Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

January 2003 Archives

Layout Musings

I’m half-inclined to merge both the visuals and the blog together, much like what Dawn or Heather has done. But I see that a lot of other people have already done that.

When publishing becomes as inexpensive as it is now, it becomes hard to stay original and unique.

Offer You Can Refuse

I think I’ve just been propositioned to.

I blanked the address out.

Weed

More farming analogies.

With the burden of now having to grow barley weighing heavily on my mind, I took a walk in the field and stumbled upon a small patch of marijuana at its edge. Apparently the customer planted its seeds over the winter and neglected to tell me. Now not only do I have to grow barley in record-breaking time I need to have the marijuana and barley co-exist.

It stinks that I can’t do the job as well as I’d like. I’m inclined to simply throw the barley seeds on the ground and leave. Two farmers with different intentions working on a single plot of land simply will not work.

Reharvesting

Taking a page out of Vaya’s baking analogies, I’ll use farming analogies when it comes to talking about work. This comes from my frequent urges to actually work the land and lie in a barn.

After months of cultivating wheat on my field, my customers do an about-turn and now want barley instead. Nobody wants the wheat now and on top of that I’ve to literally push the Earth round its orbit so that the seasons can cycle faster, enabling me to harvest barley in the shorter time I now have. My customers aren’t starving. They just chose this time to be fickle.

Thighmaster

“The Republicans are the strongest humans on the planet. No, really, I mean it. They did more squat thrusts to applaud than any humans are capable of.”

This and many more comments on Bush’s State of the Union address on Metafilter.

Talking the Talk

I don’t think I’ve ever been this eager to hear a politician speak. U.S. President George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address a few hours ago. We all expected him to concentrate on two points: The war on Iraq and his plans to boost the U.S. economy.

I’ve received emails regarding my stance towards the war against Iraq, most of them chiding my naïveté. I am not anti-war. I say this regretably because the years have taught me that war is sometimes an inevitable course of action. What I desire is a good reason for war - something that may somehow console me when I think of the bloodshed. People I could have met and known - dead because of our choices. I need a good solid reason, and I think many of us do.

What is a solid reason? One in which all or most of us can believe in. That is why it is essential (at least for me) that the United Nations are behind the decision.

I was impressed tonight. President Bush has, once again, shifted his stance. He did not emphasise the fact that America would go to war regardless of support from other countries. He didn’t even implicitly imply that countries that didn’t support the war weren’t “friends of freedom”. He said that he would lead a coalition into Iraq to disarm Saddam. He shown tonight a consideration for the viewpoints of the international community, which was a welcome reprieve.

Much like a Jerry Bruckheimer production, one has to discern fact from fiction. Though Bruckheimer’s action flicks border on incredulity, Bush’s speeches often come close to the same degree of exaggeration.

I come away tonight a little more content that this man is approaching some level of clarity. Having moved from nuclear weapons to weapons of mass destruction, Saddam having links to Al Qaeda to the possibility of the link, Bush has, at the expense of some credibility, moved closer to what is believable.

From the debates some things can be gathered:

So the question now is this: Does the breach of the U.N. resolution warrant a full-scale invasion of Iraq?

New information will be made known to us in the next few weeks. I hope the decision is made easier for all of us to bear.

Monoscopic Vision

Jason’s got me all cross-eyed, but I still can’t see his pictures in 3D.

Shedding Tears

I think I’ve become too emotionally involved with the issue of war with Iraq. I admit that I feel a deep loathing and even hate when I see George W. Bush on television. I don’t, I really don’t like to feel this way.

What moral right does a country built upon the blood of native Americans and sweat of African slaves have in determining who’s evil and who’s not? Why does the country that thinks itself the very paradigm of democracy assert itself as superior to United Nations’ collective decisions? How does one justify the plan of war proposed by the United States that is based on maximum and not necessary force?

President Bush, how could you forget that the Iraqi people are our people too?

Demons of Democracy

“What should we do?”, “Where do we go?”, “Who’s the best?”. The best idea we’ve come up with as a species is democracy (so some argue, as do I). It’s answer to those hard questions?

