Making Light of Things

July 2005 Archives

The O Factor

After watching Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, I’ve always known that Owen Wilson is walking paradox: a blonde genius.

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Covert Operations

While most of you were sleeping, I:

It’s a brand new day.

Government for the Corporations, By the Corporations

Shoot someone? Not Smith & Wesson’s fault. Copy a movie? Grokster’s fault.

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iBook Power

iBook + more features = a lot of unsold Powerbooks.

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Spam Assassin

Russian spammer murdered. Conspiracy theories abound.

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Who Am I?

Homemaker and baby-minder by day, web designer / developer by night.

And human being whenever time allows.

Blind But Now I See

Finding photos I once thought were lost for good is like finding a part of myself I’ve always known was missing. Life, at least visually chronicled life, feels complete again.

Dad, Mum, Louelle and I went to visit Min and attended her graduation last year. My Powerbook’s harddrive crashed soon after. Thank God for external harddrives.

Moonrise, Outside some factory outlet between LAX and Palm Springs, California, USA

Moonrise, Outside some factory outlet between LAX and Palm Springs, California, USA

Yahoo Buys Konfabulator

Dashboard for Windows? Or web based konfabulator widgets?

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RSS Feeds

In this case, I’m referring to the Really Simple Science of the feed. Feeding a baby, in particular. But I’ll extrapolate futher, because like all good scientific principles, this one can also be applied in a myriad of different realms.

After spending the last hour and a half of trying to feed Anne, I decided to share the obscure science of the feed.

Back when Anne was younger, it didn’t matter if her milk came in the form of a breast or a bottle. She’d even drink milk that came straight out of the refrigerator. Cold breastmilk, of course. Not cow’s milk. Now three and a half months old, her taste has grown more sophisticated. The milk has to warmed up just right, and it better come in the right packaging or there’ll be hell to pay.

So where feeding her was once

Graph of Ease of Feed against Hunger, Anne when younger than 3 months

it is now starting to look like

Graph of Ease of Feed against Hunger, Anne at3 months

As you can see, it is becoming exceedingly hard to find the right time to feed her. Too early, and you’re left with a 98% full milk bottle that’s quickly cooling down to room temperature. Feed her too late, and you’ll be spending the next hour or so on your feet placating the little bugger. Oh, and you’ll be holding a 98% full milk bottle doing it.


CC wanted to know why I didn’t put Anne directly to the breast.

Since Faith’s maternity leave ended yesterday, the graph for CC’s suggestion would look like this.

Graph of Ease of Feeding Against Hunger, Me breastfeeding Anne

Same for RSS

Now for the extrapolation unto the less milk-related form of RSS. Techical jargon ahead. Reader beware.

There has been a lot of talk about RSS and the giving up of content, the losing of regular site visitors to newsreaders, and whether we should be putting ads in RSS feeds to “recoup our losses”, so to speak.

Like Anne, users used to be easy to feed. A good excerpt of what promises to be great content would have them checking out your site. But users have evolved to become more picky and a sort of power struggle ensues during feeding time. The user, who is used to being the center of attention, now demands full feeds so that he doesn’t even have to visit the site anymore. The content provider would like some revenue from clickthroughs to ads, so the activity of content creation doesn’t have to be an all-out altruistic, self-sacrificial act.

A parallel to Anne’s feeding habits, here’s to the user: Grow up. Just as Anne eventually needs to realise that her parents need sleep, you have to realise that freebies, while they do exist, don’t last forever.

It is hard work producing content. Don’t muzzle the ox when it plows your grain.

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

In two minutes, Mike Davidson says.

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Pot, Kettle, and Crockery

I’ve never been a fan of Xiaxue. Sure, she’s won numerous blog awards with her brash, in-your-face insensitivity. After a brief read about how she didn’t give up her seat to a pregnant lady on the train because she “didn’t ask her to get pregnant”, I stopped reading. It was worth neither the time, effort, nor exasperation reading the writings of so callous a human being.

But when I read that her site got hacked, I felt sorry for her. Hacking into another’s personal blog is utterly repugnant behaviour. Even if our opinions didn’t agree, Xiaxue had a right to a voice. I thought I’d go see what the hacker wrote, and hoped that her archives were still intact.

