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Unboxing the Xiaomi MI-2

I am bad at writing reviews. So I will spare everyone the technical details and go into how I felt about the Xiaomi MI-2 instead. First of all, there is

Photos – Night at the Merlion

Merlion

Went to check out the renovated Starbucks at Raffles City after dinner and half guessed I would met DK there since this was his favorite joint. So it was no

Short Takes

On the visit of Prince William and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge 3:45pm 12-Sep-2012A very “typical” afternoon in Queenstown WAYANG – a Javanese word for particular kinds of theatre (Wikipedia). During

Random Discourse – Journey of the West and Real Life

Typical portrayal ofJourney to the West In my previous post, I mentioned that it is of no surprise why more people seems unable to act, or simply refused to do

Commentary – Why I disagree with Kong Hee’s “theology”

fp01

First, let me make it clear that the opinion I expressed in the post below does not represent the opinion of any church. I write this knowing that I will

Review – HAME MPR-A1

Hame MPR-A1

To be honest, this was a purchase on impulse. For those who are looking for a technical review of the device then this post will disappoint since I don’t really

Nostalgia: Old Singapore Photos (II)

Clifford Pier

Fitzpatrick’s – No more in Singapore! Cold Storage… somewhere! Queen Elizabeth Walk Haw Par Villa Jurong Drive In Theatre NDP – 1968 NCO Club – Beach Road Nicoll Highway Botanic

Nostalgia: Old Singapore Photos

National Theatre

These came through an email from a lady friend I knew from Asia FriendFinder and I thought I should share it with everyone, since they are photos of old Singapore,

Current Affairs: The Fracas at Hong Lim Park

It is with a mixed feeling of disappointment and annoyance as I watched the video of Han Hui Hui’s confrontation against the NParks official and one of the police officers posted on Roy Ngerng’s own Facebook wall.

There are many aspects of that disappointment, and I will attempt to explain them one at a time. Firstly, I am disappointed on how a good cause of letting the government know that improvements should be made to the CPF scheme is now hijacked by such extremists. To put in it an analogy, a good pot of porridge is now ruined by a few pieces of rat shit (几块老鼠屎坏了一锅粥). In my opinion, whatever can be said about the shortcomings of the CPF has been said. Now what is left is wait for the response from the government, which to some extent we have heard from the Prime Minister himself during the National Day Rally. Frankly, what else is there to say right now? Return our CPF? To everyone, right now? Pray tell how we actually expect the government to actually even achieve that. Pray tell how voting the PAP out will make that happen. Which alternative party is insane enough to actually promised that as part of their political platform?

Next, I am disappointed with the NParks actually approving the event when they should have record the YMCA event which they have given prior approval. It allows the conspiracists to call this a deliberate “trap” set by the authorities which culminated in the confrontation that took place, such that Han and Ngerng will look bad to turn public opinion against them. While I not so politically naive to deny that such a thing may not be too far fetch as documents declassified in the United Kingdom has shown that such set-ups may have been used in the 50s and 60s, how does that justify the uncompromising, uncooperative attitude Han Hui Hui has displayed in the video Roy Ngerng posted? When I read those declassified documents and about how Lim Chin Siong was set up and betrayed, there is a well of indignation. But if I was a reader reading about Han and Ngerng, and watching that video 50 years later, I would not be surprised to have felt completely nothing at all!

I admire the calm and restraint of the NPark official and the police officer on site, but I was utterly disappointed that they did not come prepared with the knowledge of what are the laws granting them the authority. It is my considered opinion that the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Chapter 257, and PEMA for short) would have given the NPark official the authority to revoke the permit given to Han Hui Hui and her group at any time. A friend had pointed out that if he was the NPark official he wouldn’t have the patience to even bother to convince her to compromise and move to the unoccupied part of Hong Lim Park, but would have taken out a Blackberry (if he is issued one) and sent her the written revocation of the permit right away. An ex-police officer told me that the revocation would then allow the police officer on site to act under Section 18(b) of PEMA and if she refused to cooperate, to put to good use their standard issue “Rolex Kings” (aka handcuffs). All of these are on the Statutes for those who would bother to read them and I did not just make it up.

