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Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Sin City"

Sin City
I finally got around to watching "Sin City". I think that if I had waited another week, I would have missed my chance, because the number of screenings per day is getting smaller, even at the big cinemas. That's what happens with R21 movies with a small core audience.

I had never read the comics that the movie is based on, but I had heard only good stuff about it. And the reviews I had read hailed the movie as a success in terms of keeping to its comic book roots. And I had faith in Robert Rodriguez, even though I had never seen any of his other movies.

And I wasn't let down. "Sin City" is an awesome, awesome movie. Not just in the cast and (computer-generated) sets, but also in the set pieces and dramatisation. And by that, I mean that my disbelief was suitably suspended to make me think that I was watching not actors in another Hollywood flick, but a group of no-gooders try to do good in a cesspool of a city.

The black-and-white imagery was well-used. It not only made me think about what the comic book looks like, but it also gave the movie a noir-ish feel. The lack of colours also helps to prevent unnecessary distraction from the story. The one colour that appears in each scene serves to highlight what's going on in that scene, so you know where to focus your attention and immerse yourself further into the story.

The sequence that I really enjoyed was "The Hard Goodbye", starring Mickey Rourke. He plays this beast of a guy, Marv, who pummels people for the sheer fun of it. But what drives him is revenge, because just after he finds a girl whom he thinks accepts him for what he is, she ends up killed. Ah, love and revenge, classic ingredients for a good drama. I think a lot of people can relate to his motivation.

But as with all good things, there are the bad parts, and the one bad part that stuck out like a sore thumb was the dialogue. I think it was lifted verbatim from the comics. Unfortunately, what works in comics may not work in movies, and that's what happened here. The dialogue sounded corny and cliché, like something from a 1950s-era movie. Maybe that was the point, but I didn't like it.

The other thing has more to do with my original expectation of the movie. "Sin City" isn't really a superhero-type comic/movie, yet the characters display some sort of superhero qualities. E.g. Marv gets shot and beaten and even electrocuted, but somehow always manages to stand up again. Dwight (Clive Owen) jumps down more than two storeys and doesn't break a leg. And then there's Kevin (Elijah Wood), the bounding-and-leaping psycho.

Overall, a good movie, and the delay in the distributor bringing it into Singapore is offset by the chance to see the director's cut. I'm not sure what cuts were made in the theatrical release, but I'm glad that Singapore's censors allowed the blood and gore to remain. Can you imagine a criminal's head being beaten until the beater is hitting the floorboard??? Or a graphic scene of that same criminal's genitals being pulled out??? See, the censorship board isn't so uptight... at least with regards to violence.

The one actress who didn't make a big impression but I was looking forward to was Alexis Bledel. I tried to enjoy the part when her character said that she had to call her mother. Err, Lauren Graham, maybe? Haha.

Next up: I need to find my golden ticket to enter Charlie's chocolate factory. Or maybe I'll see if a Dutch girl says sorry.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

HD = My-eyes-have-gone-to-heaven Wow!

QuickTime H.264
As a movie buff, the next closest thing to watching movies for free is watching movie trailers. And thanks to the good folks at Apple, I can download and watch movie trailers for free. And not just those of blockbusters, but independent and foreign flicks too. I swear I saw the trailer for "Kung Fu Hustle" once.

Anyway, with the new QuickTime 7, Apple introduced the industry-standard H.264 codec. It's the video compression/decompression ("codec") format for up-and-coming high definition ("HD") television. (As of this writing, the Mac version of QuickTime 7 is out, while the Windows version is a preview release. I think there should be H.264-compatible players for Linux out there.)

If you don't care about such technical terms, then just watch any of the trailers in Apple's HD gallery. I downloaded the "Batman Begins" and "Fantastic Four" trailers. And this evening, I watched the "Batman Begins" one.

Holy friggin' cow! From the first second, when the words "Warner Bros." appears, you know that this is The Good Stuff™. Compared to the non-HD version (which uses the more widely used Sorenson codec), the images displayed are crystal clear. How clear? I could see non-pixelated (i.e. non-blurry):
  • strands of eyelashes
  • snowflakes
  • fire sparks
  • rock patterns on prison walls
You have to see it for yourself to experience the difference. It is that... wow!

