Monday, May 26, 2008

Condoms for thumb drives

I'm wondering if I should rename my blog "My Amazing Adventures at Sime Darby" or something like that. All this traveling is enjoyable, but also pretty darn tiring. Especially when I have to wake up at 4.30am in the morning to catch a 7.15am flight to Sandakan...which I'm supposed to do tomorrow, so I really should be asleep right now... but since I'm already suffering from lack of sleep, I figure another 15 minutes won't hurt. I just came back from Tawau last Thursday, where I spent one week almost everyday waking up at the estate guest-house with an amazing view of a lake and rainforest, which all the pics I took will do absolutely no justice to.

I also got quite up close and personal to one of Sabah's famous residents, the hornbill, while I was at one of the estate offices waiting for someone to finish off some stuff. This particular fella was sitting at the bottom of a little cliff, so I couldn't see it til I crept close enough to the edge. And at first it was so still, I almost thought it was a statue of a hornbill... until, of course, it moved, and I was like "Coooooool!".

Ah yes, getting to enjoy great views and taking shots like these make the lack of sleep and rather long working hours quite worth it. What made me almost wish I hadn't joined Sime was when my laptop got hit by a trojan... or rather, a whole bunch of trojans, when I had to transfer some documents to some people's thumb drives. Fortunately, my antivirus program could detect and delete most of them. Unfortunately, it failed to get rid of one... and it caused my laptop to suddenly restart every now and then, and then go into a black screen with the words "Operating System not found". I was so totally freaking out, worrying that everything on my laptop would be wiped out. And it REALLY didn't help when I plugged in my camera to transfer some pics in for work, and it found another undeletable virus in my camera! I think it was from when I plugged my memory card into someone else's laptop to transfer some pics, so it picked up a virus from that comp. Bugs on my laptop is already bad enough... if all my pics were wiped too, I'd be pretty ticked off. Eventually I did calm down and told myself that it's just data and stuff that really not all THAT important after all. But the thought of possibly having to reformat my hard drive and reinstall everything over my weekend did not do wonders for my mood. I'd done it once before... it took up a whole day, and considering I have only a few days back to enjoy myself, I did NOT want to spend it trying to fix my laptop.

Fortunately, the viruses didn't wipe out anything on my comp OR camera. When I got back to office, I got an IT guy to help me clean out that trojan, so now my comp doesn't restart itself for no reason and display funny messages. And after transferring all my pics, I reformatted my cam's memory card and it's fine now too. Thank GOD. At least now I've learned something very important... scan every thumb drive I stick into my comp before opening the files. And avoid sticking my camera into strange computers if I can help it. Really, someone should invent condoms for thumb drives or something, to prevent transfer of strange viruses. I'm sure that would be a big seller. :P Now if only Sime would get those new laptops they ordered QUICK so I can use a company laptop and I don't have to worry about funny things happening to my laptop anymore...

Oh yeah, I also just bought myself a new pair of romping-around-in-the-jungle steel-toed boots. Do you know how hard it is to find a good pair of non-fashion boots that fits a girl? All the boots I saw were for guys with super huge feet. But on Thursday after I got back, I managed to find a good looking pair that fit me perfectly and is reasonably priced at RM125 after discount. Not exactly the most comfortable thing to walk around it, but after sludging around in the mud wearing my sneakers, I figure investing in a good pair of boots is worth it. Maybe I could make a fashion statement out of it too. Hyuk hyuk. Ok, time for bed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm just travellin' travellin' travellin'....

