you don't know where to begin and go from there and arrive at your own conclusions.

On the other hand, if you are a power user who use your phone all the time and demand more without easy access to a charger and you don't like using power banks or charging cases, you might be better off with something else with a bigger and/or removable battery. Your call, of course.

Me? I'll wait to see what the Note 5 and Note Edge 2 will bring to the table. I'd rather have a compromise between looks and functionality instead of sacrificing everything else for just looks. So I rather have a removable back and be able to swap batteries on-the-go than going fully all metal and glass - unless there is a seriously gargantuan and capacious battery under the hood, then I wouldn't mind a non-removable battery. I would then just have to be mindful to make sure that I leave the house everytime with enough charge.

But still, I protect my phones with cases, so I'm not sure that going all metal and glass would mean that overly much to me. Heck, if the phone is all metal and fragile glass, all the more it warrants a protective case.

Oh wait, that just brought me allllllll the way back to square one again - a removable back (which can't be metal under a layer of glass) that allows for removable batteries is still more practical for me afterall. Gosh, I feel dizzy going around in circles.

As for storage, I wouldn't mind the lack of expandable storage if the phone comes with 64gb or more internal storage options, which isn't a problem at all these days with modern flagships.

In closing, even if Samsung should decide to ditch expandable storage and removable batteries for the future Note series to keep pace with where the S series has already headed, I think I can adapt and still be a happy camper if the future Notes come with capacious internal storage and gargantuan batteries - provided nothing else better and more capable for my mobile needs comes along, that is.

No matter what, given today's mobile technology, it's a great time to be alive and kicking and swiping and tapping.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sayonara, Emo Hair.

Even though I am not emo whenever I'm asleep and can't feel my emotions, I really liked the emo hairstyle; so much so that some time during the latter half of 2008, I started growing my fringe long enough to the point that I could use it to turn a blind eye to the oh so cruel world. Sniff.

Despite what jealous soccer dads and lads who can't style themselves to save their lives kept saying about the emo style, and despite their scoffing and mocking remarks thrown at it (though I agree with them that the whinings of emos and some of their self-destructive actions in extreme cases are irritating), I for one think that the emo hairstyle is pretty cool and I absolutely heart their fashion style too. It was a novel breath of fresh air when I first laid my eyes on the style.

The fact that it is a Punk sub-culture made it even cooler in my non-fiction book and that very much appealed to the rebellious part of me and that part is a rather huge chunk if I dare say so myself. But because I am a working adult and have to do things with some moderation (so much for rebellion, says accountability), I altered things a little with some personal touches and went for more of a mid-length and a tapered fringe instead of full-fledged emo. Also, I wouldn't wanna look 100% to-the-dot in conformity to any style, since you gotta retain your own character even if the personal touches and alterations are subtle (looks like I'm at least still half-alive, says rebellion).

Boy, it is when you begin the attempt to styling your hair emo-style that you start to realize just how irritating your hair's natural body wave is while at the same time, your envy towards people born with naturally straighter hair right out of the cradle makes you frown at your hair-straightening iron.

Ah yes, that hair-straightening iron and the bottles of thermal protection cream I had to buy just so I could momentarily straighten out the natural slight body wave of my fringe. As you can probably already imagine, having to use the straightening iron Every.Freaking.Day is not only time-consuming, it's also damaging to your hair. Get your fringe wet or moist and it springs right back to its natural state, unravelling all your hard work earlier in the day.. Hair-splittingly frustrating, to say the least.

In the end, I decided to go for chemical treatment at the salon to straighten out my fringe which could keep it reasonably straight for at least 4 and a half months (in my case) and kiss good riddance to the straightening iron, which was a huge relief. Those thermal protection creams smell nice but I was glad I no longer had to use them. I did the chemical treatment only for my fringe and not my entire mane, by the way. There's no need to go for an overkill by killing a fly with a straightening iron.

Yes, chemical straightening does damage the hair to some extent too but so does everyday manual straightening with the hair iron. I'll take the chemical treatment over the iron any day since the former only cost me at most SGD $60 and it last for MONTHS. Damage is still damage, so I did periodic hair and scalp treatments to make up for it, along with regular doses of hair serum.