Her site was up by the time I got there, with no visible signs of damage. Then I read the Xiaxue’s latest entry about how she doesn’t condone nudity on blogs. Not too long ago, Sarong Party Girl caused a ruckus on the Singapore blogosphere when she put up artistic photos of herself complete with nipples. She shot to fame thanks to the shock factor, largely similar to Xiaxue’s own, albeit slightly less visual, claim to fame.

I find it odd that Xiaxue, whose has quite the gigantic banner of herself wearing a short skirt, seated on a beanbag and trying hard not to expose her own genitalia while wearing a t-shirt that says “wholesome sluts” would possess such a conservative view. Doesn’t she know that she’s already an advocate for the behaviour she now says she abhors? You can’t blame the “young and naive”, as she puts it, for taking it a step further.

Xiaxue, you’ve always been a strong, opinionated woman. I wish you’d show more strength in your opinion this time round.

Beauty Sleeping

It’s 5 in the morning. I’ve had Anne asleep on my stomach (like here) for more than an hour to kinda settle her in. About fifteen minutes after I put her down, she start rubbing her face vigorously again.

At some point we thought we had it down pat. Anne was sleeping almost through the night and we were feeling really blessed and all. The glimpse of parenting heaven lasted only a week and a half. Anne would rub her face with her mitten-covered hands, kick her way out of any ingenious swaddling restraints and eventually wake herself up in the process. By the morning her face would look like it got hit by a truck.

So for the past number of nights (I say number because I can’t remember how many due to prolonged sleep deprivation, and blogging about sleep deprivation) I’ve been carrying her, walking her back and forth in the hopes of settling her down enough to get her some shuteye. It was like Day Three again.

A few moments ago I decided to try putting Anne to sleep on her tummy. Now before any of you goes postal on me: yes, I know about SIDS. Yes, I know I’ll absolutely hate myself if anything bad happens to Anne. But I also know that she doesn’t get the rest she needs because of her flailing arms and legs when she lies on her back.

Faith said that putting her on her tummy probably doesn’t mean we get more sleep. We’ll just wake up more often to check on her. But it isn’t the issue of getting more sleep; I just don’t want her to wake herself up every half an hour, suffer from a tomato-y red and raw face in the morning or become extremely dependent on having to lie on us in order to get her sleep.

So should my baby sleep on her back or her stomach? All the baby books unequivocally state that I should be putting her on her back. This report in particularly has me all freaked out. But my grandma, who has been a midwife for more than half a century tells us to put her on her tummy. We’ve refrained and “listened to the experts” till now. It is comforting to know other parents face the same problem, and many did the same as we’ve done tonight.

It’s a really hard decision, fraught with a lot of self-doubt and confusing expert advice. I hope I’m doing the right thing. I really, really do.

Chinese Fonts

Most of us web designer folk know better than to specify obscure fonts in our CSS files. We know that a cocktail of helvetica, verdana, arial, sans-serif ought to hit home on the majority of operating systems out there.

What of Chinese fonts? What’s the standard on those?


Whenever people see the poppy plant, they assume that someone planted it for the opium. I remember giant fields of poppy plants back when I was a child. They used to grow wild near the farm where I lived.

It was only much later in my adulthood that I learned of entire nations crumbling to the addictive smell of burning opium. Then they came.

The soldiers came with orders from the government that all poppy plants, wild or otherwise, were to be destroyed. It was an offence to have wild poppy growing even in fields that nobody owned. The landscape of my childhood would be forcibly changed into one that was acceptable.

I love the poppy plant. The way it stands upright, so beautiful and strong, unlike the grasses which sway in the wind. I love the way it grows: it starts off tender and vulnerable, slowly gaining strength and character with each sun-filled day. I scarcely remember it now. All I remember is the expanse of poppy stalks, all mercilessly decapitated.

I have often thought of planting her in secret, just to relive what I once knew so well. I would have if I were a nomad or a hired hand, but the stakes are too high now that I have inherited my family’s farm. I stand to lose everything if caught even with one stalk anywhere in its vicinity.

My life straddles two pieces of world history: one innocent and poppy filled, the other with stark reality and poppyless.

