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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Singaporean rich women

This week on Channel NewsAsia (Singapore's Asian answer to CNN) was an episode of their new series, "What Women Really Want". This episode featured tai tais and interviewed a few of them to find out what sort of lives they live and how they deal with people's negative perceptions of them.

After viewing snippets of the show, my perception of them has become even more negative. In fact, the episode showed exactly why people think negatively about tai tais. I suppose it was aiming to have a balanced viewpoint about the issue, but seriously, you can't be very balanced about tai tais.

You should've noticed by now that I haven't mentioned what tai tais are. To be a tai tai, you must meet the following requirements:
  1. Be a woman.
  2. Get obscenely rich by marrying a man or inheriting a large fortune.
  3. Live in a landed property or city apartment which is fully air-conditioned.
  4. If you're old, dress gaudily so that you stand out. If you're young, dress casually so that you try not to stand out.
  5. Shop more than once a week, 52 weeks a year. Three times a week is the average.
  6. Perform some sort of cosmetic beauty treatment at least once a week, 52 weeks a year. Again, three times a week is the average.
  7. Volunteer at charities, not necessarily because you believe in their causes, but because you have so much free time.
  8. Solicit donations from other rich people for these charities.
  9. Network with rich people so that you can achieve (6) by attending expensive luncheons at high class hotels and restaurants.
  10. And above all -- believe that you are where and what you are because it is entirely a "state of mind".
I have a better idea. All of these tai tais should just take their truckloads of money, shares, credit cards and what-nots and give it to the poor and destitute who live on an average of S$500 a month, as featured in today's newspapers. These poor people live day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. They have hardly a sliver of hope of breaking the poverty trap.

Or if there are no poor people in Singapore, as some people in positions of authority would like you to believe, then send that money overseas so that poor families don't have to sell their prepubescent daughters to be prostitutes, so that they can have a little bit of food to eat. ("They" refers to the families, not the sold-off daughters, who are now enslaved and imprisoned by their pimps.)

And meanwhile, these super-rich women say that it's all a "state of mind".

Sometimes, I really think that communism is a better answer to some of society's woes, once you get past the individual's need to succeed at any cost.

The Monk in me

Monk is a fictional private investigator who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because of this, he finds himself involuntarily making things neat and tidy, e.g. he will rearrange items on a desk if they're scattered about.

There's probably a little bit of Monk in all of us. I realised mine when, while waiting for someone at his desk, I saw that his telephone cord (from the phone to the handset) was twisted, and I couldn't help but untwist it. I kept thinking that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on what I needed to do as long as the cord was twisted.

Fortunately, no one was around to see me untwist it, heh.

There was another time when I did something similar, though not with telephone cords, that made me think of Monk too. While it's funny, it's also kinda scary. Who wants to live with OCD?

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Out-of-Office messages

When I returned to the office today, a few people asked, "So where did you fly to?" And I just chuckled. That's because these people had emailed me yesterday and received this response:
"Back on 28/1.
Gone flyin'.
Get Firefox!"
The first line is self-explanatory. The last line is some good ol' open source propoganda. The middle line, though, was entirely tongue-in-cheek. Of course, I did not fly anywhere. Nor did I intend to. Besides, where could I fly for one day? This isn't a continental country like the United States or Australia.

But people read it, and knew that it was a joke, and continued the joke by asking me where I had flown to.

In a previous Out-of-Office message, instead of "Gone flyin'", I had said, "Gone fishin'". The next day, a colleague asked me, half in seriousness, if I had really fished. Of course not! And it was raining that day too.

How did I come up with these silly little messages? All credit to a little known and no-longer-published DC comic book series about a small dinosaur who happens to survive into the modern world. Its name is Gon and all of the comic titles are "Gon "-somewhere. I never read any of the comics, but the phrasing of the titles and the little dinosaur stuck in my mind. Now, they've come in somewhat usefully.

Hmm, I wonder what I'll "do" on my next off day.

