Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

May 2003 Archives

Rice Sprinkles

Much as I love being home, there are some things I absolutely hate about Singapore. Even though we have public campaigns for just about everything, their presence seems to only prove that we’re a pretty mindless society who despite our newfound wealth, exist in a very primitive state.

I’m currently rather P.O.ed because someone decided to throw a bag of rice out of their high-rise window unto my car (ok, my parents’ car) parked below. It’s a little past midnight and I had to wash the car as best I could so the rice grains don’t stick. On top of that I’m really really tired and sleepy. I actually felt like beating up the person who did this.

People are starving around the world. Singapore’s too bloody spoilt to see anything beyond our own needs.

Ninja-land

Had been meaning to write about our acclimatisation to the SARS situation in Singapore. Even though people keep telling me that things were already returning to nomalcy before I came home, the experience of being here in the thick of it is certainly different from reading about it a few thousand miles away.

For starters, our plane had to transit via Taiwan. Our theory when we booked the flight was that Singapore had SARS anyway, so a one-hour transit in Taiwan wasn’t going to be half as dangerous as living in Singapore.

I slept a large part of the flight, and it scared me to wake up to hordes of passengers standing up and donning on their ninja masks. Our initial reaction was to laugh, but when the aeroplane staff started wearing the masks as well we got just a tad worried.

Coming out of Changi airport and into the arms of family members gave us a sense of conclusion that the flight was over, but it is hard to ignore the countless booths set up in public places that took the temperatures of each and every person. The technology was astounding: thermometers that used laser beams to read your temperature to the thermal scanners that produced infrared moving images.

I’m highly impressed at how Singapore has handled the SARS situation and the steps taken to lessen the inconvenience. The ninjas here have dissipated, and we now walk bare-faced. The worst is over, we presume.

It’s good to be home.

Now somebody do something about the humidity.

Oliver Twisted

The whole “Save Karyn” endeavour taught us one thing: There’re always be the thick-skinned amongst us.

There have been numerous forums and debates over Karyn’s actions. For those of you not in the know, Karyn found herself in over $20,000 of debt and decided to use her website to well, save her. She managed to get out of debt through charitable donations and has now written a book.

Maybe it’s a personal prejudice, but I hate beggars. I don’t despise the ones in third-world countries who have no choice but to resort to it, but when the beggar in question is probably using a computer that he or she owns, the need factor that justifies begging does not exist.

In the papers today, Daniel Lim, a Singaporean has decided to do a Karyn on the rest of us so he can buy his own 17” Powerbook. Sorry if I sound P.O.ed, but I’ll be darned if he actually sounds proud of it. He claims to have a well-paying job and all too.

“Mr Lim said he did it as a ‘little quirky’ experiment: ‘A test of the Internet’s powers, an exercise of my creativity, a challenge, an event which is meaningful for me.’”

It’d be meaningful for me if you gave me a washing machine and dryer combo for my coming wedding too.

The Ghyslain (Star Wars kid) donation fund was a grey area. It has been thoroughly debated and both sides have credible reasons. Fact of the matter is that he made us laugh. I might even have donated to Karyn just for the sake of her orignality.

I’ll probably see Daniel Lim sometime in Mac meetups or blogmeets or something. I’m hoping he calls the whole thing off now. There are so many more pressing issues that require our charity. The doctors and nurses that lovingly tend to SARS patients. The Iraqis who lost their homes. AIDS research. Heck, even SETI. By the way, if you’ve links to where Tribolum readers can donate to those causes, put them up in the comments.

They’re charging me by the minute for Internet access here at the library. Maybe you could send me a little money and put my pictures in the papers. I’ve one up on Daniel: I don’t have a job.

Labour Inducing

Internet connectivity doesn’t seem to be a strong point of my house back in Singapore. We’ve the good old dialup internet, but even that doesn’t always work. So here I am again, a year later, updating my blog at the library. Where are the WiFi hotspots in Singapore that I can exploit make use of? Do tell if you know of any good (read free or very cheap) ones.