I was in Kempas, Negeri Sembilan and Tanah Merah, Malacca for the whole of last week, came back on Friday, went to Seri Intan, Perak on Sunday and just came back today. I'm certainly getting around in my new job... and haven't even spent more than 2 days in my office in Damansara. I haven't done any of the real fun stuff like scaring the orangutans and checking out marine reefs, and that probably won't happen for a while coz' right now we busy conducting the internal audits for our estates to make sure they are ready for the *real* audit which will be conducted by SIRIM in order to certify our estates' sustainability. And the real audits are starting in June, so we're rushing to finish meeting up with all the estates to make sure they comply. Right now, most of them are lacking in a number of areas, and those poor fellas have a lot of work to do to make sure they comply before SIRIM gets to them. And if they don't get the certification, heads will roll. Apparently some top shot in the company decided he wants all Sime Darby estates to be fully certified by 2010, just so we can be the *first* in the Malaysia to be fully certified in sustainability. Ah yes, to satiate a big shot's ego, the small fries need to work their butts off.

Not to say that I'm not enjoying my work. I certainly find it a lot more interesting than my old job... and I actually understand everything that goes on, which wasn't really the case in Accenture when people started talking technobabble and I'd be like "Huh?". The stuff I learned in uni is quite useful now... and I can point out stuff that doesn't look right at the estates and palm oil mills when we're doing the site visit. Like there was a chemical lab at one mill where the lab guy was walking around wearing slippers... and no one else on my team has done lab work except me, and occupational safety is one of the major criteria of our audit, so I pointed out that he should be wearing covered shoes when handling chemicals, in case they spill on his feet. Tsk tsk, don't even know basic lab safety!

Getting to stay near the outdoors is also fun. When in Kempas, I stayed in this fantastic chalet within the estate grounds, and every morning I'd wake to the sound of chirpy birds and the first thing I'd see when I open the door is green trees and a pond. Ok, the pond is pretty mucky, but that's to be expected in this country. The only problem I had there was when I left the night light on outside one night, went out for dinner, and when we came back, the whole front door of my chalet was swarming with flying ants attracted to the night light. I had no choice but to quickly unlock my door and get in as fast as I could without allowing the bugs in... but a few got in anyway, and I spent about half an hour getting all of them back out my room. Note to self: Do not leave night light on outside chalet room when next time.

Of course, I had a lot of fun taking pictures with my new camera... which turns out to be every but as good as I hoped it would be, especially when taking those close-up shots. Only problem is that I only have one lithium battery and buying an extra one is expensive. So when it runs out of juice, I can't take any more pics. Happened on the first day of my Kempas trip, when I saw this lovely orange dragonfly resting on the grass next to a pond. I snuck up to it, put my camera about 2 cm away from the dragonfly, held my breath to make reduce camera shake, pressed the shutter halfway down to focus, and then.... my camera battery died. And as much as I tried to muster one last shot out of it, it wouldn't deliver. All the while the dragonfly was still sitting there calmly... as if it were mocking me. I thought, "I'll get you next time, you little bugger!" Of course, I charged my battery that night, and made sure it was well and fully charged every day after that. And I DID get the little bugger on the second day.

I took my mini tripod with me this time, so there was no camera shake and the pic is fantastic! Though I still had to sneak up to it and sit on the grass next to the pond to get this pic. My feet were probably 5cm away from the edge of the pond, and I'm sure if someone mean came along and nudged me, I would've fallen in. Fortunately no one was dumb enough to try that, or else they would not be alive today.

Some other fantastic macro shots:

This little bug seems to be hanging on for dear life!

This flower in only about 1cm in size. Whoa.

A close-up of a canna. Major colour overdose!

A very pretty and rather sedated butterfly, which didn't budge even though my camera was 1cm away from it.

Probably the most perfect hibiscus I've ever seen. Looks almost perfectly symmetrical, in full bloom and no sign of withering. I took this at one of the estate manager's house (which btw, is super nice!).

Ok, a not-so-amazing shot of an ice cube... but it's interesting coz' it's from my cup of teh ais which I ordered while at a mamak, and I noticed some swirls of teh ais somehow got trapped within the ice cube. Looked quite fascinating, so I took a pic before it melted into a little pool of teh ais and water.

