Sunday, November 7, 2010

Live for the now

Picked up a copy of the New Straits Times last night at the mamak as I was waiting for my dinner to be ready. I hadn't brought my phone so couldn't play sudoku to amuse myself as I normally do... and the TV was showing football, pah.

It's been awhile since I last read the physical version of the paper. All doom and gloom -- floods, bus accidents, plane crashes, volcano eruptions -- makes me wonder how anyone would ever dare to go out of the house after reading it. There was an article about an inter-state express bus crash that claimed a life. I was reminded of all the times I'd taken the Sri Maju bus back home (a 4-hour journey), or from home back to KL. Makes me feel lucky to be alive.

And then there's the news about the volcano erupting in Java, Indonesia. I've always wondered about people who live in areas where there are active volcanoes, earthquake fault lines, or in paths of hurricanes -- why do they do that? When they know there's a chance of this... this thing they can't control doing irreparable damage, upending their lives? I remember feeling flabbergasted after reading in National Geographic that people in New Orleans were going right back and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Me, I would have tried to start over somewhere new, I think. Why stay when there's the chance that it might happen again?

It seems to me that most things are random. I'm a Christian so I believe that there is a plan, but still, since I don't know the plan everything appears random. Between the things that are random and the things that are somewhat predictable (like the fact that if you live on a fault line you're probably going to experience an earthquake sooner or later), I'd like to eliminate the predictable ones. The random ones we all have to live with; you just have to be careful and prepare the best you can.

So sometimes I think about the fact that I might die tomorrow, get hit by a bus on the way to work or something. I mean, you never know, right? I think about the fact that this might be the last time I'm seeing my brother because something could happen to him as he makes his way home to Seremban. It brings home to me the idea that life is short and unpredictable, and we ought to make the most of it because we simply do not know how long we have. We don't know how much time we'll be granted with those we love, and we don't know how much time we'll have on this earth.

The person who died in the bus crash I mentioned above was a 25-year-old man, engaged to be married. The wedding was to have taken place next year. I can't even imagine what it is like to have someone ripped away from you like that, when you have been making plans together. All of a sudden the life you envisioned will never be, and you have to readjust all your hopes and expectations for the future. Sometimes I look at long-time couples and think they are a little complacent, although of course it's not my place to judge. But they hold off on making a firmer commitment to each other (read: marriage) because they want to establish their careers first, they want to buy a house, they want to save up for the perfect wedding... they think they have a lot of time, but how do they know? We simply don't know.

Oh, I'm not advocating that we should rush into anything. But you know, when you are pretty sure that you've found the one for you... what are you waiting for? In any case, since life is unpredictable, the most important thing is to cherish those you love. Too many people have regrets after losing a loved one, or when they themselves are lying on their deathbed. Say the things that need to be said. Do the things that need to be done. I've started telling my parents that I love them -- we Asians are notorious for being lousy at verbal expressions of love, especially my parents' generation and the generation before them. But, I want them to know, even if I'm often not the perfect daughter and I make decisions that are incomprehensible to them, that I do love them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hanyalah nasib (It's just luck)

A lot of things are said about social media and connectedness. Yesterday, after the Judith Griggs story broke all over the place, Noel Cody wrote, "It's surprising that, in our connected world, Griggs believed she could act the way she did and get away with it."

I'm not surprised, though. I've been blogging since mid-2002 and in the course of my, uh, blogging life, I've written about loads of things that have happened to me. So have many of my blogging friends. Yes, we get supportive, sympathetic and encouraging comments, but never has anything like this happened to any of us. No one took up our cause or got fired up enough on our behalf to offer more than the ordinary levels of help and support.

The fact is, when something like this happens we realise how very connected we all are, and how the Internet connects us; but it is a very rare thing, or at least, rarer than we realise. Whether or not an incident gets spread all over blogs, Facebook, Twitter and international news sites is often a matter of luck. In Griggs' case, I'm pretty sure she'd consider it bad luck.

One of the most important things here was Monica Gaudio's (the original blogger) friendship with Nick Mamatas on LiveJournal and Nick's posting, then tweeting about what had happened. He's an author, and writers tend to know each other -- it's a small community; the same goes with journalists, lawyers, and so on. So fellow writer John Scalzi read Nick's post and felt strongly enough to blog about it. He also tweeted a link to Monica's post. His tweet was then picked up and retweeted by Neil Gaiman, a very well-known author. This was the second important thing: like I said yesterday, Gaiman has 1,500,998 followers on Twitter, so his tweet was probably highly influential in setting off the Internet storm.

Looking at the chain of events, they might not have been entirely unpredictable but you couldn't say they were probable, either. In fact if Monica had not known Nick Mamatas, or Nick hadn't felt strongly enough to blog and tweet about it, none of the rest of this might have happened.

A few months ago, over here in Kuala Lumpur, a person posted a Facebook note about two petrol station attendants who had refused to lend him the station's fire extinguisher to help put out a fire in a nearby traffic accident. As a result, the accident victim, who had been trapped in her car, burnt to death. The story was blogged and retweeted by many, and picked up by at least two local online papers. When the story broke, the company responded by saying that the station attendants had refused to open the door or lend the extinguisher to the man "as he was not acting calmly when asking for assistance", which is a bit ridiculous -- the matter was urgent and it had been an emergency, how could they expect him to be calm?

There was some outpouring of anger and indignation against the petrol company in question. Some people called for a boycott of all the stations owned by that company. Yet all in all it was nothing like what Griggs experienced. The vilification only took place in small pockets among local Internet users. Life went on as usual for all the rest. And, ultimately, nothing changed. It became a sort of storm in a teacup, despite the loss of a life.

The point is, although there's always the possibility of someone voicing out their displeasure on the Internet, and this getting picked up by big name bloggers or international news sources, most people who act like asshats tend to think, "It'll never happen to me." That's a very human thing. It's also true that most of the time it doesn't, or won't happen. I do believe in "the power of the Internet" but I also believe in being realistic.
Somewhat related reading:
Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted (New Yorker)

Friday, November 5, 2010

The tale of Judith Griggs

I find loads of interesting things on Twitter, which is mostly why I use it these days. This morning I read about a magazine editor lifting a blogger's post and printing it in the magazine without first notifying or asking for permission. The magazine attributed the article to the writer in question, so imagine her surprise when her friend congratulated her on getting published!

She contacted the magazine, and when asked what she wanted them to do about it, she asked for "an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism". Why Facebook? Because the magazine's pages are uploaded to its Facebook page, each issue being granted its own photo album.

Well, not only did they refuse to apologise, the editor of the magazine wrote an email that said:
  1. I've been an editor for 3 decades and I know about copyright laws

  2. I haven't done anything wrong because everything on the Internet is public domain

  3. You should be thankful that we actually credited you as the writer

  4. Your article was badly written and our editing made it better, so you should be paying us.

It's the sort of thing that proves truth is stranger than fiction.

Unfortunately for the magazine editor, Judith Griggs, the writer blogged about all of this. Even more unfortunately for her, that post was picked up by Twitter and Facebook users, even retweeted by Neil Gaiman (who has 1,500,998 followers). Eventually big names like Boing Boing,, The New York Times, and The Guardian, to mention a few, picked up on it too. Thus what must have seemed like the whole Internet community descended on her magazine's Facebook page, "liked" it and proceeded to, uh, vilify her business practices via wall postings.

Not only that, people began to investigate further, discovering that her magazine had also lifted content from other places, among them more prominent names like Martha Stewart and the Australian chapter of Weight Watchers; these people/organisations were informed of the discovery, as were the magazine's advertisers. Five writers/organisations have confirmed their work was reproduced without permission, with some contemplating legal action. A number of advertisers have also withdrawn their ads from the magazine.

It turns out that the magazine is mainly distributed locally and most of the advertisers are local businesses. While everyone is busy wondering how Griggs could be so misguided as to believe that anything published on the Internet is public domain (it is not, in case you were wondering), I'm just wondering what ramifications all this will have for Griggs.