Let’s vote.

Ever hear the joke about the three world leaders in a flaming plane? No? Here goes.

Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ferdinand Marcos were on a plane that was going down in flames. They scrounged around and found one parachute.

“I’m the leader of the largest country in the world” said Gorby, “I should have the parachute!”.

Reagan disagreed of course. “I’m the leader of the free world. I should be the one who gets the parachute!”

Marcos said, “Let’s vote”.

Marcos won 18-2.

It’s the same thing in real life. Whether it’s the Academy Awards or the Presidential Elections, politics drags all good intent through piles of dirt.

The latest fiasco? The Bloggies. They’re the awards given out to weblogs and online ramblings much like this one (only better).

So someone complained about the fairness of the judging, one of the judges admitted to some campaigning going on within the judging circle, a high-profile contender pulled out of the contest to escape the hullabaloo and all hell breaks loose. Everyone gets hurt and the online world falls divided. In the meantime, Disney Corporation holds Mickey hostage and denies us (online users) access to our own culture, giving us the thumbs-up (link not suitable for minors) while we squabble amongst ourselves.

I’m actually going to meet quite a number of these people at SXSWi. Hope it doesn’t turn into an all-out brawl.

Bring in the Noise

Despite having spent most of my life in crowded Singapore, I’ve never had neighbours like I do now. Sure, we’ve had the violin-playing cyclist before the ones we have now, but he knew when it was appropriate to practice.

Our neighbour parks his car outside his door (just next to ours). He opens the trunk of the car and its door and turns on the rap. This genius doesn’t use a home stereo system to listen to music - he turns his car stereo up loud enough so he can enjoy from his room. In the meantime our windows vibrate as his shows off his subwoofer.

Having endured more than enough of this, I went up to his room and asked him to turn it off. I told him that I was sick of having to listen to this almost every night.

He almost did as I asked before he hesitated. “I dun do dis ever’night. I just got m’car back”.

Technically, he was correct. My sister and I did enjoy the first few weeks of school in relative peace. We had, however, endured all of last semester and weren’t about to give up the silence we had come to enjoy.

He sat back in his chair and said,

“You come back and ask me nicely. Dun be coming up with all the bullshit about me doin’ dis ever’night.”

If I were younger and brash I would have picked a fight from where I stood. Sure, I could have been beaten up, but that didn’t never stop me before. Now, older and somewhat wiser (or just more tired) I went back into my apartment and informed the police.

They never came. The noise finally stopped when the neighbour went out for the night.

Pride is a dangerous drug. I might have looked like I was humbled tonight, but I’m glad I didn’t take to arms.

Breaking the Ranks

Maybe there is hope after all, and it may come in the form of a mutiny.

As George W. Bush stands atop the podium uttering words of war, many of his own urge caution. Yet it seems that the foolishness of the few (Bush and Rumsfeld in this case) threaten to overpower the wisdom of the many.

The word is “pre-emptive”. If this line be crossed, it is one that erases easily for the warmonger knows no boundaries nor law.

Age of the Warmonger

When George Bush took office, we all made fun of him. We thought he had the facial expressions of a chimp and the grammar and vocabulary of a four-year old. No one pays attention to a four-year old playing in the sandpit, but in this case, Bush seems overly eager to place his fingers on a few big red buttons.

I’ve always thought of myself as neutral, but it has become harder and harder for me to understand the arguments on this side of the fence. After engaging in a civil debate over at the Ricebowl Journal Forums, it scares me to think that the sole source of America’s strength lies not in its character but in its firepower. The one quote that got me utterly peeved was

The people we piss off can do us some damage but it’s minor when you look at the big picture, but the key is that we can squash them whenever we want.

Most of all, it appears to be the opinion of quite a number of them. If anything, 9/11 showed us all how vulnerable we all are, and that our actions are all intertwined.

Now with war in the air again, it takes the strongest and blindest of faith to believe that this man who spouts big words knows what he is doing. I don’t know if it’s possible to muster that kind of faith.