Of course, while I do enjoy the job and being outdoors, I am starting to see some problems with working here too... or it could be just the managers I've been going to audit the estates with. I've been travelling with two of the managers, one who just used to be from the PR unit and somehow or another ended up in our unit, so he's still learning the ropes, while the other is an ex-estate manager who is supposedly more experienced and is the leader of our team. I'm fine working with the first guy... it's the latter who drives me a bit insane. He's a nice guy...BUT he is SO slow in doing stuff. He's extremely slow at typing, so he asks me to do type. When we have to do the summary of the audits and I have finished compiling all the non-compliant issues, all he needs to do look through it and make corrections (even that is so difficult for him to type), and he takes forever to decide what changes to make. And sometimes he changes the wording to something that means exactly the same thing. For example, a sentence like "To develop a mechanism to monitor the blablabla...". He said he wants to change it "To develop a method to record the blablabla...". I told him it the first sentence means exactly the same thing as the second. He looked at me funny. This was when it was almost midnight and I was down with a cold and all I wanted to do was finish the thing off quick and get to bed, so I didn't argue too much and just changed the sentence. And if that's not annoying enough, he's such a hardcore smoker that every 15 minutes, he has to take a smoking break... which sometimes leaves me in the lurch waiting for him to get done with it quick to finish looking through my summary. And I'm not a big fan of stinky cigarette smoke breath too. And sometimes, during the meetings with the estate staff, they can waste a lot of time talking nonsense and having tea breaks when they should be working. So when the managers I'm with complain that they have so much work to do and not enough time, I just roll my eyes and try my best to refrain from pointing out why they don't have enough time.

At least since I understand my work, all I need to do is gain a bit more experience before I can start doing audits on my own... or at least without THIS manager... so I can finish my work faster. This weekend I have to go to Sabah... not for another internal audit, but to observe the SIRIM as they conduct their audit in one of the estates. I don't like having a weekend taken up, but I do like being able to see these guys and ask them first-hand all the nagging questions I have for them about what they are looking for. My goal right now is to learn as much as I can as soon as possible so I can work independantly and not have to put up with other people's bad time management.

My other goal is also to get through all my backlogged emails, coz' now I have more than 50 unread messages in the inbox. Ack!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I'm NOT blogging this right now

I'm actually in Tanah Merah, Negeri Sembilan right now! Doing some plantation auditing! And I get to stay in one of Sime Darby chalets. I'm sure it's quite nice, but can't say right now, coz' I wrote this on Sunday night. :) Yeah, blogger has a cool new function where I can schedule when I want my entries to be posted. I did that for my last post too... which means I actually wrote FOUR posts on Sunday night. Yeah well, when I'm on a roll, I just can't stop.

Anyway, I'll be there til' Wednesday then going to another plantation in Kempas, Malacca until Friday. I imagine my future self will enjoy romping around the palm oil trees like in the bollywood movies, and getting carried away by mosquitoes. And I'll be putting my new red Ricoh cam to good use. Weee! Someone lower the sugar levels in my coffee...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Standing on the rooftops

I mentioned this song a few posts ago when I was gushing about Lost Prophets and my fav song from them, 'A Town Called Hypocrisy'. I like 'Rooftops' too, but for quite a different reason. Other than fact that it's one of those songs where I like to hide in my room, crank up the volume and pretend to be a rock star on air guitar, everytime I listen to it, two lines in the song always get me...

"Will we make our mark this time? Will we always say we tried?"

Lost Prophets is not a Christian band. This is not a Christian song. But every time I listen to this song and hear those lyrics, it does make me wonder... am I making a mark to the people around me? Am I always going to say I tried to be better Christian, but couldn't?

As I start a new job and look back on how I was in my old company, I think I didn't make much of a mark at all. I bitched about the annoying colleague like everyone. I didn't make much of an effort to get know the people around me. I went into and left the company as skillfully and silently as a ninja, and was only close to a couple of people, though now that I've left I know I probably won't really keep in touch with them. Yeeargh.

