Thursday, September 20, 2007

For all who have been affected by the closure of Yahoo's Photo Sharing Site

What are the options for you? Here is my personal review of some alternatives and my choice.

All my online photos have been transferred to Flickr. The transfer was smooth and all the albums have been retained. This was the most convenient option seeing that I have a Yahoo ID and account.

Some alternatives are Shutterfly, PhotoBucket and Snapfish. I think that almost any one of them is OK. But here are some pluses and minuses:

+Easy to upload
+ Photo enhancement tools
-No videos
-Small pictures in slide show view (I really would like to see larger pictures)

Snapfish has two sites you can use: the US site and the Singapore Site.If you register on the US site, you can use both the US and the Singapore site. The advantage of the US site is that you can upload videos but on the Singapore site, you can order pictures in Sing dollars and quick delivery.
+Big slideshow frames
+video upload (US)
+Singapore prices (Sing)
+Photo enhancement tools
-Need to install software for uploading
- Uploading of photos seem to be slower than the other photo sites.

+ Fast uploads
+ easy to post to blogs, or sharing websites
+ Very interesting slide show formats. Pictures can float across the screen or zoom towards.
+ You can view very large pictures in "nomal" slide show view. Normal = no enhancements for slide show.
+ Upload videos and even from mobile phone
- Limited tools for enhancements
-Can be difficult to navigate the site at first -- steep learning curve.
- Irritating because it seems to have many pop-up adverts

+Nice sized slides (could be bigger)
+ Many options for sharing online, posting to webpage, etc
+ Very convenient transfer if from Yahoo
- May take some time learning to use the features.
-No photo enhancement tools

Best Bet:

Snapfish for its big slideshow frames, and ease of use.

Flickr for convenience in transferring files, and many web features.

Friday, July 20, 2007


(Rated R for adult themes, language and scenes.)

Based on a novel by Michael Crichton ( Jurassic Park, The Terminal Man, Congo, Airframe, etc)
this adaptation turns out to be a very good movie with both Michael Douglas and Demi Moore giving powerful performances. Michael Douglas is good when he acts in thrillers such this. He was excellent in "The Game" and "Basic Instinct" and in this movie, his performance is just as riveting. Moore, young and beautiful in this role, impresses.

Tom Sanders (Douglas) is a happily married computer engineer anticipating a promotion and big bucks when his company completes a corporate merger. Much to his chagrin he finds that he has been passed over and Meredith Johnson (Moore) who is credited for engineering the merger is now his boss -- a strange situation for Sanders to be in because Johnson was once a subordinate and lover of his. The very first day as his superior, Johnson sexually assaults Sanders demanding a continuation of their liaison. The unwilling Sanders resists and earns the wrath of a woman scorned. She accuses him of sexual harassment and assault. Sanders counter sues but finds that he has a credibility problem. When it seems that he has managed to prove his innocence, Sanders finds that his troubles are not over; there is further intrigue -- his bosses want him out.

Both Douglas' and Moore's performance are well above average. Douglas brings depth to his role as the hardworking and loyal employee and husband, who, while not totally above office politics is anxious to keep his job without backstabbing others. Although not portrayed as being a naive, good-guy type who learns all about office politics -- the movie would not work if it were so -- there is that progression in character from the guy who is victimized to the one who wants to give as good as he got. Moore's character is less compelling, but quite believable. She is the "new woman" who seeks total gender equality in the corporate world, even to the extent of sexually harassing her male subordinate. She shows no guilt in being what she is.

he screenplay and direction are taut and no scenes are, to my mind, extraneous. The movie progresses at a very brisk pace and the audience is never bored. Sympathy for Sanders as he battles to save his job and marriage is never short. Moore displays just the kind of confidence a woman in her position would have -- smart, sexy, distant, and potentially dangerous if crossed. Donald Sutherland makes most of his role as Bob Garvin the founder and CEO of the company, smitten by Moore's character. He portrays a man more interested in ensuring that his fortune stays intact by whatever means. Sutherland plays his role adequately, but one wishes that would inject more into his roles -- in this and his other roles he just verges on the bland.