It is my sincere hope that this lesson will now improve how civil servants deal with some of the more belligerent members of the public in the future, and in the future come fully prepared with the legal knowledge on what laws grant them the authority to act. Even though I do not appreciate a high-handed approach by government officials, people like Han Hui Hui who thinks they know a lot about the law and thus could “legalise” their otherwise repulsive actions and behaviour should be smacked so hard that they learn the lesson that ‘children should not play with fire’.

Finally, I am utterly disappointed with how some people can subject their moral compass beneath their political stand or ideologies. I am no fan of the PAP myself but there is nothing that would stop me from pointing out what is wrong. Heckling* the other event is simply wrong, especially when that event is held by an organisation that has nothing to do with government and the ruling party. All the more so when it was an event for special-needs children, the aged and the under-privileged. Failing to make the best out of a bad situation, and refusing to compromise and cooperate, not only demonstrates Han Hui Hui’s lack of wisdom, but also her conceit and selfishness. There is even now an attempt to justify the heckling of the other event by arguing that the YMCA emcee has been provocative. If we are to twist the facts and to justify what is wrong as right, or use the law to legalise what is wrong, then we have no moral authority to criticse the PAP for the same in the future. In fact, for those of them who now justifies Han and Ngerng, just what moral right do they have to condemn the PAP on giving its town councils contract to AIM in the past? Do not forget that granting that contract to AIM may well have been all legal under the law, but there are very few of us who would equate that with the morally right thing to do.

To end this post, let me point out that Han and her band of merrymen has not only done nothing to help to bring about more meaningful change and improvements to the CPF system, their actions may have irked some middle-voters into deciding that it may actually be wiser to vote for the PAP again. And that to me, would have been the greatest setback for democracy in Singapore.

There will be those who would say that I am getting things wrong because I was not on site myself. Say whatever you want, but for a more or less unbiased report I suggest that they refer to this article on Yahoo Singapore, and not the Straits Times or the likes of “The Real Singapore”, for reference. In general, Yahoo has been way more balanced in the articles posted on Singapore’s current affairs and the politics compared to the two I have named.

* – I have chosen not to amend this part even though I have promised to amend it. The reason being that though strictly speaking none of the performers were really heckled, the word heckle is synonymous with the terms disrupt, interrupt, and harass. In my opinion, that was exactly what happened to the event itself, even when the special needs children were not specifically heckled.

Ingress, one and a half year on…

I have played this for close to 18 months since Terence introduced it to me. Perhaps the only other game I have played longer would have been Tribal Wars. Within this period, a number of friends have also joined this game. They are Ridzuan, DK, Roger, Jean, and Sue and her fiance. Ingress has been quite interesting in the beginning, and it has served to be the only exercise I can get. I also get to meet new people from time to time and it has helped me made new friends. There are also those who are nothing more than an annoyance, but this is not a post about their antics, as those losers are often treated as cheap entertainment, or served as an example what a sorry excuse of a human being would be.

But it has come to a point I have decided to scale down the amount of time I spend on the game, and also to leave the local Resistance community. When I told DK about this matter, I was told that Ridzuan has “retired” from Ingress as well.

It is totally expected, as I have already expect more and more people to leave the game until Niantic get its act together to deal with the rampant cheating in the form of bots and spoofers happening in Singapore. If certain people believe they can gain the upperhand by cheating, then one of the solutions maybe to give it to them. Assuming that one faction controls all the portals in Singapore and the other faction is completely rendered ineffective through cheating, so what? It’s not like one can wear that as a badge of honor or that it is going to earn them some big money like other gaming competitions.

In any case, Niantic has demonstrated that it is completely inept (if not clueless) in dealing with Ganess – the problem at the root of the spoofer / bot issue. It is even more surprising that they have not taken any legal action against Ganess, since its makers are now profiting from something that is free by charging money for Ganess accounts. At times I have even wondered whether any intellectual property laws have been broken if those chaps have actually taken the original Ingress application and modified it.

Niantic claims it is making an effort on that. In fact, that effort is best demonstrated in its enthusiasm in dropping the ban-hammer on players who used clients likebroot. “broot” contains a number of features which many players actually welcomed. It was a wrong target because the ability to disable some useless features like unnecessary animation has been a great energy and time saver. It would have been better had Niantic shown more enthusiasm in evaluating why the “broot” features are welcomed by players and improve the occiFAIL official client. But very little of those features were implemented, with the exception of portal key count and inventory count (and even that was pathetic attempt). It took them long enough to come up with a mass-recycling feature too. Perhaps, Niantic either has hedge some of its funds in power-generation companies, or those in high places within those companies may have been investors.


