Yes! Do you remember this contest? We have a winner here!!!

Congratulations to …

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In preparation for my English tests this weekend and next Tuesday, I spent almost every evening in the last one month preparing for the test. Yes, I know – it’s an English test and how wrong can you go with it? Well, the truth (self-proclaimed truth, at least) is that English is not a subject that we can fail but neither is it a test that we can score distinctions in. Very much thanks to the multi-cultural, multi-lingual society that we are in, Singlish has became extremely prevalent and it’s easy to get lost when you are already struggling with an evolving language.

Evolving? Yes, English is still evolving 🙂

10. You know the opening hours of the outlet that you frequent. For that matter, you probably know the opening hours of every outlet that you may frequent.

9. You are the first to get the latest time-limited edition of the bearista bear.

8. The barista knows your order of Tazo Chai Tea Latte, half water, half foam no milk. As a corollary, you probably end up ordering it as “For here, tall, 5 pumps Chai, half water, half foam, no milk Tazo Chai Tea Latte”.

7. You know the exact locations of the power points and zoom in to the tables next to them when you enter the store.

6. You know the sequence of songs that will be played.

5. The people next table waves to you when you arrive.

4. Instead of asking you to help them look after their bags while they are away, they smile at you while you nod.

3. The barista offers to let you sample some of the food in the fridge display.

2. Your drink comes as soon as you sit down, even before you order it.

And the number one sign…

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I got hold of a Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD from Sim Lim Square today to fill up the ExpressCard/34 slot that’s otherwise left empty for a while on the MacBook Pro. At 120/35 MB/s read/write speed, it is much faster than other USB-based ExpressCards, which typically runs at 35/23 MB/s. With it’s PCIe interface, it’s no surprise that it can outperform other ExpressCards at the same price point.

I would have gotten a FileMate Ultra ExpressCard/34 48GB SSD, if not for the confusion that presented while I was trying to place it in my cart. Apparently, it always tells me that the item is no longer available whenever I tried to place the item in cart. I am not sure, but I suspect there is a little glitch at the backend with regards to Prime Members. Anyway, I have taken myself off the trial because I gathered that I’d have to do 30 non-free shipping purchases in order for the annual membership of almost US$80 to be worth it.

Nonetheless, the purchase of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSD was to take up the challenge (or rather, personal curiosity) if a MBP could indeed boot from an ExpressCard/34 SSD. Upon insertion of the SSD into the ExpressCard/34 slot, I knew the answer. It was an astounding “NO”.

Apparently, the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSDs require a Mac driver update, which basically means that it is not recognised when it is first plugged into the MBP. Only a driver installation will get it to mount. Needless to say, the loading of a vendor driver at Startup is *unheard of*, so it is not possible for the ExpressCard/34 to be booted from. There are, however, 2 solutions to this: either the startup is hacked for the drivers to be loaded, or the interface of the ExpressCard/34 is changed. Since neither of this is probable, it is highly unlikely; if not impossible, that the Verbatim brand of ExpressCards/34 SSDs can be used to boot up a MBP.

Despite this, you will still be able to install Mac OS Snow Leopard when you are already booted into the OS (i.e. no installation from DVD drive on bootup); only to be disappointed that the installation cannot continue after it boots for the first time after the first phase of the installation. This was certainly a great letdown.

That was indeed an expensive experiment, but the silver lining in this is that I can now make the Verbatim ExpressCard a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) *and non case-sensitive* partition for Adobe Photoshop and Parallels Desktop for Mac. For some reasons, my MBP came with the OS installed on a Journaled and Case-sensitive partition, which made installation of Adobe Photoshop impossible (Ed: Adobe Photoshop can only be installed on non case-sensitive partitions).

At the same time, running Parallels has became incredibly fast as long as the PVM (Parallels Virtual Machine) file is located on the SSD. However, at just 30MB/s write speed, it will be good to hold your expectations a little because this is probably just about as fast as transferring data to a FireWire drive when you carry out write-intensive tasks.

While it was a little disappointing to find out that my MBP is not blazing across the highway anytime soon, I got to experience SSD read/write performance, which is really better than its USB thumbdrive cousins. As I continue to explore what else I can do with this possibly white elephant, I am also anticipating the Filemate 48GB SSD in my mailbox in the next 2-3 weeks.

Till then, let’s hope I can find more useful things that I can do with my ExpressCard/34 SSD.

This is a personal review of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD. No fees or gifts had been received as a result of this review.

