Author Archive | Dejiki

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Top features from iOS 5

Update: 05/10/2011

iPhone 4S annnounced

Apple has unveiled an update to their most popular smartphone, iPhone 4. While the revised product is physically similar to the CDMA (Verizon) iPhone 4, the real changes occur under the hood:

– Dual-core A5 processor, also found in iPad 2
– 8 Megapixel rear camera, Improved camera abilities and 1080p video recording
– Siri Voice Recognition
– World phone (supports UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA, GSM/EDGE, CDMA)
– Bluetooth 4.0 support
– 64GB model now offered
– Airplay Mirroring

Should I upgrade?
Personally, I would recommend iPhone 3G/3GS users to upgrade to enjoy the latest set of features (and er, for some people, this is strangely important for social inclusion/status) – either to the latest iPhone 4S or if budget is tight: the iPhone 4 (which is now available at a lower price). Even after 15 months, it is still a solid-performing smartphone, with the most beautiful screen and a form-factor I call “almost perfect”. All new features (except the ones listed above) will be supported on the iPhone 4 as well.

Current iPhone 4 users should stay put for the next generation iPhone, although it appears that it might be a longer wait than we expect.

iPhone 4S will be available in Singapore on 28th October 2011.

iOS 5 will be released on 12th October 2011 (13th October 2011 in Singapore).

The new iPhone will be revealed at Apple’s media event next week. Along with the birth of the new “must-have” gadget is the public release of iOS 5 for iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad and iPad 2.

I have used iOS 5 on my iPhone 4 for about three months now and it has been a wonderful experience. While the new features in iOS 5 are not completely groundbreaking or even new – in fact Apple adopted most of them from their competitors. It is not just a copy-and-paste job – the features are highly customised for Apple’s devices and I believe that it will allow Apple to re-deliver functional and memorable experiences for their customers.

A number of friends have seen some of the features on my iPhone and wanted to see an entry about them – I’m consolidating my personal favourite features from iOS 5. Perhaps after reading this, you might be compelled to update the moment it’s made available.

Click here to read more…


Louis Vuitton Marina Bay – Island Maison

Island Maison Jetty Entrance

I’m back after spending an evening at the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands. It was an exclusive preview and there are certainly less than a hundred guests within this gigantic store, leaving my family to tour the Maison rather peacefully with our very sweet and charming guide. In short, this store IS amazing. While I’ve been to the other stores in Singapore and the two Maison stores at Hong Kong, there is just something special about the Island Maison.

The store feels like a mix between a museum and a luxury cruise liner (especially with the Mezzanine level which does resemble a ship’s deck). They could’ve easily built more retail space, but instead there are only two levels at the Island section – the expansive and high ceiling within the Crystal Pavilion is embellished with the eye-catching, floating art called “Upper Strut” by Richard Deacon. The glass facets of the Crystal are filled with cascading white “sails” to block out the excess sunlight, but also gives momentary glimpses into the sea outside. With port holes, deck furniture and an abundance of teak panels, it almost feels like you are “traveling”. You just have to see it.

Before I start bombarding this post with photos, here is a “directory” of all the sections in the Island Maison:

Louis Vuitton Island Maison – Store Layout

Marina Bay Sands Shoppes – Basement Level 1
Store Entrance
Fine Jewellery
Exotic/Rare Leather Goods

Marina Bay Sands Shoppes – Basement Level 2
Store Entrance
Gallery/Tunnel to Crystal Pavilion

Crystal Pavilion North – Level 1
“Jetty”/Outdoor Store Entrance
Men’s Universe: Ready to Wear, Bags and Leather Goods, Accessories
Women’s Universe: Ready to Wear, Bags and Leather Goods, Accessories

Crystal Pavilion North – Mezzanine Level
Travel Room: Trunks, Luggage, Travel Accessories, Ready to Wear
Custom Order Collection

Some interesting info!

There are no “limited editions” or commemorative products for the store’s grand opening. Apparently, the company wants to stop associating products (or at least, special variants) with store launches.

Although the store is completely air-conditioned, those who are sensitive to heat should be aware that the Crystal Pavilion gets a little warm throughout the afternoon. It is a structure mostly made of glass and has generous amounts of sunlight sieving in, after all.

Also, the store can no longer sell items on display, so even if you see something you like on display, you might not be able to bring it home. This rule has been around for years but has been rarely enforced in Singapore, until now at Island Maison. This is to ensure that the customer receives “brand new” pieces.

Unlike the other stores in Singapore, where you can pick and try as much as you like and pay for the item you’ve been touching, the staff can only fetch (brand new) merchandise for customers only after payment. I’m not sure if this is the standard practice everywhere else in the world, but I have observed this at some stores overseas.

