Making Light of Things

February 2003 Archives

Meaning and Symbolism

Black and White picture of the American Flag flying

“You’re so far across the line, the line’s a dot to you!”

Uttered in a fit of comic rage by Joey Tribiani, this line from Friends has become one of the most well-remembered of our generation.

Slightly less than three years ago, University of Arizona journalist Sheila Baphat wrote an article about the right of a U.S. citizen to burn the American flag. She applauded the Senate for rejecting an amendment to ban flag burning, and said of those who opposed the act: “They are obsessed with protecting a piece of cloth that represents, most importantly, the right to burn it”.

Continue reading Meaning and Symbolism »

The Sunset that Never Came

The sunset that never came

Sunsets are a mystery. Though as certain as the rising of the sun (duh), it is still so utterly enigmatic in its ways. It seems to take forever to come, as if testing the patience of those who would await it - but when it appears, the moment is a split second that holds within it the fullness of an eternity. Unlike accomplishments or memories that fade with the passing of time, the vision of a magnificent sunset lives forever.

The conditions today were perfect. The skies were cloudy but the horizon was clear. I had only seen it happen a few days before: the fiery reddish hues of a sunset lighting up a cloudy sky.

Only this time I stood ready, camera in hand and tripod all set for her arrival. She slowly disappeared into the clouds, the game of peekaboo we’ve played since the beginning of time. The many of us who stood there knew that she’d come out from under the clouds and hover over the distant mountains in a most brilliant display. So we waited.

And we waited. We scoffed at those who left thinking the sunset was over. They’d only see her blushing in their rearview mirrors and moan in regret. We waited, because we knew better.

Or so we thought. She never came out from behind the clouds. The skies drew dark and the headlights of a thousand cars lit the cold hard earth below.

I left, still clutching my camera, feeling betrayed, half expecting to see her in my rearview mirror. I’d pull to the side of the road in an instant. But she never came.

Eastward, the skies were lit a weak synthetic pink - the product of the city lights. We headed home.

Weather the Weather

Tomorrow’s forecast: Scattered Thunderstorms. What’s that mean?

Great picture opportunities.

Closed Captioning

When the department of Homeland Security decided to create their website, it might have been wise to hire illustrators with a little less sense of humour.

This thread making fun of the’s illustrations is hilarious!


SXSWi is less than two weeks away. I’m getting all goosebumpy.

The tension is building.


I’ve been playing around with Jake’s lomo effect on a few of my photographs.

After seeing Jason and Meg post their results and being the quintessential copycat, here are mine.

Oh, I did throw in an Unsharp mask filter after the lomo effect.

Photo of Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona before Lomo effect

Photo of Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona after Lomo effect

I’ve taken the liberty to put Jake’s great effects into a photoshop action you can download. It resizes pictures to a width of 500px and works best if the ratio of your image’s width to height is 4:3.

Update: Jake just put up his lomo actions for Photoshop up at his site, so I’m taking mine down.

Nearer Still Nearer

I called Faith a few moments ago - a surprise because it wasn't our usual phone-time. Hearing her smiles of pure joy had me grinning from ear to ear.

"I love you", I muttered. "Marry me?"

The question that I'd asked a million times has long become a statement of love - a reaction to love's sheer abundance rather than the question it once was.

"Of course I will", she replied. "Silly question".

Absolute Sweetness

I’ll put this on the record: Pastry Chef Jacque Torres is a god.

He never ceases to amaze us (my sister and I) every episode of his dessert cooking show. There was one episode where he squeezed liquid chocolate from the icing thingie unto a huge inflated balloon in a gridlike pattern. He then deflated the balloon to reveal an oval chocolate cage which he used for decoration.

Our jaws fell to the floor in the pool of drool that had accumulated there.


A challenge has been issued.

I’ll respond.


I’m now stuck in the E-Commerce lab because a person told me to look after her bag for fifteen minutes.

It’s been closer to an hour.

At Rest

Comic of Graveyard - There is a peace that can only be found on the other side of war.

Comic created at


Just came back from CompUSA and I’m totally in love with the new Apple Powerbooks. Though I’ve always been a Mac admirer, the high price of owning one always meant that I had to stick with the PC. After using OS X for but a few minutes, I realised how shortchanged we PC users are.