While packing the house back in Tucson, I dug through all my old collectibles and found photos of Faith I had brought over from Singapore. Though taken a good decade or so ago, it seems like it were only yesterday we made fish-feeding at the Singapore Botanic Gardens a pastime.

Things have changed while I was gone. For one, my driving license has expired and now everyone has those spiffy looking ones. Parkway Parade - the mall just behind my house - has undergone some sort of a facelift. I will have to peer the inner workings of my other home as soon as I muster the strength to plough through this 99% humidity.

Foodwise, everything’s going according to plan. I’ve been systematically hantaming (local term for whacking the daylights out of) the coffee shops and food places. Considering that I don’t really have a deadline this time, I reckoned I had better take it slow for fear of getting stretch marks.

Transitions

I sat in the front-right seat of the car, stepped on the clutch, started the engine and drove. My mind almost didn’t notice that all the direction of traffic was reversed, or that I was sitting on what used to be the passenger side of the car. click and life goes on.

The new cake store across the street where the old quack doctor used to be catches my eye. So do a few other small details. Having landed in Singapore only this afternoon, it is scary how fast I took to swimming the moment my nose hit the water. On the other side of the globe, life as I knew it for the past few years goes on without me.

On the other hand, I attempted to plug in my old extension cord I had been using in Tucson. The circuit breaker snapped as the built-in surge protector kicked in, unused to the 220 volts that now ran through the powerlines.

The two extremes kinda how describe me right now. I’m not sure if fitting in so fast undoes the last three years of my life, or if I’ll ever fit back in.

For you folks I met at SXSW, I’ll miss not being close enough to have gotten to know you better over a longer period of time.

I’m here, and I’m still blogging. So some semblance of life is still the same.

Back on the Warpath

Many of us against the war complained about it before it all began. We stood with our signs and signed countless petitions. When Bush went ahead anyway, we pulled back the lines and adopted a wait-and-see (not Waite and See) approach in hope that the US would prove us wrong by actually living up to the gentle giant it wanted everyone to believe it was.

Part of the new US proposed resolution on Iraq strips the facade.

The United States and Britain submitted letters to the Security Council recognizing their obligations as occupying powers. The draft refers to them as the “Authority”.

Occupying. That’s from the word occupation, wasn’t it? So at least for the time being (we hope), the Iraqi people have exchanged one dictator for another.

All proceeds from oil sales would go into the Development Fund until an “internationally recognized” Iraqi government is established. The monies would be “disbursed at the direction” of the Authority (United States and Britain), in consultation with the Iraqi interim administration.

Translation:

All your money are belong to us. I’ll take the wallet, thank you very much. And here’s my business card. The money was for your mother’s birthday present? Sorry dude, write me a letter and I’ll see what I can do.

There’s justice. Then there’s American Justice. No wonder Bush was clear to point out that they were different.

Link via Andrea.

Ring True

Just for kicks, I slid my ring on the ring finger of my left hand.

I smiled. In the middle of a sermon. Bad boy.

Nightvision

I am absolutely loving MacOSX. Ok, so the gaming portion still needs some work, but the apps just blow me away. I’m surfing the web at night with all the lights off. Having already calibrated my screen for Photoshop, I’m reluctant to mess with the brightness and contrast controls.

In comes Nightvision. Now I can use my computer in pitch darkness without eye-strain. Should a group of commandos infiltrate my apartment, I’ve the nightvision to take them out! Skills are another matter.

Frontliner

Congrats PB! May the two of you have many, many wonderful years together.

Total Recall

Like sand slipping through my fingers, I grasp on to my remaining moments here in Tucson in futility. The night approaches and the skies darkens, and my view of the mountains fades to black as another day departs from us forever. It feels like Tucson is a dream and Singapore reality. The stark brightness of day frightens me, and like many dreamers before me I am afraid to wake up too quickly lest the dream’s light imprints on my memory is swept away by any sudden movement.