Apart from some convenience installations, there are lifts at the Island Maison (but not at the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes sections), an outdoor sitting area, a private lounge and yes, even guest washrooms. Throw in a café and I believe some guests will never want to leave.

Ready for the tour of the Island Maison? Click “Read Full Story!”

Continue Reading →


The Crystal is calling…


I have returned from the preview tour of the Louis Vuitton Island Maison! Read all about it in this new blog post!

17th September marks the grand opening of the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. This is the first Maison store in South-east Asia and more excitingly: the world’s first “Island” store. Taking up the entire Crystal Pavilion North at the Sands, the Island Maison spans four stories, two levels underground (from Marina Bay Sands Shoppes) which connects to the two above-ground floors in the Crystal.

I can’t say how excited I am – the Island Maison, like the other 11 in the world, is more than just a place to purchase expensive leather goods. There will be exhibition spaces, galleries and even a bookstore. And yes, this is the 12th Maison in the world. There are many other intriguing design features, just waiting to be explored, in this one of a kind store designed by award-winning architect Peter Marino. Since this is Singapore’s latest flagship store after all, expect to see Louis Vuitton’s entire offering, from their extensive, timeless luggage line-up to the latest Prêt-à-Porter collections, on the shelves. We can also expect a large amount of seasonal exclusives to be made available at this store.

This momentous occasion will take place on the evening of 17th September around the Marina Bay area, with a Gala Opening at the Island Maison followed by a party at One on the Bund at Clifford Pier. Celebrities, socialites and Louis Vuitton’s valued clients will be able to travel to the store at Crystal Pavilion – North, which has a nautical theme after all, via the waters of Marina Bay. You can imagine those luxury yachts sailing around Marina Bay area now.

The Grand Opening festivities can be viewed online on Louis Vuitton’s Facebook page. It will be streamed LIVE from 7PM Singapore Time (GMT+8).

I’ve spotted this cute video from, featuring Louis Vuitton’s iconic Groom character! This short animation actually gives a stylised, 3D look into the store’s layout. So wow, there are escalators and a travellator? I’ve only heard of the Champs-Élysées store having nicely decorated escalators!

I am extremely fortunate to be invited to the Island Maison preview tour and grand opening party. LVMH has sent me these beautiful invitation packages!

Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation
Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation

What really surprised me was this leather envelope, crafted in Taiga leather, holding the acrylic invitation card for the Grand Opening party. It has been hot-pressed with “Marina Bay Sands SINGAPORE 2011”

Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation
Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation

While the store officially opens to the public on 18th September, I will be attending the preview tour with my family this Friday. I will try to get as many pictures as I can from this majestic landmark made of glass and steel. Stay tuned!


Brewing Potions in Pottermore

With Wizard’s Duel offline, Potions is the only way to quickly gain house points. A lot of people came to my Pottermore review searching for information about Potions in Pottermore. So here’s a few tips and tricks. I assume that you already know how the Potion game works.

For those who don’t know, this is a Potions game in Pottermore. I do not intend to write a complete guide to brewing Potions (ie. what to do exactly) because that just takes away the fun.


02/11/2012: Update
Added Potions information for Polyjuice Potion and Swelling Potion

19/04/2012: Update
Added question about getting ingredients right in the Potions game.

16/04/2012: Updates
Revised some sections below about brewing time and cauldron speed. Added question about “How do I wave my wand”.

13/09/2011: Penalties
With the previous change noted below, penalties for failing to brew potions correctly has been adjusted.

For minor mistakes (Cauldron does not explode): There will be no change in points and the player’s cauldron can still be used.
For major mistakes (Cauldron meltdown/explosion): 5 points penalty and player’s cauldron will no longer be usable.

Also, please see the question below about “What happens if I leave my potion for too long?”

12/09/2011: New Scoring System
Recently, the scoring system has changed and successful attempts no longer always award 5 House Points. The more complex and expensive potion recipes award more points and naturally, the easier ones award less now.

11 Points: Sleeping Draught

9 Points: Wideye or Awakening Potion, Forgetfulness Potion, Herbicide

7 Points: Antidote to Common Poisons

3 Points: Cure for Boils


NEW! Ingredients for Polyjuice potion

Help!!? I can’t buy some of the ingredients for my potions

Make sure that you have purchased all the required books for your second year at Hogwarts. Refer to your Shopping List for help. Get the books that are still not crossed out.

Fantastic Free Ingredients and Where to Find Them

You will find potion ingredients just by exploring the scenes in Pottermore. You get a house point too if it is your first time discovering the ingredient. The best part is, these ingredients will replenish at the same place you found them, but only if you have used up the “free” ingredient and no longer have any of that sort in your inventory. You can only hold one of each “free” ingredient at any time.