The fonts on the Mac are razor-sharp. Even my homepages looked like they were all done up on Photoshop. I’m going to take the leap out of Bill’s pocket the moment I get my feet set under me.

Ticking Down

MoveableType 2.62 is released. I am almost done with the MIS Graduate Association Website, also powered by MoveableType.

The time is drawing near for a redesign. I’m very excited, and smiling like an idiot to prove it.

Retracing His Steps

I really don’t mean to do it. I really don’t. Or maybe I do, I don’t know. What I do remember is this: that in the act of doing it I came to a crossroad. There. I made the decision. It was all me. I chose. There’s nobody else to blame.

But I can’t seem to control it. It feels like it controls me. I just do these things. All the time. I fail, all the time.

Continue reading Retracing His Steps »

Calling Out Names

Holocaust Memorial Vigil at the University of Arizona

They read your names out today at the vigil. Every line read was a life that ended prematurely - an act, a decision made by a fellow human being.

A young boy aged eleven, a father aged fifty-one, a young mother aged twenty-four. Now we’ll never know what they could have become or how our own lives may have been affected had their presence been with us. Some of us might have found love, started families or changed the world in some way.

Now their lives are but a statistic that serves so poor a reminder of what humans do to other humans. The sound of their names fades away into the cold air of winter.

We would be fools to forget them, especially in these dark times.

Royal Rummage

If you’ve been anywhere blogwise recently, you’d have read that Google bought Blogger, and the whole blogging community is abuzz with speculations and analysis.

Anil thinks that Google and Blogger aren’t as great a fit as Dan Gilmor has described.

Having been one of the earlier supporters of Blogger (I have the T-shirt and all), I feel exactly as Jason Kottke described - an ambivalence of pride as well as loss. I suppose there’s always fearful tinge of slight betrayal when any entity becomes aligned with the “large corporation”. The end of garage-dwelling days and putting things together with duct tape. Usher in the suits, and priorities change. Dreams fade.

I wish folks at Blogger the best. God knows I’d still be using the cut-and-paste routine of archiving old posts were it not for them. The ship has left our waters for the ocean and our dreams with it. Stay true to the course and the vision.

Coming Home

Many people ask me why I won’t be staying in the U.S. after graduation this coming May. They list down the pros: Better job prospects, the lower cost of living and so on. I usually stop them before they start shooting off on the greater political freedom one enjoys in what they believe is the greatest democracy in the world.

Having spent the last few years here, I am well aware of all these - many of them true. A car in Singapore is something a person with average earning power can afford only sometime in their mid-thirties due to the high cost of automobiles. A place to stay - even a small apartment - takes a lifetime to pay off. It would seem easier to move to a place where these things are made more accessible to the average joe or joan.

I do not deny that America is one of the greatest democracies in the world. The fact that its people here have the freedom to air their opinions openly regardless of the political party in power is something at which I still marvel. Here at the U of A we have that guy running around school proclaiming that he is Jesus Christ, urging everyone to follow him.

Why would I want to go back to Singapore then? Because it is home. Sometimes I wish I could communicate this better to my American friends. Our way of life may be different - maybe even worse - but it is still our way of life. It belongs to us as much as we belong to it. Just as America laughs at us for banning the sale of chewing gum, we too find Florida’s inability to count hilarious. Just because it is different doesn’t make it bad.

Just looking at photos of the high-rise flats that most Singaporeans call home brings back so many memories. They are memories I hope to share with my children because they are so much a part of who Faith and I are. Is it too crowded in Singapore? Yes. Humid? Yes. Is the pace of life too hectic? Yes.

Is it home? Yes. And it’s our responsibility to make it a better place instead of looking for one.

Vee Dee

We went out for Valentine’s. My sister, a fellow Singaporean student and I. Not exactly the normal V-day group dynamics.

The Japanese place we had originally intended to eat at was totally packed with lovey dovey couples. We arrived at the end of a six party waiting list. This normally wouldn’t really deter us, but Valentine couples have a propensity to be overly elaborate over dinner. Fast food it would be.

It was an interesting time to people-watch. It seemed almost like the entire world was out tonight. Mothers with their children, groups of high school kids, toddlers. The scene at the mall certainly wasn’t reflective of the Valentine’s Day crowd. There were hardly any couples in sight.