It’s been a while since I got hold of a MacBook Pro, but for the longest time, I procrastinated on getting (read: trying, buying, …) hold of a really good offline post editor. In fact, the last I read, there weren’t really any offline post/blog editor as good as Microsoft’s Live Writer. Yes, this is quite sad but true. I am not sure where there aren’t any equivalent editors, but I am hoping that whatever I am about to try will prevent me from firing Parallels Desktop so that I can use Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer.

Nonetheless, working on a Mac has revolutionized the way I work. Even though I didn’t get the latest Unibody model of the MacBook Pro, the ease of use of the prior model gives hint on why there are always die-hard fans of the MBP. In fact, I got so used to working on a MBP that I am having some problems adapting to the Windows platform all over again. Indeed, working on a Mac at home and a Windows PC in the lab is not a good idea.

As I continue my hunt for The Offline Editor, I hope that I will be able to amuse/amaze/bore you with my many anecdotes with my Mac in time to come. Meanwhile, I won’t be missing “insufficient memory” pop-ups 🙂

I tend to travel with a fixed amount of cash whenever I am out of Singapore, and use, where possible, a debit or credit card for my payments. I used to think that the banks do not offer really good exchange rates, but with the uncertain economy and foreign exchange nowadays, this seems to be quite negligible. In fact, there were also a couple of times when the exchange rates given by the banks are a whole lot better than what I would have gotten from a money changer.

Of course, there are times when I have to withdraw from my bank accounts in Singapore, and that’s when the great hunt for the Cirrus and Plus signs come. Even then, with some luck, the Auto Teller Machine (ATM) will display the remaining balance in my account after i make a withdraw. Most of the time, I don’t have such luck.

This is probably one of the reason why I carry a small netbook with me whenever I am overseas; and of course, not forgetting to purchase the country’s prepaid card (having said that, if you are travelling to Taipei, please remember to get your prepaid card from the airport because you will not be able to get it anywhere out of the airport without a local ID).

Having said that, I learnt about Citi Alerts over the radio because Citibank had been running their ad campaign prominently. I thought this was rather cool because an SMS is sent to me every time I make a transaction on my cards. For those of us who enjoy pubbing (“cheonging”) on Friday and Saturday nights, this is a great plus because there could be times when we don’t really know what our cards get swiped for. A friend of mine got his card swiped a few times a visit and he didn’t know about it even when the bill came. It was only when the staff was caught that he knew about it.

Tsk. Tsk.

However, when Citi Alerts came out, I was hoping for something better – such as having mobile banking facilities. After all, I had opened a new account with Citibank, which does not charge for sending you a replacement ATM card, nor levy a charge/fine for not maintaining a certain minimum balance in your account. Indeed, I think they have came a long way.

CitiMobile by CitiBank

CitiMobile by CitiBank

It was almost like a prophecy fulfilled, but Citibank recently launched their Citi Mobile – a service which allows me to carry functions as if I was logged into my Citibank Online Banking! It allows me to:

  1. Check my account balance (a big must if you like to keep tabs on your spending)
  2. Search for discounts (particular when some shops like to hide their Citi Privileges)
  3. Funds transfer (to allow me to pay back dinner money; or for me to pay for bills)
  4. Locate the nearest ATM and branches (to withdraw money for shops that do not accept credit or debit cards)

But best of all, Citi Mobile does not require me to sign up again if I have already signed up for Citibank’s Online Banking facilities; nor does it require me to download cumbersome applets or applications! This is a great plus for me because I keep losing track of my PINs whenever they are sent to me. With this auto-inclusion, I can just log into Citi Mobile (I’d like to personalise this and call this MyCiti… haha…) and have all the online functions as if I was logged into my netbook.

In fact, I found out about Citi Mobile by accident because I was trying to locate the nearest ATM; but the website that was loaded on my mobile phone kept asking me to log in. It was only after logging in that I realised that I had full-fledge facilities via my mobile phone, right at the tip of my fingers, indeed!

The CitiMobile Widget on the iPhone

The CitiMobile Widget on the iPhone

Now, I can really just leave my netbook in the hotel when I am overseas. The only thing I am hoping for is to get my hands on an iPhone because I think Citi Mobile looks really cool on the iPhone 3G[S].


Editor: You know how we always talk about fine prints? Well, here, we rather talk about bold prints! Look out for the bold prints below to stand a chance to win for yourself $200 cash + vouchers! 🙂

I have had a long history of changing phones every other year – not because I am a phone fashionista, but really some times the phone that i have seem to fail just a day after their warranty. Of course, I have to admit that it’s not always through – and that’s because I secretly want to have the coolest gadget in town (but a broken phone is nonetheless a better excuse) 😛

INQ Mobile Phone series

INQ Mobile Phone series

It was brought to my attention that a new phone may soon be visiting the shores of Singapore. Apparently, a phone that’s been released by INQ Mobile is going to be the new kid on the block – if it does land here. Unlike other phones that comes with the standard applications (including those that we do not normally use), this series of phones are marketed as – if I may call it, a 2.0 phone.

