Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

November 2003 Archives

Trailer Park

If you haven’t watched the Extended Version of Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers, do yourself a great favour and get a copy. I felt rather disappointed by the movie, finding it choppy and rather nonsensical at times. For example, why’d a horse come out of nowhere and save Aragorn? Did Lassie really call for help?

The characters are fleshed out so much better and the story told in much more wondrous detail. The movie screening almost seemed like a prolonged trailer for the real “extended” version.

I might want to run a screening here at home of the extended versions of both LOTR episodes before the third movie’s out. Anyone interested to watch it?

Entmoots

We had a really wonderful mini-retreat for the old Youth Fellowship committee members earlier this week. We reflected on what we had set out to do years ago, looked upon where we currently stood and charted a semblance of a course for the future.

Time’s whirlwind has swept us all off our guard. When we paused a while to look back, we all realised how young we were when this all started. We had scarcely noticed that the youths we had sought to help were now young adults, our age when we began serving in the ministry.

It was truly blessed to have time to rekindle the old ties and rediscover old friends who were now in new places in life.

All the World's a Stage

Before Schwarz was governor of “Cauliforna”, Estrada was the president of the Philippines. Before Estrada, Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States. Not to be outdone, FPJ has declared that he is running for president.

What is it with actors and politics? People totally inexperienced can take up office simply because they have the money to “surround themselves with smart people”. Are we actually so gullible to believe that people who know nothing about economics can manage our fiscal policies, or employ people who have not travelled widely to dictate our foreign policy?

Is it a lack of choice that leads us so? After all I’ve heard quite a number of people say that they’d vote for Howard Dean simply because he’s not George Bush. Or are we really looking for that fairytale Hollywood role model?

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

“Don, this can’t continue. I won the elections because of the stand I took with regards to my faith. Ok, so I made the mistake by riding the “God bless America” hype, but that was truly how I…and the whole of America felt. I didn’t mean for it to become a holy war, but…darn…it really looks like one isn’t it? We need to restructure the Middle-East, there’s no doubt about that. Doesn’t help that our getting rid of Saddam came across as a dilution of our attack on the Al-Qaeda. It now looks like we’re targeting all Muslims.
Is there any way we can have them on our side in this one?”

Don smiled. He knew what had to be done, but waited patiently for the right time to bring it up.

“If we launch small covert attacks on strategic targets, we can have all of them on our side. A little bit of confusion and anarchy would have them begging for our intervention. It is then we can establish our blueprint for the Middle-East. Imagine having a hand in establishing democracy in all of the Middle-East, rather than just Iraq.
We already rule the airwaves and all the media channels. We own the average world citizen. Monarchy has to go - affecting one suspicious person is more difficult than changing the minds of the unsuspecting public. Democracy serves us.”

George sighed. He had little time before the next election. He had to win it to best his father. He had already managed to turn the country’s eyes away from the flickering economy, but he couldn’t manage that forever. Control of the globe would definitely raise his chances at a second term.

“Just do what you got to do, Don.”

Don rose from his seat and walked to the door.

“Don? Make sure you stick the bullseye on the bull.”

Don picked up his cellphone and dialed a number.

“Hello. No, I don’t need to speak with O’Reilly. Put me through to your editor. He’s not there? Just tell him that Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for the attack on the mosque in Mecca tomorrow.

Cleaning the Slate

Hari Raya marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It is such a treat to be on the streets on the morning and see all the Singaporean Muslims dressed in their traditional best.

One of the customs during Hari Raya is that the younger generation asks for forgiveness from the older. I think it should be a custom for every language and race. The Chinese way would be to sweep things under the rug, cross our fingers and hope it goes away. We let time heal our wounds. We forgive implicitly - never talking about it so as to save face for the offending party. As such, whether we are actually forgiven or whether the wrongdoing remains a dormant trap remains cloaked in vagueness. Because we never explicitly forgiven anyone, these things become points on a scoresheet; weapons we whip out to exert our superiority and place if the occasion calls for it.

God knows how many people I have sinned against. Like an obedient Chinese man I sweep it under the gigantic Chinese rug. They sometimes come back as questions without an answer. Even if I were to try to clean the slate now, some things happnened so long ago I don’t know if it were wise to bring it up to memory. I’d rather rest in the assumption that they were forgotten, I guess. Maybe I need to change.