I’ve set up links to the pages with free ingredients. Please make the effort to find them yourself!
Note: You need to be logged into Pottermore for these links to work.

*You can only collect and hold two of this for just one time. After using (or giving it away), one of them will not reappear on the scenes.

For a full list of prices and exact locations of free ingredients, refer to this very useful post on tumblr.

Can I brew potions with free ingredients?

Yes, but the game it set in a way that you will definitely need to buy an ingredient from the Apothecary at Diagon Alley. Refer to the link above and spend your Galleons wisely.

Which cauldron should I use?

Cauldrons differ in the amount of time needed to heat up and brew. This means your cauldron choice will affect how difficult it is to keep the temperature within a certain range. A copper cauldron may be quick to warm up but it also means that temperature will be harder to control. Whether if it is the simple Pewter, Copper or Brass, it will all take the same waiting time to brew until Pottermore makes the necessary changes. In a recent update however, brewing time is affected by cauldron type. A copper cauldron reduces brewing time from a pewter one by about 25%, while a brass cauldron is faster than the pewter by approximately 15%. See next section for details.

Potion Brew Times

Time you need to wait before you can start the second phase, ordered by Cauldron type.

Pewter Cauldron (Speed: Slow)
Antidote to Common Poisons [40 minutes] Cure for Boils [45 minutes] Forgetfulness Potion [60 minutes] Herbicide [60 minutes] Sleeping Draught [70 minutes] Wideye or Awakening Potion [55 minutes] Swelling Potion [60 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 1) [80 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 2) [1440 minutes]

Brass Cauldron (Speed: Medium)
Antidote to Common Poisons [34 minutes] Cure for Boils [39 minutes] Forgetfulness Potion [51 minutes] Herbicide [51 minutes] Sleeping Draught [60 minutes] Wideye or Awakening Potion [47 minutes] Swelling Potion [51 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 1) [68 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 2) [1224 minutes]

Copper Cauldron (Speed: Fast)
Antidote to Common Poisons [30 minutes] Cure for Boils [34 minutes] Forgetfulness Potion [45 minutes] Herbicide [45 minutes] Sleeping Draught [53 minutes] Wideye or Awakening Potion [42 minutes] Swelling Potion [45 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 1) [60 minutes] Polyjuice Potion (Phase 2) [1080 minutes]

How long can I leave my potion to brew?

You can leave your cauldron for a maximum of twice the time it takes to brew a potion. Once a potion is ready to move onto the second phase, a second timer that is as long as time to brew will start counting down. For example, if Cure for Boils takes 40 minutes to brew, you can return after 40 minutes, but not after 80 minutes.

What happens if I leave my potion for too long? (or got back to it too late?)

You will fail to brew your potion correctly, but you will not lose or gain any points. You get to keep your cauldron too. However, you would have wasted your ingredients, so it’s best to set a timer. Use a mobile phone, or something with that function. (Do people still use kitchen timers?)

What are the possible outcomes?

  • If you follow all the instructions precisely and perform them within the time limit, you will succeed and gain 5 some house points. Please see the following section about house points. Your potion will appear in your inventory page and you can give it to your friends.
  • If you make a minor mistake, such as putting in the wrong quantity of ingredients or missing steps, or returning to your potion late, you will fail to brew your potion correctly. You will not lose/gain points and still get to keep your cauldron.
  • If you make a serious mistake, such as demonstrating grave negligence over cauldron temperature, your cauldron might explode. You will fail the brew, lose 5 house points AND your cauldron.

Results are the same for all potions, whether if it is a Sleeping Draught or Cure for Boils.However, points awarded for potions are now different. See next section.

New Scoring System

Recently, the scoring system has changed and successful attempts no longer always award 5 House Points. The more complex and expensive potion recipes award more points and naturally, the easier ones award less now.

11 Points
Sleeping Draught

9 Points
Wideye or Awakening Potion
Forgetfulness Potion

7 Points
Antidote to Common Poisons
Swelling Potion

3 Points
Cure for Boils

0 Points / Special
Polyjuice Potion (Parts 1 and 2): No points awarded, but required to complete certain chapters in Chamber of Secrets.

Why does it keep saying that I have added the wrong amount of ingredients?

Pay attention to the animation of your ingredients falling into your cauldron. Whenever you add something, it takes a moment for it to fall into your cauldron – Yes I know, common sense tells you that they should just plop right in, not disintegrate into tiny pieces and descend gently. Best to keep track of the little counter next to your cauldron before moving on to the next step. You can also check your potion book and ensure that it has been crossed out.