The downside is that the HD-version is about seven times larger than the standard version (I downloaded the better 1080p HD, which doesn't seem to be available anymore). And a super-powerful computer is required to play the trailers smoothly.

("1080p" means that the video's frame height is 1080 pixels. By comparison, the frame height of VCD/MPEG-1 is 240 pixels, and 540 pixels for DVD/MPEG-2 (for NTSC format).)

I also have the "Fantastic Four" 720p HD trailer, but somehow, the "wow" factor just wasn't as great as the "Batman Begins" 1080p HD trailer. It's still sharper than the non-HD trailer, but the crystal clarity of 720p cannot match that of 1080p.

For now, I'll probably continue to save my videos to non-HD formats because the source material (i.e. footage from my camcorder) isn't meant for HD, akin to pouring new wine into old skins.

But, wow! HD! It's the wave of the future!

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Technorati tags: QuickTime, HD, movie trailers

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

General Knowledge quiz

In the Today article, "The new illiterates", Denyse Tessensohn laments that many young Singaporeans don't know much of anything else beyond what they study in school. Here are some questions she posed. Without referring to any source (e.g. Google, encyclopedia, other person, etc.), can you answer them?
  1. What and where is Angkor Wat?
  2. How do you pronounce "Socrates"? What is his place in history?
  3. Name any novel by Alexandre Dumas.
  4. Name the third in the trinity of Hindu deities after Brahma and Vishnu.
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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shoe baton

WTF??? I kena whacked by Angela! Okay, I play along.

Total Number of Shoes you own:

Eight shoes (four pairs), including my sandals.

The last shoe you bought:

My running shoe in early April 2005. Actually, I bought two shoes, because shoes come in pairs.

How many shoes do you have underneath your work desk

Two (one pair), counting the ones on my feet.

Five people to whom I'm passing this baton:

Tim
Teri
Thurisaz (oh dammit, I forgot her name!)
Andrew
Fey

(Inex, I excluded you because I figure one of your friends will whack you with it soon. No offence, sistah!)

Hehehehe, this should be interesting.

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Letter in newspapers about Bloggers.SG

I got published in today's papers! Haha, I'm so obiang!

I wrote a letter in response to the report on Bloggers.SG last Sunday (the day the original article appeared and one day after the event). On Friday morning, Nora from the Straits Times called me (letter writers are required to furnish their addresses and phone numbers) to say that my letter had been selected to be published (no date given). It didn't appear on Saturday, so that kind of dashed my expectations. But it came out today, and I guess that makes sense, since Sunday's letters usually don't require responses.

To show how letters are edited, I'm posting my edited letter compared to the original. Note to Straits Times: this is not an affront to your editorial policies. This is just a lesson to show how letters from the public are edited for publishing.

(Red type indicate changes, striked out portions were part of my original letter.)
Dear Editor,

I refer to your the article, "1st bloggers' conference is one big yawn Yawn" (The Sunday Times, July 17).

I think that the reporters did not fully understand the nature of the conference, Bloggers.SG. As Lee Kin Mun a.k.a. aka Mr Brown was quoted as saying, the event it was meant to be a casual affair. That was the spirit of the conference and, to that extent, I think that it was a success.

Many conferences usually consist of discussion panels that focus on very specific topics. Such discussions can be similarly boring for people who are not exposed to those topics. However, these panels are important and open forums to increase the knowledge of the attendees and the public in general. (removed paragraph break) Likewise for Bloggers.SG.

(added paragraph break) The legal and technology panels may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but they were necessary to educate the bloggers. This is especially useful for those who are new to the scene. The questions posed were insightful and revealing about how much all of us have to learn about blogging.

The difference about Bloggers.SG is that it also served as an event for bloggers to network. As the organisers had stated, one of their aims was to show that the local blogging scene comprises more than Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi or Xiaxue.