Like an old man whose weakness becomes more apparent each day, youth’s clarity will abandon me and I fear I will not remember your name or the feel of your hug. You, so many of you, have touched me in so many ways and my heart is inevitably molded because of you.

Thanks, all of you who were Tucson to me. I will remember how you loved me, even if the whats, wheres, whens and whos fade away from me. A part of my heart will always be home to you all, and my love for you found therein.

God bless.

No Fun and Games

My peecee decided to stop doing complex 3D rendering on its own accord. The strike started yesterday night and despite extensive negotiations (reinstalling video drivers, Nortoning my peecee etc), the blue men in my CPU refused to resume work in the 3D department. That means no NBA Live 2003, no Dark Age of Camelot. No games, period.

Having recently switched to a Mac, I decided to explore my new platform’s gaming goodness. Went to Best Buy and browsed through the shelves. Blizzard aside, the rest of the game developers just seemed happy catering to the PC crowd. Undeterred by the taunts Biscotti sent me a few days ago (the Mac Gamer Switch Parody), I headed to MacGamer.com. I am almost convinced that the words “Mac” and “Gamer” aren’t meant to be strung together. Even my favourite gaming site Gamespot mocks me. The navigation for browsing by platform has PC, XBox, Gamecube, PS2 and Gameboy Advanced under it. It’s as if Macs live in a parallel universe as far as gaming is concerned.

Mac users out there, what on earth do you guys do to have fun? Guess I’ll drive around town with MacStumbler on and search for WiFi hotspots.

Groovy.

Final

Took my final exam on Thursday. Like most of my peers, all I can say is that I’m glad it’s over.

I really need to work on my finishing skills, it’s always been something I’ve had problems with. In basketball, I always cut by defenders easily to an open basket only to miss the open shot. When running, it is only when I see the finishing line that I feel the burn in my legs. Somehow when the end is in sight, I find myself unable to muster the strength or focus to finish it off cleanly. It is also probably why I don’t like goodbyes, choosing to simply fade away as opposed to having “proper” closure.

The whole graduation hoo-ha was this morning. I didn’t go. I have a 20+ hour flight ahead of me on Thursday to think about the last three and a half years.

Blogging Backfire

When I asked Chris if he wanted to watch the Matrix Reloaded tomorrow, he asked if it was going to be like the last time I wanted to catch a movie before the general populace. I had no idea what he was talking about until he pasted the URL of my premature celebration over getting LOTR tickets earlier than the worldwide premier.

Talk about getting bitten in the behind. :)

Living It

I’ve always been thought of as the most boring of my contemporaries. I’m not into the latest fashions, or listen to the latest songs. Truth is, I’d much rather listen to Nat King Cole than Avril, whose name I’ve only become acquainted to through channel surfing. Once in a while I like to exercise my right to fanaticism - it’s an outlet of sorts.

Since I already downloaded the Matrix Screensaver, I thought I might as well go a step further and download the wallpaper, which is incidentally a very well-edited piece. Now all I need to do is catch the movie. I’ve made arrangements with Chris to catch it tomorrow after our last final. We’re taking the red pill on this one.

After Metamorphosis

I spoke to Zahid a few nights ago. We spent the better part of the evening sitting and chatting, something we haven’t done in a good two years.

Zahid and I go way back to the beginning of life here at the University of Arizona. Having both started out in Spring of 2000, we were the odd ones out. Most people start in the Fall semester. Many evenings were spent crossing the road from the dorms to Carl’s Jr. to grab a bite. It’s amazing how time has passed us both by.

He’s now awaiting the processing of his visa that would allow him to continue working here in the United States. He spoke about the constant discrimination he faced as a foreigner, and though I am glad to have found someone who shared my incredulity at white dominance I am saddened that he should have to suffer it first-hand.

Political talk at work goes like this: Americans make disparaging remarks about other civilisations. Foreigners like Zahid get fired up and retort. A short intellectual argument ensues. Americans fire ultimatum of “if you don’t like it here you can always leave”.

