Making Light of Things

October 2006 Archives

Why Singapore will never be number 1

It is not exactly divine revelation, but Singapore has to undergo a change in character (you could say Singapore has to develop some character) before she can be considered a world-class nation.

Despite the myriad of cultures and religions, every person above the age of 3 is able to sum up Singapore’s predominant character traits. They are kiasu and kiasi.

Kiasu refers to a fear of losing out. Singaporeans are obsessed with being number one. We proudly boast having the best airport, the best zoo, the cleanest country. If there’s a list, we need to be on the top of that list. Occasionally, our organisations even brag about coming in first in a one-horse race.

Kiasi refers to a fear of failure. We always play it safe. This explains many things in Singapore - why we cannot chew gum, hold protests (however civilised), or speak ill of the powers that be. If there is a failure, we’d rather not talk about it. You’ll probably need to find out from foreign news sources that we failed. And even then there are usually actions taken to distort the reality field around such failures.

These 2 traits are the yin and yang of Singapore’s character, but unlike yin and yang, these 2 traits do not co-exist. In most cases, you cannot be number one without some probability of failure.

So we do the wise thing. We pick battles in which we will surely win. You will find Singapore on top of many a list, but if you look closely they are safe victories. You will not find allusions of grandeur, or attempts to embrace and uphold noble ideologies. You will instead find the base of Maslow’s famous triangle - bread and butter issues. Lifts that stop on every floor. No free press. No crazy democratic ideals. No discussion. Casinos.

I am not sure what history will remember us by; whether the eat, drink and be merry existence would suffice to bind us together as a people. It would have been nice to know if we had the guts to spit in the face of the world superpower because we believed her a bully, or stand beside her because we believed her cause righteous.

The way we are, it seems we want to be remembered simply as the country who turned a blind eye to everything around her so long it did not affect her diet of rich foods or quest for opulent livery.

Cheat Sheet Round-Up: Ajax, CSS, LaTeX, Ruby…

Reference sheets to everything you’ll ever need. Ok, almost everything.

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Best Freeware Mac OSX Apps

A list for Edmond my macbook.

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Neat fonts

A collection of free fonts on the web.

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Getting Real

37 Signals’ smarter, faster, easier way to build web applications.

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What it takes to be great

Practice, practice, practice.

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Return of the Flowers

Three years ago on Valentine’s Day I posted a photo I took of a field of orange gerberas for Faith.

This morning I received a phone call at work from a delivery man asking me to collect a package at the door.


Faith sent me flowers and a cake for my birthday!

A few weeks ago my colleague asked if I ever had second thoughts about settling on a single girl so early in life. I replied that like all of life’s untrodden paths, it was inevitable to mentally probe the what-if scenarios, but I’ve never regretted my choice of a wife.

Faith gives me new affirmation every day.


Now in CSS!

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Will the browser apply the rule(s)?

List of CSS filters and which browsers support them.

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Don't look, just leap

17 things you’ve probably never done, but should.

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37 Signals on

Video on why one of the smartest (not biggest) software companies in the world use Macs.

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Fortress of Testicular Fortitude

Shaun’s great toy blog. For Sean!

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List of CSS Tools

Some might come in useful.

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Gaussian Blur

Haze from view of window

The view this morning from my balcony

This can’t possibly be rated only 102 PSI. Eyes are smarting, throat is scratchy. Thanks, Indonesia!

Why content management fails

Writeup by Jeffrey Veen.

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Turn your MacBook's iSight into a FTP backed up security camera

Auto upload by motion detector.

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Am I naive to expect things to stay the way they are? Must things change, must people move, can’t we all grow old together? Must we all seek after our own paths; can’t we work tirelessly for the good of the other person, and in doing so be ministered by each other? Can’t we love as purely and as deeply as our hearts can ever stretch, without questions of ulterior motives and ignoble intentions?

I just want to be the catcher in the rye.

I’m hopelessly in love with the magic of every moment I’ve ever lived, holding on to the hope that these moments and their magic would tarry a little longer.

Maybe forever.

Maybe forever is long enough for me to drink deep of its waters and have a deeper understanding of what living is, rather than the cloak and dagger brushes with an emotional reality barely touched.

YouTube - dove evolution

Video on how beautiful girls on ads are made. Thanks Min!

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Create a simple liquid layout

John Oxton’s approach to liquid layouts.

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Learn PHP

Step by step guide.

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How to reload a partially downloaded podcast on iTunes

Finally! I won’t miss another episode of diggnation again!

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Casting the Pod

I’ve had my video iPod for somewhere near a year (that reminds me…need to get Applecare). It has become a very useful part of my arsenal of tools in crafting the daily commute into a solid 40 mins of cerebral input.

So without further ado, here are the great and the good podcasts.

