Thursday, December 08, 2016

Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (3)

When I strolled down Central Park in New York during summer, I promised myself to come back here during autumn. There were rows of trees planted neatly along The Mall and Literary Walk towards Bethesda fountain. I knew it would look awesome during autumn. I was right when I had the chance to come back here last month. The golden leaves here are just out of this world.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (1)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (2)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mini Travel Log: Frankfurt, Germany (3)

There is this park, Palmengarten that always intrigues me whenever I'm in Frankfurt. It requires an entrance fee of 7 euro which had turned me away everytime I was here. Few weeks ago, I arrived into Frankfurt during the golden autumn week. I would like to capture some golden autumn shots so I made the decision to visit this park. It was the best decision made and money well spent. The autumn color inside this park is really beautiful. I do recommend visitors to come here and see the golden leaves inside the park during autumn season.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Frankfurt, Germany (1)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Frankfurt, Germany (2)

Mini Travel Log: Sydney, Australia (3)

When it is good weather in Sydney, it is really pleasant to walk around under the blue sunny skies. This is my second outing with my new Sony A6300 camera and I'm starting to get the hang of it. Seems like the trade off between camera size/weight to an unnoticeable downgrade of picture quality is worth it. I'll just keep my post short here and let the pictures do the talking.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Sydney, Australia (1)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Sydney, Australia (2)
Related link: Vivid Sydney 2016

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Mini Travel Log: Paris (Catacombs), France

This is my first outing with my brand new camera, Sony A6300. A huge downgrade for me from Canon 5D Mk2 full frame DSLR to mirrorless camera. But I do think the time is ripe now to transition to mirrorless cameras. Although I did lose some dynamic range in my pictures, the gain from being able to travel light weight and shoot movie in 4K is more than enough to compensate this slight setback.

While Paris is known as the romantic city on the surface, there is a dark side of it that lies underground. This trip, I took a detour to visit the dark side which is the Catacombs. Under Paris, there are actually various networks of abandoned mines and tunnels. Starting from year 1738, bones were transferred from overflowing cemeteries to these underground tunnels. Soon over time, it grew to house almost 6 million bodies of former inhabitants of this city. The city above Paris now has 12 million people. This shows the enormous amount of bones and skeletons stored underground.

Do take note visit to the Catacombs is not recommended for children or people with faint heart. It leaves a huge impression seeing bones and skulls stacked to the brim under creepy and dark environment. There is also no wheelchair access and the only way down is through hundreds of steps. Entrance to the Catacombs is located at Denfert-Rochereau. This place actually attracts many visitors so if you arrive here and see a queue that formed a circle around the roundabout, then be prepared to queue at least 2-3 hours. You are advised to come here and queue before it opens at 10am. Take note it is closed every Mondays.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Paris, France (1)

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Mini Travel Log: Seven Sisters, Sussex

Seven Sisters is situated between Seaford and Eastbourne in Sussex. It is a series of chalk cliffs and is a great place for hiking with its rolling hills and offers breathtaking pictures. There are no safety barriers and the cliffs can be as high as 20 over storeys. Children are not recommended at this place. Even adults have to take great care when standing at the very edge of the cliffs. The chalk composition of the cliffs is weathered over time and fragile. It can give way anytime without warning. There is also the element of strong winds. A moment of carelessness will result in a plunge to death.

If you are coming from London, you can take the train from Victoria Station to Eastbourne. A same day return ticket costs 31.60 pounds. You alight in Eastbourne. This town itself is beautiful and has nice beachfront. It is worth to spend half a day here if you can spare some time. Else you can go straight to the visitor's center not far from the train station and buy a day pass for bus. This day pass costs 4.50 pounds for unlimited rides on Brighton and Hove buses. What you are interested on is the 13X tourist trail bus from Eastbourne to Brighton. You can hop onto this bus near the visitor's center or you can hop from the first stop at the beachfront after your little sightseeing detour. Take note there are limited timings for this bus route on weekdays. Only during the weekends they have the hourly sessions. So I suggest you study the timings carefully here and download the correct timetable for weekdays or weekends.