Maybe it is for the best that I am unable to revisit the plant of my youth. Now older and worldly-wiser, I may be tempted to crush her and smoke her, leaving me with neither the rejuvenation of childhood memories nor the security of present day life. I would be a husk, like the millions of opium addicts whom history has vowed not to recreate.

Is it impossible to love for love’s sake alone and not for self-centered pleasure? The worldwide extermination of my childhood symbol deigns the quality of our love tainted; that to love purely is nigh impossible.

Maybe they’re right. But what a price to pay, half a life lived - never to be lived again!

Baby Blues

Anne hasn’t been sleeping at all well these past two days. The crying fit she threw yesterday was the longest I’ve seen her throw by far. She literally cried till no sound came out of her. No provocation, no drop or rise in temperature, no loud noises were needed to help her start. She just breaks out crying.

Also, she has refused to sleep in the cot on her back. She’d continually rub her face with her mittened hands or punch herself on the noggin, which wakes her up. And waking means… refer to paragraph one.

So Faith and I hold her close to comfort her, and sleep half reclined with her still on us.

One possible reason could be that Anne is ill. She started coughing yesterday night. It has been hard to ask friends and relatives suffering from the flu to keep their distance. Somewhere our vigilance faltered when it seemed Anne had not fallen ill even when coughed on and handled by less than sanitary hands. Faith and I had hoped that common sense and consideration would prevail, and that we would not have to tread the minefield of euphemisms in order to preserve the peace and keep relations going.

Now that Anne is ill (and crying), preserving the peace is a moot point. Preserving our child’s well-being becomes a priority. Our sanity is at stake. We now suffer the consequences of our inaction.

I have to be mad at someone. Right now I’m mad at myself for not having been firmer. Next time I hope I’ll be gentle for your sake, but immovable for Anne’s.

Blog Sport

Re-minisce says,

It still offends me that people use “personal blogs” as a vehicle to fame, since I’m one of the (if not the only) purists left who believes in words, and… people. And thoughts, and freedom; and sincerity.

I think you can only be a purist if you take out the people element. Once you establish the fact that blogging is a form of communication, however cathartic an activity for yourself, you write for an audience.

It’s like vanity. Some people are more concerned with looking good. They have open in another browser window to aid their use of big words in an attempt to come across as intellectual. Others take photos of themselves wearing miniskirts and sitting on the floor, then contort their legs in unnatural angles to come across as sexy and titillating. Others just go nekkid.

You can’t help but care what people read when you blog. It is only the extent of your obsession with the outward appearance that differs.

You want to be a purist? Write on pen and paper. But even then there’s the nagging agenda of people finding it after you’re dead. Do you really want them to know everything? I’ve heard of diaries that were written as a parting shot at a hated relative; a means of having the last word.

So here’s to the purists out there:

  1. Write on pen and paper
  2. Look at it hard and long; memorise it
  3. Burn it and scatter the ashes
  4. A week later, rewrite everything (plus the new stuff), so you don’t forget your memories

Write No Wrong

I remember a sunny morning after class when my English professor walks up beside me and asks whether I would write poetry or prose, given a choice between the two.

“Prose”, I answered. Maybe I needed the structure, a crutch upon which to lean. But when I read a poem that hits home, I know that I said prose because I could hide behind the verbiage that structure brings. Poetry is the language of the heart without the bullshit of the mind.

Over the last week I managed to watch Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, a tale of two strangers meeting, and the conversation that ensued. The movie was simplicity at its finest - no soundtrack or slow-mo to heighten any portion of what the characters said. A romance, like how it would happen in real life.

Anyway. A scene in the movie has our two lovebirds walking by a river in Vienna and confronted by a homeless writer who asks them for a word, with which he would compose a poem with, and receive whatever wage they deemed fair to give him.

Two strangers in a distant land, having just met. Falling in love. The word was “milkshake”.

Daydream delusion
Limousine Eyelash
Oh, baby with your pretty face
Drop a tear in my wineglass
Look at those big eyes
See what you mean to me
Sweet cakes and milkshakes
I am a delusion angel
I am a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
Don’t want you to guess anymore
You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we’re going
Launched in life
Like branches in the river
Flowing downstream
Caught in the current
I’ll carry you. You’ll carry me
That’s how it could be
Don’t you know me
Don’t you know me by now

If I had the courage to love without reservation and live without hesitation, I would write poetry. But I am afraid that if you removed the protection prose offered, you’d find a man of very little substance.