Not course not. No self-respecting casanova would be caught dead eating fast food tonight. They were all dressed to the nines, eating at the most expensive of restaurants with the scent of roses and perfume. A stay at a luxurious hotel, an airplane ticket to a nearby resort destination for the weekend; tonight they would pull all the stops.

Yet in the midst of the “other” crowd I realised that these were the real heroes. The ones who slogged day and night for their children; friends who in each other found companionship that could be shared with more than just one other person. They were the blue-collar workers of love in its most basic and enduring form.

Keep it real tonight people.

Name's Slick

Some educational institutions really have no idea what the real world thinks. The Management Development Institute of Singapore sent me an unsolicited email urging me to attend the “Email Marketing Workshop for Non-IT Personnel”.

According to this uninformed school, “E-mail Marketing is a key element in projecting a professional image”. What a load of crock. I need email clogging up my mailbox like I need a bullet to the head. Amongst the list of “What you will learn”, it blatantly states: “SPAM”.

Go ahead, send them a piece of your mind. - grab this email address you vicious email bots.

Field of Dreams

A field of flowers for Faith

Some years ago I gave her a rose for Valentine’s. Being the romantic she was, she hung it to dry so that the keepsake would last longer than the few days flowers afford. An unfortunate gust of wind blew through her 22nd storey apartment and the rose was swept out of the window and unto the speeding cars that traversed the highway below.

I still tease her about the incident and she always responds with an apologetic smile that still lights up my heart.

So my dearest, thank you handling my heart with hands much more careful and tender than those. I pray that our lives together be like a field where flowers bloom after every rainfall; every blossom holding within itself a testimony of God’s grace, and our lives dewdrops reflecting His radiance.


It’s been a long time since I cranked up my speakers and listened to my collection of music. Listening to Sarah McLachlan’s Angel brings me back to my freshman year - feelings of uncertainty, longing and melancholy.

Interestingly enough, it is in times like these that are filled with the most insight and inspiration. I don’t know if it’s the same for the rest of you.

Dreams that have somehow been lost to the winds of change and the monotany of reality slowly begin to come back to me.

Thanks for listening in. Over and out.

Extreme Character

Watched snowboard racing, one of the events in the Winter X-Games on ESPN. One of them had a clear lead on the other two before turning too hard into a corner and skidding. He regained his balance, but lost his lead, finishing second.

This was what really struck me: When asked what happened, he said,

“I lost the edge [of the snowboard] during the turn. Think I need more practice.”

The thing about him was that he didn’t say it in jest, or as a means to relieve the tension and disappointment of losing. He was earnestly saying that he needed more practice.

Wow. No “I let me beat myself” or the usual assortment of excuses about the weather. My hats off to him.


you’re going to…

Steven from Dell holding a cheque from Hell

Dell computers no longer gets him all perky. Steven here has moved on to greener pastures.

Double Vision

Guess I’m not the only one who smells a rat in the whole business with the Olsen Twins.

Heather has quite accurately observed the curious tilting of their heads towards each other. She attributed it to alien magnetic brain implants.

Like her, I speculate some form of alien involvement. Which two siblings (twins nonetheless) can show such unyielding tolerance of each other’s constant company? Certainly not human ones.

Glitter of Gold

The nominations for the photobloggies are out for your voting pleasure.

After one has been in the blogging circle long enough, the results of these “awards” almost become predictable. No…don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to do is start a whole chain reaction about how things are rigged, because as far as I know, the Photobloggies are not. Being new, it’s never had a chance to.

I say that the results are predictable because attention is scarce. It’s the one resource in the information age, is it not? Truth is, even as you’re reading this paragraph, you’re probably one of the few who didn’t drop out after skimming through the first paragraph.

So it is no wonder that the more popular of blogs (photo or otherwise) get all the attention. A most interesting discussion of equality and power is taking place amongst a few blogs, namely Jason Kottke’s and Mark Pilgrim’s, both stemming from Clay Shirky’s Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality.

So like a mirror of real life, the virtual world is in itself nowhere near the utopian standards we had hoped it would be. Did it lower the costs and open the field to many who would else not have had the resources to publish and create? Yes.

We simply moved on to the next constraint. There will always be the few who have a lot and the many who have little or none.