Also note that some ingredients are handled in multiple quantities – For example, you will always take 3x snake fangs. Hence, if a recipe requires 6 snake fangs, you should only take it twice (3 fangs, 2 servings).

Tips when handling ingredients

  • I know it doesn’t make sense but pouring ingredients out of jars, bottles and vials is much easier (and precise) if you hold them from the top. Tilt the container by leaning its bottom side on the edge of the cauldron, as if cracking an egg.
  • Drop ingredients as close as your cauldron as possible – there is no point dropping them from a height, you just waste time!
  • If you have trouble telling ingredients apart, refer to your Potions book.
  • When pounding ingredients, just work as fast as you can – it’s hard to make mistakes here unless you are literally pounding your mouse button.

How do I control the fire?

You have three buttons. Blue (Off), Orange (Low heat) and Red (High heat). Pay attention to the thermometer next to your cauldron, especially the marked out zones. You cannot allow the heat level to go beyond this zone. For some challenging potions, you will need to alternate between the Blue and Orange buttons to keep the level stable within the small safe zone.

What is this “back button” trick I’ve been hearing about?

If you have messed up your potion in the first stage (before the “brewing” wait period), you can actually refresh the page to try again. You will not lose your ingredients and will simply start off in the first stage. If you do this in the second stage (after the “brewing” wait period) you will restart from the first stage as well. WARNING: There have been unconfirmed reports that this causes your Potions to glitch up permanently.
I can no longer suggest doing this – it has been patched recently and using the back button will deplete ingredients in your inventory.

My Potions page seems to be glitchy, what is happening?

I have lost quite a few brews because of some technical issues, probably because my Pottermore login cookie expired BUT the Potions game does not know and still allows me to continue. The game might glitch up and reset your potion back to the first phase, or worse, you might be stuck in serious glitch where Pottermore still thinks that you have a potion brewing! So I recommend the following:

  • Use the latest versions of Safari, Firefox or Chrome browsers
  • Do not refresh your browser when you are on the actual potion game page.
  • After completing the first phase, you may want to leave that window open so that you can see the timer. However, do not click “continue” when it says that your potion is ready.
  • You can also keep track of your potion from Cauldrons page.
  • As I said earlier, when a potion is ready to move to the second phase, DO NOT click continue. Instead, go to the Cauldrons page first, making sure that the text now states “This potion requires your attention”, then select the Cauldron again. This ensures that you are still being recognised as “logged in” by Pottermore.
  • Once you have succeeded (or failed), be sure to click “Brew another Potion” (even if you don’t want to) so that the system would register your progress properly.

Which is the best potion to brew?

I would say Cure for Boils, if you want to keep things simple and gain house points easily. It has very few steps and does not involve precise control over the cauldron temperature. Also, it takes only 80 minutes to brew to the second phase. It will cost 4 Galleons to get enough ingredients 36 brews, using complimentary Horned Slugs found in Chapter 10.
NOTE: With the new scoring system, Cure for Boils only award 3 house points. It is still the cheapest potion to brew, but the other potions, such as the Sleeping Draught might be better if you want to gain house points quickly.

How do I wave my wand? I can’t even find it.

The wand is located at the bottom-right corner of the table, below the Potion recipe book. It is sometimes obscured by ingredients.

I keep getting my ingredients wrong.

Here’s a tip. Before starting anything, take a look at your Potion book. Notice that each potion has 3 key ingredients. Then, take a look at your ingredient inventory here and look at how the key ingredients look like. Be familiar with them so that when you brew the potion, you know exactly what is on your table.


Potions may be the only activity you can keep on playing on Pottermore, but do pay attention to your expenditure! You will NOT receive any Galleons until the release of Book 2 in 2012. So always try to make the best value out of that 500 Galleons (or whatever is left of it) and don’t waste money buying items until you need them.

Thank you

I would like to thank my readers and Pottermore fans who commented and contributed very useful information: Dwight, Patrick, Blah Master, and Minerva


A look into Pottermore

J.K. Rowling, retrieved from

J.K. Rowling certainly does not want the Harry Potter popularity to wane – even after the extraordinary success of the film series and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Her latest project, Pottermore, is an online experience developed with Sony. The website was described as an extension to the 7-book series, providing not just new supplementary reading materials, but also an almost immersive world for fans to role-play in.

Part of the start-up hype was a 7-day campaign called the “Magical Quill Quest” where 1 million hopeful wizards and witches could register to become an early access user. From 15 August 2011, Pottermore has rolled out invitations to a small amount of users. After about 13 days, the number of players are just above 78,000. Pottermore is expected to be open to all in October 2011.