I hope and pray that I don't go ninja in my new company.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Queen of Lame

We were at lunch after church today and I was sitting with some of my cell group girls when Sel starts lamenting that no one appreciates her lame jokes...

Sel: No one appreciates my lame jokes! I made a lame joke just now and no one laughed...

Me: Oh really? Tell me your lame joke.

Sel: Well, Gavin (her bf) was saying how much he likes sweet things, and so I said "Yes, that's why he likes me!" *grins*

Me: ..... hehe. Heh. *retarded laugh*

Sel: *gives me the look*

Blablabla...we talk a little bit more until Sel notices I'm wearing a pink hoodie that looks rather warm.

Sel: Aren't you hot??

Me: Why yes I am. I'm a hot chick! *grins*

Sel: *gives me the look again*

You have a contender for the Queen of Lame title, Sel. Bwahahaha.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Amazing Camera Hunt

My good ol' Canon Powershot A420 camera decided to give out on me a month ago. The CCD blew, and so these nasty white lines would appear on my pictures after I took them (happened during Accenture's Annual Dinner and Dance, so I shall blame it on the funky bright lights they had there...might've overloaded the CCD). When I sent it for repair, it turns out the price to replace the CCD was RM215. So I thought, why spend so much to fix my camera when I can use the money and get a much better one? My A420 was limited in the kind of shots it could take, especially funky close-up shots which I love taking. And so I embarked on a hunt for the perfect camera for yours truly... which is not as easy as it sounds considering there are so many different camera brands and models out there. At least when I was phone hunting, I had already fallen in love at first sight with my Sony Ericsson W660i, and just did some online research to make sure it was a good buy and there was nothing else better (haven't regretted it since!). This time though, I really had no idea what camera to buy, so I had to research from scratch.

At first, I considered buying a DLSR (one of those big@$ cams that professionals use), but quickly decided that's not a good idea since I also want to be able to carry my camera around everywhere, and lugging around one of those buggers is quite a bit of work. And I didn't want to spend more than 1k on a camera, so DLSR's are way out of my budget, especially since I won't be earning anything from my pics (though I think I might try putting my good pics on those photo stocking sites and see if I get any buyers. ^_^). So I figured the best cam for me would be a point and shoot with certain manual functions that I can tinker with.

Thankfully, I had plenty of time during my period of extreme boredom to ask my shutterbug friends for recommendations as well as read up on reviews of certain camera models. I also had a pretty good idea of what criteria I wanted in my camera, which were:

1) It MUST be able to take very good close-up shots.

2) It MUST have image stabilizer, to reduce blurness in pics due to hand shakiness.

3) It MUST NOT be more than 8 megapixels. High resolution pics are nice, but the file size per pic would be a whopper... I don't need all my pics to be over 2 MB in size... my hard drive would fill up way too fast! And I don't want to pay more for a camera with more than 8MP.

4) It would ideally have a high optical zoom, as I like to taking pics of animals too and it would be good to take nice shots from a distance since they usually run off when I get too close.

5) Of course, image quality must be VERY GOOD, if not GREAT.

It would also be nice if the camera was red, but that wasn't really a big deal for me coz' I was more interested in a cam that would fit those criteria and usually the really good cameras don't come in choices of colours other than silver or black. Yes, sad but true fact. *sniff* Some photography freaks like OTHER colours, you know!!

*Ahem* Anyway, I came across a few models that I thought were pretty good and were seriously considering, such as these:

1) Panasonic Lumix Tz5

Lumix is apparently famous for good image stabilizing capabilities, and it has a whopping 10x optical zoom... which is very high for a compact camera. However, it's 9.1 MP (more than what I need), and when I tested it out in the shops, I found it couldn't take good macro shots. Plus, lots of reviews said pictures tended to be noisy. And it costs over 1k. So it was off my list pretty fast, and so were all the other Lumix models due to the noisy pics problem.