I mean, how is she going to continue living where she's living? Local business owners and their employees will probably be giving her the cold shoulder after this; a (now former) advertiser commented, "...being associated with publications like this that don't respect its readers (who are all our potential customers) is unacceptable to us in light of their practices. What angers me even more is the fact that it is being made light if [sic] by the Editor herself." Apart from that, I expect the local townspeople will be pointing and whispering behind her back, and I'm also wondering what her employers will think about her notoriety, since editing the magazine wasn't her day job. I really can't imagine how she's going to hold her head up or dare to go out in public.

Yet she posted on her magazine's Facebook page:
    Hi Folks!

    Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry -- my bad!
    You did find a way to get your "pound of flesh..." we used to have 110 "friends," we now have 1,870... wow!

    ...Best to all, Judith

It really does seem like she doesn't get it at all. In my part of the world, we call this Being unclear of the concept.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Le crowning glory

Despite my secret suspicions that all shampoo bottles contain the same thing, no matter what they claim, I put a great deal of effort into choosing my shampoo. I want one that is just right for me. The problem is, when I find a shampoo I like, by the time it runs out the brand has reworked its formulae, repackaged, re-whatevered, and generally my shampoo doesn't exist any longer.

Also, judging by the range of shampoos available, I am the only Malaysian with hair that has a tendency to be oily. I mean seriously there is a shampoo for every other hair condition out there -- dry/damaged hair, dandruff problems, brittle hair, frizzy hair, long hair, coloured hair -- but none for oily scalp. I feel like the shampoo companies are discriminating against me!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Single-handedly redeeming all women

I'm a bit obsessive about my parking. I absolutely refuse to park senget (crooked) because I will NOT give anybody the opportunity to say, "No wonderlah -- it's a lady driver." I'm determined not to fit the stereotype.

Seriously, there is no reason why a woman shouldn't be able to drive (and park) just as competently as a man. It irritates me a lot that so many of them don't, to the extent that my entire gender is now tainted by this... this... notion of ineptness!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I have a bad feeling about this...

I have two bookmarks folders called "To blog" -- one on my current installation of Firefox, and another in a saved FF profile (saved before I did my last OS reinstall). It's not that I have nothing to say, merely that I don't feel like I always have to say everything I want to say. In short, I have opinions but I no longer feel the need to put them "out there".

This does not bode well for my blog!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reasons. I need reasons.

Spent three hours today getting my car windows tinted. Before I bought this car, I always thought tinting was a sign of vanity; another way to "dress up" your car, so to speak. But now I've discovered that the tinted film can block infrared rays, keeping your car cooler... it can even prevent your window from breaking -- the glass will shatter, but the film continues to hold the whole panel in place.

So it seems worthwhile to do.

Aesthetics are only important to me up to a point. I've never liked the shape of the MyVi (bulky, with lots of bulging curves) but I might have bought it if I'd been happy with the way it handles. Having said that, I'm quite relieved I had a good reason not to buy it. I love my little Satria Neo ♥

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Very telling

When I first caught sight of my WUL car plate it immediately brought to mind "unordered lists", because ‹ul› is the HTML command used to create a bulleted list on a blog or webpage. Apparently I'm a lot geekier than I thought I was

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not in THAT much danger of dying

Even though Nicholas Negroponte is correct when he says that books cannot be distributed to enough people -- real books, that is, as opposed to ebooks -- he forgets that, currently, ebooks are not very convenient to use. Especially in the developing world, which he thinks will adopt ebooks quicker than First World countries, "because they don't have anything else".

He talks about sending a laptop to an African village with a hundred books loaded in it. "When we ship, with our laptop, books to a village, we put a hundred books on a laptop, but we also send a hundred laptops in, each with a hundred different books. That village now has 10,000 books. This is an African village without electricity." ("Then what do the laptops run on?" I wondered. The answer is: batteries and alternate power sources like car batteries.)

But it's hard to carry a laptop around the way you carry a book around, so even if you have a hundred books, that doesn't mean you'll read them. You're not going to stare at the screen for hours reading, the way that I can snuggle down in my favourite armchair with a book and instantly lose myself in a story.

The devices that do make ebooks portable, convenient and easy to read are still largely inaccessible. People talk about more books being sold for the Kindle ('s ebook reader) than ever before, but the Kindle doesn't even ship to Malaysia. Without it, you can't purchase ebooks from Amazon, either. The most basic iRiver model, an ebook reader which you can get via MPH Bookstore or in Digital Mall and Low Yat Plaza, costs RM999. The iPad costs even more than that; and, like the Kindle, it's also not on sale in Malaysia, as far as I'm aware.

Plus, hard plastic devices aren't ergonomic and even though portable & convenient, they don't feel good when you hold them. Your fingers are pushed straight and flat against the back of the device when you grip it, which is tiring and awkward for the hand muscles. Books can bend and are easier to grasp (for this reason, I don't like hardcover editions either!).

So I don't agree with Mr Negroponte when he says that physical books are likely to vanish in five years. I think that's an extremely optimistic prediction. Just because the technology is there to squash more books than you could read in a lifetime into a tiny chip, it doesn't mean people will automatically or even naturally take advantage of the technology. There are more things to consider than that alone.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My baby's here!

Am sooooo tired. But have finally gotten my baby!!! At 8pm tonight. I love the way it handles. Very, very happy! No regrets getting the manual transmission instead of auto :)))

Saturday, October 16, 2010


"You have to let go of your megalomania."

You see, I already had a bit of my music organised into nice little folders on my hard drive.


Omg it's all jumbled up now! was my first thought upon importing the songs to iTunes.

"iTunes sorts your music on your hard drive by artist. For it to be effective, you've got to let it do what it was designed to do," another friend advised.

"But I want it to be sorted by genre!" I protested. I mean, to me the genre is more important coz you have jazzy moods, rap moods, instrumental moods, pop ballad moods... you know what I mean.

"Sort them into playlists on iTunes."

"But I want to also be able to find them on my hard drive!"

"You can't have both!"

That's where the "megalomania" comment came in... but but but it's MY music! How can puny iTunes prevent me from organising it the way I want! *stomps foot, crosses arms, sticks nose in the air and pouts*

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tales from an iTunes n00b

In my zeal to organise all my music on iTunes, I am on a quest to rip every single CD I own.

So far I've done 45 and I estimate I still have about maybe 100 to go.

Mr TDH unwittingly activated my OCD tendencies -- he showed me how, on his iPhone, the album's cover picture appears on screen when he plays a song from that album... so now I'm also fixated on putting in all the album artwork into iTunes -_-"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Essential element

Me: A piano would never fit in this apartment.

Housemate: Of course it could. If you took away the bookshelves...

Me: (horrified) How can you have a house without bookshelves?!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I had set myself a goal to update this blog every day but it's clearly not happening. *sigh*

At the moment I'm trying to organise all my music on iTunes, which I've never used before. Traditionally I just use the VLC media player to play music & videos, since it copes well with a variety of formats, including .flv videos.

But I'm thinking of getting either an iPhone or iPod Touch eventually so it seemed like a good idea to start familiarising myself with iTunes. In the process I'm discovering some music I didn't know I had, and some that have me wondering, How on earth did that get on my hard drive? -- because I wouldn't ever listen to that -_-"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wise earworms

I wonder if it is possible for something that is generally good to be not so good for you.

Today I read a lady's tale of going from being a homeowner to a renter, and in my head I heard my father's voice: "Instead of helping other people to pay their mortgages, you could be paying off your own mortgage and then in the end you'd have something to show for it." There's unarguable wisdom in that, the kind of logic that no amount of argument can defeat.

And my own practical mind wondered: "But what about when you're old and you can't afford to pay rent anymore because you don't have a job?" I don't live in America; the state won't help me. I don't have children that I might be able to stay with in future... although I do have a brother. I guess he's my contingency plan. *grins*

But as this lady said, owning a home is not just about paying the mortgage, it's also about "upkeep, manicuring and constant vigilance over disaster". Besides, I've never been very comfortable with the idea that I'll have to go into debt for 30 years just to own a home. I'm actually pretty happy renting. But then my dad's words of wisdom keep circling in my head...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Now, that's talent!

One of my Twitter contacts linked to this video. I cannot imagine how the artist did that! Painting on a surface where you can see what you're doing is hard enough, let alone painting on yourself where you can't really see what's happening... and the awkward angle of holding the brush... good grief!