Don’t you know me. Don’t you know me by now.

Styling Check Boxes

These elements have eluded us long enough.

Continue reading Styling Check Boxes »

Code Clean

Tribolum ranks first on Google for “Making light of things”, a search that yields 24.4 million results.

No flash intro, no animated gifs and no stars dancing around the cursor.

Just hard work and clean code. No two ways about it.

Content Be Dammed

There is so much I’ve wanted to write about. A satirical analogy to the NKF debacle, a reflection on being married for 2 years now, Movabletype’s 3.2 beta release.

But pro-bono work and the evolution of Anne into baby Samsonelle (superhuman strength and a temper to match) have prevented this. Best-laid plans I guess.

All this content and no outlet.


Anne laughed.


Anne Figure Skating Frame by Frame

Anne turned 3 months old yesterday. Thanks to the advanced technology available today, we are able to catch her figure-skating technique frame by frame.

How We Unscrewed Our SEO

Putting your name on the first page of Google search results comes down to hard work.

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MSNBC’s Redesign — Typically Shortsighted

Small changes MSNBC could have resolved but did not on their redesign.

Continue reading MSNBC’s Redesign — Typically Shortsighted »

Five simple steps to designing grid systems - Part 1

Grids stifle creativity, but visual elements out of line are just plain ugly.

Continue reading Five simple steps to designing grid systems - Part 1 »

Moving On

Faith read my entry yesterday and said something rather insightful. While I was trying to get some feedback on how she felt about our current situation, or whether my grouses with the powers-that-be here was a minor hiccup, she said this: There were more “thank God”s while you were there.

You could say that my life has been a roller-coaster ride with the regularity of a classic sine curve.

The next few paragraphs are a run-through the major events of my life, to illustrate my sine curve observation.

Continue reading Moving On »

Raising Arizona

I had two sleepless nights of tossing and turning, thinking about Tucson. Bringing up Anne there. Having to leave friends and family behind. Maybe not finding Tucson the same as I left.

There is an unsent resume, bound for a mailbox at the University of Arizona, written for a position that seems tailor-made for me. Reasons for leaving. I wrote “I love Tucson” as my only reason. Maybe I should have put down something about job prospects or something more substantial. But there is nothing more substantial than this. I love Tucson.

There are times I wonder why there isn’t the innate sense of loyalty my home country asks of me. Why can’t I be like the rest, seemingly happy in this utopia of efficiency? I used to think these people were oblivious drones, but perhaps the fault lies with me.

Maybe I’m brainwashed by the “outside” people who tell me that Singapore is draconian, or that democracy is but a facade here. Maybe the casinos are for my own good and I am too stupid to see it. Maybe there is a reason behind the fare hikes on buses and trains even though no plausible one was given. Maybe it is just that I’ve never been able to accept things handed to me as-is. I’ve always had to know why, where, what, who and how.

But maybe you’re right in that I, like the millions who live here, are too simple for the inner workings of grandoise plans like nation-building.

That is probably why I want to bring my family to a place where things are simpler. I stay awake thinking of flowers and cacti, sunsets and ice-cream, and sharing these at a slower pace with Anne and Faith.

Faith tells me that if I truly were as disgruntled with Singapore as I come across, that I should just pack up and leave. But I really, really want Singapore to work out. I came back wanting to change things.

Between numerous clients who laugh their heads off when asked to consider coding their websites so the visually disabled can view it and a “new” government who claims to listen but really doesn’t, my enthusiasm has waned.

I am almost convinced of this: If I were to stay in Singapore, I need to care less. I need to care less about how things are built and more about how they look. I need to care less about values as long as the ends justify the means. I need to realise I’m not living in friggin’ Camelot.

I have been described as a lucky bastard. I have the perfect wife and now the perfect child. We’re looking for a new home. I’m willing to renovate the old one if you show me how.

Babe Dylan

Insert your caption.

edit: Image removed. The image in question was one of Anne, seating on a sofa in a reclined position, smoking a cigarette (photoshopped in, of course).

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