Making Light of Things

October 2005 Archives

Walking Decal

It’s the funny thing about death. The death of someone you love comes with such suffocatingly saturated emotion the loss seems insurmountable; then in a blink of an eye the world continues revolving without having seemed to have skipped a beat. Some people never recover from it; most other people live on - slowly losing their grasp around an intangible memory of a different life now past. As to which is worse, living in constant grief or an unfeeling amnesia, I do not know.

It has been almost a month since Livia’s death. Eduardo still carries a picture of her in the knapsack he carries around. He carries it not to remember her, but because he always forgets to take the picture out. And when he does remember, some part of him refuses. Taking her picture out of his bag feels almost like killing her all over again.

Just as Señor Rodrigo planned, Eduardo’s nickname “The Donkey Boy from Guaiba” was short-lived. The newspaper reporters, like locusts, have moved on to more saleable stories. Eduardo was now just another racecar driver in Rodrigo’s stable. He would have to work his way up the ladder like everyone else. The new glamourous life he chose was analogously summed up by his driver’s outfit.

Built for its specific purpose, form fitting close to the point of suffocation and with a full-faced helmet that isolated Eduardo from the world, and the world from any show of emotion behind the mask.

Continue reading Walking Decal »

A Life Common

It’s funny how tired I get with the new “regular” job. When I was running the old business, there were many times I had to pull all-nighters, but I would always have the energy to keep going. Here, with regular hours like the rest of the world, I find myself sleepy at 11pm.

The scary part is I feel too tired to be scared of what I’m becoming.

In and of itself, the job isn’t tiring. Sure, the demands of a government job are somewhat more fastidious than most, but I’m not one to feel the urge to sleep earlier than one in the morning.

A few days ago, Anne learned how to slither a few centimeters forward on her tummy. She seems to have chosen walking as her main form of transportation. Instead of tucking her knees under her to crawl like most babies, she has learned to pull herself up to a standing position. She has done so grabbing on to the edge of the sofa and most recently she hoisted herself up with a firm grip on my nose. It hurt.

I’m off to bed. I feel like an old fart. I’m enjoying myself on the job, but something feels odd. Like I’m losing colour and turning black-and-white. Like I’m becoming like everyone else.


Realign is the new Redesign.

Continue reading Redux »

Nail on the Head

On the day of my 28th birthday, my mother said to me (this is starting to sound like a country song),

You have always been a rebel. You always feel a need to go in and shake things up. It makes you feel alive.

After more than half a century of fighting it, Mum finally got it. When she put it as succinctly as she did, it came across as a revelation to me. It’s something I’ve always known, but never heard it said out loud.

Culture is Destiny

A 1994 interview with then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew on government and culture. It is suffice to say that at present, “the pendulum” in the US is swinging the other way.


Thanks, all of you who dropped an SMS or a note to wish me a happy birthday. The first two SMSes I received were from people in the States. Amazing to know that I’m still remembered despite being so far away. I’m truly touched.

Faith hugs me and wishes me happy birthday with a sad smile. (Wishes, because she’s been doing this the whole evening). She’s sad that she didn’t buy me anything, or in her words “made the day special”.

Silly girl.

To the love of my youth, my companion in life and my partner in building this home. You have made my life special. I do not claim to know what I’d have been if I never knew you, but I know that a large part of my life is made wonderful because I do.


Just came home from the Canon Photomarathon. Wow, it’s been a year since. Just like last year I came away with none of the prizes, but a better knowledge of the world of photography.

One thing is for sure: the gap between the amateur photographer and the professional one is really getting smaller by the day. With almost all the participants hoisting digital SLRs about, the barriers to entry have all but been removed, especially with semi-pro cameras going for less than a thousand Singapore dollars on the second hand market.

Today’s lesson in photography is this: Dress for the part.

The third theme in this year’s Photomarathon was: “Fashion in action”. Given very little lateral freedom to interpret the theme, Ralph and I headed down to the swank Conrad International. In my mind’s eye I had the photo of a lady dressed in an elegant LBD walking out of its entrance. I’d be taking the photo quite a distance away, with the shiny bonnet of an exotic sports car in the right foreground providing a reflective surface for the above-mentioned lady.

Best laid plans I guess.

We then rushed down to Orchard Cineleisure in the hopes of finding some young people dressed to kill on a Saturday night. I spotted a group of girls who looked like they were coming to a Cosplay convention. They had lace stockings, knee-high boots and the works. Having learned my lesson from last year, to be thick skinned about things, I went to them and asked if I could take their picture. They huddled, discussed for a bit, before breaking formation and giving me a “no”. That honestly could have been a winning photo right there.