In Commons

Type at Egg III, by Heather Champ of Harrumph.com

What does the Creative Commons mean for all of us? It means I can share Heather’s wonderful photography, like the one above, with the rest of you who haven’t already discovered it.

Feel the power?

Simulcra: Some Rights Reserved at East West Magazine.

To You

There are times when I feel so overwhelmed by the amount of life outside of my own small circle. Looking through the photos submitted in the Everyman Photo Contest and reading the more obscure blogs, the diversity and unity of emotions form such a powerful paradox that there are moments my heart feels scarce able to take it all in.

I could have been sitting next to you by the shore awaiting the sunrise or standing beside you in the cold, sharing a laugh as our stomachs spasm from the extreme chill. The possibilities of a million lives flash by my heart’s eye, and there are so many times I’ve wanted so much to just reach out and touch you (that would be the whole lot of you readers) on the other side of the computer monitor.

The world seems such a small place at times and yet we spend so much of our lives with our heads cast downward, in a pile of paperwork or minding our own business.

Life’s really too short and too precious to live it in a crowded isolation.

War! What Is It Good For...

The Houston Rockets vs The Los Angeles Lakers became Yao Ming vs Shaq, which thanks to Shaq’s seemingly racist comments become Asia vs Shaq.

Some people got really fired up, others let it slip. Shaq apologised to Yao Ming, the Rockets won and Yao Ming stood tall.

All is was well.

A flagrant foul called on the game was undoubtedly the turning point. Whether or not the Lakers could have won had that been a normal technical, we’ll never know. But Shaq has confirmed one thing.

In response to the call, Shaq said the following at the press conference:

“The unfortunate thing is it had to be decided by them,” O’Neal said of the officials. “A whole bunch of people who paid a lot of money had to see a game that was decided by someone who doesn’t make a lot of money. That’s unfortunate.” Taken from this article in ESPN.com

He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer now, is he?

Schooled

After three days of school, I rediscovered something about myself: there’s a lot of information out there that I know squat about.

Needing only one required class this year, I enrolled myself in six other classes which I felt would be of interest to me. After all, the scholarship I was receiving paid for the tuition. Thought I’d go out with a bang.

Three days later, I’m running scared with my tail firmly between my legs.

I’ve always loved English. Truth be told, I’d much rather be reading, writing and teaching literature (just so happens that English is my most fluent language) than the technological stuff I’m actually studying towards. It was something I loved doing, and something that I felt I could do well in. But thanks to a freak accident of a grade I received in my one major exam, my dreams of living that life were dashed.

So in a bid to relive the last vestiges of my dream, I signed up for a 400 level English class.

I felt out of place the moment I stepped into the room. Having gotten used to being surrounded by techno-nerds, I looked foward to meeting new people. People who read and were inspired. People whom I felt I had something in common with. They came in and started hugging each other, asking how each others’ winter break went. After a few minutes I felt like I had crashed a birthday party. Everyone knew everyone else. I was the weird kid sitting in the middle of the class as people made their way around me to greet their friends on the other side of the room. I was half-tempted to do an Abignale - walk up to the board and start teaching.

The professor came in and changed the title of the course. Now instead of Women and Literature, it was Women inside / outside Modernism. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a clue as to what modernism was, short of a very broad and generic answer. I sat there, in the middle of the room, mentally repelling any attention that might be drawn to me. In the meantime, the other students were shouting out names of poets, naming works that were considered modernist and the year in which they were published. Way, way, way out of my league.

My mouse cursor hovered over the “drop subject” button for a while today. I just want to have fun in my last semester and take easy classes, but something inside me just wouldn’t give it up. It felt like if I peered hard enough I could catch a glimpse of the alternate reality in which my dream came true. To click on that button meant that I closed the doors and windows to the what-might-have-been.

I wasn’t, and am not ready to do that. I’ll attend a few more classes, possibly embarassing myself. The spark of enthusiasm at the possibility that the class may open the floodgates of my mind and my heart still drives me, and I think I’ll give it one more shot.

Just call me stupid.

Do You Hear the People Sing?

It’s not the circle of life with Disney. It’s a straight road leading towards the already gold-lined pockets of its executives.