Is it fair then, that my photolog didn’t make it into the Photobloggies? Sure. You don’t expect a rip-off of the original MoveableType templates to win now, do you?

I am determined, however, to put a Singapore City Photolog in the next Photobloggies once I get back in May. I’ll be calling upon some of you out there to help me out.

Visually Impaired

I need another roadtrip fast. I’m running out of Las Vegas photos for my photolog.

SXSW has got to come sooner.

A Familiar Sound

A bunch of us Singaporean students caught Shanghai Knights yesterday. We had to. Not because we’re captivated by Jackie Chan’s stunts (though we are) or Owen Wilson’s intellect (he did co-write the script for The Royal Tenenbaums - a splendid movie). We had to watch Fann Wong. That’s right, she’s from Singapore.

Like most Singaporeans, we were all inclined to watch with a highly critical eye. In the first few minutes, we deduced that her acting skills were well below par for Hollywood and that she should probably have stuck to speaking only Chinese. Like most Singaporeans, we are fast to put down our own; it seems to be a trait passed down from colonial days. It is shocking that even many years later and in a more modernised society, a number actually still believe that Caucasians are superior simply by virtue of skin colour. So there we were, half-embarassed that Fann’s accent was distinctly Singaporean.

A little less than two hours later, we left the theatre with a firmer sense of identity. There’s nothing wrong with being Singaporean, or being different for that matter. We were better off having seen Fann on the big screen, a familiar face that brought home that much closer. Her accent, however un-American, was ours. And we learnt to be proud of it.

So Fann, here’s thanks from a Singaporean very, very far away from home. In some odd way I missed you, and it was nice seeing you again.

Maybe we’ll meet up for coffee when I get back?

Stepping Back

According to the referral logs, someone came upon this site via Google with the search parameters war, iraq, un, decision, us, unbiased opinion. Google’s complex algorithms apparently believed me to be the ninth best source given the search criteria (at the time of the search).

I’ll be the first to admit that my views are hardly unbiased. I know I’ve pissed off quite a few who see war with Iraq as a necessary step forward, and I apologise (especially to you, Walker) if I do. But that’s simply what I think. Sadly, even what I think shifts with the ebb and flow of information. It is not to say that I don’t believe in the things that I say or write here.

Politics is like quicksand. The more we struggle the deeper we sink. There is simply too much information and too many hidden agendas for us to grasp the whole issue. In some cowardly fashion it is much easier to stand detatched.

I’ll refrain from adding fuel to the fire or including my own opinion on the issue. It is unlikely that my rants will bring about any change at all. Maybe some day this will all make sense to us and we will see things for what they truly are.

That’s probably going to be in heaven.

Emancipating the Liberated?

If America is truly the liberator of the Iraqi people, wouldn’t they (the Iraqis) have built this monument to bear the America flag instead of its own?


Many of us waited for Colin Powell’s great revelation. Where he would dispel all fear and lay to rest our doubts as to whether to engage in full-scale war. We came out of it sorely disappointed.

As the United States continues to call in the reserves and send in the calvary it is evident that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Such a massive logistical movement wasn’t initiated so that troops could sit around and wait. It is almost inconceivable to imagine the massive force trotting home because the rest of the world disagreed. Bush will have his war, sanctioned by the U.N. or otherwise.

Shock and Awe. That’s the plan isn’t it? Fire 800 missiles into Baghdad in two days. Cower all of them into submission, if any of them be left. Send in the ground troops to clean up.

But the Tomahawk missiles used in the Gulf War are as precise as a surgeon’s scapel aren’t they? I remember distinctly reading a centerfold spread in Singapore’s own New Paper quoting U.S. newspapers that the Tomahawk could hit a mailbox from 2000 kilometers away. So, with such pinpoint precision, Rumsfeld and his lackeys claim that they reduce collateral (read civilian) damage.

You don’t believe that crap, do you? A missile fired from a ship 2000 kilometers away can hit your mailbox? Why even bother flying planes in then?

Make no mistake about this. Many civilians will die if the United States implements its plan of war. Their deaths will not make headlines on CNN or FoxNews, both of whom seem utterly bewitched by Bush Jr’s charm. Since General Powell’s anti-climatic attempt (and I belive is the United States’ best) to convince us all, I can only deduce this:

It is about oil. If so much blood be shed over it, oil will be the dirtiest three-letter word in human history.