The must-haves

Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb from X-PlayX-Play by G4 TV is a video-podcast on video game reviews. I am a gaming fan, though these days I have neither console nor gaming rig. Hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb are stomach-cramp-inducingly hilarious. The dialogue is high-speed, frat-boy shallow but frequently punctuated by intellectual references to politics and trivia.

Like in the review for Odama, Morgan manages to pull this off:

Obama, Osama and the Dalai Lama can play Odama in Yokohama while Wilbur Valderrama performs ‘No Drama’.

Viewers who watch X-Play, as Morgan puts it, “come for the Kingdom Hearts, but stay for the vaudevillian antics”.

Low-brow, ditzy and geeky all rolled into short 5 minute clips.

Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose from DiggnationDiggnation is the video-podcast covering the weekly top stories on Digg. Information-wise, I have found Diggnation extremely useful in keeping me up to date with the major stuff happening on the internet, as well as a lot of quirky stuff only geeks can come up with. In one particularly funny episode, host Alex Albrecht mentions a friend who was thinking of selling “toasty testes”, which were essentially mittens to keep testicles warm in winter.

The laughs on the show are largely a result of the Alex and Kevin unloading moderate to high amounts of alcohol into their bloodstream. Though not always a laugh a minute, Diggnation is the one tech-based video podcast Faith has actually been interested enough to be a fan of. It is that good. You will discover that everyone has a little bit of geek in their blood.

The Good

The cast of Tikibar TVI don’t drink alcoholic beverages, but have always had some interest - probably due to the amazing palette of colours. Tikibar TV comes across to me like Mathnet for cocktail connoisseurs. There’s always some poorly constructed storyline, where the appropriate cocktail conconction will save the day.

Who are we kidding. We all watch Tikibar TV for Lala. Honestly, that Canadian smile is … wow. Also the fact that no one knows her real name adds the enigmatic quality that drives geeks all antsy with intrigue.

The tie-ins between Diggnation and Tikibar TV are quite cool as well.

photoshoptv.jpgPhotoshopTV’s attempt at entertaining doesn’t quite rub off well on me, but it is a great treasure trove of information on the use of Photoshop. While I use Photoshop from time to time, I’m not what you would call a power user. Personally, I don’t think Photoshop TV lends itself well to the subscription model of podcasting. It makes perfect use of video to illustrate effects, but I’d prefer an online repository of video tutorials that I can search through. I forget most of the stuff I see anyway, but would like to be able to pull it out when I need it for reference.

That said, I think PhotoshopTV should be a staple for folks who work on Photoshop extensively.


These are a few of the podcasts I watch regularly, and I know they aren’t enough to last the daily commute, but you got to carry a book around with you for some serious in-depth info-loading.

King David and Goliath

I’ve trained in combat all my life. The mastery of 7 weapons, 5 styles of unarmed combat, advanced equestrianism, pin-point accuracy with countless projectiles. I can’t say I’ve learned everything there is to know, but you could say I’m better equipped on the battlefield than most. Even before my adolescence, there has always been a great desire to learn the ancient techniques and modern adaptations that have made me the soldier I am today. The desire, while strong as the day of its birth, has come under a shroud of doubt in recent days.

One soldier can only do so much. This is the divisive fact that separates history from legend. History remembers individuals who guided their civilisations to glory while legend favoured heroes who overcame herculean obstacles through their own skill and ingenuity. Gone are the days where battles between nations were settled by pitting their best fighters, like David and Goliath. Battles are won through the management of numerous troops. It is slowly dawning upon me that I might serve my country better this way.

Just as most VCs do not even read an iota of code, most generals wouldn’t last two minutes in a one-on-one fight with a brutish footman. But the general, whose only skill is moving these footmen around, is revered throughout the land while the footman is celebrated only in the small confines of the local tavern.

I used to loath these generals, wondering how they felt qualified to lead an army to battle without ever having seen the carnage of frontline action. And it is awkward that I should now see their role as the greater, and my years of training as naught.

Maybe it is pride that prevents me from being that which I once despised. Or the inevitable atrophy of skills that had taken me a lifetime to acquire. Did I really walk down the wrong path?

Anyone can sit back and move footmen around the battlefield…right? Would the potential to do the greater good be worth my personal sacrifice?

How to Create Professional HDR Images

Interesting tutorial on high dynamic range photos.

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Photoshop Brush Resource

To save the time we spend making brushes.

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Free Typefaces - Misprinted

Design and type (1998-2005) by Eduardo Recife.

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Getting New Balls

“So balls getting wet is always something that will exist in our game, but because we have a better product, we have a ball now that gets less wet than the ball before.”