Doh!

Spammers are a clever bunch. Downright evil, but just as porn launched a thousand technological breakthroughs on the web, spammers are showing us how things can be done.

I received a comment spam on one of my entries. Nothing particularly new, you say. I have my comments emailed to me and when I saw that this user “had problems displaying my stylesheet on his Safari / OSX setup”, I emailed back to clarify what problems.

Then I looked at the URL given. A life-insurance spam. I should have known better. A good mix of psychology and innovation can revive even the oldest and most archaic of technologies.

The Smarts

I have a Digital IQ of 163, and an analog one considerably less (I’m making assumptions here).

Referral Spamming Hits Blogdex

After posting about referral spamming this afternoon, it seems that Amateur X Pass, a porn site, has used referral spamming to reach number 5 on Blogdex, an index of sites most linked to by blogs.

This was achieved because a large number of bloggers display their referral logs on their main page. As of tonight there are 17 links to the porn site. I expect it to hit the number one spot by tomorrow morning.

Update: A link to the Paris Hilton sex video has reached number 11.

Sneak Peak

After the implementation of Jay Allen’s MT-Blacklist that would solve the problem of spammers clogging up the comments on this blog, we began to talk about how MovableType’s Trackback feature could be next on the target list of the spammer mastermind.

I read Mark Pilgrim’s post about how the spamming industry was headed by a mafia-type organisation and originally thought it quite the stretch, but I’m now thoroughly convinced that Mark hit it right on the head.

The next big avenue of spam will probably through the referral logs. Bloggers use referral logs to tell us who reads our site and where they came from. I’ve already received a few links leading to pornographic websites on my logs, which means that they’re already out there.

Ever watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? J.K. Rowling gave us an illustration of spam when she wrote about how letters for Harry were pouring in through the windows and the chimney. Just as Uncle Vernon was unable to stop the influx of mail by nailing the mailbox shut, we need to find alternative ways of stopping spam.

Matt Haughey posted about how we ought to be attacking the spam business model rather than building walls to block it. Slashdot posted an innovative idea on attacking spammers: If we all responded to a particular spam mail (comment, trackback etc) in a coordinated attack, we could drown the spammer in bogus responses that leads to no sales, not to mention taking up an extraordinary amount of bandwidth or mailbox space.

It is possible that a Rebellion will soon be formed, not unlike the one in Star Wars.

Client Quotes

Here’s a list of “best” client quotes from the web design industry.

Ones I’ve personally gotten:

Can we have like red text on blue? Those are the corporate colours.

Or

I don’t have anyone to write out the content of the website. Why don’t you just fill in stuff about my company, throw in a list of my clients, you know, that sorta stuff.

If you’ve worked anywhere, even just a little bit, you’d have your own collection of gems.

Ridiculed

I met up with a web solutions vendor some time ago as a technical advisor to a friend who was their client. My friend hadn’t arrived yet. You could almost hear an audible old western tune in the air as three of their top honchos hovered around me. We engaged in some “casual” chit-chat whilst waiting, but you could bet your life every word I uttered was prodded for signs of weakness. I couldn’t be bothered, really. It was a non-paying gig and whatever ego I had had long been diluted through hours upon hours of housework. It was only through Faith’s gentle manner that I held in me a calm sense of mere security.

They asked me what tools I used to make my websites. “BBEdit, Notepad or whichever text-editor is at hand,” I answered. They all laughed. I didn’t catch the joke.

“If you use notepad, I use the command prompt!” one of them said, eliciting more laughter from his band.

I blinked hard, the laughter still ringing in the air. I sat there half in shock that the idea of using a text-editor for HTML seemed so foreign to them. I swallowed, unable to think of something civil to say.

It was a good thing my friend arrived shortly. I may have been made more of the fool I seemed to be.

Job Search Pointers

If you are looking for a technical job, remember that the initial point of contact between you and the company is normally from human resources. Don’t bury him or her with jargon only understood by those in your specific field.

And the 5As. Always Avoid Acronyms And Alliteration.

Blogrolling Hacked

My Blogroll has been hacked

Seems like all sites using Blogrolling are now online advertisements for Laura’s Blog.