I suggest you alight at Beachy Head so you can start your hiking. You'll be hiking along the cliffs through gentle rolling hills. A casual hike until Birling Gap probably takes around 1-2 hours depending on how long are your photo stops. Take some refreshments at the lodge at Birling Gap and after that you can head North following the road until Sheep Centre and East Dean village. That should wrap up your day and from East Dean, you can take the more regular buses plying on this main road either to Brighton or back to Eastbourne for your return train back to London.

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Monday, October 03, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Crash/Hang

For those having problems with Windows 10 Anniversary update which causes your PC to crash/hang, here's a solution for you. This problem existed when Windows 10 was first introduced and until now, Microsoft still did not fix this problem. This problem normally exists on desktop PCs with multiple hard drives and DVD/Blu Ray drives installed. When Windows 7/8 users tried to upgrade to Windows 10, they will end up with the same crash everytime. And subsequently with every major update which requires a fresh copy of Windows to be loaded, the same crash/hang problem occurs. I have written a detailed solution a year ago which can be found here. I reproduce it below so users can have an ease of reference.


After hearing all the buzz about Windows 10, I finally jumped into the bandwagon. But I hit a snag during installation. Initially I did not give a thought about it, thinking maybe it was a one off thing. Good thing is that the installation was smart enough to restore everything back after I had to hard reset the computer. So I launched the second time installation. No luck as it encountered the same problem. And so my endless install, reboot and re-install cycle began.

My PC is a self built desktop which passed all the requirement checks done by Windows 10 installation. I never had hardware failure nor crashes (BSOD) before during my last 2 years of running Windows 8. But every time I try to upgrade to Windows 10, it will always crash (BSOD with a sad smiley face) and shown together with the error code of MACHINE_CHECK_EXCEPTION. It always happens during the "Copying file" stage and overall progress at 22%. At this junction, the computer will not restart or do anything. I have to hard reset it and let the computer reboot back to Windows 8.

So I googled up regarding this error code. It returned many results for all the previous Windows versions, but not a single result for Windows 10. Really? No one else has had this problem in their Windows 10 installation? I must be the damn unlucky one. I read up on this specific MACHINE_CHECK_EXCEPTION error code and understand that it generally means there may be a hardware failure itself or caused by other factors like overheating. I recalled back the sequence in my installation and it always crashes during "Copying file" stage. So I presume it may be problems with my RAM, or overheating of motherboard chipsets or hard drive (as huge chunks of data are being copied before it crashes). With this diagnosis, I tried the installation one more time, but pulling out a stick of RAM (making it single channel), pulling off my unnecessary DVD and extra hard drives and then blasting my room air-conditioning to max. Voila! It worked and the installation proceeded smoothly.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

S’pore taxi uncle returns laptop bag with $235,500 cash to drunk Thai passenger

If you are here regarding the taxi driver, then let yourself do your own conclusion. SMRT said they are investigating the case more than 2 months ago. With the current state of the art GPS logging, an immediate answer would be found in a day. But there was no news regarding the investigation until now. SMRT is presumed to let this embarrassing episode slide and fade away. Whoever faked the story, be it taxi driver or BCL, it doesn't matter. It's a reminder to readers not to believe everything they read from the Internet. Many online news are faked and sensationalized. Some are out there to sow hatred while vile website admins earn free ad money from your senseless clicking and sharing. Some are even setup to bait you into liking their FB or website, but in the background they phish all your personal data; either to sell or for criminal activities.

If you're here from external website, then you'll probably know the whole saga. Original CSI materials on this blog have been made private now as this is not the main purpose of this blog. The Internet should have an archive of this content somewhere. You can find it for any further research on your own.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Vivid Sydney 2016

So many cities in the world tried to organize a successful light festival, Sydney in my opinion is the only city that managed to hit the right note. This is by no means a simple feat. It requires city wide planning, coordination and cooperation. Vivid Sydney 2016 managed to bring together the whole city to participate in this grand light festival. Almost every building, streets and parks are lit up in dazzling light projections and exhibits.