Attractive teacher

I don't know if I should be saying this, but here goes:

While waiting for the bus today, I saw an incredibly beautiful woman wearing a black tank-top and one of those satin-y type knee-length skirt with VPL. At first, I thought she was an office worker, until I saw an assessment book with a cartoon drawing on the cover. And then I remembered that I was in the vicinity of a few primary schools.

This sexy lady is a primary school teacher!!!

The prepubescent kids have no idea how good they've got it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blind date #5

I've just returned from my fifth date arranged by Lunch Actually. We met at my friend's restaurant, Curry Favor, though he didn't know at first that it was me because the reservation is made under Lunch Actually. So he was pleasantly surprised to see me show up for the reservation.

But we didn't get to talk much. I focussed my attention on my date. The first thing that struck me was that she's chatty and speaks at a rapid pace, which made me think about "Gilmore Girls". She attributed it to her just coming from work, so she's on a high. She remarked that I'm slim, which is true, and suggested that we order our food.

She: young, pretty, graduated from a local university in computer science, used to wakeboard, loves watching movies, enjoys spicy food, travels to experience different cultures and not to shop, very open and forward.

We talked about different stuff, but for most of the date, we talked mostly about work and movies. Apparently, she likes watching foreign films too. And she found my movie taste to be very different from most guys, which is true.

There were several awkward silences during our date. I realised that I was doing most of the asking to start off the conversations, which made me think that she was either not interested or tired. Most of the time, our chats would end after a few sentences, which I thought was quite uncomfortable because there was just no development in the conversation and discovery of each other.

So after another awkward silence, I thought that I'd let her give the opening question. And she did. I think she thought I was tired or bored, or maybe she was feeling the same way, because she suggested that we leave after spending half an hour together. I tentatively broached the idea of watching "Kinsey" together this weekend, the first time I've ever asked for a second date on the first. But I'll have to confirm with her to make sure it's not one of those casual remarks.

"Elektra"

Elektra
Since I had a day off today, I spent the afternoon watching that comic book flick, "Elektra". Before that, there was a trailer for "Constantine", which is supposedly not a great show either, but it looks interesting enough to me.

But back to "Elektra".

As almost every review said and the box office proved, this is not another Marvel blockbuster. And so it was. It is, quite simply, an action flick with no real story. Oh, there is a semblance of a story, but it's not fully developed. And in screenwriting theory, that means the "ordeal", which usually occurs in the middle of the show, wasn't effective in driving the hero, or heroine in this case, to the lowest of lows before rising successfully for the climactic triumph.

Actually, "Elektra" had no real ordeal to speak of. The story just plodded along from beginning to end. In fact, one watches "Elektra" for two reasons only:
1. It's based on a comic book, so comic book fans would enjoy seeing the printed art come to life on screen, e.g. in special effects and fighting moves.
2. Jennifer Garner.

I think it's safe to say that if not for the lead actress, this movie would be a tremendous flop. I suppose "Elektra" is just a movie version of "Alias", except that she uses sais instead of guns and fights ninjitsu assassins instead of subversive spies. And Jennifer Garner is just gorgeous in her red suit.

Which made me think that she might be ideal for another comic book superheroine: Wonder Woman.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dov SS Simens 2-Day Film School

My weekend was spent entirely in an auditorium listening to a lecture by Dov SS Simens in a two-day film school. The lecture was held at Spring Singapore (formerly known as the Productivity and Standards Board) and organised by the Media Development Authority. It lasted from 9:30am to 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday.

As implied by the name, it was an intensive course to introduce new independent filmmakers to the world of movie making. A few things that Simens stressed time and time again:
  • the movie business is a business, i.e. the movie you make is expected to earn profits.
  • budgets are grossly inflated, e.g. a film can be made for -- dum, dum, dum -- US$200,000 for a reported US$1 million film.
  • nobody buys short films.
  • to make a good film, you need a good script and money, whereas talent comes last.
Simens teaches in a strange way: while one would expect a civil lecture -- and it was, but he also raises his voice as if in a scolding manner. He probably does so to drive home his points. As we got used to it, we started giggling when he boomed into the microphone because we realised that he wasn't scolding at all.