Adding It Up

I dreamt last night that I met a little girl who could do the multiply large numbers. I stood there, mouth wide-open in utter amazement.

Waking up from the dream I realised that it was I (ME!) who was the one coming up with the big time answers. I impressed myself!


So here we stand, at the aftermath of what was the Chinese New Year. Though alien to most westerners, Chinese New Year’s is nothing more than an Eastern Thanksgiving - a time for family reunions, the trading of war stories and lots of food.

Barely a week later I return to read blogs from Singapore and instead of finding a small slice of home I can take with me in my heart, I find the words of malcontents. I’ve grown so much more appreciative of family over the years, regretting the many stories and experiences that fade away every time an elderly family member passes on. Now, many miles away, the pang grows exceedingly strong and I await the day I return home to the people whom I hardly know. Maybe this time I’ll redeem the time.

To read the gripes and complaints stabs at my heart. As Areya correctly pointed out, my generation has truly grown self-centered, oblivious to the wisdom of the many generations before us and forsaking what has always been important through the ages. We complain about how tiring and troublesome it is to visit relatives that we haven’t seen in a while. Some go as far as calling the whole tradition hypocritical.

It is one thing to mull over the hassle involved, and yet another to doubt the good intentions behind the efforts already put in. It is true that Singapore’s lifestyle ill affords activities that take away our time for rest, but family - in all its mishapen glory - is important and efforts to maintain it essential.

Grow up, for these are more important things than yourselves.

Spare Tires

It’s wrong to covet, but this McLaren currently for sale makes it awfully difficult.

Check out the 100GB MP3 system built in the car. One would think that rich people had no need for MP3s right?

No Longer 20/20

It gets harder and harder, doesn’t it?

To stay clear-headed, unbiased and logical in our everyday decision-making. I remember as a child I often thought adults were blind to the obvious when decisions seemed so black-and-white. They’d often chide me, then tell me how I missed out on the other points of view, or that I didn’t take into account the various factors involved. That being them wasn’t as easy as I made it out to be.

I never bought their excuses. I knew that they’d never take advice from another adult, let alone a child - their child. I knew that even if I made perfect sense and presented my opinion as articulately as was possible, there’d be something I “forgot” or “didn’t understand”. It was always “hard”.

Now many years later I find myself saddled with the emotional baggage accumulated on the way to adulthood. I’d be lying if I said that I see things much clearer now, because I don’t believe I do. If anything, the eyes of my heart have grown more clouded, more cynical and less simple. I’m faster to judge, slower to forgive and more “assertive”.

It’s good they say - to be assertive. That’s not how I wanted to be. I can almost see my own child self shaking his head as I walk with arms outstretched, stumbling around in the fogginess of my mind. I hear his voice, but like the adults that had chided him before, I ignore him. He’s too young and idealistic. The real world’s not like that.

Their excuses have become mine. I want so much for things to be fresh again, to be renewed. I know that Jesus Christ is the Source of all new life and that in Him I can find the strength to live as a child; in simplicity of thought and pureness of heart. I know I need to come to the feet of the One who died for me.

He calls us all, you know? To leave all this mess behind and find that which I’ve - which we all - have been looking for.

I write this tonight because I want my children to know that there will come many times when I ought more to be like them than like me; that being older doesn’t always mean being wiser. I only pray I have the humility to hear their thoughts, for often their thoughts are closer to His than mine.

Deliver Us From Evil

Italian Roman Catholics are looking for a saint for the Internet.

Jakob Nielsen as the patron saint of the Internet



7 astronauts died today as the space shuttle Columbia broke apart upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Six Americans (one Indian-born) and an Israeli made up its crew.

Seven seems such a small number.
We have become used to the taste of death. Watching footage of the space shuttle breaking apart, it seemed so distant and small, and felt almost inconsequential.

In reality, it was anything but.

Seven people who had dedicated their entire lives to space exploration passed away today, in the midst of an endeavour that would widen the scope of our knowledge. We triumph in their efforts and gain from their work, but the risks that astronauts face were fully known only to them. They bravely faced the unknown to unrevel its mysteries to the rest of us. We lost them today.


My photolog is ranked third on Google when you search for “morning erection”.

Not quite the kind of fame I was looking for.

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