Another friend posted about a different piece of art yesterday. Am getting the itch to create...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

They did not find it stimulating

    Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants.

Wanting to find out more, I looked up the reference provided. In an experiment with tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) larvae, the researcher reported, "In concentrations from 0.3 to 10 percent (by weight) for coffee and from 0.1 to 3 percent for tea, there was a dose-dependent inhibition of feeding associated with hyperactivity, tremors, and stunted growth. At concentrations greater than 10 percent for coffee or 3 percent for tea larvae were killed within 24 hours."

He also reported, "Dried tea leaves, which contain two to three times the caffeine of dried coffee beans, were about two to three times as effective as coffee beans in inhibiting weight gain. Furthermore, the concentrations of caffeine found naturally in undried tea leaves (0.68 to 2.1 percent) or coffee beans (0.8 to 1.8 percent) were sufficient to kill most Manduca larvae, suggesting that naturally occurring methylxanthines [of which caffeine is one] could function as endogenous insecticides. When applied as a spray to natural feeding substrates such as tomato leaves, caffeine [...] exerted pestistatic and pesticidal effects that resulted in leaf protection."

I rarely drink coffee or tea, so can't identify with many of my friends who need a cup of coffee to kick-start their day. The brew smells heavenly but is way too bitter for me -- I tend to dilute it heavily with lots of milk and sugar! I mostly only drink it at department meetings or seminars where coffee & tea are served...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How times have changed!

I'm not sure what to feel about VideoEgg acquiring Six Apart. I've used Movable Type ever since my original blog moved away from Blogger in June 2003. Recently I switched to Wordpress because MT has been getting more & more complicated and bloated. Used to be I could fiddle with the template and easily make some minor changes to customise things, but now the template is so complex I can't even find the thing I want to change, let alone figure out how to change it. Even Erna complained that MT was too difficult to configure and kept trying to get me to switch to WP so that I wouldn't bug her so much about all the things that weren't functioning properly on my blog :p

Still, to know that things are changing with MT... even though users have been assured that development and support will still continue... it kinda makes me a bit sad.

I'm not sentimental about my car, but I'm sentimental about my (ex)blogging platform. I can't believe this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Can't afford to live in this country!

    I graduated in 1977. My starting salary in government service was RM1,205.
    Consider the price of items in 1977: teh tarik (20 sen); mee goreng (30 sen); ais kacang (30 sen); Toyota Corolla (RM18,000); single-storey terrace house (RM35,000); first-class cinema tickets (RM1.60)

    Graduates of today earn an average salary of between RM1,500 and RM2,300. They pay RM1.20 to RM1.50 for teh tarik; mee goreng (RM3.50-RM4); ais kacang (RM1.50-RM3.50); Proton Saga (RM35,000); single-storey terrace house (RM100,000); cineplex tickets (RM10).

    —Hassan Talib, in a letter to the editor published in the New Straits Times

He is wrong on two counts; the single-story terrace house, at least in Petaling Jaya, is more in the region of RM300,000 to RM450,000 -- I've been doing some desultory house-hunting. The cheapest car in the country today, the 660-litre engine Perodua Viva with manual transmission, is RM24,900 including road tax & insurance costs. You can only dream of owning a Toyota -- the most basic model of the 1.5-litre Vios costs RM70,783.

Cars have become so unaffordable that one of the local makes advertises "100% loans". I didn't realise how they managed that till I started car-shopping. Then the salesman explained to me: you buy the most basic model of the car, they put in a loan application on your behalf for the top-end model, the bank approves the loan, and as a result the loan amount covers the entire cost of the car. Thus you get a car with no downpayment at all.

It's a bit scary to think that there are so many people out there who are struggling so badly to manage that they can't scrape together enough for a down payment, and this is the only way that they can afford a car. It's even scarier to think that they will then take a 9-year loan (the maximum term) and struggle to pay the installments.

As for buying a house, I'm now wondering how anyone manages to afford one. Property prices are ridiculous in the city, and if you buy on the outskirts you have to factor in the commute: traffic jams = time & fuel & tiredness. Seriously do you realise that RM450,000 for a single-storey terrace house is nearly half a million? Sheesh! Talk about paying through your nose...
Related reading: Then and Now -- Life Gets Harder in Malaysia

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trivia of the day

The average desktop is crawling with 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
—University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba, as quoted by ABC News columnist Buck Wolf

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Privacy is an illusion

The Internet has made it so easy for us to publish our thoughts, opinions and ideas to all & sundry. So much so that many people don't think twice before they send out something, as in the guy who was found guilty of a crime for jokingly tweeting that he would blow an airport up.

The airport was closed due to snow, and he was frustrated. I might have said the same thing myself -- how many times have I said things like, "I'm going to strangle that guy!"? We all say things like these and don't mean it. But the thing is, we say these things verbally to people who know us and who therefore take our words in the spirit in which they're meant. Too many people forget that what they put on the internet is public -- accessible to the whole wide world. They forget that not everyone is going to place a generous or kind interpretation on what they say.

I think this is partially due to Facebook. Somehow Facebook has given us this feeling that if we put something online, we're saying it to our circle of friends & acquaintances... Facebook has made us feel safe to reveal ourselves, to say whatever we want in the belief that others will understand & forgive accordingly. But if your status updates (or the status updates you're commenting on) aren't private, guess what? You'd better be careful or you'll end up on

In any case, Facebook's not totally to blame. In general, people seem to be much less restrained when it comes to writing things on the Internet. When blogging was all the rage I used to see bloggers insisting, "It's my blog, so I can write whatever I like." True enough, but whatever gave you the idea that exercising your right to write whatever you like carries no consequences?

Blogging taught me that yes, you can say whatever you like because it's your story, your experiences, or your opinion, but the other side of the coin is you have to be responsible for what you say. I treated my blog sort of like a diary, writing about my joys & sorrows, achievements & frustrations, but then my mom read it and complained that I was making her sound like a terrible mother, and I felt guilty... one part of me thought it was my right to talk about how I felt, it wasn't like I was writing to vilify her or anything like that... on the other hand, I also understood her wish for privacy and I wondered if maybe I didn't have the right to say things like that publicly, to talk about the struggles and difficulties we faced within the family.

These days I'm a lot more circumspect (in addition to blogging under a pseudonym!). A number of times I've written a tweet and found my finger hovering over the 'enter' key as I reconsidered the wisdom of sending the tweet out. If I'm venting... or I think someone might misinterpret what I say and possibly use it against me... or I think I'm just writing it to get attention... then I often don't send it. The same with blog posts; I have a number of drafts written that I eventually decided not to publish.

In this day & age I think we all have to be a little more careful what we place online. People used to say that we ought to pay attention to grooming and carry ourselves well in order to create a good first impression; but nowadays a lot of first impressions are created in cyberspace, through nothing more than the various bits of text we've left floating out there. A good rule of thumb: You should never place anything online that you wouldn't want certain people to see. Even if your Facebook account is private, one of your contacts could take a screenshot and email it around; on the Web, there's no such thing as absolute privacy anymore. If you want it to be private, keep it off the Web!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Goldfish ain't as dim as you think

Blink said something about a goldfish's memory to me when I met up with him for dinner on Sunday: he said the goldfish has such a short-term memory that by the time it has swum round the bowl, it's forgotten that it's right back where it started.

Intrigued, I asked the all-knowing, almighty Google. Turns out Blink's version is a myth; it seems scientists now believe that goldfish have a memory span of up to three months. The Mythbusters team on Discovery Channel even trained a goldfish to navigate a maze or obstacle course!

I know this is not very exciting news, but it's probably way more exciting to you guys than listing the pros & cons of every car I've test driven over the past two weeks. I've been breathing, eating, drinking, and dreaming of cars, and I still haven't decided which one to buy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

And it's not even fun!