You see, it comes packed with applications that can connect you to the different social networking sites – Facebook, MSN (now Windows Live Messenger) and Skype and collates everything into a nice interface from which you can access your accounts from. At the same time, it also allows emails to be pushed to you while you are on the go. I have not used a Blackberry before, but that sounds pretty close to one.

Now, some might wonder what’s so great about that, and probably think that these applications are readily available on the Internet for download. Well, the truth is, I am still running Fringo for Skype on my mobile and it just doesn’t quite feel like the real thing. I have not used the INQ Mobile phone series, but the interface does look yummy! 🙂

Of course, that’s not all. The series of INQ Mobile phones do come with all the bells and whistles – GPS, a 3.2MP camera and of course expanded memory. The built-in 3G/HSDPA modem will also allow the user to surf the Net not only on the phone, but on his laptop as well. While not specifics have been give, I am thinking that it’s probably going to be a modem connection over Bluetooth; although I am not discounting the possibility of a modem connection over USB. However, what seriously shocked me was the standby time.

A whooping 329 hours standby time, and 324 minutes talk time.

This is almost equivalent to 16 days of standby and over 5 hours of talktime! Now, that’s something I know that my current phone can’t beat. I really can’t wait to get my hands on one to see what it’s really made of.

Bold prints!!!

So, here’s what I am going to do. I am going to get INQ Mobile to know that we know what they had been doing behind our backs and we want them to bring the phone in to Singapore (at a really low price, I hope). So, if you could also join me to tell them what you like about their phones, I’d also give you a chance to win *$100 CASH and $100 shopping vouchers*.

It’s really simple. All you have to do is to leave comments after this post on what you like about the phones. From here, I will get them to take note that there’s really a demand for them to bring their phones in. Well, at least enough to go around 😛 And to make sure that you really get a really good chance of getting heard (and winning that $200 cash and vouchers), you may want to twitter/plurk/facebook/MSN the following phrase:

I have discovered a new phone on @simplyjean! Go check it out and you may win $200 cash + voucher! Details at #inqmobile

Well, having a phrase like this makes it easier for me to track that it’s from you (else any other phrase may not be easily searched); and don’t forget to include your Twitter ID, Plurk ID and Facebook URL so that I will also be able to keep an update of where you helped to spread the message.

Also, please leave a valid email address so that I can contact you when you win the $200 cash + vouchers. And no worries, no one else will know about it. This reminds me of a contest that I ran some years back. The winner didn’t leave his email address in the comment box and I had a hard time trying to look for him. It’s a pity that I couldn’t contact him in the end.

And because time is really tight and I don’t want to leave you hanging for too long, I will close this contest at 11:59pm on the 14th September; which means you will know if you are a winner by the 15th! That’s cool, isn’t it?

Speaking of which, I might just have another surprise for you… Heh heh…

So hurry, there’s only 1 week left! Go forth and spread the phrase! 🙂

And oh, here’s the fine, fine print… this contest is only open to Singapore Citizens and PR. No discrimination here, but it makes it all easier for the prizes to be awarded 🙂

It’s a boy!

Personal September 5th, 2009

“It’s a boy!” That was the simple answer that the lady in the room was looking for.

The group of us were shown a picture of a boy who was wrapped up in a towel and presumably had a wet towel on his forehead. He was lying on a bed and was holding on to a small, white bucket. The group was asked to make some observations on the picture. It was a sample of the Problem-Based Learning question that is asked at the Sydney Medical School.

The group was rather quiet, so I started by making some remarks on the blanket and the towel, and how “he” was probably feeling cold and possibly having a fever. Another guy from the group said that he could have been “regurgitating” – a rather bombastic word for “vomiting”. However, the lady seemed to be looking for more answers; so I gave the obvious.

“It’s a child”

“Yes!” She exclaimed. “It’s a boy!”, and she continued to narrate what the scenario could have been. This simple answer that she was looking for reminds me of how people, in general – including myself, perhaps, tend to look at things beyond too deeply. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I was just thinking that sometimes we (or just I) get to caught up in “critical thinking” that we might just overlook the most obvious.

And if you have watched enough “House”, “E.R.” or “Gray’s Anatomy”, you’d probably know that that the paramedics begin by describing the patient to the tune of “6-year-old boy/male, found [somewhere] in [what state]” – and it’s important for the doctors to know how to treat the patient and what course of actions to make.