I’ve had emails saying more or less the same thing when I write my own opinions here. It dampens our spirits to be oppressed in such a manner. We become slaves, dependent on the United States because of their new-found dominance in the world economy, and told to strip ourselves of our identities and opinions if we wanted to stay.

It is a heavy hand that presses upon our backs. Slavery has taken a new form.

Priceless

At church today the pastor asked how one could quantify the value of mothers. As I already have problems dividing large numbers in my head, I wasn’t about to take on this immense pseudo-mathematical equation. My two cents:

bq. Mothers are like the finger of God. They do His most intricate work and leave behind only His fingerprints.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mum. Thanks for everything.

Cynicism Cylically

Don’t know if I’ll ever learn to totally trust anyone. I’m not the paranoid sort who has been “burntbadly once before and will never trust again” kind. It’s just that all my life I’ve lived using a heightened sense of intuition. I easily discern a look in someone’s eye or their body language, or hidden motivations in a given situation. It is a safeguard that I find hard to let go of.

Having Faith by my side all these years has prevented me from going all bitter about people around me. Far too often I’ve noticed human motivations to be rather sinister and perverse, and it is truly by the grace of God that Faith’s presence in my life has taught me to trust a little more and believe in the “inherent good” found in people. I haven’t learnt to trust anyone more than I trust myself, and I don’t trust myself a great deal. What I’ve compromised to is believing that people - well, most at least - are probably as confused and helpless to their own instinctive motivations as I am. So, however sinister and perverse their intentions may be seen to be, I discount that their premeditation part was not indecisive and muddled, a result of being in the moment.

There are times when I’ve been proven wrong, and my new-found faith in people is shaken. Guys who intentionally cheat on their girlfriends. That’s a glowing example. I’m fine if both parties were totally lost in their love and one party made a mistake. But the fact remains that there are people out there wicked enough to lead the other on all the way.

God hates the wicked. God loves everyone. Everyone is wicked. I know you’re going to tell me how God hates the sin but not the sinner. Separating the two is such a paper-thin procedure.

Singapore Service

Having gotten used to the level of service here in the United States, dealing with Singapore businesses took my sister a little getting used to.

We ordered a cake from Prima Deli as a small surprise for Mum on Mothers’ Day. They called my home in Singapore, asked for Mum, and then asked if anyone ordered “food” in an attempt to confirm the shipping address. So much for the surprise.

Unity in Diversity

In almost every speech I’ve seen President Bush give these few weeks has been concluded by a “God bless America”. I was just wondering: In a land that consists of so many different people of different faiths, what does it mean or feel to have the blessings of a foreign God invoked by the chosen representative of the people?

Spoilt Fruit

Ok computer experts out there, I need your help. I’m loving Safari and Mozilla, largely due to the fact that IE5 for Mac sucks big time. The one problem I’m facing right now is that MoveableType refuses to refresh to the “Building” page whenever I post to my blog. Instead, it goes back to the login page. The entry is entered into the SQL database, but the pages are not built. Anyone knows the workaround? There’s gotta be one, considering how many Safari bloggers are out there.

Courtliness

I went to court today. No, I’m not a lawyer. I got pulled over a little more than two weeks ago and received a ticket for not having my insurance papers with me. Apparently a court appearance was needed to rectify the paperwork problem. Now we all know why lawyers are always in demand: They become judges.

I haven’t been to downtown Tucson since I first came to Tucson more than three years ago, except the ocassional musical or ice-skating fiasco. Sitting outside the “Consolidated Courts of Justice” (the technical name for the place, mind you), and eating a hotdog brought about new observations and experiences.

Going to school in Tucson doesn’t mean living in Tucson. School’s full of rich kids with rich parents, driving their big cars and complaining about the lack of parking space. Surrounding yourself in this environment 24/7 means you begin to believe all of Tucson is like that. It’s not.

A black man who muttered constantly to himself sat near me, while working types reading their novels filled most of the other outdoor seats. Young Hispanic parents walked with little children who made a sport of chasing pigeons. A boy who can’t be much older than high-school age mans the hotdog stand. In the distance, little pockets of homeless people try to catch their forty winks in the shade.