Gotta say, after my chemical treatment, getting my hair into shape and style in the mornings was a quick breezy walk in the park, since I only had to use the hairdryer to blow my hair into shape and use some hair wax followed by hairspray to scrunch up the top a little and maintain everything in shape - and I didn't even have to use much wax and spray. The best part is that I didn't have to use up a huge amount of time unlike during my iron age. Everything's done and over with in like around 8 minutes tops.

The only caveat I had to endure for such convenience was that I couldn't wash my hair for at least 48 hours after every straightening chemical treatment (I timed everything to coincide with the weekends when I didn't have to go to work). And to think there were times when I went for 72 hours just to ensure better chemical absorption, which warranted a day of annual leave from work.

Let me tell ya: words cannot express just how, following every hair chemical treatment, the restraint from washing my hair for 2 or 3 days almost drove me over the edge every time, since it was absolute torture. The only way I managed to endure past it was by reminding myself of the following mantra:

"2 or 3 days of torture in exchange for 4 and a half months of breezy ease."

Even though I had to keep myself from perspiring and I had to destroy boxes of oil blotters for my face, as well as sleeping with a towel placed over my pillow during such trying periods, the equation of my mantra seemed a worthwhile trade-off. Indeed, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak and the scalp feels oily as heck.

But alas, my first chemical treatment was in 2008 and it is now 2015. My goodness, I've been having the same hairstyle for 7 freaking years already.. but at the same time, that is testimony to how much I liked about this very easy to maintain hairstyle.

But when a change is needed, a change is needed. The Emo hairstyle is something that has served its due course and has already gotten too long in the tooth. I loved it but it's time to move on and moving on resulted in the following:

I had to master lots of self-control to prevent myself from going over the edge from grief when I instructed my hairdresser to snip off my fringe and cut everything else short. At the same time, I noticed the restrained shocked look on the hairdresser's face while another hot chick hairdresser, who has known my preferences all these years, became the personification of the classic jaw-on-floor emoticon as she went "Huh?!" I was too engaged with the contradictions fighting inside me to tell her that she looked cute with her mouth wide open.

Like suddenly having grown nerves in my strands of protein, I felt the pain shoot from my head all the way down to my fragile heart when the scissors started snipping away. Boy, seeing my emo hair getting trimmed away right in front of my eyes sure brought out the emo in me in full force. Throughout the entire haircut session, I had to perform impromptu mental yoga to keep myself together.

Actually, this could have happened months earlier if it wasn't for the fact that it took me this long to figure out exactly which short hairstyle I wanted to go for. It's not easy sometimes trying to hunt down something that can cover your flaws while accentuating your strengths at the same time and you can't just dive into drastic changes without a plan.

The above being said, I ended up without so much of a concrete plan but instead, all I had was just a rough experimental idea - I knew which direction I should be heading towards but I didn't know the final destination, so to speak. But still, there is an element of exploratory fun surrounding the matter as I try to refine things. If I'm having fun with it, it means I'm on the right track.

Anyway, the photo above is not the only style I can play with with a short hairstyle. If I feel funky, I can always scrunch up the sides and top for a punky look during the weekends or something.

My Lioness tells me she prefers my new hairstyle because it makes me look fresher. Come on babe, you're making me feel like freshly bought grocery but I heart ya just the same. It's just too bad I can no longer make you sneeze without using my hands since my fringe is no longer long enough for that.

I'm liking the 'fresh' part that comes with my new hairstyle but at the same time, I'm already starting to miss the 'enigmatic' part of my now-gone emo hairstyle. My challenge now is to make sure I don't end up looking exactly like the next dude and the other dudes around him out on the street because even though I've sacrificed my emo hairstyle on the altar of vanity, I didn't let go of its rebellion against conventional herd uniformity and conformity. But honestly, I can't tell if it's working yet. I guess I have to become fully acquainted with my new mane first.

Today marks the day I closed the door I've held open for 7 years and opened another new shorter one. Hell, nobody makes such a drama over a new hairstyle, so I guess I could be emo afterall - even though I no longer have the mane to show for it. Like something enough and a part of it sticks with you even after it's gone.

Sayonara, emo hair.