Taking the Smaller Stage

There is a fear that paralyses. Some people rise up above it to meet the challenge head on and get a kick out of the adrenaline rush. I seem to reserve that courage only for Braveheart moments.

I had the intention of participating in the Singapore Nike Freestyle Competition. After so many years of playing basketball recreationally, my ambidexterity manifested itself after I broke my right hand last year. I have since been able to pull off basketball stunts and tricks with my previously lacking left hand.

I thought it was a Braveheart moment. Take the center stage to see how I stacked up against the rest. Let my hair down and have a little fun. Sure, the fear of failing in front of a gadzillion people was there, but I’ve been on stage before. How different could it be, right?

In my life basketball has always been closely tied to my spiritual walk with God. The early mornings (back in secondary school) spent shooting hoops was some alone time I spent talking to Him. Somehow something didn’t feel right about using a gift for self-glorification. When I say gift, I say it as something truly given, not something I am innately born with. God knows I’m no Michael Jordan.

Freestyle basketball is very in-your-face. It has helped me relate better to the neighbourhood youths as well as the boys in church. I think I will keep performing to that audience.

So there. I did not sign up for the competition. I did not get a shot at appearing on MTV. I did, however, showcase my tricks to the people behind who didn’t have a good view of the competition. A few others (who participated) joined in and we had a ball of a time.

I don’t know if I’m rationalising my cowerdice, but somehow I feel thankful that I opted to stay in the amateur circuit. I’m still up to balling with any of you ballers if you want to though. Just leave me a note or email me.

It's All About Statistics

We are all full of ourselves. I once read an article on psychology that stated that even Mother Teresa helped out because of a “selfish” desire - the need to feel that she was being altruistic. It is an extreme view that irked my ire quite a bit, for my young self wanted so much to believe that we could choose to live above ourselves, but there is some truth in what the article said. We make decisions based on our needs. A parent provides for his or her child for the comfort that he or she is being a good parent, and so on.

Nowhere else is this more apparent than the governing of nations. While America keeps harping on how it wants to see justice done in Iraq, or how it is the only one capable of righting a wrong, we can bet our lives that its own interests are the foremost of its priorities.

Democracy was established to balance these inevitably selfish interests. I want what I want, you want what you want. We’ll take the mean of all of what everybody wants and somehow things will sort of even out. It is a system of checks and balances, and nothing less than the participation of the total population would see the most equitable decision made.

When the United States embarked on a policy of unilateralism, she made a statement to the rest of us that their selfish interests were more important than ours. The French could go to hell and all that.

I was living in the United States then and felt utterly helpless to affect her actions that would change the world in which my own children would inherit. Even in an academic environment, we foreigners were told to shush up because we weren’t the ones “paying the price” of sending our kids into Iraq. Joi Ito’s right - Foreigners, even those living in and contributing to the diversity of the United States, have no say in its foreign policies that affect many of our homelands.

As Bush continues to give Rumsfeld and Chaney the nod, the American people themselves begin to lose their own democracy. They are scarcely able to affect any change themselves.

I’ve learnt a thing or two about rigging statistics when I was studying business. You narrow the sample size to your desired group of people and the statistical mean falls within your favour. Just watch Bill O’Reilly tell guests on his show to “shut up” because they have a different opinion. Be the last one talking and everything will be fine.

Known by the Music

If I were to be judged by my playlistic people, I’d probably fit the profile of someone in his fifties.

Granted, I have Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul alongside the annoying (but ever so catchy) Rick Astley, bookmarks of a childhood spent in the eighties. I also have a huge stash of Placido Domingo and Mario Lanza, which puts me in the league of my uncles and aunts. An entire gamut of broadway would most probably throw me in the gay category.

Oh wow. Ten versions of Danny Boy and six of O Holy Night.

What’s on your playlist?

Freestyle

I’m very tempted to go try my hand at the Singapore Nike Freestyle Face Off. Freestyling in front of a crowd will be rather intimidating. My audience till now has mostly been the neighbourhood kids who tell me I should join the circus.

I’m still not sure if it’s to do with my hair.

Devastator!

There’s an excavator with the longest arm just across the street reaching into a deep square hole in the ground and filling endless rows of giant trucks with the earth it extracts. The hole wasn’t half as deep a few days ago. The signs say it’ll be at least a good year before the train station opens.