    If Twitter founders Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey had asked people in a phone survey if they wanted a new service that's like blogging, but where you're not allowed to exceed 140 characters or post pictures directly, everyone would have said no, they wouldn't want that.
    How to Succeed Like Apple

Actually, I still don't understand how or why Twitter is so popular; when I look at my twitter page I can hardly tell what the heck is going on. Half the time I feel like I'm coming into the middle of a conversation, as people I follow -- I won't call them friends because not all of them are friends -- reply to other people they follow, whom I don't follow and whose tweets I can't see because their tweets are protected, and therefore prevent me from deciding if I want to follow them but gives me the impression that they probably wouldn't approve a follow request anyway.

Take the confusion you're feeling after having read that paragraph, and magnify it by ten times: that's how confused I am over my Twitter page.

The latest buzz is over the coming "new Twitter", a new interface. Mashable has even dared to say, "The new web interface effectively makes Twitter desktop clients irrelevant in the long run." But one look at the first screenshot on Mashable assured me that I'll continue sticking with TweetDeck and Sobees. All it took was seeing "5 new tweets" at the top of the page.

I don't want to have to keep refreshing the page to see my new tweets. If you can tell me I have five new tweets, why not show them to me? In the end, this is why I feel frustrated that Twitter is so popular. It doesn't work well straight out of the box; I have to install a third-party app to make it easier to use. That alone should have caused it to fail. Other than that, it doesn't encourage conversations -- it's good for broadcasting, for one-way communication; but two-way, not so much. Isn't "social media" supposed to help you, well, be social, and doesn't socialising include conversations, like a back-and-forth? Sure, you can go back-and-forth on Twitter, but it's impossible to properly track all the @ replies, and everybody else who's listening in either gets annoyed by the irrelevancies cluttering up their page, tantalised by intriguing bits of a one-sided conversation or finds their heads bouncing back and forth as they attempt to follow the trail of the @ ping-pong ball.

Why do I tweet, then? Oh, I resisted for the longest time. My Twitter account remained dormant. But many friends began tweeting and if I didn't tweet it ended up that I was the only one who didn't know what was going on... so I'm tweeting out of self-defense.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bathroom reading

Each of us has at least one book on the bathroom shelf for this purpose. Current contributions:
    Housemate #1: Slipping into Shadow by Craig Thomas (Genre: Fiction - Thriller)

    Housemate #2: What They Really Teach You at the Harvard Business School by Francis J. Kelly & Heather Mayfield Kelly (Genre: Non-fiction - Business)

    Me: The Determined Virgin by Daphne Clair (Genre: Fiction - Romance)

It's gotten to the point where we can all tell whose book it is just by looking at the title.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wanted: A marriage made in heaven

Choosing a car to buy is a bit like choosing someone to marry. You look at all the options available. You try to decide on one that is the best 'fit' in terms of lifestyle, income bracket, personal principles, etc. (Hybrid or electric, anyone?) You ask yourself whether you can stand to look at it and drive around in it every day for the rest of its natural life. You hope that after purchasing, the shininess won't suddenly wear off, only to reveal a lemon -- thus breaking your heart and making for a very difficult relationship. All these things come into play.

On the other hand, you're prepared for the fact that some maintenance will be involved, and you know you're going to have to fork out wads of cash at various times. It's something you accept as a foregone conclusion when you have a car. But in the end, you tend to buy the car that attracts you the most, the one you fall in love with... if you can afford it, of course. Sometimes you even buy it against your better judgement, like when people pour money into an old junk that's mostly running on a wing and a prayer.

On the part of the car, this is more like an arranged marriage since it doesn't have much say in whom it gets to marry. Still, it's willing to do its best to help you in any way it can, as long as you don't abuse it. It's proud to be chosen and hopes you will be a good fit for it as well. These things don't go only one way, you know!

Plus, being a machine, it knows it has a few minor quirks or, um, issues that you're going to find out about later, but it hopes you'll continue to love it anyway. No relationship is completely smooth, and no one is perfect, so this is perfectly normal, right? It figures that's something you'll have to deal with and adjust to, just like it'll have to adjust to the fact that you like to, oh, I don't know, take corners at 80kph... It's also expecting that you'll work at the relationship -- regular maintenance and servicing is a must to ensure a state of harmony -- but the rewards are great, and the fun you'll both have together--!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Apparently, I've suddenly gotten "erratic". How did THAT happen?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dealing with it.

Expectations. I hate them, but they are all around, and I cannot even escape my own.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Too many ouches

I see a vehicle in my future. A shiny vehicle.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Choose thy drug wisely

    Several psychologists regard romantic love as an addiction because it shows addiction characteristics such as the lover's intensely focused attention on a preferred individual, mood swings, craving, obsession, compulsion, distortion of reality, emotional dependence, personality changes, risk-taking, and loss of self-control. Romantic love is likely to be a constructive form of addiction when one's love is returned but a destructive form of addiction when one's love is rejected.
    Reward, Addiction, and Emotion Regulation Systems Associated With Rejection in Love by Helen E. Fisher, Lucy L. Brown, Arthur Aron, Greg Strong, and Debra Mashek


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ba da BING!

Note: For context, see here. (You won't be lost if you don't, though.)
Mr TDH: I would never have taken a title like The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing to be an outdoor back-to-nature book.

Me: Really? Why not?

Mr TDH: *giving me superior male look* Hunting and fishing are two completely different things.

Me: But you go into the jungle to hunt and there are lakes in the jungle, so you can fish...

Mr TDH: *facepalms* You did NOT just go there.

Me: Sorry lor I'm not all that fond of the outdoors!

Mr TDH: I can tell.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time to practice drawing! :p


By Edward Monkton

Saw this as I was browsing at the MPH Bookstore warehouse sale over the weekend. It made me laugh. And it's so different from the usual cynical take on things!

It also made me think, hey, I'm sure I could do something like this... and if Edward Monkton can make a living drawing & writing such books, I should be able to do it too! I mean, people are actually willing to pay upwards of RM31.90 for this? After all, it's more or less just a picture book... it's funny and cute and uplifting, but I don't know if I'd consider it worth RM31.90, which is about the same price as a full-length paperback novel.

On the other hand, Monkton has other revenue streams as he also does greeting cards and writes children's books under his actual name, Giles Andreae. It's encouraging to find a self-proclaimed "poet, artist, philosopher, interesting fellow" who's able make a comfortable living doing what he enjoys most. Isn't that what each of us wishes for ourselves?
Andreae: I'm a writer who draws

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Truly Merdeka

This was supposed to be posted on Aug 31, Malaysia's National Day, but I only managed to write it today. English version follows after the Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) version.

Dengan bangganya kita melaungkan perkataan "merdeka" setiap 31 Ogos, tetapi malangnya kita belum lagi merdeka di hati. 53 tahun telah berlalu selepas mencapai kemerdekaan daripada pihak penjajah, tetapi pemikiran kita masih sama sahaja. Tingkahlaku kita menunjukkan bahawa kita belum lagi benar-benar merdeka. Ini disebabkan kita terus berjuang untuk melindingi hak sendiri.

Jika kita sudah "merdeka", maka kita tidak lagi patut berasa seperti kedudukan kita sentiasa diancam. Itulah maksud 'merdeka' sebenarnya -- tiada sesiapa yang mempunyai kuasa untuk menyakiti kita. Akan tetapi, kita seolah-olah masih takut dan berasa tidak selamat, lalu masyarakat kita berpecah-belah dan setiap golongan saling berjuang untuk melindungi hak sendirian. Akhirnya, kita lupa bahawa kita bukan sahaja ahli golongan-golongan tertentu, malah kita juga seorang rakyat Malaysia.

Perpaduan dan harapan "1Malaysia" tidak akan tercapai sekiranya kita selalu berpegang kuat kepada hak individu, hak kaum, ataupun hak sebahagian masyarakat sahaja. Di sini saya merujuk kepada keseluruhan rakyat, sebab pada masa ini, setiap kaum di negara ini memang hanya memikirkan hak sendiri sahaja. Kita rakyat Malaysia perlu mengutamakan hak rakyat Malaysia dan berjuang untuk negara, bukannya untuk kepentingan kita sendiri. Inilah kebenaran yang perlu diakui dan diterima oleh semua lapisan masyarakat, tidak kira yang miskin ataupun yang kaya.
*      *      *      *      *      *

Unfortunately, although we proudly shout "Merdeka!" (freedom) every August 31, our hearts aren't free. It has been 53 years since we gained independence from the colonialists, but our thinking has not changed at all over the course of those 53 years. This is obvious from the way we speak and act; we behave as if we still have to fight for our rights. That is, we act like someone who isn't truly free.