Look up, and look harder!
You might find a real bot like this; or
a “spoofer” riding one.

Back to the matter of bots and spoofers. A ban is pointless in addressing the real issue because new disposable email accounts are easily obtained. By the time the cheats are banned, enough damage would have been done in the game to dishearten and disillusion players who had put in footwork and sweat in the real world to play the game. Every genuine Ingress players understand Ingress is a game that cannot be won, because even capturing an anomaly (i.e. winning a particular event) means pretty much nothing as the opposing faction can turn the tables in the future. But all of them expect to be at least able to get ahead at certain times as long as they put in a lot of effort in the game. Bots and spoofers make a mockery of that. What point is there to plan and send teams to several remote locations and work in conjunction, when a cheat with several accounts can reverse days of planning and hours of hardwork by using several disposable accounts in a matter of minutes? Really, no amount of hardwork any player puts into the game can be effective in a fight against a group of players who are running several bots on several cheap Made-in-China devices in the comfort of their home.

The next evil would be multi-accounting, which started off as a minor evil primarily due to the 2000-item limit in the game. Niantic has repeatedly ignored the feedback from players to do something about the item limit. Some players have suggested that portal keys should not count towards the item limit, while some suggested designating a portal as a vault to store “excess items” or items less used, such as keys obtained during overseas vacations. That portal will then be accessible by a designated key which cannot be used for linking nor can it be recycled. Really, the concept of a vault / bank / house is not novel, as they are present in MMORPGs such as Ultima-Online.

Thus, even though multi-accounting is against TOS and definitely against the true spirit of the game, it has more or less become a tolerated evil among some players. Offenders who are discreet about it generally get away with it. Unfortunately, multi-accounting has been taken to the extreme by some players to build level 8 portals with less than 8 people, or to show up alone to crash an opposing faction’s farm with 2 devices (and worse when those devices have more than one account where they can switch on the fly). Just like bots and spoofers, a ban is equally pointless. That’s not mentioning that perhaps even my grandmother could have acted faster than Niantic on the reports on those cheats. In one particular case, one of the offenders who has often showed up with two accounts to crash a Resistance flash farm survived for more than half a year. Even so, I was told his main account is currently only suspended, not banned. To rub salt over injury, Niantic didn’t even suspend all of his other accounts. That’s not mentioning the number of other blatant offenders who are guilty of constantly building high level portals at their own areas of play remained go scot free.

Anyway, the fact that each portal key counts towards the limit means that the problem is further exacerbated with the subsequent explosion of portals in the game. Everyone wants more portals to play with, but the lack of quality control in the portal approval and review process has been an ongoing problem for a long time. If anyone wants a quick example of the lack of quality control, one should take a look at these examples[1] [2] [3]. It would have been pretty obvious to even the untrained that these are objects from the same playground which are less than a few meters away from each other. In short, if they are placed at their correct location, they would have violated portal density guidelines and should never been approved. Notice how they are placed apart such that a small sham cluster portals now exists in the otherwise uninteresting location where these portals are located.

There is nothing bad about more portals in general. In fact, for the purpose of farming, clusters of portals near to each other is great as long as the objects truly existed, and they meet the so-called portal submission guidelines. It saves time and effort in obtaining (farming) more equipment. However, sham portals in utterly remote and uninteresting, especially those in private residential areas submitted for the benefit of the lone agent residing there, are not. Even worse are non-existent portals whereby in several instance it took months before Niantic is convinced the object really doesn’t exists. On top of which, Niantic would approve any stone sculptures or signboards regardless how common they have been. Even rubbish bins with some designs are accepted as portals. To put it bluntly, all of these low quality portals completely destroyed the reality of the storyline. Whoever the “shapers” are, they apparently see that their attempt to reach large masses of the (probably) better cultured and more intelligent human population has failed and it would be easier for them to do so through mundane objects. So much for that kind of “enlightenment”.