It would be fascinating to watch if it weren’t bloody two o’clock in the morning. There has got to be some law against this.

Sadako's Wedding

Ai doing the Sadako

It’s not everyday you see a bride who can turn her head back 180 degrees.

Compiled List for Alternate Stylesheets

For you CSS-gurus out there:

I run multiple stylesheets on Tribolum. Is there anyway I can have a single line of code that will list down all my different (alternate and default) stylesheets?

Can I do an import of a CSS file that imports multiple stylesheets? Or can I use a PHP includes or SSI to pull in the lines of code?

This is so that I don’t have to go into my individual and date archives whenever I add a new stylesheet.

Update: I’ve implemented a PHP includes to pull it in from a single file.

Path Not Travelled

Feeling accomplished?

Let your ego take a beating. Find out what other people your age have accomplished.

View from the Bandwagon

Took me a while, but I finally joined Friendster. I was hesitant after reading so many people’s apprehension: The unearthing of closet skeletons, the harsh criticisms via the testimony function built into the system. Or meeting your mother. Now that’s a thought that’ll put pause in your mouse buttons anyday.

Sifting through the infinite number of people at Friendster I am surprised to receive a message from Pauline.

I first met her in Tucson at an Asian Bible Fellowship meeting. She had one of those personalities that just cheered up even the dreariest of days. So I sat there, looking at her profile and remembering times past.

Studying overseas is depressing. You meet so many wonderful people who affect your life in the most personal ways, and yet you’re forced to leave them all. It wasn’t as if staying in Tucson would have made a difference. Pauline went to Oregon for Pharmacy school and that was the last I saw of her. Many others went to many other places.

They become names on a page, memories locked away in time never to be changed. Yet in reality they have changed and moved on, made new friends, gotten a job, married, children, houses. The divide that time wedged between us pries us all apart.

We sit at our screens, looking at images of times gone by. We fire up our online messangers to say hi, but words scarcely carry the immensity of our emotion and our life.

Broadband never is broad enough. I miss you all. I wish our paths never did have to diverge.

Capulet and Montague

Friendster doesn't allow me any friends

Sorry Casandra. I tried, but I don’t think we can be friends.

Optimism

Just spent the entire morning doing the big three of floor cleaning: Vacumning, mopping and swiffing. Using whatever momentum I had left I proceeded to clean all the glass windows of the house. I didn’t know how much glass we had until both my arms ached too much.

Admiring the flawlessly clean panel of wall-to-wall ceiling-to-floor windows, I smiled. It started to rain.

The rain would eventually fall on the windows and act as magnets for dust particles in the air. When the raindrops evaporate, they’ll leave behind the dust they attracted on the window. My hours of window-cleaning was futility in action. Utter futility.

Well, at least I can see the falling raindrops clearly.

One To One

One of the most common questions I get here on Tribolum is: How did you know she was the one?

I hesitated replying this question because it opens a can of worms. Is there only one “the one”? What if you already blew your chances with “the one”? Will another “the one” be provided for you?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’ve ventured through the philosophical possibilities thoroughly enough to know that no one, not even “the one” has the answers to how many “the one”s one gets in his or her lifetime.

Another reason why I had originally refrained from writing in response to those questions was that my personal experience is not a secular experience. It was a time when I wanted to be as politically correct, but now I know that sharing my life with you means sharing my spiritual experiences as well as my intellectual adventures.

So back to the question, “how do you know if he / she is the one?” As human beings we fall in love a lot. A lot of us get hurt, some feel used, while even more hold on to pieces of unrequited love, hoping to piece them together into some semblance of a relationship. Even an imaginary relationship seems better that what real life offers us at times. The months become years and we give up looking for “the one” and conclude that his or her existence is an adolescent fable. A Santa Clause for young adults.

So instead of looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, some of you settle for Mr. or Ms. Right-here. Others pack their hearts in little styrofoam-padded boxes and keep them in their storerooms, never to risk being broken again. Once in a while someone intriguing comes by and the question arises once more.

Is he / she the one?

You reckon you’re too old to fall for this anymore. You’re too jaded to ask. You don’t need to ask, you tell yourself.

I’m telling you that you need to know.

Continue reading One To One »

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