Friday, February 29, 2008

EATZ: Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food (慈缘轩健康素食)

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food
慈缘轩健康素食

8, Smith Street,
Chinatown, Singapore
Tel: 6225 9026

Smith Street is also known as the "Chinatown Food Street". This short street is closed to traffic ater 5 p.m. till 1 a.m.. Hawker stalls in the form of pull carts parked on the side while tables line the street, recreating a nostalgic image of the earlier days of Singapore. At the Chinatown Food Street, one can find most of the local hawker food fare such as Fried Kway Teow, BBQ Seafood and Ah Balling. Nevertheless, apart from these stalls, there are little shophouses that have a tendency to be un-noticed. I was grateful to my bro, Cedric, for introducing me to Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food (慈缘轩健康素食) , for a simple yet delightfully healthy dinner.

Before entering the shop, a chalkboard displays the menu-of-the-day. At Ci Yan, there is not fixed menu, there is always something different everyday. Upon entering the little shop, it is like you have just entered a small little teahouse in Tibet. Not that I have been to Tibet yet, but the interior decorations have a very strong Tibetan taste. Tibetan-styled Buddha statues, Mandalas, pictures of Tibetan lamas and smiling images of the Great Dalai Lama, together with the wooden tables and chairs packed closely, creates a cosy home-like ambience that welcomes not only devout Buddhists but non-Buddhists as well.

We were immediately welcomed by the friendly, English-speaking shop-owner, who then introduced to us the menu-of-the-day which includes: Brown Rice Set, Vegetarian Black Pepper Burger, Hakka 'Thunder Tea', just to name a few. I was watching the crowd that are coming in and I realised that there are a couple of Caucasians, who seemed like regulars. There were also many phone calls asking about the menu-of-the-day and making orders for take-aways. An adjacent table ordered a vegetarian yu sheng, which I believe was specially prepared since the Lunar New Year is over. The friendly service gave me a feeling that I am coming home to a big family.


Brown Rice Set
S$5
A platter of vegetables served with soft, fragrant brown rice. The lack of gluten in the rice set, makes it a very healthy choice. I particularly love the tempeh (cultured soybean cake) tossed with potatoes and celery in a tasty brown sauce.

Vegetarian Black Pepper Burger
S$5.50
A healthy burger of thin cucumber and tomato slices, cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce and a vegetarian black pepper patty, laced with a sour cream or tartar sauce, sanwiched between a foccacia bread.


Verdict
Many thanks to Cedric for recommeding this lovely little vegetarian eatery! Being a vegetarian is never easy. Apart from abstaining meat, vegetarian food can be rather hard to find, not to mention a good one that serves a healthy meal. Many vegetarian stalls serves gluten-made dishes that are stewed in heavy sauces or deep-fried to make them tasty, since garlic cannot be used. This is not exactly making vegetarianism a healthy choice. Though there are many practising strict vegetarianism because of their religious practices, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. There are also many who chose vegetarianisms for the sake of eating healthy. Vegetarianism lowers the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein and in turn, higher intakes of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C and E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals, thus preventing certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, renal disease, dementia, diverticular disease, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis. The advantages of vegetarianism is not only about a healthier diet but also a ecological as well as social respect for all beings. Despite these many advantages, I still continue to dwell in the pleasures of this samara world, savouring all kinds of food, simply because I love good food! Nevertheless, I am progessively veered towards vegetarianisms for my lunch diets.
Back to Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food (慈缘轩健康素食). Ci Yan offers anyone a healthy choice of dining in their lovely little Tibetan-themed eatery. The price is very reasonable, with many dishes priced at S$5. Most importantly, Ci Yan makes you feel like home with their friendly service. I am definitely returning to Ci Yan again very soon!

Happy Leap Year!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tamrom A20 AF28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO

Tamron AF28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO
Model: A20

I am anticipating and have high expectations for this "Di" lens to be released for the Nikon mount. Presently, Tamron has only released Canon mount version, while Tamron are still developing an AF motor into this A20 lens. This is going to be the first Tamron lens to feature a built-in AF motor and noteably the first "VC" lens. In Tamron's context, "Di" refers to Digitally Integrated design where the lens is suitable for full-frame (i.e. film or pro-range DSLR eg. Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D3 etc.) as well APS-C sensors DSLRs. "VC" refers to Vibration Compensation where it reduces vibration caused by camera shake (i.e. Canon's Image Stabilization, IS; Nikon's Vibration Reduction, VR; Sigma's Optical Stabilization, OS). The Tamron A20 is also an ideal walkabout lens covering the range of 28mm to 300mm (43 to 465mm for APS-C). This 10.7x zoom lens is made into a handy compact lens measuring 3.9-inches long only, making it a good travel lens which also saves the hassle of changing lens in the field.