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Back in 2000 when I started this blog, Blogger was a godsend. It made life easier. I’d no longer need to edit my archive pages whenever I added an entry, or cut and paste the little pieces of javascript I modified from a guestbook that enabled comments. It automated my online ramblings. And ramble I did.

There’s an odd weariness in the online air. Grandfather Zeldman is tired, and if you look around, Doug Bowman and Ryan Sims have stopped writing, Dan Cederholm and Dave Shea update once every solar eclipse.

I find myself sapped of enthusiasm, not because I have nothing to say, but because I seem to have outgrown the blog format. Greg sums it up best:

When content is forced through a entry-commment-trackback-pagerank strainer it all comes out looking the same no matter how the templates are designed. Sure this format is functional but it’s more like a Maersk shipping container than a Volvo s50. This is fine for commercial purposes, the blog is certainly the must-have online marketing device, but I miss those days when content wasn’t confined to categories, calendars, and links to vote a piece of content into a popularity contest.

I’ve grown as a designer over the years, and I feel the need to express myself in richer, fuller ways. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to design an entire page around something I blogged about. It’d have visual elements relevant to what I wanted to say. I eventually took, like I’m taking now, the lazy way out.

There is so much I want to tell you, but words got in the way.

Maybe it’s time to unblog. We have unconferences like Barcamp. It’s time to shake things up and code like it’s 1995 again.

3D Optimus Prime Transforming

Probably not the movie footage, but great job.

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Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Icon Genres and Families

How Apple makes them as beautiful as they are.

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Bluetooth rival unveiled by Nokia

Wibree. Yet another way by which devices will be able talk to each other. Smaller, more energy efficient than Bluetooth.

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10 Things Every New Mac Owner Should Know

Useful tips for the new Mac user.

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Meeting Teo Ser Lee's Brother

I don’t remember how old I was when Ms Teo Ser Lee represented Singapore in the Ms World pageant, but I was old enough to know she was hot, and naive enough to believe in the Disneyseque hope that we could win the whole thing.

I came one step closer to the awkward, blushful (I’m inventing the word) and adolescently thrilling experience of meeting a real life beauty queen: I had dinner with her brother Teo Ser Luck, along with quite a few of the other gahmen bloggers.

Maybe I haven’t been in the civil service long enough to appreciate how “surreal” (as Walter continually reiterated) the experience was. What I do see is the changing of the guard from the older generation of government officials whom our parents placed on a pedestal, to the younger generation of leaders who are more elder-sibling than silver-haired statesman.

Ser Luck proved that he could hold his liquor with the best of them while still talking sanely about serious matters such as BlinkyMummy’s boyfriends.

He told us of the launch of the p65 blog, a collaborative blog by Members of Parliament born post-1965. While I look forward to posts that help humanise them, I am more interested in their motivations for joining politics and the different views they have on national policies. Though I know it is important for the government to put on a united front, I would like to know the people behind the policy making - their ideologies and beliefs. I think I speak for many of us when I say that I feel a lot more comfortable putting the future of my home in the hands of principled but fallible people than a cold, efficient machine.

The site isn’t up yet, but a great idea would be to have Sylvia Lim as an author. She is… young enough, right?

Vanessa and Damien have pictures of the event.


I find myself lying in bed, thinking to myself: I’m not sure if I can handle having a second child.

It’s most probably the uncertainty; the having the rearrange everything again that scares me. It’s not just that children are a lot of work - it’s the tight-rope-walking feeling when you realise they are the one thing in life you really don’t want to mess up.

Update: Nope, I’m not writing this because Faith’s pregnant.

Question or Answer?

One stop FAQ solutions like Flexanswer are gaining ground. The one question, from an information point of view, is where do FAQs begin and where do webpages end? These solutions sell themselves as content management systems capable of manipulating databases of thousands upon thousands of frequently asked questions. They have search engine solutions that allow the user to find the specific answer to the question they have in mind.

Shouldn’t every page of information, every paragraph, or even every sentence you publish on the web address a question someone might ask? Every sentence, or phrase is either a question, or a statement. I see that the question - answer is probably what the atom or the molecule is: the smallest unit of conversation. While the FAQ solutions try not to position themselves as content management systems per se, could we eventually see a CMS for people that love to micromanage?

Every phrase like “FAQ solutions try not to position themselves as content management systems per se” could be flagged as an answer to a list of possible questions. It would take a tremendous amount of discipline to generate content with such a metadata structure, but the model would seem to hold water on sites where data integrity and accuracy are paramount. If the answer to a question were changed, an update could be carried out on the admin module and the specific sentence or phrase in the website would be updated.

It might be hard to change an answer without affecting its phrasing, for changing its phrasing may be a shift that renders the parent sentence incoherent or grammatically incorrect. But there’d be freakazoids out there who might take particular well to this level of micromanagement.

I think they’re called librarians.

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