It is also perculiar that while Niantic has considered kindergartens and private residential areas to be off limits, the same does not extend to military compounds. Niantic is said to be set up by Google to obtain location data to improve its database, and it makes us wonder what Niantic / Google wants to do with the information on objects within foreign military bases outside the United States. It is also a complete failure of Singapore’s Total Defense concept when some servicemen do not take the security of their camps seriously.

Much has been offered by the player community to help Niantic address the portal issues. Players have suggested ideas from regional moderators from both factions to even building portal verification process (for both portal candidates and portals reported to be invalid) into a game. As usual, Niantic has disregarded such offers. Some players have suggested that Niantic do not want players to be involved to avoid accusation of bias, or to ensure the integrity of the location data gathered through Ingress. What integrity of data are we talking about when fake and non-existent objects have been made into portals? Meanwhile, Niantic set up a portals appeal community in Google+, which allows the players to contest a rejected portal candidate or a portal edit that has been rejected.


The allged portal review process

Which leads me to the next point. It is all for show. Because when one go through some of the appeals, one would either find that the so-called portal guidelines are not only as elastic as Mr Fantastic, the process itself is probably run by monkeys. There is absolutely no consistency, which leads to the famous statement: the only thing consistent about Niantic (or whatever that is even considered a process for portal reviews and submission) is its inconsistency. The lack of quality control is obvious whereby objects on a single wall art or many inane objects within the same structure end up as complete sham clusters. Niantic even went so far to say a prior approval / or removal of another portal does not set a precedence. So, whether a portal stays or goes really depend on which monkey (Oops, I apologise!) person is looking at it. Perhaps it also depends on whether this person woke up on the right side of the bed that day, or whether he had great sex the night before or even a proper breakfast that morning or not.

Finally, there is the matter of perceived bias towards the other faction on the part of Niantic. The accusation is not restricted to the Resistance. But from the perspective of Resistance players, the shifting of three artifacts to the designated Enlightened home portal in the current “Helios” anomaly series served as the most tangible evidence of this perceived bias. That’s not mentioning that Niantic has disregarded the clear evidence of cheating through the use of spoofers in one of the satellite sites during the previous “Interitus” series and handed the victory to the Enlightened. In fact, I have even heard the joke that even players with multiple accounts, bots and spoofers are given ‘preferential treatment’ depending on their faction. It maybe true considering how long the various incarnations of the “B00MZ” bot survived before they are banned. Some even believed that portal candidates submitted by the Resistance are scrutinized more stringently and often rejected. Even after those portal candidates are accepted, they are believed to be easily removed when reported by the Enlightened. Furthermore, the fact that even the Enlightened faction logo looked way better than that of the Resistance does not help. Whether the alleged faction bias is real or imagined does not really matter since Niantic doesn’t give a flying fxxk about the opinion of the players, or how some felt about it.

Anyway, there is really nothing much players can do about Niantic. As one of the agents pointed out, this is Niantic’s game and the players can only suck it up. Players can accept those rules (or whatever passes off as rules), or well, accept those rules. Perhaps Niantic may take notice only when there is a negative growth in overall game activities, but by then Google may decide Ingress has served its purpose and wind it down. Meanwhile, since it is a free game, anyone who is unhappy with Niantic can always just leave the game.

Similarly, anyone who is unhappy with how the faction community is run, can also just leave as well. As one of the Malaysian Resistance agent I met recently told me over a friendly cup of tea, no one has any right to tell another player what is important and how to play when it is the player’s own time and effort, and that player pays for his own device and data plan.

Good point. Even though that came after I made the decision to leave the community.

Random Discourse – All that fuss about the CPF

I read this recently. If I understood it correctly, the entire premise of that post seem to be that the so-called “Roy Clique” is detrimental to the opposition and that it will sort of deter the middle voters which have in recent years drifted towards voting for the opposition camp. If not, it suggest that this clique will actually draw the rabidly anti-PAP crowd towards them and thus would hurt the moderate parties which have chosen a less confrontational path in their politics.