Specifications at a Glance
  • Lens Construction (Groups/Elements) 13/18
  • Angle of View 75°23'-8°15' (APS-C size equivalent)
  • Type of Zooming Rotation
  • Diaphragm Blade Number 9
  • Minimum Aperture F/22 ~ F/40 (28mm-300mm)
  • Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) 19.3in.(0.49m) (entire zoom range)
  • Macro Magnification Ratio 1:3 (at f=300mm, MFD=0.49m)
    *1:2.33 (@ f-300mm, ref 3)
  • Filter Diameter ø67mm
  • Weight 555g
  • Diameter x Length ø3.06 x 3.9in. (ø78 x 99mm)
  • Accessory Flower-shaped Lens hood


    Nomenclature Codes for Tamron A20
  • XR - Extra Reflective Index Glass
  • Di - Digitall Intergrated Design
  • VC - Vibration Compensation
  • LD - Low Dispersion
  • IF - Internal Focusing
  • ASL - Aspherical

Distortions
Distortions seems pronouced for full frame at 28mm with slight pincushion at the 300mm (ref1, 2). Barrel distortions and pincushions are less pronouced when used on APS-C sensors (ref 1, 3).

Vignetting
There is hardly any signs of vignetting on an APS-C sensor but vignetting is obvious for a full-frame sensor at both widest and telephoto ends (ref 1, 3)

Sharpness
Tamron A20 produces excellent picture sharpness at 28 and 70mm, while quality drops to very good at 200mm and good at 300mm (ref 3). Full resolution sample pictures from users demonstrate the sharpness of this lens, convincing that a superzoom can be sharp as well (ref 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

Bokeh
The bokeh from test pictures are creamy and smooth without much signs of orbs and donuts (ref 1, 4, 5).

Macro
Though published by Tamron to have 1:3 magnification ratio, tests have shown that in real life, a 1:2.33 magnification ratio is possible at 300mm (ref 3). That is extremely useful and is a plus point for such a superzoom lens.

Vibration Compensation
Users report a 2-3 stops advantage with the "VC" in Tamron A20 (ref 3, 4). The ideal weight and "VC" of the A20 makes this lens suitable for handholding in most situations, though working in low-light can be trickier than Nikon 18-200mm VR due to its smaller maximum aperture at the telephoto end.

Built
The Tamron A20 is made of polycarbonate in black colour with a matte finish. The 1.1 inch zooming collar is rather narrow for big hands but its well-placed position should make it easy to operate with the thumb and index finger. The frustratingly narrow 0.32 inch focusing collar is placed slightly in front of the zooming collar and is less used, unless manual focusing is required. Nonetheless, this lens does not have manual override of the AF. For the Canon mount, there are two switches, one for AF/MF mode and another for VC active/inactive. There is also a zoom lock at 28mm to prevent possible creeping which so far is not an issue. The lack of a motor results in high AF noise and tad slower AF. (ref 3, 4)


Verdict
In my opinion, I am definitely considering the Tamron A20 as my walkabout and travel lens, though it will not be ideal for dedicated photography where I would like to achieve 'hair-splitting' sharp quality at 100%. With the field reported 1:2.33 magnification ratio, I am thrilled by its Macro capability, which is better than any of my existing lenses. I am never bothered with AF noise but I do hope their new built-in motor will remedy this problem. I am impressed by the sharpness of such a superzoom which is very acceptable. I have always been pleased with the quality lenses from Tamron, from my experience with my trusted Tamron A16. Last but not least, the "VC" is very useable as reported and I am definitely thrilled about it!
Though I would expect the price to be higher than the Canon mount (~S$900), due to the AF motor. I am expecting this to hit S$1000-1100, when the Nikon mount hits our shores. That makes the retail price very close to Nikon 18-200 VR and more expensive than Sigma 18-200mm OS. This is going to raise a few eyebrows.
Next is to wait for the evaluation the quality of the Tamron A20 for Nikon mount and decide if this lens is going to justify its value.
I hope this mini compiled review is useful for you, it is for me. Thanks to all the resources from the kind reviewers in my references.