Welcome letter

I was not exactly optimistic about getting early access as I usually have poor luck for lucky draws. Due to sheer dumb luck (as Professor McGonagall might say), I received a welcoming letter from the website stating that I can explore Pottermore. After completing the main story experience, I’ve decided to write a short review about Pottermore and explain (without spoiling too much) how some parts of the website works.

Story Exploration

In Pottermore, each book is divided up into chapters, and key Moments in those chapters are highlighted as explorable scenes. Most scenes are animated artwork that has exactly three layers of depth. Users can shift between each depth layer either by double clicking or using arrow keys on the keyboard. Objects can be discovered in the scenes and they can either be extra Galleons, potion ingredients, books, keepsakes or random objects – all can be collected into one’s trunk.

Story scene
One of the memorable scenes from Chapter 1, where Dumbledore would use his Deluminator (Put-Outer) at Privet Drive. You can hover over most parts of the artwork and things will start animating.

I am not going to post any more screenshots to keep most of the website a surprise for all. Most of the artwork are faithful to the books and there are a lot of detailed animation happening in each scene. You have to explore the chapters sequentially, no skipping to the end! Some chapters are locked until you perform a certain action – it’s fairly obviously where most of these occur if you’ve read the book.

You might notice a column of icons on the left. These are links to articles about the Harry Potter Universe – Characters, Places, Artifacts and Animals. Some clickable objects will unlock new material written by Rowling for Pottermore, marked with a red quill icon. Users can leave comments at the end of each chapter – though most of them are on the lines of “add music please” or “more interactivity” suggestions.

Elements of gameplay

While the story experience takes place in the same point of view as the books, each Pottermore user could start their own stories by participating in the roleplaying portion of the website. That is, to be like a student at Hogwarts. The journey begins from Diagon Alley (like Harry’s first visit) where you will have to do a lot of shopping for school needs.

First you need to set up your Gringotts account. Sorry, no fancy ride here. Allowance for all users is 500 Galleons, to last until the release of the next book in Pottermore.

Shopping spree at Diagon Alley
Time to go shopping!

Flourish and Blotts

Unlike the story, Diagon Alley (and actually every other location) can be revisited at any point of gameplay. It is the only location where items, such as potion ingredients and wands, are sold.

Two critical moments

There are two very important moments in Pottermore: Wand Choosing at Ollivander’s and of course, the famous Sorting Hat Ceremony at Hogwarts. Both moments are simply 7-question quizzes, but it is a one chance deal and decision is final. Yes, Rowling believes that her 7-question tests are more discerning than any psychometric tool available in the muggle world. You have to accept the results – perhaps there was an undiscovered personality trait you never knew, or something.

Obviously, there have been countless dramatic reactions to the Sorting hat’s decision, but take it this way – this is J.K. Rowling’s Sorting Hat. Whatever it says, stays. Well, you can always sign up for a new account and “fake it” but really, the whole point is to be frank with your answers, just have faith in it, and embrace your new-found magical identity.

I am not sure if the wand has any influence on gameplay, such as casting spells. Houses at Hogwarts however, are as important as in the books – Houses compete for the House Cup and players will have various opportunities to earn (or lose) points for their houses. Points can be gained for exploring scenes and finding objects, brewing potions and dueling a student from another house.

Great Hall Scoreboard
The Great Hall is the leaderboard in Pottermore. Click for a larger view to see how many students have enrolled into Hogwarts and the size of each House when this screenshot was taken.

Beyond the Story: The Life and Times at Hogwarts

The story can be completed fairly quickly, since only Book 1 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) is available and it is the shortest book in the series. Users can then focus their time on remaining activities such as Potions and Wizard’s Duel.

Hmm, needs more snake fangs.


Brewing potions is what I can describe as “Cooking Mama” style of gameplay, except Mama is not going to hold your hand throughout the process, and neither will Professor Snape – although I think no one would want that either. Recipes can be found in a Potions textbook (only one for now and it’s the compulsory purchase from Diagon Alley) and basically, that is it. As long as you have the ingredients (buy from Diagon Alley or find them in Moments), a serviceable cauldron and time, you can start brewing potions. Funny thing here, although it was clearly stated by Snape that there is “no foolish wand-waving” in Potions, you have to wave your wand to complete a set of instructions.

Potions can be challenging, as instructions have to be followed PRECISELY and completed within a time limit. The potions will then need to be left to brew for quite some time – an hour and longer. This can become frustrating when the server goes down for maintenance or some glitch occurs – causing the potion to brew incorrectly (lose house points and waste ingredients), or worse, an exploding cauldron. This means that Potions could become very expensive.. but wait, actually it already is. You see, you only gain house points for brewing potions correctly. You can’t do anything with potions, apart from gifting them to friends. There is no way to earn Galleons in Pottermore except for the handful one-time appearances scattered throughout Moments.