All the light shows start from 6-11pm and each sequence lasts for about 10-15 minutes, then it will loop again. You will have ample time to hop around the city to catch other shows. Some light shows are outdoor projections onto buildings like the Opera House, Harbor Bridge and over the waters at Darling harbor. Some are exhibits at parks. Some streets are also turned into a fiesta zone with lights and exhibits. You may also find yourself walking unsuspectingly into some shopping malls with light shows inside as well. Do check out the official website Vivid Sydney for a list of locations and timetable. Vivid Sydney light festival for this year runs from 27th May to 18th June 2016.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (2)

Well, if you have done a basic day tour of the Statue Liberty, Wall Street, Freedom Tower, Times Square, Empire State and Rockefeller, then perhaps you can refer to this alternative one day itinerary for your extra days in New York.

You can start off the morning by heading to Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. This is the decommissioned USS Intrepid aircraft carrier that served in World War 2 and Vietnam War. It opens at 10am. The visit can include the submarine USS Growler. The aircraft carrier itself is huge with open deck, control tower and hangar. You can find all kinds of exhibits and aircraft on display. Notable ones are the SR71 Blackbird, F15 Tomcat, Concorde and even the Enterprise Space Shuttle. Your visit should be done by noon time just in time for a good lunch.

After lunch, you can head off to Central Park. You should start from Columbus Circle. Walk east direction along the edge of the park to warm up until you reach the Gapstow Bridge for a beautiful view of the lake and city buildings reflection. From here, walk north direction along The Mall pathway. This pathway is lined with trees on both sides and it should be a wonderful sight during autumn. You will reach Bethesda Terrace, fountain and another lake. Another famous spot in various films and games. On a good day, you can rent a boat to row in the lake. From here, you can continue to walk north across another beautiful bridge called the Bow Bridge and then reach Belvedere Castle. This is almost halfway point of Central Park. Time check: it should be around 4-5pm now. Walking either east or west from here will bring you to the museums on both sides of the park. The east side is Metropolitan Museum of Arts and the west side is American Museum of Natural History. You may save this visit for your next day or trip.

By 5pm, it is the perfect time to exit the park on the east side and hop onto subway 4 or 6 along Lexington St by 77th St. Take the southward bound train to Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall. From the station exit, you should be able to see the bridge and start your walk across this iconic bridge. The city skyscrapers and sunset will be behind you as you walk across. Once you're over the Brooklyn side, look for pedestrian exit on the left side. The staircase should lead you into Washington St. Walk back up north to the riverside park and a little distance to the left. You should reach Jane's Carousel. If you bring along kids, they will surely love the merry go round ride. Else, find a bench and enjoy the sunset here and watch the Manhattan skyscrapers light up once the sun is down. During summer, you may need to stay until 8-9pm here to see the golden view. So it is best done during spring or autumn when the sun sets earlier and you don't have to wait too long.

After a long day walk, you may now hop onto either trains from High St or York St which is not far from the park to take you back to Manhattan. If you have energy left and keen on supper, you may also walk back via Brooklyn Bridge and head to Chinatown for a good meal before calling it a day.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (1)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Mini Travel Log: Narita, Japan (2)

It was an unexpected call up for me to operate a flight from Narita. I expected there isn't much sakura bloom for me to see in Narita so I did not bring my DSLR. I regret that decision after I visited the temple up on the hill and the adjacent Narita park. Little did I know there is such a beautiful garden on top of the hill and best of all, there are quite a number of sakura trees in the park which are already in 60-80% full bloom. Nevertheless, I whipped out my trusted Samsung S6 Edge to take some pictures. The quality turned out so well. Handphone technology has improved tremendously in just short period of time. If you were to compare pictures of Narita taken 5 years ago with my D90 DSLR and now, you would have thought the former was taken using a handphone instead.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Narita, Japan (1)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mini Travel Log: New York, USA

This is my first time in New York and like any other tourists, I tried to maximize my time here because there are just so many things to do and see here. Is it possible to see the entire New York with 2 day itinerary? No it isn't. But 2 days are enough to warm up to this city and prepare you for your future visits.