But back to “dressing the part”. It didn’t help that I was wearing stuff that made me look like I just got out of bed. Coupled with Ralph wearing bicycle shorts from this morning’s triathlon relay, we looked sad-gay. Not happy-gay like smurfs singing in the forest, or cute-gay like Rupert Everett. Sad-gay, like Rupaul and Dennis Rodman’s illegitimate child.

No wonder they said no. It had to be the sloppy dressing. If I had dressed appropriately, it would have been a different story. Might have been. I think.

So now I’m pooped out from marathoning after a night of sleepless in Singapore with Anne the unsleepable. I’m out, cheers.

Top of Their Game

Gamespot redesigns in CSS. Very, very spiffy.

The Last Word

Another reason Microsoft shouldn’t own the universe: MS Word HTML crapola.

Do not, and I repeat do not, arrange your layout in MS Word, then cut and paste the finished layout into the CMS. The ratio of crap to good content MS Word produces when it comes to HTML is, as Shakespeare puts it, “two grains of wheat in two bushels of chaff”.

The words HTML should never have appeared in any menu of MS Word. Why, Bill, must you continue to torment us with bloated coding?

The glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicèan barks of yore
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

- “To Helen”, by Edgar Allan Poe

There’s a certain magic to found only in college campuses. Maybe it’s the abundance of grass, or the expanse of sky unhindered by towering office blocks. Or maybe it is how the vibrance of youth, found so concentrated there, makes everything seem more alive. Idealism thrives, untainted by reality.

I went to NUS after work today in hopes of finding a Mecca of basketball to pay homage to. There was the most beautiful golden sunset. It made me miss my days at the University of Arizona.

But a greater longing pulled at me the entire evening. There I was, on the other side of the island while Faith and Anne were at home. It just felt so wrong. Not wrong as in the guilty sense of the word, but wrong - like something didn’t fit. I took the first cab I saw home.

The sight of Anne smiling upon seeing me made the earth spin under my feet. I run the risk of coming across as clichéd, but the smile of a child makes everything right as rain. I felt so blessed to come home to Faith and Anne; an undeserving recipient of the most beautiful gift. And at that moment I knew that my home is right here in the present and not in a picturesque rose-tinted memory of the past. It is here beside Faith, whose eyes sparkle when she smiles, and Anne, who periodically chokes on her saliva when she laughs too hard.

God, thanks. Help me be faithful in loving them as you’d want me to.

How to Rip DVD Movies To Your iPod

More goodness from Mark Pilgrim.

Continue reading How to Rip DVD Movies To Your iPod »

Pinch Test

Anne pinching her tummy

Anne pinching her tummy.

The Right Audience

Wow. It’s been 2 years and 2 weeks ago when I tried preaching web standards to the business director or a large local IT solutions company, and failing so miserably it was blogworthy.

Now armed with 2 years more experience but equally naive, I rambled on about how designing in line with web standards streamlined the entire web production process. This time, the shell-shocked victims of my enthusiastic onslaught were my new colleagues.

We’re a small group, and we manage both the internet and intranet of one of the largest organisations in Singapore. We spend a lot of time trying to get content to “look right”, employing all sorts of presentation hacks. Maybe if I slot two <br>s, or &nbsps into the empty table cells. That sorta thing.

The audience makes all the difference. Web standards, till today, is still a hard sell to the businessman. They just want their site up. They don’t really care how you do it. Sure, higher pageranks and faster product development cycles are good, but hardly quantifiable in dollars. In Singapore, an online presence is thought of as little more than a namecard. It’s terribly shortsighted, but we aren’t known to be very forward-thinking a people.

Here, to this audience, web standards offered something very, very prized. Less work, more control. And here in a government organisation, consistency in presentation is paramount. Web standards offer all that. A perfect fit.

I have much to thank God for. And I know that He is telling me to be as, if not more, enthusiastic about my faith as I am about web standards, my Macs or photography. After all, all these mundane details mean nothing if we haven’t found the purpose of life itself.

Pink Floyd

Wore a pink shirt to work today. Faith said some time ago that it takes some measure of self-confidence for a guy to don on pink. I kinda pushed the envelope by wearing pink into the men’s locker room before heading to the gym during my lunch hour. You could almost hear the crackle of static electricity in the air as I walked in.


Anne at Six Months

Anne at Six Months

It’s been half a year. Time flies.

Workaholics Anonymous

I started at a new place of work today. I’m now put in charge of building web interfaces for my wife. I’m literally married to my work.

Pimping Your Ride

There was a young Brazilian boy named Eduardo who loved cars. He wasn’t just content looking at them from afar, mind you. He was in love with the dream that he might someday race cars for a living. He spent countless nights lying awake, wondering what it would be like to zoom past the chequered flag and take his place on top of the podium, hearing the Brazillian national anthem play as the crowds chanted his name.