Wizard’s Duel

Unfortunately I cannot comment about Dueling because it has not been working properly, or at all. It is supposed to be a turn-based dueling game where two players cast spells and the better performer will win. Spells are performed by pressing a key in time with wand movement. A line would appear and as it touches a letter, players will need to click it or press the key, causing a circle to appear. Players should keep the pulsing circle as large and as centered to the letter as possible. The line then travels to the next key and – you get the picture.

Dueling Practice
Dueling Practice

It takes a while to learn the right timing but spell casting is a lot simpler. Best of all, it doesn’t cost galleons.

No, you won’t be learning unforgivable spells.

Some spells can only be unlocked by discovering new books, so keep an eye out when exploring the scenes!


Pottermore can be a rather short experience, especially if you are not into staying for tasks like Potions and Dueling, or perhaps not exactly motivated to compete with your House for the House Cup. I went exploring the story scenes very slowly and it took about 1.5 hours to finish the materials from Book 1. Then again, this is designed for Harry Potter readers of all ages, so obviously most features need to be kept straightforward.

I have not mentioned this, but a fast connection and relatively up-to-date computer is required to experience Pottermore. Most pages are image-heavy and often filled with Flash elements. Pottermore is obviously not optimized for any tablet devices, at least for now.

In short, here’s what I think.

What is great so far:

– Beautiful art and interface design
– Seamless integration of Flash and amazing use of CSS.
– Faithful interactive representation of the book’s scenes
– Experiences such as getting your own wand and sorting
– New written material by J.K. Rowling
– Not some money-making framework for Harry Potter franchise

What needs to be worked on:

– Not particularly exciting after initial story exploration
– Wizard’s Duel is not working
– No way to earn Galleons (you are expected to scrimp until 2012)
– Lack of sound effects and music (although putting any would cause bandwidth problems)
– Less than 10% early registrants given access

While yes – this is beta, and problems do exist all the time and can be fixed… The developers have less than 5 weeks to resolve issues and put in all the other features for the October launch.

Hogwarts Stats

Here you can find information about the current enrollment figures at Hogwarts in Pottermore:
Gryffindor: 23,320
Ravenclaw: 24,278
Hufflepuff: 23,370
Slytherin: 23,033
Total students: 94,001
Last updated 12:08PM 28/08/2011 (GMT+8)


I have intentionally left out details in this review. If you do have any questions about Pottermore, such as where to find ingredients and similar, feel free to leave a comment.


Natsu Matsuri 2011

Entrance Ticket

Natsu Matsuri, or Japanese Summer Festival, is an annual event held at The Japanese School (Primary Level) in Changi, Singapore. Highlights include festival games, performances and a bazaar sprawling across almost all major hallways at ground level.

Although I knew about this event for years, I have not been to the festival until mere days ago. This is the first time I secured my admission ticket before the event, thanks to Dwight and his connections at the NUS Japanese Studies Society. Each ticket costs $2 – just a token fee – but the most important thing is getting tickets BEFORE the event, so that you could bypass the long line outside the school and enter the festival compound quickly.

The queue is actually 6-7 times longer than what it appears here.

There are actually 3 lines at the festival: Queue to buy tickets, queue for those with tickets on hand, and queue for those who wish to rent yukatas. Yukata and Obi goes for $2 and $1 respectively and can be worn throughout the evening until the festival programme ends.

Yukata zone

As for the bazaar, it’s a mix of the usual Japanese snacks, such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, to bento boxes and some unusual treats – the infamous candy apple for example, which gets sold out within the first hour of the festival. Food here is slightly marked up compared to outside, but hey, it’s really all about the atmosphere here! As for the merchandise available here, well, there was a stall selling some figurines at fire-sale prices. If you are in the market for Japanese trinkets, there were quite a selection available. There was even a random nubox outlet selling accessories for Apple products(?!). The main problem really was getting around because of crowd issues, despite the organiser’s efforts.

School Grounds
School Grounds

The expansive grass field is most people would end up later in the evening, either to enjoy their picnics in the open and/or watch the performances. Festival games are located at a far corner of the field.

Game Coupon

Festival Games (as in, the “official” games conducted by the event organisers) cost $2 per game round. One tip: Buy game tickets early if they are offered for sale by roving staff members! The queue to buy tickets at the game booths are just as long as the line to ENTER the school. Anyway back to games: there were three stalls this year.