2) Canon Powershot A590 IS

This one has 8 MP and quite a few manual functions to play with. But the optical zoom is a rather paltry 4x, and the closest focal range is 5cm... still not enough for me to take really good close up shots. But because it's 'relatively' cheap at RM890, I still considered it.

After shortlisting these two cams after much online researching, once I headed to the stores to try them out, I also asked the store assistants to recommend me a camera that is less than 1k in price and takes very good macro shots. I got some interesting recommendations below.

3) Canon Ixus 80
Ooh, they come in colours! But unfortunately red isn't one of them. Still, I was surprised at the good macro shots I could take when I tested one of these little buggers, which is why I seriously considered it. Plus it's very compact and looks pretty cool. On the downside though, it has few manual functions and an even lower 3x optical zoom compared to the A590. And it's priced at a higher RM999. Still, the good macro shots made the Ixus 80 a reasonable contender...

4) Pentax Optio W30
Yes, I know. Pentax is not a very well-known camera brand, and I didn't think to look at the weird unknown brands until a shop assistant shoved this baby into my hands to test out. And I was VERY surprised that it took excellent macro shots... could focus even up to 1cm! Plus it's a waterproof camera, which was quite tempting considering it would be fun to go snorkelling with it and be able to take underwater pics. However, after checking online reviews, I found that general image quality and flash isn't very good. And after much consideration, I decided that good general image quality is more important than being able to dunk my camera underwater.

At this point, I was getting a bit exasperated as all the cameras I found so far didn't really meet my criteria, and I had already visited 3 camera shops in KLCC, 3 in Pyramid, 2 in Subang Parade and 2 in Summit. All that walking around gets quite tiring! Then I visited Digital Mall in PJ and saw one shop advertising a promotion for a...

5) Ricoh Caplio R6

7.2 megapixels. 7.1x optical zoom. 1cm macro focal range. Has Vibration Correction (which is pretty much the same as Image Stabilization). And priced at only RM799! Looked too good to be true. Even after testing it, I wasn't totally convinced. So once I was home, I got round to reading up reviews on it... all the reviews said it was an excellent camera. One even gave it a rating of 9/10 on several points... better than for any other camera I'd considered so far. And the reason why it's priced so low is coz' it's a old model. It came out in May 2007, and the camera shops are trying to sell off their stock so it's priced pretty cheap. How wonderful! I decided I was going to get it. BUT this is where the female in me kicked in. I also wanted to check out the prices in other shops and look for a better deal than the one in Digital Mall, as they did not include any memory card in their package, and I was hoping to get it with at least 1G memory card for the same price. Yes, we ladies always want to get the best deal for our money. :P

The problem was that most of the shops I went to don't sell Ricoh cameras, since it's not a popular brand. So on my next camera hunting trip to Mid Valley Megamall, I prayed that I would find this camera (I know, it seems to be a silly thing to pray for, but never hurts to try! :P). In the first 3 shops I visited, none sold the camera I wanted. Then I went to Jusco, and lo and behold... I found a stall selling all Ricoh cameras! And the model I wanted was going to for RM800, including a 1G memory card. Yay! Only problem was....

The stall assistant wasn't there!!!!

Apparently he was out for a break or something. I waited for a while, then decided to come back later and went out to scout a bit more. And strolled into yet another camera shop, which... lo and behold... also sold Ricoh cameras. Woo hoo!! And for the same price, they were offering a 2G memory card!! *GAWK* That was it. My hunting was over. I whipped out my wallet and bought a brand new Ricoh Caplio R6 on the spot. Also managed to weasel in a free screen protector for it too. *Grin!* All in all, an excellent buy if I do say so myself.

Oh, OH. And that's not the best part. The camera comes in other colours! And guess what colour I bought mine in? Just take your wildest guess before scrolling down..... :)

If you guessed RED, you are KOREK! Am I really that predictable? ^_^

I really should learn to spend my money on expensive girly things like makeup, branded clothes and facial products instead of gadgets.... but really, I don't see it happening anytime soon.