Eduardo came from a poor family who planted crops for a living. Whenever he could, Eduardo would ride his little donkey to the nearby go-kart track and watch the richer neighbourhood kids race, often imagining himself behind the wheel instead of on his saddle. After the races, he’d get on his donkey and head back to the farm. Sometimes the meaner neighbourhood kids would scare Eduardo’s donkey by honking loudly as they whizzed by on their new motorcycles.

The donkey was the only thing Eduardo owned. The only thing that was his in the whole wide world. He bought Livia when she was just a foal, or a baby jenny as young female donkeys are called. The stable dealt only with horses, and sold Eduardo the donkey at a very cheap price. It took Eduardo all of his life savings to afford her.

He became known as the boy with the donkey. Some villages joked about how Eduardo was the Brazilian version of English Mary, who had her little lamb. No one knew if Mary loved her lamb, but everyone who saw Eduardo knew that he loved Livia.

Maybe more than his dream of driving. Maybe.

And therein lies the dilemma, and the start of my story.

Continue reading Pimping Your Ride »

Return of the Jedi

Anne, after her cough and cold

Anne, much better after bout of cough and cold

Much happier, sleeping much better, overall-good-girl survives to make mischief yet another day. Oh, and her parents are doing great too.

Poor Baby

Anne down with cough and cold

Anne down with a cough and cold

There has never been a more pitiful sight in this household. She still smiles through the yuckiness every now and then though.

Update: Actually there is a more pitiful sight. You should take a look at the 2 dishevelled adults staying awake to tend to her every need.


I’m designing a flier for a concert. A friend needed help urgently so I take on the job. Her client agrees to my fee. I discover that the photos given to me yesterday night are 0.4 megapixels in size. There is no possible way I can stretch the photos without them looking like a pixelated mess. Deadline’s later today. Anne’s ill.

Much as I like working under pressure, 0.4 megapixel pictures feel pretty much like a dead end.

Calling it a night.

Picking Her Up, Laying Me Down

…as you’re growing, you must remember
that nothing lasts, except the grace of God
by which I stand in Jesus.

- “Grace by which I Stand” by Keith Green

Anne’s sitting on my lap. It’s 6:30 in the morning, and she has woken up every single hour of the night wanting to be coddled and this time she doesn’t look like she’s going back to sleep.

There’s a certain magic about babies. Somehow they make you forget how dastardly they were ten minutes ago. It’s some sort of amnesia dust that is sprinkled on their hair or something - undoubtedly God’s way of making sure humans won’t be too traumatised by their first child to want to have a second.

Yesterday I received a job offer. I don’t apply for many jobs - only the ones whom I think offer a chance to do good work. Had the offer come a week ago, it would have been a no-brainer, but I think God doesn’t like no-brainers. A lack of dilemma negates the whole concept of free-will.

A week ago things were looking undecidedly bad. I run my own business doing web stuff, and after Anne was born, I kinda burned my bridges. I declined on projects in order to look after her in the initial months. Given that most of what I land comes from client referrals, turning away projects breaks the chain; and starting all over again isn’t easy at all.

Now that Anne’s more settled and both our parents are getting some playing time, I’ve been trying to do just that - start all over. I’ve also been applying for a couple of jobs here and there. It’s been a humbling experience.

Everyone has stuff they hold on tight to - stuff which helps define who they are; separate them from the rest of the world. Some people pride themselves in being great at their job, others drive on the highways thinking they handle the wheel better than that “woman driver”, some in their paper qualifications etc. It’s hard to take pride in being a good father. Not that it’s unrewarding, but you’re a shoo-in for the job. You’re the best and worst candidate. You don’t get fired for doing a bad job, nor do you get promoted for doing a good one. Fatherhood redefines you - and I didn’t have the structure of a 9 to 5 to fall back on.

Just a few rejected job applications. Well, they don’t exactly reject you, they just don’t get back to you. It certainly disappointed me. I felt I had done well education-wise. Workwise I was, at least I think, pretty much ahead of the curve when it came to web stuff in Singapore. Heck, I’ve won every “employee of the month” over the course of the last two years, working in my one-man business. Slowly everything I held on to, that made me “me” was being stripped away. Being prideful as I am, I still hold on to them, taking out my trophies and polishing them every now and then. But in the middle of the night, especially tonight, it is not the past achievements that matter, but whether I get my butt out of bed and pick my daughter up, giving Faith some much needed shuteye.

Over the last few days, business has been pouring in and I find myself “in the game” yet again. And with the job offer to consider, it is too easy to go back to feeling great about myself and how “in demand” I’ve become. Then Anne poops and I manage to reach the tissue box and stuff a couple down her diaper just before the shit literally hits the fan.

That’d be me. Poop cleaner extraordinaire.

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