Like the rebellion in Les Misérables, the freedom of the people were quashed without so much as a bat of an eyelid.

The Supreme Court ruling against Eldred means that Disney has successfully blocked anyone else from doing what they’ve done all these years - using the tales and stories that were once public domain without paying royalties. You think the minds at Disney came up with the fairy-tale Beauty and the Beast or the Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Thanks to the grubby money-loving hands of the executives at Disney, the rest of us would probably get sued if we were to doodle two small circles sitting on top of a larger circle.

Do I value my content? Of course. Every word that I write here is my own. But not only my own, for all that I am is an amalgamation of all that is around me.

So this is what I’m doing. Tribolum.com is now licensed under a Creative Commons license.

It means you may use all the content on Tribolum (I’m even throwing in the photos, painful a decision as it may now seem) as long as

Much Deprived

There are few luxuries greater than stepping out of the cold into a warm house, and climbing into a toasty bed. In a superhuman feat of will, I crawled out five minutes later to rush to class, only to discover I had the time half an hour earlier than it actually was.

So here I am, blogging with you guys when I could be snug in bed surrounded by stuff dreams are made of.

It’s not all bad.

Sudden Death

Sunset, Intersection of Sunrise and Craycroft, Tucson, ArizonaEndings have a way of creeping up on you. They often seem so far away, then before you know it, bam it’s all over. Seldom does one enjoy the satisfaction of a conclusion that wraps everything up beautifully, whether a book, a roller-coaster ride, or life. The ones that do are the ones we remember.

Gwenlyn and I went out today to catch the sunset. Unable to make it to my favourite vantage point at Starr Pass, we settled for the nearest mini-peak we could find - this time in a hoity-toity neighbourhood. We grabbed our cameras and snapped away as the sun seemed to set at a record speed. In what seemed like a short moment the sun dove below the mountains and I sent Gwenlyn home.

Whilst driving westward toward home, the sky lit up a most brilliant hue of red. The clouds flowed and ebbed like a viscuous liquid. The whole world was trapped in a giant lava lamp. No, not this one.

One hand on the wheel, I reached for my camera bag and took out the camera. Unable to find a clean spot on my windscreen or my windows from which to take pictures, I pulled to the side of the road and started snapping away. Never mind the powerlines were blocking the way. I could always use some pictures for my powerline project on my photolog.

It was a beautiful ending to the first day of school. And it was one that, though brief, lasted long enough for a contented sigh.

SXSW!

I’ll be headed to SXSW this year. I’m half-excited and half-apprehensive. I’m excited to hear about technologies and the way they impact everyday lives, a good break from the constant discussion about profit margins and return on investments.

The more ambivalent part about going there is the human interaction aspect. It’d be wonderful to be able to put faces behind the blogs I read, placing a whole new level of reality atop the virtual personalities. Yet at the same time stepping out from behind my monitor is rather daunting. One need only look at Tribolum with Mozilla and see the obvious lack of technical expertise. On an aside, I’d much rather be viewed as lazy than incompetent, but in this case I probably deserve both tags.

Being probably the only Asian there doesn’t help either.

I gotta learn to relax. A lot.

A Point in Time

We often fall in love with the moment. A glimpse is all it takes for our hearts to pulsate erratically. A friend who dresses up for her prom may stir the currents of the heart in newfound ways. Or a stranger comforting you from your latest break up may end up being the Dennis Rodman of your heart. In the moment we make promises spanning lifetimes and eternities - it would seem that the overflowing richness of the moment were sufficient for as far as the mind can fathom.

The moment drags on and becomes a minute. The minutes grow into hours and we find the strength of our words disappearing into the silent vacuum of time. Questions arise as emotions fade. We no longer know what we knew but a moment ago.

Thanks for loving me. Every moment with you is a new moment filled with the super-abundance of the last. The moments have built upon each other the past fifteen years I’ve loved you.

May God grant us the love to last a lifetime.

Dark Ages

There’s no need to watch the third installment of The Lord of the Rings. It is evident that Frodo has failed.