If our struggle for freedom has truly come to an end, we should no longer feel threatened or insecure. However, the truth is that in our fragmented society, each of us is constantly fighting to protect our own rights instead of considering the rights of our nation as a whole. If we continue to hold on to our individual rights, ethnic rights or community rights, we will never be able to achieve unity and "1Malaysia".

In saying this, I am not singling out any single group, because many groups in this country are still fighting to preserve or protect their own rights. As Malaysians, we ought to put our own rights first -- our rights as citizens -- and fight for the good of the country, not to uphold our own interests. All of us, no matter whether rich or poor, need to recognise and accept this truth.
Much thanks to Florence for editing and proofreading the BM version; my Malay is sooooo rusty!

UPDATE 6 SEPT: Changed BM version to a less formal tone, thanks to Mr TDH, my unofficial advisor :p

Friday, September 3, 2010


I love that my brother used the word 'heinous' in a text message to me. That's the first time I've ever seen or heard anyone use it in conversation!

Monday, August 30, 2010


I think, at the core of it, most of us want to know and be known. Not in the sense of becoming famous, but for someone to see who we are -- the person we are inside. At the same time, we're afraid that if others were to see that person, they wouldn't like him or her, because we're all too aware of the myriad flaws and weaknesses we have, the ones we take pains to conceal and go to great lengths to ensure nobody will ever know of.

It's a catch-22 kind of situation. But it's why we're always reaching out for love, because we know only love can forgive the ugliness that resides within us... and more than forgive: it embraces the whole person, imperfections and all.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Never alone

This song always soothes me.

Bapa Yang Kekal, by Franky Sihombing

English translation:

I have received perfect love from You
Not because of any good in me
But only because of Your grace
You restore me
You make me worthy to call You "Father"

Whatever I ask, You provide
The moment I seek, I find
When I knock on Your door, You open it
Because You are my Father
My everlasting Father

You will never let me walk alone
You are always there for me
Because You are my Father
My everlasting Father

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coveting her words

"She had the lollipop proportions of a model -- big head, stick figure -- pale skin, wintergreen eyes, and a nose barely big enough to breathe out of." -Melissa Bank, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Fantastic description, isn't it? On a separate note, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing has to be the most misleading title ever. I'd never have picked it up if I'd seen it on a shelf; I'd have thought it was another one of those boring how-to nature books.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's hard work being this attractive

This Questionable Content strip reminded me of the impossible time I have trying to choose new spectacle frames. I'm hopelessly myopic, so much so that my parents could sit across the table from me and I wouldn't be able to recognise them without my glasses on. So imagine me slipping on a pair of frames at the optometrists' and squinting into a mirror one inch away from my nose.

It's sheer coincidence that none of my glasses so far have sucked or made me look like Medusa or something.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Still celebrating!

Ohohohohoho. Durian. *mmmhmmmmm*

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birthday birthday birthday!!! *virtual cartwheels*

It's my birthday! So now you know why the trippy post yesterday. *grins*  I love birthdays... even though they're often accompanied by just a teensy dash of melancholy -- but this year there is nothing to mar my delight and I'm just so happy! *twirls around*

32 sounds like a good number, doesn't it? I've always liked even numbers for some reason. 30 was too portentious, like "oh my God I'm no longer in my 20s", but 32 is really nice. If it were a person, it'd be wriggling its bottom and settling more comfortably into its seat, closing its eyes and contemplating the next 8 years with a contented smile on its face.

I do know I'm totally overanalysing, but I don't care. It's my birthday! :p

One of the reasons I love my birthday is that in recent years it's become a time to celebrate life... my life, specifically (d'oh, who else's, right?). It's a time when I look back and marvel at how faithful God has been to me. After all these years, to have reached a place of contentment and to be at peace with who I am -- that's a very precious thing. I highly recommend the 30s: you're more comfortable in your own skin, you're not as much of an ass or as silly and giddy as you were before, and although it's balanced by financial responsibilities and having to be all grown up, there are ample compensations. Ample.

Summary: God is good, I feel very blessed, life is wonderful, and it's my birthday!! *twirls around some more*

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dancing around in a field of flowers

I think it would be cool to learn graphic design. And drums. And jewellery-making. And painting. And... wow, there are a lot of things I'm interested in, not enough money & time for all of them!

This is a good week. A great week. Also a busy week. I'm going to spend nearly every night out with a different bunch of friends. Normally I don't have such a hectic social life but this week is special and a shining exception. For the bestest reason ever. You guys will find out why eventually, if you don't know yet.

I'm very happy, and I'm so happy to be happy. It's good to be happy! I highly recommend happiness ^.^

Monday, August 23, 2010

Idle early-Monday-morning thoughts

It would be so much easier if I could just randomly speak thoughts aloud and have them recorded. So many things running through my head & I get a lot of ideas when I'm driving, but can't write 'em down. Very inconvenient.

I wonder if other species' tongues are also just for taste or for other purposes? Like, frogs use theirs to catch prey, right? And snakes use theirs to pick up scents so they know whether a prey or potential mate is nearby.

Also, how do we know tissue is clean? We take for granted that it is, but what guarantee do we have, really?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The loot

Dropped in at the Pay Less Books sale yesterday and got 8 books for RM47. Very pleased, especially as none of them were romance... no guilt! :p

Day before yesterday, visited BookXcess and got 2 books for RM17.90.

Okay, no more buying books till the end of the year!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting my own back

Me: How's thesis? :p
Florence: Don't ask sensitive question can or not :P

Misery loves company. Hurhurhur.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More characterisations

Mr TDH's comparison of Faye and I reminded me that several years ago, Esh told me I remind her of Chuckie from Rugrats. But she can't explain why.

I've never watched Rugrats, so I had to look it up. After looking it up, I can't explain why either. I'm certainly not a worrywart! That's my mom. No, I'm kidding. Well, only partially. But that seems to be part of the job description of a mom, anyway.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I love working here

Department coordinator: You look pale, take the rest of the day off and GO HOME!

Me: *meekly obeys*
Related: Life tip #712: Never underestimate the ability to look ill when you are actually ill.
This post-'flu fatigue or whatever you call it is really doing me in, though.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A meaner Sunflower

Mr TDH has me reading Questionable Content (a webcomic) after he told me yesterday that the character Faye -- the one with short brown hair and square-rimmed glasses -- reminds him a lot of me. "Except she's VERY much meaner," he said. That's ever so slightly scary!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life tip #712

Never underestimate the ability to look ill when you are actually ill.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Putting life back into it

I feel as if my writing is getting stiff and boring; it's rarely spontaneous now. Recently Sharon reminded me of something Julia Cameron said in The Right To Write:
    Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up. Whenever I strive to "think something up", writing becomes something I must stretch to achieve. [...] When writing is about the importance of what we ourselves have to say, it becomes burdened by our concerns about whether the reader will "get it" -- meaning, get how brilliant we are. [...] Most of us are really willing only to write well, and this is why the act of writing strains us. We are asking it to do two jobs at once: to communicate to people and to simultaneously impress them. Is it any wonder that our prose buckles under the strain of doing this double task?

Blimey, this hits the nail on the head! I realised then that I overthink every single thing I write. Even my blog posts. I always want to write something that's "worth reading". No wonder I've never been able to do stream-of-consciousness posts no matter how hard I tried.

Talking to Alex about this, I told her I agonise over every word I choose when I blog. Her reply? "No wonder [your posts] are so polished you can see your reflection in them!" Good God, that's not the effect I've been aiming for! Polish is all very well, but it's so sterile. I want passion. Emotion. Flames dancing off the screen!!! Fail.

Cameron adds: We can either "think of something to write about" or we can write about what we happen to be thinking about. I'm going to have to find a way to turn my brain off.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A rose by any other name...?

Two people recently told me that Redoxon vitamin C is "very effective". But vitamin C is ascorbic acid... how can one brand's ascorbic acid be more effective than another's? Is there a variety of ascorbic acid? Highly unlikely...