I can’t tell the future so I cannot say it will not turn out the way as the author of this post has predicted. However, for those who are “ABP” (anything but PAP), it really doesn’t matter whether an opposition party will ride on the coattails of the “Roy Clique” or not. Any opposition party will get their votes, which typically made up about 25 ~ 35% of the total votes. I will not be surprised that certain opportunists may capitalise on the CPF issue in the next election to try and win votes, but the condition whereby a split in the opposition vote will only occur in a multi-corner fight. Should the ruling party thus win with a small margin and less than 50% of the votes cast in such a situation, then instead of pointing fingers at who has divided the votes and caused the electoral defeat, the opposition parties should sit down and reflect upon their own political discourse and evaluate why it has not drawn the other voters towards them. They will have to make themse;ves stand out among the rest. The Punggol East By-Election has demonstrated that an opposition party can stand out among the rest and consolidate the opposition votes in itself. I personally hope that isn’t a one time effect, but an example of a maturing electorate.

Back to the matter “advocated” by the “Roy Clique”. I have bothered with none of the CPF-related “protests” at Hong Lim Park so far. Does it mean I do not care?

No. I certainly have my own unhappiness about the minimum sum, and I am not particularly happy with the returns in both the Ordinary Account (OA) and the Special and Medisave Accounts (SA & MA). I certainly isn’t happy that we cannot withdraw our CPF in a lump sum in our old age. However, I do not see what the likes of Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng will achieve. Han and Ngerng can ramble on and on about the problems or the issues of confidence we have about the CPF, but what outcome are they expecting in the end? I am not asking them to propose solutions, but at the very least tell us what they believe is the best for us, and it is up to the million-dollar paid bastards to tell us whether they can (or cannot) do it.

Roy and his merrymen seem to want to convince us of a few “facts” – that a large part (or perhaps even all) of our CPF monies have been mismanaged and lost, and that we are short-changed in terms of returns. Contradictory in some sense, because wouldn’t asking for more returns for something that may already be gone make the hole even deeper?

As for whether the CPF monies are still there or not… I’ll make two assumptions. Firstly, assuming the worst case scenario where the money in the CPF (Central Provident Fund, for those outside this country who are not familiar with our abbreviations) is indeed all lost, then there can be only one outcome – i.e. the value printed on our CPF statements will not even worth the paper it’s printed on, one way or another. That also means whatever Singapore currency in your wallet and outside the CPF is going to be pretty much worth shit as well. If you don’t get it, that will be the result either because of the complete collapse in confidence in Singapore’s financial viability, or the Singapore government printing more money to cover the hole. In short, whether I liked it or not, it would be better to “live the lie” so some people can continue to draw out their CPF in parts during their old age instead of everybody seeing the value of their money gone.

Next, assuming that the CPF monies are still there (i.e. just invested and cannot be cashed out immediately or suffering a shorfall as a result of paper losses in investments), then the main bone of contention would be the minimum sum and why CPF members are not allowed to draw it all out in a lump sump.

We often heard that this is to stop people from messing up. But I disagree. From a completely selfish point of view, the main reason for this to be done is to avoid having to bail out anyone who has misused their CPF monies either through womanising or gambling, regardless how few these people are. Really, everyone can say I am good enough to manage my own money, but no one will stand up and admit “I screwed up” when they failed to live up to their word. It really doesn’t matter to me when people messed up their own lives, but there will always be those who complain that the government isn’t doing anything to help these people, and even advocate for the government to do something. For those who are all so noble, they can put their money on the line and pledge it to help those people. After all, it shouldn’t really concern anyone to make that pledge, if they believe everyone can be responsible to themselves and also live with the consequences of their own choices.

Back to some of the common complaints about the CPF, I have sort of notice that there are some things which are not very well publicised. They are unfortunately all on the CPF website for those who make a bit more effort to look. But really, more can be done to better inform the people about them. Here are some of them:

  1. It is not entirely true a person cannot get better returns with his CPF. There is the CPFIS (CPF Investment Scheme). While it is limited in its scope in what it can be invested in to make more returns, it is not true at all that there is no avenue whatsoever beyond the first $20,000 in the OA. The downside means the person will also have to take the risks that comes with the scheme, and it all depends on your risk appetite / tolerance.

  2. It is also not entirely true that the government has done nothing to help the returns of the CPF catch up with the minimum sum. The first $20,000 in the OA and then the first $40,000 in the SA & MA combined (i.e. the first $60,000 in all 3 accounts) pays an additional 1% p.a. on top of the current CPF interest rates. Consider the power of the compound on the long run. It may not be really a lot, but it is in my opinion baby steps in the right direction. We can all hope that the extra interest that is paid on the first $60,000 can be adjusted according to inflation, or that some form of dividends on top of it can be paid to our CPF accounts when the country is doing well.