Back to the situation above, I probably think that no one wants to say something that they think may sound stupid. However, like I always tell my students, there’s no such things as a “stupid question”. So really, if you think that your question/statement/answer may sound stupid but if it helps you, you should just say it.

Another person may just benefit from it 🙂

Plans derailed

Personal August 18th, 2009

You know how people used to say that man proposes while God disposes? The saying happened to me. Again. For the umpteen time.

I don’t hide the fact that I am a quitter (well, at least in SM Goh’s words – of which, a search on google will reveal what that term means) and intend to pursue medicine in Australia. I may come back one day to form part of the “growing pool of overseas trained doctors” but I do hope to be involved in the treatment and curing of patients instead of just being an administrator or another doctor’s runner. Essentially, I’d rather be where I can be most effective.

Nonetheless, the plan was for me to apply for a PR in Australia, take the IELTS and the MCAT/GAMSAT, relocate to Melbourne (because I am state-sponsored) and apply for entry into the MD Program and University of Melbourne while working in the first year. Of course, here’s where the disposal starts.

By some cheer (bad) luck, University of Melbourne changed their entry requirements and now require international students to complete their Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry modules. There was no mentioned with regards to similar modules in overseas universities, but this is probably because the MD Program is still in the planning phase and will not be admitting students until 2011.

Nonetheless, I asked them about it and I was told to dig out NUS/NTU’s modules which I think is equivalent and to email them the curriculum. Clearly, it’s going to be a long walk on a fire bed. Either that, or I have to take their pre-requisite subjects – while on a visitor’s visa.

The alternative, was an MBBS programme at University of Sydney, which is a complete derailment of my initial plans, at least location-wise.

There were some other considerations, like how I am going to finance my entire medical course. At first, I thought of applying as a PR, but I am quite sure that being a new PR, I may probably end up with some restrictions in one form or another. The “safer” choice would be to apply as an international student, which will result in more than twice the amount of school fees required. For the uninitiated, that’s almost S$250,000.

I can’t help but suddenly think of Yu-Mei Balasingamchow’s S$264,000 bond. That is really… A. LOT. OF. MONEY. And if I study really hard, I can get scholarships that will cover about one-sixth of the school fees. There’s still 5 more sixths to go, and living expenses too.

Seems like I will have to go back to my drawing board. Meanwhile, I will be taking the GAMSAT exams next year and perhaps the MCAT after that for Duke-NUS’ MD Program; and work my bum off for the next 1 year. Sometimes, I wish I have 72 hours a day.

Having said that, many people ask me why I’d want to be a doctor. As simple as the question sounds, the answer is always tough because I will receive a whole lot of alternatives that I can do if I just want to “help people”. Trust me. A lot of thought had gone into why I do not want to be a nurse, a paramedic, a social worker or a fund-raiser. All these occupations do help people in one way or another but one big difference is that while people in these noble occupations can treat people, they definitely can’t diagnose and can’t cure. Having said that, I do wish to be a volunteer paramedic in the mean time 🙂

More usual than not, discussions of what I intend to do will only go one way – the other way. It’s not because people can’t see (imagine) me being a doctor, it’s the high (pardon me, absurd) cost of the process that often led people into thinking of alternatives where I can “help people”. I had, for a moment, thought of giving up everything and do social work. Then, I might need a degree for that or risk just being an administrator. Sometimes, I just wish that I studied harder in the past.

Thankfully, my direction in life is (hopefully) still clear. I want to be able to treat and cure people one day and take on overseas medical missions at least on a yearly basis. Prior to that, it’s going to be a long and arduous road, but I still hope to reach there eventually.

As for school fees… I can only try to plan while preparing for my entrance exams.

Or lack thereof.

I had been trying to lose some weight as far back as 3 months ago. Results had only been satisfactory – to my standards, of course; but perhaps normal to anyone who is serious about losing real weight, and not just water.

For the longest time, I had been procrastinating about watching my diet. The thing about being a life scientist (or a wannabe like myself), I am usually stuck in the lab for long hours with very little or no moving around. We all know that, simplistically, glucose from food gets converted to pyruvate (some intermediate chemical product), which will then take part in the TCA (tricarboxylic acid) cycle (or otherwise known as Krebs Cycle) to produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) at the end. Where there’s too much ATP, which is essentially currency (or simply, money) for energy, then the money gets stored in a fixed deposit.