Straight and Narrow

Some of us just aren’t cut out for it.

Clifton, Wenyang, Carol and I went to the recreation center today to play some basketball after an unbearably (for me at least) long stint of basketball-free activity. Clifton, being the new guy, had forgotten to bring his CatCard (the student identification card at the University of Arizona). Having already driven all the way to school, we decided to work around the problem.

Clifton would use my CatCard and enter the rec center with the other two first. Wenyang would then leave the Rec, meet me outside and pass me my CatCard. I would then enter the rec, and if any questions were asked, provide them proof that I was the owner of the card. Great plan yah?

As fate would have it, Wenyang’s quick entry and exit did not provide a duration long enough for the counter person’s memory bank to clear. She took a look at the card and immediately recognised that it was the one she swiped two seconds ago.

Busted. I drove Clifton home to get his CatCard.

I’m sure millions have pulled this off without a hitch. I guess I am an amateur. I don’t even use the automated doors with the handicap sign on them for fear my use would be unnecessary wear and tear for the folks who really need it. Counter person just had to go “erm…” and I confessed. I’m a wuss.

I’ll keep my bright ideas to myself and stay on the right path the next time.

Dreamer

Caught Amélíe on video. Having already watched it in the movies, I was better able to soak in the wonderful videography of the film. I have no description for it except that the aesthetic value of the film is like a moving photograph - every moment one to remember.

I wish my dreams were as vivid as hers, and that courage could be found in me to live them.

Old and New

After much procrastination we finally caught My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Being one currently in the midst of the hulabaloo that wedding planning brings, the dichotomy of what their parents wanted and what the couple wanted was fully appreciated. In many ways, the movie has helped me understand the motivations of my parents and my future in-laws so much better. I am now so much more thankful for help that I previously viewed with a cautious eye, and I know that they’d want nothing but the best for the both of us.

“Don’t let your past dictate who you become, but always let it be a part of who you are”, if I recall correctly, was the key lesson.

Flying South

Did some math tonight and it was no good. I really wanted to go to SXSW Interactive (pronounced South-by-Southwest) conference in Austin Texas over the weekend in March. After calculating the cost of staying at a hotel on top of the conference fees, it proves to be a little too costly a venture. I thought about driving there, till a visit to Mapquest revealed that it was a 900 mile drive. And that’s just one way.

It would have been nice to be amongst like-minded people. Though we live in the age of technology, there aren’t that many people who view technology as something to be molded. Most just take it as it is. My particular interest was how technology could be better harnessed to facilitate communication.

It occurs to me that conferences like SXSW will become unaccessible by many more magnitudes when I return home to Singapore after graduation. It seems so close, almost within my grasp, only to slip away.

I hope the folks who attend document it well. It would have been nice to put a tangibility on the people I’ve known for so long virtually.

Self-Reflection

When we look back in history at acts of prejudice and injustice we sometimes wonder how people back then could be so blinded by it. It seems so clear to us who have the benefit of retrospection.

As I grow older I find myself less tolerant of the younger generation. They seem so brash and vulgar, often inciting responses in what seems to be an attempt to gain attention. Upon seeing such people on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) I often tear them down with humour, at their expense of course.

I used to think that it was an exercise in wit, a sharpening of the mind through banter. I see now that I am no better than the elitist scum that looks down on other people. There ought to be no place for the putting down of another person. Even if rebuke is called for it ought to be given in gentleness and love.

I only hope this is a lesson I will remember as my ways grow harder and more ingrained within me. I am sorry.

Virtually Real

First impressions are an awfully powerful thing. But I am thankful that they don’t last, despite how the familiar saying goes.

I met Gwenlyn for the first time, after a few years of sparse communication via ICQ and IRC. It seems odd that I should meet a fellow Singaporean out here in Tucson, and that the path our real lives took us would coincide without any intent on our part.

In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect. Yet when the door first opened and in the first two seconds of visual contact a lot of inference was made, many of which contradicted the Gwenlyn I had formed in my mind’s eye. Do not get me wrong, she didn’t do anything contradictory in two seconds. It is amazing how the mind conjures up a plane of reality out of thin air.