Simens is reportedly well known in the moviemaking circles because of his film schools. On the other hand, his background is working on films that no one has heard of... and it made sense later when he explained that there are American films that will never be shown in U.S. cinemas, but are deliberately sold overseas. Like B-movies.

But while I was suspicious of his credentials, I appreciated the knowledge that he gave us. Filmmaking, especially in Hollywood, is a cruel, cutthroat affair. It's like any other business. You need investors, you need good ideas, you need something that sells, and most importantly, you need profits. Filmmaking is not some arty-farty hobby that you pick up, which is the impression I get from most local filmmakers.

No, filmmaking is a business. If you don't get it, then you shouldn't be in filmmaking.

Incidentally, it should be "movie making", not "filmmaking", and "producer", not "filmmaker".

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Third wedding in three months

Three months, three weddings. This must be something of a record. All I need is one more wedding, a funeral and meeting the same girl at all five occasions, and I'll feel like Hugh Grant in a movie I have never watched.

This wedding was held at Orchid Country Club, waaaaaay up north at Yishun. Fortunately, my parents didn't need the car, so I got to use it. Lesson learned from a previous wedding. Getting there proved to be a challenge, even though I had memorised the route, i.e.:
  1. The exit from the expressway was Exit 3. For the longest time, Singapore's expressway exits have been numbered sequentially, not by the distance (like they're done in the U.S.). So I planned to count two exits before moving left. Turns out that Exit 3 was the first exit at three kilometres in. I wonder when they made the big switcheroo. I missed the exit and was forced to make a big U-turn.
  2. To get to the club, I had to turn right at a traffic junction. But I had not anticipated arriving at that junction so soon after exiting the expressway. I had no choice but to make another huge U-turn.
The important thing is that I got to the club without incident.

The solemnization ceremony was going to be held before the dinner, so all of the guests were requested to be seated by 6:15pm so that it could begin 15 minutes later. I arrived at 6:20pm, but as expected, I was not late. The ceremony started at around 6:50pm, which I guess is quite good.

The ceremony was very simple: bride walks up aisle, couple exchanges rings, couple exchanges vows, couple kisses. Then the bride tossed her bouquet for a group of single women, which included some preteen girls, which made me wonder what sort of message would be sent if one of them caught it. The master of ceremony was the same as the one at the November wedding, so there were some laughs.

After a brief cocktail reception, dinner was served in a hall. The size of the large hall gave the impression that it was a small wedding, though there were 50 tables (though some were not fully occupied). Everything was done very well, from the decorations to the cutlery to the preparation of the food. Before dinner commenced, we were treated to a video of the tea ceremony held the day before. Watching it gave me some ideas about how such a video should be done, although I thought it was strange that the videographer had chosen to exclude *all* dialogue except for something like 10 words. Music played over the rest of the video.

Then again, that's what I did for my cousin's wedding video, though I really wished I didn't. I retained the dialogue in my colleague's wedding video. Especially for a traditional ceremony like the tea offering, I feel that dialogue is important. The relatives are blessing the couple and these words should be kept for posterity, even if they sound empty.

But I digress...

During dinner, it was revealed that the groom had not paid the full ang pow to the bride's "sisters" during the bargaining session when he had gone to pick up his wife-to-be. The promised amount was a whopping $8,888 for the four of them. To earn their money, they were supposed to do a pseudo-lap dance for him on stage. What they did instead was to pull the bride up and make her do the lap dance for them. Everyone had a good time, though I don't know if the money was paid up.

Then the groom's father sang. Brrr....

I left with my colleagues at about 10:40pm and gave two of them lifts home.