Market perception and consumer psychology must be a pretty interesting subject.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"There's no rule that the piano can only be played with hands."

Lately I've been thinking about the amazing resilience of the human spirit. Whenever I contemplate any of the terrible things that might befall me, I always think, "I don't know if I could survive that." But when disasters actually strike, many people not only adapt, but even rise above their circumstances. Reader's Digest magazine is full of stories like those.

When I hear or read such stories, it always makes me wonder: if that were me, what would I have done? Would I have been able to hang on to hope? To remain cheerful, and not allow bitterness to consume me? Would I have persevered through sheer doggedness, or given up because it was so frustrating and painful? These are questions I suspect most of us pray we'll never have to confront face-to-face.

Watching this video this afternoon, I was amazed all over again. I play the piano and I can't imagine how this young man did it with his toes! But it's not just that. It's the fact that he's doing something nobody would have thought of, that people believed was impossible. In a newspaper interview, he said his first piano teacher quit, because the teacher didn't believe it was possible for anyone to play with toes. And indeed, he's limited because his toes can't stretch to play keys that are far apart, but he's developed his own style of playing to make up for that limitation.

On the show, he told the judges, "[After I lost my arms] I had two choices: to simply die a quick death, or to live a wonderful life." I like that thought, because that's a choice all of us can make for ourselves. Live a wonderful life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fantastically felled by the 'flu (says she sarcastically)

I still don't believe the fairly common cough, sore throat, runny nose & body aches are really a form of 'flu in the strict medical sense, but either way... Clarinase is a wonder drug.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conscious consumption

Last night I was looking at a pair of pink earrings. They were pretty. They were also RM40. Supposedly made of Swarovski crystal, but only a single bead. I thought of all the earrings I already have -- especially the pink ones -- and decided I didn't need a pair of RM40 earrings. They didn't seem worth the price... although they were pretty.

I suddenly feel very grown-up. Maybe my parents are finally starting to rub off on me.

Lately I've been thinking that it really wouldn't hurt me to get rid of some stuff I never use. There are a lot of things I could do without, if I were honest. Most things I own aren't necessities. I'm reminded of Logan Smith & Tammy Strobel's story about decluttering and living a simple life.

But while many people have blamed our modern spending habits on a desire to keep up with the Joneses, I don't believe that's always the main reason why people like to buy stuff. I never did accummulate things in order to prove anything to anyone. For me, it was the security of having things around: If I ever need it, it'll be there, was my way of thinking. Made me feel as if I was in control of my world. An illusion, but a comforting one nevertheless.

Besides, I deserve nice things, don't I? And I earn the money, right? So why shouldn't I buy nice things for myself? After all, not like anyone else is going to buy them for me... That was my reasoning. So, if I wanted it and I could afford it, why not? Why deprive myself? I deserve to be happy! Do you see the mental self-talk here? It's not called "retail therapy" for nothing!

Of course, advertising and marketing also exist to make customers want things they don't need. My eyes still light up when I see a "Sale!" sign, and it often makes me itch to buy something I otherwise would never have considered buying -- just because the product is temporarily available at a much lower price than usual. I don't know why I react this way. Maybe because it's a "good deal" and I just want to grab it before it's gone. I think the feeling of always wanting more, or better, is closely related as well: caused by the fear of losing out. Sometimes it's not that we're trying to impress anyone, but we're more focused on acquiring what we can so that we don't get cheated of... whatever it is. Never mind whether it's good or desirable or useful, as long as we don't miss out!

In the end, though, I still think a large part of it is a lifestyle choice. Living in the city, I can see how an Astro subscription (satellite tv) has become so common among middle-class working professionals that nobody really questions whether they really need one in their homes. I don't have anything against it; I'm just saying this is a lifestyle choice that people are making, often without even pausing to think about it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Random thoughts from browsing in a bookstore:
  1. I'm sad that Erle Standley Gardner's books have been out of print for years. It's not fair that Agatha Christie's continue to be so well-known & popular, when his were just as good as hers.

  2. P.S. I Love You was based on an unusual idea that had the potential to make a really great story, but Cecilia Ahern's writing style ruined it... too flippant and shallow, I think. Not enough emotion in the writing. A pity. Not going to ever read anything by her again.

  3. In contrast, The Time Traveler's Wife was brilliant... Audrey Niffenegger has a new book out, saw it at BookXcess. Maybe I'll get it. Only RM19.90, after all. Pretty cheap for a book these days.

  4. Why do publishers seem to think I want to have a huge picture of the author on the back cover? This is a horrible trend. What happened to the sypnosis? I couldn't care less what the author looks like! I want to know what the book's about!

  5. Back when I was a teen, I read a P.G. Wodehouse book (one of the Jeeves ones -- can't for the life of me recall the title) and remember it as being very funny... strangely enough have never read another Wodehouse book since. Why is that?

  6. Some books are better off being left in the past where they belong. When reread, they don't live up to the long-remembered magic.

  7. So many names I recognise on the spines, but have never read...

  8. And all those books I bought because I thought they'd look good on my bookshelves, and were worthy of reading -- still unread, too! *sigh*

  9. Freakonomics was one of the most fascinating non-fiction books I've read in recent years... I want Super Freakonomics but I think I'll wait to get it.

  10. Thinking of Freakonomics reminds me of Adeline Yen Mah -- I don't read that many non-fiction books. But Adeline Yen Mah's books are sooooo sad. (Autobiographical)

  11. There ought to be more books with cool titles like Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins. Stop trying to sound clever and interesting already. Just ends up sounding pretentious. "The Secret"?

  12. Dear Undercover Economist looks very interesting but RM43.95 for humour? It's just a collection of letters and clever-snarky answers! Oooh... website... *checks*... oooh the letters & replies are online at the author's website! Yay!

  13. Okay, reconnoitering done. Nothing I really want here, phew. Omg! I'm walking out of a bookshop without having bought anything!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sorceror's Apprentice

A bit surreal hearing a character say a line in a foreign language during an English movie... and understanding exactly what he said.

Balthazar: Tau fa ho leng.
Old Chinese lady: Oh, you speak Mandarin!

Me: *leaning over to friend & whispering* That's not Mandarin, that's Cantonese!

Balthazar: *whacks the old lady into a wall* That was Cantonese, Horvath.

*grins* I'm by no means a pro at either of the languages but I know in Mandarin it would've been "Ni de tou fa hen mei" ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010


Alex: Extreme people are exceedingly attractive. They're invariably more articulate, more cerebral, more intense... and then come the downsides.

Me: Are we talking about xXx now? hehehe

Alex: LOL I'm talking about ALL of us!


Alex: I know I am too, and so are you!

Me: I'm extreme? *gasps*

Alex: You are, in your own way.

Me: Hehe, yeah, in some ways. I prefer to call it "unconventional" :p

Alex: Euphemism. It's not a bad thing; we just need to learn how to live with it. For example, I know I won't be able to strike up meaningful conversations with "normal" people, so I don't beat myself up if I can't get into a deep chat with one.

Me: Hehehe, good example!
*     *     *     *     *     *

Actually I substitute "extreme" for "weird": I've always felt an affinity with unusual people because they're loads more interesting than "normal" people. They go against the flow, don't want to fit in with the crowd, have unorthodox methods and original ideas... the problem is that what makes them so interesting also makes them, well, eccentric, for lack of a better word, and therefore often very difficult to relate to or connect with.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Risking it

It's hard, being vulnerable. Especially the first time, to an unknown entity, in an chartered situation. One knows not where the wind will blow. Letting go, waiting to see if it is safe to take another step out. Feels like standing at the edge of a cliff. Giving another the power to push you over, or pull you in. No guts, no glory...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Who can fathom it?

I was just talking with django about moissanite, or rather he was talking to me about it -- small but important distinction :p  Moissanite? What's that? I had to look it up on google. Turns out it's a man-made diamond, or rather an synthetic diamond. Isn't language interesting? I could just as well have said 'fake diamond' but 'synthetic' sounds so much better!