I am thankful that we spent the afternoon together, and that after some conversation I was pretty much able to reconcile the virtual image with the physical.

So today can be considered a rather constructive one, for I made a new old friend.

Working Holiday

I’ve been flexing my cranial muscle once this holiday designing the MISGA website. That’s Management Information Systems Graduate Association.

Managing information - where it goes, how it is processed, stored, retrieved - has been highly challenging. Well ok, maybe I’m not that smart. It’s like finding a path up a mountain. There are an infinite number of paths upwards, but some are better than others.

The old site’s here, while the one I designed (yet to be completed) is here.

Would appreciate any feedback. The design’s fixed already, so aesthetic changes will have to stay at a minimum. It’s for sanity’s sake.

The Pen Friend

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I miss it like an old friend. I’ve the bad habit of neglecting old friends.

Time Warp

It was nine in the morning. On the other side of the telephone conversation it was midnight. We couldn’t agree: whether or not to get our own place and all that it entailed. It was getting really late for her and she still had work to do. There are times I wish the pulse of the city would seize from a heart attack. It is such a ridiculous notion that life be so hectic that we have no time to talk about life. We have no time to solve our differences; no time to explore the perspectives of the other; no time to love or to live. We just keep moving, like one suffering from Parkinson’s. We move until we are dead. Only then do we stop. And many of us hope - at best - that some meaning will be found at the end of it.

So it is in this incessant need for activity that we ended our phone conversation unresolved: me in my uncertainty and she in her despair. Not only do we live in different time zones, we stand in different places of our lives. She’s been a member of the working class for three years, and I a student barely finishing my education.

It hurt especially when she said we were in very different places in our lives. I felt so inept; so unable to fulfill her dreams simply because of the place I was at. While my contemporaries talk about seeing the world, landing the big job or just partying like there’s no tomorrow, my future seems so fixed and static. Am I tempted by such allusions of grandeur? Of course I am. But I would so gladly give it all up for a quiet life with her. Because she’s home to me.

You are home to me. I want so much to start a life with you. Decorating our own little place, having dinner with you every night and watching you wake every morning. I want so much to make you happy, and it hurts that my intent is so feeble in the harsh, stark light of reality.

I cannot buy you a home. I cannot graduate any sooner. I don’t know if I’ll get a job fast enough upon my return. It hurts that I have to make you wait for the life we both want so much. I know that you’d never blame me, but it hurts that it is my fault - that I am the one holding the both of us back, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I have nothing but the intangibility of love. And it is all I have to offer you.

I love you.

Water Ballet

Fountains at Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada

My sister actually sat through five of these in one sitting. Wouldn’t blame her, the fountains were gorgeous.

Week in Review

After 400 miles and six hours of driving, we’re finally back in Tucson. In Vegas we joked about how coming back home was the start of the real vacation. There is no doubt that a feeling of relief and true rest descended upon us the moment we laid down our bags, but we cannot deny that it was fun.

For the past few years we spent New Year’s Eve sitting on some couch watching live television streams from all over the world - of fireworks and masses of people celebrating. At least we can say that we’ve one good memory of us being in one of them. The truth is that most people left twenty minutes after the countdown and fireworks died down, but no one watching television would ever know right?

The time in Vegas was rejuvenating in some warped sense. Having grown up in highly urbanised Singapore, the fast beat of the city made us feel at home again. The accessibility of Bellagio’s water fountains and a host of other attractions ensured that we never sat around wondering what to do. We did all our planning over the lunch Buffet at the Mirage.

The lunch buffet was the best ten dollars spent on the Strip. After two prime ribs, one salad, a fruit tart, an apple pie and an assortment of small dishes, I gave in only to wish twenty minutes later that I had eaten just one more prime rib. Having been so utterly satisfied, we planned to go back the next day.

There’s a reason why people don’t do two buffets back-to-back. This time we left barely able to breathe. A lesson in self-restraint, though I’m pretty sure it’ll be forgotten the next time we waltz past a buffet spread as lavish as this one.

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