Yoyo Tsuri
Yoyo Tsuri

Yo-yo Tsuri, or “Yo-yo Fishing” involves picking up a floating water balloon from a pool of water. The thing is, you are only given a “W” shaped hook that is attached to a curious white “string”. Sounds easy? Unfortunately most players end up catching nothing! Well, the white string is just rolled tissue paper. The game keepers are kind though, and give away “sympathy” water balloons even if one fails. The trick here is to find the lighter balloons – those that are floating higher than the rest. I managed to catch one water balloon (which had barely any water), but made the mistake of swishing the hook around to get a better view of the rubber band loops – the paper broke when I tried to lift another balloon.

Shooting Game
Shooting Game

The second game, which I will just call Shooting Game uses NERF guns instead of the traditionally seen BB guns, thanks to local regulations. One game coupon gives you just two foam bullets – it is more of a game of luck than skill. Prizes include well, Collon biscuits, pocket notebooks (which go for $0.30 outside ??!) and some toys for children (the real prizes).

"Pull String" game

The last game is Senbonbiki (千本引き). I don’t know what’s the right translation but most people call it the “Pull String” or “Lucky String” game. Each game station is a box with a lot of strings from the centre. These strings are connected to items flowing out from the sides of the box. To play this game you simply have to choose a string and pull it, causing an item to rise. You just win that. Prizes range from small packs of snacks, cute trinkets, toys and even shockingly, the worst prize possible: a bottle of mineral water.

Since this is really based on luck, there really aren’t any strategies at all. There are three lines for this game, each with a different choice of toys: Boys, Girls and Unisex.

Natsu Matsuri

The last event at Natsu Matsuri is the Bon Odori, which is a sort of dance around the stage at the grass field. Everyone is encouraged to take part in this simple, rhythmic dance which lasts for about 90 minutes. I didn’t stay late enough for most of the Bon Odori though.


COTEetCIEL Laptop Messenger Review

COTEetCIEL Messenger

I have grown out of Crumpler and Timbuk2 bags, which are too common and do not last as long as they did before – Plus these brands release bags in all sorts of bright colours that could become hard to wear sometimes – so that you have to always buy one in black, or feel pressured to buy a few of your favourite colours. I’ll just be honest here and say that none of the designs really “speak” to me anymore, plus I hate the amount of noisy Velcro on those bags. Dumping the Crumpler is an important phase of any youth’s rite of passage to adulthood. I’m sure the world-famous tea noir agrees with this statement.

Hailing from France, COTEetCIEL (pronounced like “kote-a-seal”) is one of the rising makers of stylish lifestyle products for the “modern nomad”. As they have clearly put it: Practicality and a pure aesthetic colliding in innovative products for professionals on the move. A strong sense of aesthetics and functionality from Paper Rain (the designers of COTEetCIEL) can be both seen and felt in their COTEetCIEL products. Their other notable products include Diver Sleeves for MacBook Pro and some slim cases for iPhone.

The Messenger bag is well-built and simple in design – with the use of purposed lines and recycled materials, in an ensemble of discreet colours. It has a dedicated laptop sleeve, the right amount of compartments at the right places and expandable to accommodate A3-sized articles. This is one of the rare messenger bags to make it on the pages of Bagaholicboy and if that is saying nothing about style to you, I don’t know what does.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Flip open the flap and you get two zipper pockets, useful for stuffing with small gadgets and other necessities.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
The flap, when left unclipped, expands to a large, A3 sized compartment.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Inside the main compartment is a hidden zipper pouch and slots for pens.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Clips hold down the main flap and can be adjusted to keep the bag’s physical form very compact.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
The laptop sleeve compartment at the back is tailored to fit a 15″ MacBook Pro.

Clips and zippers, which are a lot quieter to use, are found on COTEetCIEL bags – so you won’t get looks in a library trying to fish out your stationery. I have also found the dedicated laptop compartment to be very useful for dumping small items for quick retrieval later.

The Messenger uses recycled PET canvas marketed as CetCycle (known as C&CCycle in 2011) which is rather impervious to most stains, dust or marks. Just a wipe with a damp cloth and it’s good to go. The shoulder strap is not the typical ballistic nylon found on messenger bags, also known as the “seat belt strap”. Instead, it is a thick fabric strap similar to the textile shoulder strap found on Louis Vuitton’s men’s collection and other good brands. This is quite important because the “seat belt strap” will eventually cause some section of shirts (especially around the shoulder) to wear off due to friction. Of course if you are the sort of person with camp t-shirts making up the bulk of your wardrobe, this is then not a matter of concern.

Speaking about colours, the Messenger comes in Black, Black Melange, Grey Melange, Toffy Brown and Navy Melange. Take a look at the colours here. The Melange types are not flat colours, but a subtle, rock texture-like blend of tones, similar to what Mélange actually means. The bags I owned and featured here are in Black and Black Melange.