References

  1. Axel's PBase lens test gallery include full resolution pictures from Canon EOS 5D (full frame) and EOS 400D (APS-C) at 28, 50, 100, 200 and 300mm wide open and f/8.0.
  2. DC Watch review with full resolution pictures from Canon EOS 5D.
  3. PopPhoto.com review on Tamron A20
  4. Amin Sabet's blog reviews his personal take on the Tamron A20 with Canon EOS 5D.
  5. Amin Sabet's flickr gallery shows full resolution samples from Canon EOS 5D.
  6. Coshi's blog shows some full resolution samples from Canon EOS KISS DX (EOS 400D).
  7. Out-of-box review with 100% crop images that looks reasonably sharp with text at 300mm.
  8. With Canon 5D, A20 is taken to the streets for trial at all focal lengths and also night shots and panning. The images are all incredibly SHARP with 'HAIR-SPLITTING' SHARP' cat shots!
  9. More pictures byb kent106 to show off the sharpness and another 'HAIR-SPLITTING' SHARP shot.
  10. [OFFICIAL] Tamron A20
  11. [OFFICIAL] About Tamron A2 with VC Technology and Zoom Simulator.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

VIDEO: Counterstrike ONLINE (PV)

Almost every PC gamer has played "Counterstrike"!
While many are trigger-happy campers,
there are also many who never scored a frag in a lifetime!
Not to forget the real blood shed over this highly influential computer game!
Counterstrike is back, this time, online!
Are you ready to take on the world?

COUNTERSTRIKE ONLINE
Promotional Video

hey, isn't that the famous 'de_dust' map?

Monday, February 25, 2008

1/6th DEVGRU by Very Hot

Not the latest Very Hot product, DEVGRU was actually released before the Very Hot U.S.A.F.Pararescue Jumper and NAVY SEAL CQB. I initially had the intention to use "SNAKE" (PMC Operator 07 ver.) by Hot Toys as the body due to its rugged appearance, but I decided to "WAFFEN S.S. Julius Hanke"by DiD. Though the DiD has a really solid and heavy frame with intricate shoulder joints, it still shy when compared to the TRUE-TYPE by Hot Toys.

DEVGRU
NAVAL SPECIAL WAREFARE DEVELOPMENT GROUP
1/6th Action Figure
Outfit by Very Hot
Body by DiD
View Complete DEVGRU Gallery

"DEVGRU"
or "NAVSPECWARDEVGRU" (Navy Special Warfare Development Group) was originally known as the "SEAL Team SIX". The original SEAL Team SIX is the U.S. NAVY core counter-terrorist unit whose operatives were drawn from the ranks of NAVY SEAL. They underwent an accelerated training programme and became operational within six months. The mission of DEVGRU is to provide intelligence, counter-terrorism, management for the development and testing of Naval Special Warfare technologies. DEVGRU are known to train alongside the
DELTA FORCE and deploys alongside when necessary.

CLICK ON BANNER OR HERE TO VIEW COMPLETE DEVGRU GALLERY

Box Art
Very Hot likes to keep their product packaging compact and easy to stash, simply because there is no need to pack the accessories into blisters and it does not come with a body.


Basic Outfit
With that Photographer's Vest lookalike, I was tempted to give it a Shonon Mk. I DSLR or Canon EOS 5D DSLR, but its tough fingers could not wield them with pride.







Gears unique to DEVGRU
M4A1 in desert camouflage, DV and VAIO notebook with bag. Other unqiue gears include Binoculars (not shown).

Shamefully DiD body has got tough fingers and a less flexible body to give good poses.










Photography & Editing by William Tan
©William Tan 2008
Equipment: Canon Digital IXUS40


DISCLAIMER
Please respect the copyrights of the photographs in this post by retaining the original watermark and not editing or altering in any ways, any part of the pictures. Please support my work by linking back to this post via this address: http://mybearbrick.blogspot.com/2008/02/16th-devgru-by-very-hot.html

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

COLLAPSED!

COLLAPSED!
Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com
Even the strongest tree could not resist the effects of weathering.
An earlier shower weakened this old tree outside my house, which later gave way suddenly.
The canopy spanned across the pavement below and onto one of the lane on the road.
Luckily there was no passing people and vehicle.
When I decided that I should call "NParks", I realised that their
website are not too informative.