What caught my interest was reading that this rock (crystal? gem?) is more sparkly than a diamond. An article I read said moissanite possesses a higher refractive index or brilliance (the sparkle) than a diamond at 2.65 to the diamond's 2.42... and also more fire or dispersion (the flashes) with .104 next to the diamond's measly .044. Plus it's almost as hard as the diamond, a 9.24 to the diamond's 10 on the Mohs relative hardness scale -- the second hardest jewel on the planet.

Amazing the things man can conjure up and create, don't you think? I wonder how many people look at the world around them and realise that in the modern world, nearly everything around us is created by human minds and hands. To me it's a miracle that we can work in offices 20 stories off the ground, drive around in what amounts to a metal box on wheels powered by some complex system (hey, it's complex to me!) -- things we take for granted every day. I wonder if architects ever get a sense of awe when they're drawing up plans for a house or office building... if engineers ever marvel when they're involved in setting up overhead train tracks for the inner-city train system. It's like creating something so much bigger than yourself, just sort of pulling it out of your mind or putting it together with your tools. Poof! You have this fantastic creation sitting on acres of land, being used by thousands of people.

That we have gone from swaths of land filled with jungle to vast regions covered by modern-day cities with skyscrapers and highways is... quite unbelievable. It's almost as if all this was created from nothing and sprang out of nowhere. Yes, I know we're building on hundreds, if not thousands of years of discovery, experimentation and study. It didn't really come from nowhere, nor did it appear overnight. But what I mean is, we're constantly discovering things we didn't even know were there to discover, going ever deeper into levels of complexity that no one could have imagined were even there to explore. I doubt we've even scraped the surface of what we can do, know, think, imagine.

If this is what we are capable of, what must God's mind be like? That really, really, really boggles mine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

On love

I love what this lady has to say about love. You really need to read the whole piece, but this is the part I love best:
    I'm going to say that if we're lucky, no, [love] doesn't grow. It is always just itself, even if it thrives. But if properly nourished, it does thrive. And the way it does that, the way it repays us for the feeding, is that it learns to clothe itself. Everything around it, love throws around its shoulders and wraps around its spidery hands. Time. Children. Money. Homes. Memory. Death. Sex. Language. Fear. Things that a couple can share like wine, they can be that rich and that heady. What we consume, love assumes. It puts all this on, layer upon layer, and protects itself like that.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

For the fun of it ;)

(Click image for larger view)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

School ain't education

RedSheep tweeted the recent speech delivered by Erica Goldson, valedictorian for the 2010 graduating class of Coxsackie-Athens High School, New York:

    Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible... [I]n retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system... I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

Sounds eerily like something one could say of our Malaysian education system, which is arguably a whole lot more steeped in rote-learning than the American one. I'd have echoed her words 15 years ago, except I wasn't top of my class. Because I didn't care enough to be. Which, even now, irks my father: "If you had studied harder, you could have done so much better," he says. But, I point out, I did proceed to university, I did graduate, I'm in a job I love, I'm a productive human being. Nobody cares now if I had 4As or 10As on the high school exit exam... why should it matter?

Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, "My education was interrupted only by my schooling," which is exactly how I felt for the 11 years I was in school. I couldn't wait to leave. I felt stifled, stuffed in a box. I didn't believe I was truly learning anything, and I scorned the idea that As were indicators of intelligence. They were only signs that one knew how to "work the system", as Erica says, and had memorised all the right things.

I'm not up-to-date with all the changes that have taken place in our education system since I left high school, but I doubt the basic framework has changed much. To this day I'm not sure how I passed Physics when I never understood it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

And now, to inject a little humour...

Discovered: Cartoonists Doug Savage (creator of "Savage Chickens") and Bill Greenhead (aka Stik, creator of "World of Cow").

Image source: WoC 797, by Stik


Image source: Brainstorming, by Dan Savage
I've had sessions like that!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thinking aloud

I've always thought that, where a personal website is concerned, it's good to have a blog as a homepage because that brings people back to your page again and again. What's the point of having a site that people only visit once? No, you want to lure people in, and you do that by constantly offering new (and good quality!) content. That means when they come back, they're back for that new content, so you might as well give it to them first thing, rather than making them click through from the homepage to the blog.

On the other hand, a blog is a blog is a blog and instantly recognisable these days. So if a person visits your site for the first time, and sees "Oh, it's just a blog", they might not take the time to explore other areas of your website (remember, it's a personal website, so it has other stuff like photos, recipes, poems, your portfolio, etc. -- all neatly filed into other sections). It also doesn't look very professional, and as your website is meant to represent you in virtual space... well. If a prospective employer were to look you up on the Web, you'd want them to see something impressive.

As a result of these rather confused thoughts, I'm not sure now which is best practice. I'm not even talking about SEO (search engine optimisation), just from a design and user-friendly point of view. Maybe one way would be to have the front page excerpt part of the latest blog post or display only the latest blog post. Make it look more... "website-like" rather than "blog-like".

Yes, changes are afoot. Not to WilfulSunflower, though. This will stay as it is ;)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In lieu of a To-Do list: an I-Did list.

This week I researched:
  • Verbs used in Bloom's taxonomy. (I was setting an exam paper.)

  • Making inferences. (Apparently it's a reading skill that needs to be taught. Who knew?)

  • Weird laws all over the world. (It was connected to a text we read in class.)

  • Free presentation software. (Prezi is cool, but web-based -- you'll need to purchase the software to run it off your hard drive.)

  • Teenagers and their cellphone usage. (Had to come up with survey questions for a student research project.)

  • The efficacy of praise and compliments. (Write-up's on my official blog... no link. If you don't know the URL, ask me.)

  • Using comics to teach English. (In preparation for showing a bunch of workshop participants how to make a comic strip using an online comic strip generator.)

  • Techniques to be employed in the bedroom for maximum marital happiness. (Kind of an accident, I stumbled upon one article, and with the Web, one always leads to another...)

  • Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul. (Needed to reference it in a blog comment!)

  •'s Open Salon opportunity to write on the site. (Would bring more exposure but not sure how my stories would fit, as I'm not American. But damn, some good writing there.)

  • Copyright notices and Creative commons licences. (I really wanted to use that onion picture two posts ago.)
No wonder I feel like I've been going at breakneck pace all week. *pants*

Friday, July 30, 2010

Choosing joy

I see life as a series of choices. Much like Frost's poem The Road Not Taken, I think throughout life we all have a series of choices to make. The problem with choices is having to live with the consequences, of course.

To use myself as an example: I try to remember that I'm single because I chose not to accept any of the guys who came along, for what I considered good reasons at that point in time. Sure, I have no control over whether I'll get to meet someone I'd consider a "good fit" (for lack of a better term), but in a way, it's still my choice to be single right at this moment.

"But," you might say, "sometimes we have no choice!" Thus the saying that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. In such a case... we have a choice in how we respond to the person or situation, right? As such, I don't believe there's ever a time when one truly has no choice whatsoever.

So sometimes, I hear people complain, and I think: That was your choice. Friends gripe about their jobs, but continue to stay in a place that they claim makes them miserable. While I empathise with their distress, I find their sense of helplessness puzzling, because the power is in their hands: They chose to take the job, and with every passing day, they're renewing their choice to stay on at the company. Of course, this can be a rather simplistic view if you factor in financial responsibilities, especially in cases where there's a family to feed and a mortgage to finance. But even if one chooses to stay at a job for those reasons, the fact is, you've still made a choice.

The thing is, we often look at our choices and think we have no choice at all. Rejecting one choice for another because the former looked unpalatable or impossible doesn't diminish the fact that a choice has been made. I like thinking this way because it means I'm responsible for my own well-being and happiness. It means I'm not giving anyone the power to make me unhappy. Unfortunately, it also means that if I'm unhappy, I only have myself to blame!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When I grow up, I wanna be like them

Yesterday I read this in a friend's blog: "They didn't belong in that sacred pantheon of your heart." Lack of context notwithstanding, all of a sudden I found myself greedily covetous of that sentence -- and my friend's writing skills -- because never in a million years would I have managed to come up with a turn of phrase like that.

In the same vein, I found this blog a few days ago and have been wildly jealous ever since. Everything flows so beautifully (overlooking the slight overindulgence of italics) and reads almost like poetry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Onion Head

Onion Head
Originally uploaded by photongina
People are like onions. Not in the sense that some have B.O. or are drenched in perfume; nor in the sense that they make you cry (at times). But in the sense that there are so many layers to them.