You know how we complain that banks are not giving enough or any interests at all, and how we try to invest our money in other places that can give us better interests. More usual than not, the money gets locked in, but the interest never seem to come.

Well, that’s what happens when there are too much ATP. Glucose is stored in a fixed deposit (which is glycogen; through a process known as glycogenesis) and once it goes there, it’s very hard to withdraw from it. Just as we spent money that we earn and hardly touch our investments/fixed deposits, the same happens to glucose. Of course, there’s more than just fixed deposits. Sometimes, it goes into investment linked products (ILP), also known as triglycerides. Not only is it hard to withdraw from ILP, money put there is virtually stuck for a long, long time.

Sad to say, it’s the same for triglycerides.

It is only in times of recession that we may sometimes have no choice but to withdraw from our fixed deposits and/or investments and the same happens for the body. Ideally, the body starts to make use of triglycerides and glycogen when we do not have enough glucose in our body. However, just like how we become more thrifty in times of need, the same happens to our body – metabolism decrease and we get more lethargic.

Essentially, people try to go on diet but most do not know about the body becoming more “thrifty”. Oh, did I mention that some of us may resort to selling things on ebay just to get more money? Well, a somewhat similar situation happens in our body; unfortunately.

So, it’s not really easy to lose weight, and what we usually lose are usually water, which is really a bad thing. I don’t usually advocate crash diets because the body may go into “thrifty mode” faster than you can think of it.

When I got hold of PGX Daily, it seemed like a pretty good deal – cutting appetite gradually and increasing metabolism. True enough, I began to lose my appetite – at least a little, but it’s more because I stopped having cravings for food. Of course, the change in bowel movement came 3 weeks after I started on it, but I don’t think I want to dwell too much on that part.

Metabolism seems not to be affected and I did end up staying more awake than usual. I am not sure how PGX reacted with my body, but I’d think it’s rather safe. I can’t remember, but I think it’s vegetarian too? (anyone else can confirm this?)

Consequently, through a somewhat “natural control” of my diet, I lost about 2kg of weight, which does not seem like water loss because it’s 4kg +/- 2kg. I got more greedy. I joined Fitness First (plug: contact Joe at 6732 4111).

I guess it was all good and I eventually got a Personal Trainer. However, disaster struck. On one of my self-training sessions, I ran… and apparently caused too much stress to my ankle. Well, that sort of put my exercise regime to a halt; at least for a while.

Today, I am still quite glad that I have some PGX left, hoping that it can help reduce cravings while I go out of action for a while. Overall, I lost about 5 kg from 3 months ago, while I think is pretty good, considering that I stopped going to gym for almost 3 weeks. A combination of watching my diet, PGX Daily(s) and exercise probably helped keep the weight down but now that I have to stop exercising for another month, I am hoping that PGX Daily will help to maintain it there. The last time I checked, it was retailing for about S$166.00 for 3 bottles of 120 capsules. If I take 4 capsules a day, that works out to be enough for 3 months. That’s about S$1.84 per day. Hmmm…

For now, I can only hope for the best… 🙂 and hope the weight remains status quo.

Today, I am feeling a little… “generous” (I’d have used the word “magnanimous”, but the word is a little too over-bearing for me). I have decided not to commence on a civil suit against Nokia (but still reserve my rights to do so). You see, I sent a phone in to their service centre and told them specifically not to update the firmware because I know for sure that they will erase every single thing there is on the phone. This was even made black-and-white on the collection slip that was given to me – that the firmware will not be upgraded. For a start, Nokia does not have fantastic services. I mean, sometimes they are good; but most of the time, they are quite bad, to say the least.

Anyway, I collected the phone a few days later and lo and behold, the phone’s firmware was updated. In fact, the service representative at the counter even though me so. Apparently, no one reads whatever is on their job sheet. In fact, the manager and the head of department even waved it off as being routine work and that it’s not really the fault of the engineer. Of course, they finally admitted that it’s negligence but it’s probably because the evidence against them was too glaring.

Nonetheless, Nokia doesn’t seem to have a good sense of PR. Apparently it’s not the first time they have put their customers off. I had been a Nokia fan for many years and if this goes on, I might just jolly well take on another phone (any suggestions?). It’s also little wonder that they suffered a fiscal loss this year (or quarter?); but unless they do an overall revamp of their service level, the whole situation may just get worse.

Of course, with this post, their PR agencies may see me as being anti-Nokia and never invite me to any launch events again. Of course, Nokia can take this as being constructive and look into how their service centres (ironically “care centres” who do not really care at all about their customers). Now, did anyone remember the time that a lady had to get a court subpoena to get her refund back?

I rest my case 🙂