Archive for June, 2011
How many photos have you taken that are out of focus? The answer will be something between “all of them” and “some”.
If you have a small child rushing around, or are trying to focus in on individual people moving down the street; then your failure rate will be very high.
If only there was a camera where you could just snap away and then fix the focus later.
Take the shot below. It’s focused on the girl in the foreground. I wonder what the girl in the red dress looks like? Click on her. Now you know. Click anywhere and that point will come in focus (unless you are using a tablet or IE6).
It’s pretty extraordinary and it’s not a trick. It uses light field technology and if I knew how that worked I wouldn’t be sat in Pattaya writing a blog. But those that do know have developed a camera that uses it which will be on the market soon. I can imagine massive consumer interest, if it is cheap enough, with Facebook and the like being awash with snaps you can play “let’s focus here” with.
Have a play with more photos here, and be amazed.
A fun, if slightly exhausting two days in Penang. Two things stand out. First, the food is excellent and generally much cheaper than Thailand; which was something of a shock. Our multi-roti breakfasts for example, with curry sauce and cups of tea, cost about 35 baht each. Secondly, the people were very friendly and extra-helpful. English is widely spoken, so Malaysians have less worry than the Thais about starting up a conversation. Whenever we appeared lost, there would be someone at our side offering to give us directions. People in restaurants would provide advice on food; the hotel staff were desperate to help in any way they could.
Best of all was an encounter I had at a bus stop. I was standing behind the stop in the shade when I was approached by an interesting character. He was dressed like an Islamic scholar, he seemed a little shy and awkward and his English was not so good; but he was determined to communicate.
“You, bus?” he enquired
“Yes, I am waiting for the bus.”
This was not enough information. Cannot stand here? Cannot get a bus even though I am next to a bus stop. Cannot expect a bus to come this week? I looked nonplussed.
“Cannot”, he said again, and gestured towards the five ringgit note in my hand.
I maintained my nonplussed expression and suspected I may be in the company of a deranged man.
He then rummaged around in his pockets and extracted five one ringgit notes and held them out to me. Finally I understood; the bus driver would not accept five ringgit notes and this man was determined to ensure I was adequately equipped with change.
I took his notes, gave him my single note and thanked him. He smiled and shuffled off down the street. In how many countries would that happen?
Thanks Malaysia, we had a very good time.
Our second day in Penang and we woke up to pouring rain. What to do, other than consume vast quantities of roti? Through a blur of cocktails the previous evening, I recalled that the barman had recommended a trip to Penang Hill for a view over the city; followed by a trip to a nearby temple with the best laksa in town available nearby.
It was either that or sit in the hotel feeling miserable; so we hopped on a bus and headed out to the hill. There are two ways of getting to the top. Walk for several hours, or take the recently opened funicular railway. We chose the latter and were soon sitting in the gloom waiting for the ride up the hill.
The ride is very long and is punctuated by a stop half way up the hill for service workers to alight. There was a clear announcement for us to stay on the train; something that she who must be obeyed completely ignored and was first, and last, to rush out on to the platform. She does this impetuous “there is something happening, not sure what it is, but I must join in” thing on a regular basis. I assumed it was just her; but when she got back in the carriage, another passenger asked if she was Thai and confirmed that this was a very Thai thing to do. As he was also Thai, I accepted his view on his culture.
Got to the top and it was pissing down. I can imagine that the view would be spectacular on a sunny day; but on that morning it was just soggy.
Walked around for a while, staring at the non-view, and then headed back down the hill, followed by a half hour walk to Kek Lok Si temple which did itself no favours by being rained upon, or by being approached up a narrow staircase crammed with stalls.
We tramped around the site in the increasingly wet conditions before giving up and going back into town to discover that the famous laksa stall was shut. Never mind, we had some very passable laksa at another stall, manned by only the second pretty woman I had seen that day. Of course she turned out to be Thai.
Standing at the bus stop, waiting for the bus back into town, I was lectured to by an old gent who told me in great detail how things had gone down the toilet in Malaysia since the British left. Big problems with arrogant, corrupt politicians apparently. I didn’t like to point out that the British are currently struggling with a very similar problem.
One of the more interesting places to visit in Penang is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. About 100 baht equivalent gives you free reign to a two storey mansion stuffed with artefacts. I particularly liked the windows of stained glass:
The predominant colour of the window glass was red, and there were shafts of red light falling over the floors and furniture:
Best of all, there was an old sewing machine getting the red ray treatment…..
…..and casting what I thought were interesting shadows on the floor. Depending on the exposure, I could get a slightly flared look or a dull red on the floor. At the time I was convinced that these would look great as big prints; now I am convinced they may better suit the delete button; but might as well share them first given that I spent some time sitting on a dusty floor taking them whilst being stared at by bemused Japanese tourists.
The Georgetown area of Penang has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What this means is that buildings inside the designated zone cannot be torn down and turned into high rise malls. What it doesn’t mean is that the place has become some sort of museum. There are some fancy restored houses dotted around, but most of the area remains a place of working shophouses and street markets; and people.