Another analogy -- and a prettier one -- would be to say that people are like diamonds, with many facets. Depending on the situation or the role they're playing, you get to see a different facet.

But I like the layer analogy better because sometimes certain aspects of the person are hidden so deep that nobody gets to see those. Perhaps even the person himself is unaware of what is buried there. The inner core that we all have is exceedingly private.

So whenever I look at people, especially if I'm waiting in line and have plenty of time to look around and observe, I wonder: what lies beneath the surface layer? When I see a businessman stride briskly past me, speaking into his cellphone, totally focused on his call, I wonder what he's like at home, what he's like when he's chilling with friends, what drives him, what makes him get out of bed every morning. Who is the man beneath the suit?

We take each other at surface value a lot of the time. But consider a colleague, for example. The person with the calm, professional demeanour you see at the office -- that's not necessarily the same person she'll be at home with the kids. And it probably won't be the same person she'll be when she's alone with her husband. It's also not the same person she is when she's visiting with her parents, or when she has some quiet time to herself. Oh, in essence she'll be the same; I'm not saying she has multiple personality disorder. But the way she chooses to express herself, respond to people, react to situations, these might change. Not so much swapping one mask for another, but swapping one role for another. Each role brings out a different side of her, in fact requires her to be different.

That's why people are endlessly fascinating. You can never know a person as well as you think you do. They can (and occasionally do) act in ways you consider "out of character". The truth is, it isn't out of character. It's just one more layer being revealed, a layer you never saw before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not quite a sunflower!

Today I bought myself a single red rose. It's something I do occasionally. Roses are my favourite flower, and the deep red rose -- almost maroon -- always draws my eye. Perhaps due to its associations with romantic love.

For some reason having a red rose sitting in a crystal vase on my desk speaks to me of hope. It soothes my soul in some way, acting as a reminder that there's beauty in the world all around me, if I choose to look. It whispers to me that if God could put that much attention and detail into a single lovely flower, how much more must He care about me. I can almost imagine His potter's hands shaping each delicate petal, pausing every once in awhile to run His fingers over the soft velvety surface.

And think about it: a flower doesn't have to do anything, just be. It just is. Here today and gone tomorrow, yet it brings such joy to the heart. So I'm reminded that I don't have to do anything. I'm God's child and He looks at me with joy. He loves me. Just as I am.
The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Monday, July 26, 2010

A tiny miracle

I don't understand how anyone who has held a baby can believe there is no God.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hidden power

When Sivin (my pastor) first showed us this video in August 2008, it nearly brought me to tears. It demonstrates to me the power of words: words can be used for good or evil, to build up or tear down. I've always believed that a single word can make a world of difference to a person, whether positive or negative. In my experience, sometimes the most casual, throw-away statement remains in a person's consciousness for years. I've met people who told me, "You said such-and-such" and I don't even remember saying it.

I think it's important to be careful with our words, because they contain so much hidden power. We've all experienced this -- when what was meant to be a teasing jab felt like a dagger going clean through your heart. A bit melodramatic, but yeah. Conversely, the right word, uttered at the right time, can be truly life-giving.

You, by Amena Brown

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lunchtime adventure

When I was preparing to go out for lunch with KW this afternoon, I thought, Hey! Why not wear one of those shoes that haven't seen the light of the day in awhile?

It seemed like a good idea till I had parked my car and was walking to the lunch venue. Then things started falling apart... literally.

I made it into the restaurant, found my table, and tried to inspect the shoes without looking like I was inspecting them -- especially as KW was already seated and waiting for me. With a sense of chagrin and reluctant amusement, I realised I'd never make it out of there in those shoes.

After lunch, a request for a plastic bag met with blank looks from the waiter, so I had to show him the shoes and explain why I wanted a bag. Of course I could have simply walked off and left them under the table, but I didn't think that'd be very nice! Meanwhile, KW was aghast at my intention to walk out of the place barefoot. But in my experience, if you do anything with aplomb and chutzpah, you can get away with a lot. No one will notice. If you act awkward, that's when you draw attention to yourself. Besides, I knew all the floor surfaces would be either tiled or cemented; the only somewhat rough surface to be negotiated would be the road.

At least now I have one less pair of shoes to feel guilty about not wearing!

Eureka moment

One of the challenges of not having had teachers' training is not being so aware of some pedagogical matters. Things like Bloom's Taxonomy, for example.

(Click image for larger view)

Like a lot of sociological stuff, it seems like common sense and a smart person -- or, *cough* teacher *cough* -- would instinctively apply this. Logically you know that recall is not enough; students need to understand, not simply memorise, and they need to be able to apply what they've learnt. And, following that, they need to build on that knowledge, using it as a base for comparing and judging other information, critiquing and drawing conclusions.

It's quite cool sometimes how these scientists break everything down and manage to explain it. Although it can also be frustrating because they can seem a little obsessed with details. The traditional way of teaching/learning -- theory first, then application and practice -- ought to be effective because if a student understands, he should sail through the practical side of things, simply applying whatever he has already learnt; but I think if we do the practice first, then learn the theory, you really have lightbulb moments. Like, aha! So that's why this is the way it is!

I love those aha moments. Can totally understand why Archimedes jumped out of his bathtub yelling eureka!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tabbing away

Err... oops?

I forgot to add yesterday that when I click on links in Firefox 3.6, it's disorienting to find new tabs opening right next to the active tab rather than at the end of all the current open tabs. I'm still running Firefox 3.5 in the office but my home PC has the latest version, since I just did a fresh install of everything.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tech news and gripes from the Sunflower.

Some geeky stuff to bore all my poor long-suffering readers to tears:

  1. My system tray is sending up an "Ethernet: A network cable is unplugged" pop-up every 10 seconds or so. It is BLOODY ANNOYING. I unchecked the notifications thingy in Network Connection - Properties but it is still doing that. If the connection is dropping, it seems to be recovering fast because I don't notice any problems surfing the Net. Not sure if it is something I ought to be worried about.

  2. PC reformats are so annoying. The Asus PQ5L motherboard comes bundled with Realtek ALC1200 audio and I'm having trouble getting the mic volume to behave. I had problems the last round too but of course by now I can't remember what I did to get it to work. The volume's so low that the graph thingy in Audacity is flat. Gaaah. Realtek takes over all the mic controls so you have to go through their Audio Manager instead of using the WinXP controls. *tears hair out*

  3. Managed to successfully edit an animated gif in Gimp yesterday and feel very proud of myself :p  Not used to working in layers (I use Irfanview for simple cropping & resizing, and Photofiltre for other image editing) but I looked at an online tutorial on how to create an animated gif and from there, managed to edit the one I had. Woohoo!

  4. Have been researching free mind-map software and comic strip generators for work. Comic strip generators all tend to be browser-based but there's quite an array of mind-mapping apps out there, both software and browser-based. I get excited when I see a good app that's both pretty and easy to use. *feels super geeky all of a sudden*

  5. In a shocking development, Erna, my friend and unofficial tech support for my only remaining self-hosted blog (as opposed to blogs like this one being hosted by Blogger) has switched to Movable Type. She kept extolling the wonders of Wordpress to me and scoffing at me for sticking to MT, which I've used since mid-2003. Well, she moved off WP, gave Expression Engine a try and is now running on MT. This amuses me greatly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where is the solution?

Alpha tweeted this fable about "the good Christian girl". It sounds eerily familiar, especially the voices of those knowing ones.

To quote Mr TDH: "There must be a better way. Right now it's all hit-and-miss." His contention is that the church isn't very helpful, and largely leaves it to chance: if you're lucky, you meet someone, he likes you, you like him, you date, you get married. If you're unlucky, you don't meet anyone; or you meet someone, you like him, he doesn't like you, and nothing comes of it.

I don't know how the church could help in this area, though, and neither does Mr TDH. Nobody seems to have the answers. All the "answers" given by those knowing ones are the wrong answers. I know, because I've heard a lot of them!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Practising (heroic) self-restraint.

*grits teeth*

I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.