Some stores stock a revised series of COTEetCIEL bags. As I have not seen any coverage about the 2011 editions, I’ll just share the info here.

In 2011, Paper Rain has renamed the label, from COTEetCIEL to Côte&Ciel. This has been reflected in products manufactured in 2011. Do not be alarmed if you see the slightly different name on products.

Similarly, the marketing term for the textile used for their bags have been changed from CetCycle to C&CCycle.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Zippers have changed from the clunky and large sort to something flat and discreet. The zipper pull design is now a ring, instead of a tab. This design change makes the bag much quieter – that slightly annoying noise of metal tab rattling is no longer present.

COTEetCIEL new label
The label is no longer a piece of hard plastic (which gets scratched easily) but a suede-like fabric tag with (removable) rolled cardboard inside to retain the cylindrical look.

There is also a new CetCanvas colour available : Green. It is similar to COTEetCIEL’s Urban Chic colour, but darker – like Filson’s green canvas. Definitely not the same shade as those cheap SAF backpacks. It is exclusive to the Rucksack line for now.

Items from COTEetCIEL can be found in many stores in Singapore, including Apple resellers as well as specialty lifestyle stores such as Cumulus. For a full list of stockists, refer to this page:


Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 3 and 4

I’ll just consolidate the last two days of this trip into one post!

Nathan Road
Skip Skippity Skip
Alert #3

The weather forecast warned us about Level 3 typhoon winds – and it was accurate. It was very comfortable to walk outdoors, but the wind brought about several bouts of unpredictable sweeping rain. Most of the day we were inside shopping malls on the third day.

In Search of the Summicron-M 35mm in Hong Kong
I tried my luck searching for 2nd-hand Leica and Zeiss lenses in Hong Kong, but the only reliable place was some shops at Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tin Cheung Camera has a few stores in the area so I visited their newly-relocated store in a mall called K11 – great selection, they have almost every essential lenses BUT the reason why they still have stock? The prices are not exactly great, in fact um – it’s at the level of “I just want it even if it’s $1500 more” sort of price. The second shop I went to was Tin Cheung Camera Classic, a pre-owned photography store. The prices are close to what you see on eBay, but at least you could inspect the lenses and try your luck bargaining.

Canton Road

The Southern part of Canton Road is better known for its incredible concentration of European flagship boutiques, but also the Louis Vuitton Maison store – that is easily twice the size of outlet at ION Orchard in Singapore. This entire stretch is linked together and is part of a larger mall called Harbour City.

Mak's Noodles
Mak's Noodles

One notable place we had lunch was Mak’s Noodles, located in Causeway Bay. They have a few branches in Hong Kong, so either Google it yourself or contact me for details. The original restaurant is at Central though. Even if you are not a fan of Wanton noodles, you should really try Mak’s! The noodles have a fresh, crunchy texture – coupled with plump, scrumptious wantons that is served with fragrant soup stock in a small soup bowl. You might end up having a few extra servings!

Mong Kok area
Mong Kok area
Street food

As usual, the streets of Hong Kong at night are more characteristic. Locals roam the streets and shop till very late at night. It is not surprising to see crowded shops even at 11pm – unlike back in Singapore where most shops close at 8pm and even if they are open (like most stores at Marina Bay Sands), it’s mostly deserted.

Morning market
Towel vendor

We explored Garden Street again on the last day. In the morning there aren’t as many shops open but there are still interesting things to see. This microfiber towel stall, for example.

road works
Public light buses

Apart from the usual public buses, there are also light buses that seems to stop at almost random places (without bus stops) to pick up passengers. For tourists I think taking a cab to get around is best option.

hope it holds up

The buildings in Hong Kong seem to be always in a state of construction (or re-construction). Bamboo is used for scaffolding and it seems rather precarious to walk under them when there are strong winds, especially when you discover how they’re held in place together!

near jade market

The northern section of Canton Road houses Jade Market. According to my Mom, it is very difficult to find any good deals here anymore if you are in search of higher quality jade. Apparently there is now an EVEN higher concentration of mass-produced altered jade, so do be watchful and well obviously, bargain!! until the stall owner brings her broom out to chase you away, that is.

Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360

At last, it was time to go to the airport. There is now a very large food court in the departure hall, but it was too crowded and crazy so we just went to this restaurant with an quaint name – Cooking Mama 360. There is no relation to the famous series of video-games, but the food served here is more interesting than their name – there’s a mix of Korean and Japanese dishes that are coupled with Pasta-style mains, but with thick wheat noodles. Worth a try!

All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

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