Sure there are parts of the movie where an over-infatuation with future technology, "the corridor", can be detected, but this can be considered a minor fault. The focus on the theme of domination is never diffused. One can also quarrel with the the use of the external "friend" that keeps popping up to assist Sanders, but then in the real world there are those who know that a co-worker is being set up and want to help but cannot be seen to be doing so, so as not to jeopardize their own positions.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"Surprise" Paul Simon

I bought this album based on Paul Simon's track record of superb music composed and sung over the past decades. What a surprise this album held for me. I hated it.

I did not like the overpowering electronic accompaniment, nor the tuneless pieces that Simon passes of as songs. There were hardly any pieces that stayed with me after giving this album three listens. I had to force myself to do this because sometimes what one dislikes the first time round become more palatable and even delicious after repeated listens.

There are no hooks at all in any piece nor memorable musical phrases to haunt me and keep me going back for more. The lyrics are mundane, or too obvious -- some even meaningless. Simon sings about discrimination, fatherhood and a host of other issues that other artists have also sung about more passionately with music that is at least listenable.

Perhaps now with the success he has had with career, Simon has no motivation to please a mass audience – just himself and those who, perhaps influenced by his reputation, can still find something meaningful in this collection.

Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher"

This is the first Stephen King book that I have read and I must say I was surprised because I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
I know King by reputation -- the writer of "horror" novels such as "Carrie", "The Shining" and the like. This is not one of Stephen King's scary novels; there is almost nothing here to the curdle the blood or make your hair stand on end. It is about the supernatural but not of the disembodied ghostly type. The focus is on extra-sensory perception, telepathy and dreams. There are passages that describe violent and bloody deaths. These are vivid and stomach churning at times but they will not make you fear the things that go bump in the night. The title comes from a device, somewhat like a net, that Native Americans sometimes hang in their lodgings to capture their dreams or to weave it into some kind of reality.
Set in the New England states of USA, the plot involves characters, friends since childhood, who are caught in a covert military operation to annihilate a group of recently arrived extra- terrestrials considered to be extremely dangerous. The four become the victims of both the military -- who want to shut them up because they stumbled upon the operation -- and the aliens, who are looking for human hosts to inhabit.
This is one good read. King shows just how good a novelist he is. There are passages of really superb prose and clever use of time shifts which reveal the plot yet keeps us in the dark. The past and the present intertwine and, of course, the present is affected to a large extent by events of the past. Central to the plot is the outcast Douglas, a mentally handicapped boy, whom the characters befriended as teenagers. It is through Douglas's special mental ability that the characters manage to shift from past to present, from dream to "reality", in their attempt to escape their pursuers.
Descriptions of the the location are vivid, and this is not surprising since King when researching for the novel explored all the routes the exciting car chase takes. To write how it feels to be traveling in a army "humvee", King borrowed one and drove, one suspects -- very fast and recklessly -- the same roads and tracks leading to the reservoir where the final scene takes place. So if you find yourself a bit breathless reading the description of the chase, you know why. This is an author who does not want to short change his readers -- at least not too much.
Description of the aliens and the spawn are a little disappointing. None of are clearly delineated and it seems that King is depending our exposure to TV and the movies the create the images ourselves. By the way, there are several references in the novel to movies and an insider joke King creates by imagining the events in this novel being being recreated in a blockbuster movie -- King even names actors who would play his characters....Like many of King's other novels, this did become a movie, but I am not sure if the actors he suggested for his characters did in fact play these roles.
Passages that dwell on dreams and the psychological trauma the characters experience can be confusing for the reader sometimes as we get disassociative glimpses of events that take place in childhood days or ruminations of the characters who seem to suffer more than just mid-life crises. Some of these may not hold the interest of the reader as much as the main story line but theses are essential to the plot.
Some might find King's emphasis on the salvation through good deeds done in the past -- in this case the befriending of Douglas -- a bit overdone and simplistic but it seems to me that the message is more of the mysterious qualities of the human mind -- its ability to dream, to communicate telepathically, and to generate superhuman effort and strength.