  3. The minimum sum seems unachievable for all. However, most Singaporeans should be able to “own” a HDB flat, even for those who consider it a long-term lease. The value on that flat itself would probably have surpassed the minimum sum. While we cannot pledge all of that as the minimum sum, the fact most of us will still have a shelter over our heads which will allow us to cover one of our basic needs. Even at its barest, some of us can still rent out a room to make a small amount of money.

Before I end, I will point out that there will be those who doesn’t have more than $20,000 in their CPF accounts and thus not be able to get that 1% additional interest nor invest their money. There will also be those who don’t own a flat. This group of people is worse off than the lot of us who are unhappy about not being able to see all of our CPF money again. The next worse off group would be those in need, who can only look at the figure in the CPF statement but not utilise it. I have no solutions for them and in my case, whether I liked it or not, I need to have some alternate savings and make some sacrifices now. Hopefully when I am old, whatever I managed to save together with the monthly amount doled out from the CPF will be enough to meet minimum subsistence level.

There are also those of us who felt we have been betrayed and that the CPF system that we were once promised no longer serves its purpose. That may perhaps be true. But it is completely meaningless to whine about it. We can demand someone to make things better, but we still have to plan for ourselves if things don’t go our way. So for those of us who still can, make the best of whatever tools and means we have now to go as far as possible.

i Light Marina Bay 2014

This is the second in a series of backlog blog postings.

This event was held between 7th ~ 30th March 2014 at the Marina Waterfront.

As with any such events, there is always a crowd of people and it usually takes a lot of patience (something I truly lacked) for one to be able to get a shot of the installation without the usual annoying obstructions and hinderances.

Just like the Doraemon Expo, some of the other visitors can really drive a person who is trying to get a photo crazy. Some people can hog an exhibit (or installation) for many minutes trying to get their ‘perfect shot’ oblivious to the people around them. In one particular case, there were two cosplaying girls that were hogging one of the exhibits taking photos in various pose. Perhaps the drool from some of the lecherous mutts standing spurs them on in their display, but I would hope they would just get lost so I can get a shot and move on.

If it weren’t these idiots, then there are those who would obstruct the exhibits and check their photos after they are done. Common sense is sadly… uncommon. I wondered what happened to the traditional upbringing because my parents would often berate me for being a hinderance and inconveniece to other people. If they were children I would understand, but not so when some of these are adults. As if that isn’t infuriating enough, some of them even have the cheek to ask those standing around waiting to take a photo for them. Talk about rubbing salt on an open wound.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. Enjoy the photos of some of the exhibits and some of the sights in the area, though my lack of skills at photography really don’t do some of them any justice.

Travel Log: Doraemon Expo, Kuala Lumpur

It’s been some time since I updated the blog, and I am getting a little rusty at blogging. It had actually took me a bit of time to find the means to post the photos I have uploaded as a slideshow. The worse of it all there seems to be no ‘embed slideshow’ option in Google+ and it wouldn’t have been possible had I not found out from here how I can ‘sneak back’ into the old Picasa site to do so.

Well, Google… It maybe a great idea to buy Picasa and make that a feature in Google+ as ‘Photos’. But if you are going to throw away the good features on Picasaweb and still expect us to use Google+ Photos as often as Picasa – – – D R E A M     O N!

The following pictures were taken at the Doraemon Expo in Kuala Lumpur some time in February 2014.

Personally I didn’t really like Kuala Lumpur. The ‘neighbourhood’ where my hotel is at around Bukit Bintang looked like what Geylang used to be, lined with prostitutes in the wee-hours after midnight. In the day, the place seems to be way hotter than Singapore but that can be said for parts of Hong Kong too. If it wasn’t for the company I had, it would have been a really boring trip. Of course, the best takeaway from that trip is Dim Sum at Marco Polo Restaurant, and some of the local fare in the vicinity of my hotel. Perhaps if I will go back to Kuala Lumpur, it will only be to get myself stuffed with the good dim sum and some of the food there.

By the way, the Doraemon Expo has now moved nearer to Singapore. It’s just across the Causeway at Danga Bay and it will be on until 21-Sep-2014. So catch it while it’s still there.