---

Incidentally, I discovered that my colleage the groom is the brother of Belinda Lee, a local television actress. That's how it is in Singapore. It's not six degrees of separation, more like three or four.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Today Online blooper

I was reading the email version of today's Today when something caught my eye. I thought I had read the line wrongly... and I had. The tagline for this particular article reads: "MOH will encourage GPs to specialise Tan Hui Leng"



But no, it's a typo. "Tan Hui Leng" is the reporter's name and it should've been on the next line. Through some mistake on Today's part, it was put at the same line as the tagline. Click the image above, then take a look at the other screen captures of the email, Web and Web print-ready versions. The email and print-ready versions have the same mistake.

And this isn't the first time that such a mistake has appeared. It's just that this one sounded funnier than the other bloopers.

Sorry, no, being a reporter at Today doesn't mean you get perks like being specialised on medically.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Who says websites need to be ugly?

Did you know modern webpages can have different looks applied to the same content? Take a look at CSS Zen Garden. It challenges web designers to come up with different looks (called "styles" or "themes") for the same page content. I especially like the so-called "special effects" styles (available from the "View All Designs" link).

Chinese women tortured in Indonesia

If you can read Chinese, then you'll understand what this article is about. But even if you don't read Chinese, you can figure out what happened from the pictures and my subject. The story recounted in the article is apparently true.

Say hello to iPod shuffle

This is the stuff that lust is made of:

iPod shuffle

It makes me want to go out and buy one for every non-iPod-owning acquaintance. Maybe one for myself too, you know, like a fashion accessory (not that I need/have ever owned a fashion accessory). And at S$178, I could probably buy one a month and not feel too painful a pinch.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Eunice Olsen and me

Holy crap! I just realised that I'm only 2 degrees apart from Eunice Olsen on Friendster! My AC friends are well-connected!

UPDATE: And, of course, I'm such a doofus. She was in ACJC in the same year as me, albeit in the Arts/Humanities stream, whereas I was in the Science stream. Not that the two streams never mixed, but I wasn't one of those that did.

Transition to Gmail

I've begun transitioning most of my email to my Gmail account. I didn't think much about this email account until Google started offering POP3 access, so now I can download emails into my own mail program and not be forced to read them with a web browser.

So far, I've updated some bulk mail and subscriptions. Soon, I'll be informing everyone in my address book about the change too. My email.com address will still exist, so there shouldn't be any worry about my losing emails.

Lost my handphone, found it today

Do you believe in retribution? I'm beginning to. After bad-mouthing the government yesterday, I lost my handphone a few hours later. I was walking home after taking the bus when I realised that my trousers pocket that holds the phone felt lighter and flatter than normal. SEZ was gone!

(BTW my handphone is named SEZ, short for "Sony Ericsson Z600. "Sez" is also slang for "says".)

I remembered fingering it on my way out of the office while waiting for the company transport, so I knew that I must have dropped it at one of three possible locations: on the company transport, on the public bus, or on my walk home. I retraced my steps, but couldn't find SEZ anywhere on the footpath, so that last possibility was eliminated.

When I got home, I immediately called to disconnect my line. Can't be too paranoid in this day and age. And then, mild worry set in. I'm not that worried about losing a $600 gadget. I'm more concerned that someone somewhere may have access to not only my contact list, but also some text messages. Fortunately, I don't have any incriminating pictures or music/ringtones, ha.

But then, the silver lining set in too. Maybe this was a sign for me to get a brand spankin' new Sony Ericsson S700i. Or a 3G phone. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

As I was about to sleep last night, I thought that maybe I should've called SEZ to see if anyone picks up, which would imply that someone found it, which could possibly lead to its return. But I had already disconnected the line, so that was a moot point. Which just goes to show that my brain works slower than normal.

Then this morning, on the company transport, a colleague whipped out a familiar looking purple handphone. SEZ! So I am reunited with my handphone and contact list and text messages. And one of the first things I did was transfer my more sensitive messages to my palmOne Tungsten T for safekeeping. Now, all I have to do is take a trip to SingTel's customer service centre to reconnect my line.