My hotel is at Times Square which has the best location and starting point for sightseeing. As I arrived in the afternoon and needed a quick nap, I woke up close to evening time around 5pm. A quick recce at Times Square and then off I go to the Rockefeller Center; few blocks away from where I started. I went up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck to catch the best sunset and night view of New York City. Entrance fee is not cheap. It costs $32. So plan your trip wisely if you want to see the best sunset view. Choose a clear day to go up. I was short on time so I had no choice but to go up even on a cloudy and drizzling day. I still had a great time up there but I'd probably return again in the future on a clear day to capture more breathtaking shots of the city.

After that, I returned to Times Square for some night shots. I couldn't stay awake much longer due to the jet lag so I called it a day afterwards. For info, Rockefeller Center is along 5th Avenue so you can actually do some night shopping there or save it for another day.

My second day was burned due to rain. The only place I managed to visit was the Central Station. After Central Station, I walked along 5th Avenue for some window shopping while trying to avoid getting soaked now and then.

Third day came with clear blue skies but chilly. I woke up early to rush down to Battery Park for the ferry to Liberty Island. From Times Square, I hopped onto subway no.1 at 50th St, South Ferry Loop. I didn't go down straight to South Ferry Station but made a detour by alighting at Chambers St. Reason being it was around 7am so I decided to see the 9/11 memorial and the new Freedom Tower. Bear in mind the memorial and tribute center only opens at 10am. I just wanted to see the 2 pools which was the former Twin Towers. It was a very sad feeling seeing the names of those sacrificed etched on the plaque around the pool.

I continued to walk south along Broadway and reached the Wall Street area. This area is heavily guarded now but is still accessible to pedestrians. The iconic New York Stock Exchange is not to be missed. Back to Broadway and continuing south, I reached the Charging Bull. Touch it for a dose of good luck perhaps? Another reason I advise others to reach here early is for you to have the whole bull to yourself. If you're here late, the Chinese armies will reach here in bus loads and I guarantee you will not have any space left to touch the bull, let alone taking pictures.

The Bull is just before the entrance to Battery Park. I bought my ferry ticket from Castle Clinton around 8am. Ferry departs at 8.30am and after going through airport styled scans, it is just about the right time. So my advise to you is to stick to your time schedule tight if you plan to do the 9/11 and Wall Street detour. Give yourself an hour for the detour starting from 7am and be at Castle Clinton ticket counter by 8am.

Do take note that normal ticket to Liberty Island and Ellis Island includes both return ferry rides. It costs $18 and includes entrance to the Pedestal only. If you want to climb to the crown of Statue of Liberty, 99.9% you won't be able to buy it at the ticket counter. Buy it online from the official operator Statue Cruises and it runs 2-4 weeks in advance reservations. Meaning anything less than 2 weeks, tickets to the crown are most likely sold out.

Also a word of caution. There are many touts operating around Battery Park entrance and South Ferry terminal station. They are trying to hard sell you tickets to the Liberty Island. My suggestion is avoid them at all costs. The only official operator is Statue Cruises and the ticket counter is right there in Castle Clinton at Battery Park.

I only spent my time on Liberty Island but skipped Ellis Island. The latter island was a former immigrant processing center which has its own histories. If you have the time, by all means visit this island after Liberty Island. It was included in the ticket anyway. By skipping Ellis Island, I was back in Manhattan by noon time.

As time was not on my side, that wraps up my short sightseeing trip in New York. As you can see, 2 days are not enough to cover this metropolis. But it does get you to the important landmarks around New York.

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