It’s not the prissy goodie two shoes society that exists in school. It is ironic that the people who get summoned to courts are the often the victims of a society that has ripped them off - either by not providing them an affordable education or jobs that would have helped them off their feet. The dome of the Courts stands proud and its marble exterior seems to mock the poverty that lies at its feet.

In the courtroom, two veterans sit nearby. One of them is rehabbing from drugs and alcohol while the other just turned 79 and had open heart surgery. The younger of the two tells us that he knows he’s going to get time, but hopes to postphone it until his rehab program is completed. They share war stories.

There are times when I see the inequality in society and express my helplessness with a sigh. Other times I wonder if it were high time my generation started its own wars and wrote its own stories about how we tried to set things right.

Consumation

Dearest Lord,

there are times I see so clearly, and my entire being finds no expression other than a complete praise for who You are. Yet when I look at myself I find myself so utterly entrenched in the things of the world, its sins, its desires, its nature. I don’t understand how these two extremes can exist within me, sometimes even in the very same moment.

The powerful conflict tears me apart. I find myself unable to escape the world because of the weakness that is inherent in me, and yet the solace that I seek cannot be found here. How could I settle for the things around me when I’ve tasted of Your goodness?

But I know this: that the rapture that awaits me is not due to my strength or my goodness, but Yours. After all, it was Your suffering and Your death that freed us all from the inevitability of death. I can only bring my unclean hands, and a broken heart unto You, in faith that You’ll not only accept me, but enjoin me in You. That my insufficiency is made whole in Your completeness, my weakness in Your strength, and my sin made no more by Your love.

Thank You for the Music

Min and I caught the musical Mamma Mia a few days ago. I wouldn’t say it was the most thought-provoking of musicals, but it never did set itself up that way anyway.

It’s truly something to watch ABBA songs performed on stage. So much of my childhood revolved around it. We’d drive up to Malaysia to visit relatives during Chinese New Year’s and I’d fall asleep in the car to songs like “Chiquitita” and “Dancing Queen”. Even now they are still the soundtracks that play in my dreams.

Going Nowhere

After a lot of thought, I painfully and arduously decide not to go anywhere the week before my single final exam. Though technically feasible, it took me some time to realise that it wasn’t the scenery that I would miss most, but the people.

I’ll be taking time to craft little gestures of goodwill. Maybe all the weaponcrafting I’ve been doing in my Dark Age of Camelot game wasn’t totally a waste of time.

Suggestions

I have a little more than a week to burn, and would like to travel somewhere for a short vacation. It’s probably going to be an intensive photo-taking exercise and I need your suggestions. Where should I go to take pictures?

Usability Sensitivity

During the course wrapup, Matt Thatcher said he hoped to have us all irritated and annoyed at the world and it’s lack of usability.

So stop and smell the flowers, and then curse God for putting pollen in them.

Blame the Jeans

There’s a bill that’s been brought to the forefront recently regarding equal employment opportunities for transexuals and I had the chance to hear a short debate on Hardball on MSNBC.

Some research showed that 70% of the transexuals in San Francisco were unemployed, and the report concluded that it was due to their sexual orientation. The argument being made is that transexuality (including cross-dressing etc.) was an inborn attribute. As such, it was involuntary and should not be used to discriminate transexuals in the issue of employment. The reverse side of the argument is that employment inherently contains some form of discrimination, and at its core transexuality is a choice.

This is such a tricky issue. Where does genetic predisposition end and choice begin? If I argue that I wasn’t born as smart as Einstein, could I then sue NASA for not employing me? It is ironic that the United States, where personal choice is a pillar of society, genes are often used as a scapegoat to disavow the responsibility that comes with freedom of choice.

Is transexuality a choice or a genetic predisposition? I’m no expert in the area and honestly, I don’t know. But a fair yardstick should be used when measuring our ability to “affect our own destinies” and facing up to the consequences of our own actions.

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