This brought two things to mind:
  1. Now I know why handphone users like lanyards. By looping the handphone around one's body part, there is a smaller chance of losing it. I shall never make fun of lanyards again.
  2. I need to figure out how to lock SEZ from unauthorised use. I have already set the passwords, but unless I read the manual wrongly, the passwords are useful only if the phone is turned off then on (and not simply on standby). I wonder if there's a way to enable the password/s for any user-initiated operations.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

HDB blues

I happened to overhear a colleague talking about a problem with his house. When he hung up, I couldn't help but ask him what had happened.

He said that, for the past few days, he's noticed watermarks appearing on a wall just above his floor and running across the entire length of the wall. He tried fixing it himself, thinking that all it needed was a simple paint job, but the problem kept appearing. Apparently, this had happened before, and he thought his contractor had fixed it already. So just now, he was talking to his contractor to see if something could be done to rectify it once and for all.

He had already complained to the Housing and Development Board about it. And the response by the officer who attended to him?

"You just have to live with it."

Needless to say, it was all he could do to contain his anger. What sort of Fourth World answer is that? (Yes, it's worse than a Third World response.) And then to rub salt on his wound, the middle-aged female officer pointed to a wall in the office, where there was a watermark too, and said, "See, we have to live with it too."

There goes the much ballyhooed government quality control.

Why am I writing this? Because it just goes to show that though I live with an extremely efficient government, it doesn't mean that it's perfect. Cracks -- and water -- will always appear.

By the way, rumour has it that my colleague's neighbourhood was the last major project of a now-dead corrupt politician. So much money was siphoned away from the project that the contractors did a shoddy work. If that's true, guess who's paying for it now.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Who's the hero?

Yesterday's newspapers had a section dedicated to the heroes of the tsunami disaster. There were about 10 pages of stories, though half of each page had advertisements, so there were really only five pages.

And of the five pages of stories, I read and remembered only two stories.

The first was about a Danish tourist in Thailand who braved the waves to rescue not one, not two, but 10 people, including children, before he was lost at sea. And each time he returned with a survivor, he didn't wait to be thanked, he just went back out to sea.

The other story is about a mongrel that was given to a Sri Lankan family after a relative passed away some time back. When the waves came crashing in, the mother had time only to rescue her two youngest children, thinking the oldest one would have the sense to follow her up the hill. Instead, the child hid in a room until the mongrel dragged the kid out by the collar and nudged him up the hill.

So why do I only remember these two stories out of the 20 or so? Because these two, or at least the first one, feature real heroes. (There's a third one about a New Zealander who rescued his Thai wife before being carried away. I didn't read it because I was pressed for time.) Most of the other stories were about heroes who helped/are helping in the rescue and relief efforts. Maybe I'm wrong, but I wouldn't regard these people as real heroes, more like people performing worthwhile, charitable acts.

In college, I attended a class on classic Greek literature. Among the stories I read (including -- horrors -- "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey") was a story about a Greek king who was extremely wealthy and egotistical. And to boost his ego, he asked a local prophet on three occasions who was the happiest, luckiest and richest man on the earth. But each time, the prophet would say that it was some other poor sod who was not only unlikely to be seen as happy or lucky or rich, but was also dead.

Of course, the king was infuriated at each answer and finally demanded to know why the prophet gave those replies. The answer he got is that no one can really know who is happy, lucky, rich or any other adjective until after that person's life has ended.

So back to the tsunami disaster. Who's the hero -- the Dane who rescued 10 people, or the many others who are doing relief work now?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Blind date #3 round 2

For everyone asking why I don't go on second dates, I'm here to prove you wrong. Today, I went out with the girl/woman/lady (I don't know what's the right word to call her!) from my third date. I had proposed meeting her after the new year festivities, then messaged her again in the middle of the week if she would like to meet today, and she said yes!

We met at Raffles City at 11am and proceeded to Delifrance for drinks. We talked a bit about the tsunami disaster, work, holidays, favourite songs, and some other stuff. There were some awkward quiet moments, though, when we ran out of things to talk about, and it was plain to see that we were scraping for conversation topics.

We left at about 12:30pm. She wanted to buy something at a Christian store upstairs, so I followed her and browsed the store's offerings. Among the things I found: a children's book explaining angels and demons. After that, she had to go for worship practice at St. Andrew's Cathedral, and I was getting the bus from that direction too, so we walked there before going our separate ways.

Two dates later, I think that we are probably better as friends. Somehow, I don't sense any connection between us... unless both of us are the type who can connect on a lack of connections (does that make sense?).

Incidentally, I realised that she walks in the same way as my grandmother and my dad: with her arm swinging out wide. Not that that's a bad thing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Blog envy

I've been (web) surfing around at certain blogs and come to these conclusions:
  1. My blog isn't highly regarded in general.
  2. LiveJournal, while having one of the largest user base in the blogsphere, probably isn't well regarded by blog indices, e.g. I haven't found a blog index that had already contained my blog without needing me to manually submit it (though this could also be because of (1) above).
In an attempt to increase my blog's exposure, I've posted links at blog search engines, blog directories, Technorati, etc. I don't know if any of these tactics will work.

So where does the envy come from? Other blogs that I read are linked to more often, and therefore are likely to be more read. And some of these blogs get mentioned on popular blogs, like mrbrown, even though those blogs are either newer or less updated. Meanwhile, my blog seems to languish in obscurity.

If anyone's counting, my Technorati index is 266,422. Incidentally, some blogs that I created for fun (e.g. to reserve my name at Blogger) are ranked 780,679. Technorati apparently watches 5,585,128 blogs, but remember that several blogs can have the same rank, i.e. I'm sure there are hundreds (thousands?) of blogs which rank 780,679.

This just sucks.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

3G is out of my radar

After reading a recent report on 3G in Singapore, I decided to check out M1's 3G data card for wireless Internet connection on notebooks, also because I still think it's a cool idea. I stopped at a shop and asked if they carried it. Nope, came the reply, it's available only at one shop in the whole of Singapore. Okay, fine.
Me: "How much is it?"
Him: (what I heard) "$575."
Me: "$575?"
Him: "$1,575."
Me: (thinking) "#$*%@(^!"
So much for the fantasy of surfing the web wirelessly at home via 3G, even though the service is free for the next six months. An alternative is to get a 3G phone for $700, but my current phone works fine and I can't bear the thought of putting down that kind of money just for another phone... unless someone is willing to buy over my phone at a fair price. Besides, not only is the service free for only three months but it's by SingTel, and I'd really like to try another service provider, like M1, for the heck of it.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year!

I haven't written in a while, mostly because I had nothing to write about. No, that's not true. I had nothing that was of more significance than the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster to write about.

I'm not going to write about the disaster because others have said it better than me. All I'll say is that the only way I can deal with it is by not dwelling on it, e.g. the itty-bitty little details about what's happening, latest death tolls, etc. It's kind of like the way I dealt with the 9/11 tragedy. I don't exactly tune out, I'm not that emotionless. Rather, I understand that there are certain things I can and cannot do, and dwelling on the situation won't necessarily increase what I can do nor decrease what I cannot do.

Besides, being overloaded with news makes me numb to what's happening. So I continue to live my life and do the things I normally do.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2005!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Who am I?

State for the record:
  1. Your online name: Yuhui (pronounced "you hwee")
  2. Your gender: Male
  3. Your sexual orientation: Heterosexual
  4. Your job: Web developer Marketing executive Drifter
  5. Your gender: Male (*scratch head* why ask again?)
  6. Your computer: anything Apple
  7. Your gender: I already said MALE!
  8. Your interests: computers, writing, reading, watching TV/movies, philosophy
  9. Your gender: (Again??? WTF???)
(End transmission)