(added paragraph break) At the start of the conference, we We were introduced to various blogging communities. Many of these were new to me and I value their contributions to the rich diversity of Singaporean blogs. (removed paragraph break) However, as your the reporters discovered, bloggers value their anonymity. This is not an alien concept in the online world. Even with e-mail addresses and instant messaging identities, many people operate behind false personas.

This is especially pertinent for bloggers. After the A*Star-Acidflask AcidFlask and Sarong Party Girl incidents, they have become more wary of revealing their true identities. This is due to the fear of backlash, whether real or perceived, from the government or other authorities.

Unfortunately, online anonymity is a double-edged sword. Bloggers themselves encounter difficulty in recognising one another. Bloggers.SG provided a safe and conducive venue to overcome this problem.

(added paragraph break) After the conference proper, many bloggers stayed on at the nightclub. Anyone who saw us would have witnessed many new friendships being formed. I personally made a handful of friends whom I would never have met otherwise. We are even talking about more get-togethers.

A cursory scan of blogs about the conference will bear this out. While attendees appreciated the panel discussions, they were more excited about the chance to meet fellow bloggers. Like science fiction convention attendees, we were glad and encouraged that bloggers are just ordinary people, too.

This then is why Bloggers.SG was not "a yawn" for the bloggers. It was only the first conference, yet it has set a high benchmark for future ones. One only needs to look at it from a different perspective to appreciate its importance and success for the budding blogging scene.
A few observations about writing a forum letter (in no particular order):
  • Do not use personal experiences unless the topic of the letter refers to something that you yourself experienced. This is not a General Paper essay.
  • Do not portray authorities negatively.
  • Keep paragraphs short (for newspaper column-formatting reasons).
  • Do not fluff, i.e. add extraneous information that seems to boost the image of your viewpoint.
  • Do not repeat a point in a subsequent sentence.
  • Reporters and their stories are not possessions of the newspapers, i.e. "you/your" are replaced by the impersonal "the".
So why did I write this letter? Primarily because I felt that the public at large needed an alternate viewpoint about the subject. Most people get their news and opinions from the local press. As far as I could tell (at the time I wrote the letter), the only alternative viewpoints about the conference could only be found in blogs. (This view was later negated when the Straits Times published a more positive report on Bloggers.SG in its Digital Times supplement on Tuesday.) But bloggers and their readers still form a small subset of the population, so most people would not have been aware of what we bloggers thought about the conference.

Also, to form a more knowledgeable and creative society, the population needs to be exposed to more than one perspective of an idea. This is the so-called marketplace of ideas, where ideas are raised and discussed to discover the more correct (though not necessarily the perfect) solution. Without alternative viewpoints, society will be stuck in a rut with just one set of ideas, which may or may not be beneficial.

And a marketplace of ideas is essential in a democracy, where people decide how to rule themselves, as opposed to a top-down autocratic society.

So back to the article at hand. If there had been no rebuttal to the original report, the public at large would assume that Bloggers.SG was really just a yawn and have an even lower opinion of bloggers. With my letter and the reports in Digital Times, there is now some balance to both sides of the argument, and I hope that the public can decide which one is more correct.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

"Fantastic Four"

Fantastic Four
Yes, yet another comic book movie. The only "Fantastic Four" comics I read were the first issue by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the reboot by Scott Lobdell (I think) and Jim Lee. But I knew enough of the team to appreciate the movie. I must admit, though, that when the cast was first announced, I was unsure if Jessica Alba was the right person to play Susan Storm, who is supposed to be about the same age as Reed Richards, i.e. early-thirties at the youngest. Maybe she's supposed to be a young genius in the movie. If she was, it was never shown.

I'd read review after bad review of the movie, so I didn't have any high expectations aside from seeing comic book pictures come to life with real life actors. Compared to other superhero movies, it paled beside "Spider-Man" but was better than "Hulk" and maybe on par with the first "X-Men" movie.

As expected, the interaction between Ben "The Thing" Grimm and Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm was the highlight of the movie. I laughed out loud with everyone in the hall when Johnny tricked Ben into slapping himself with a whipped cream-covered hand. Hahaha! But for every good part, there's a bad part, like when they fought after his daredevil stunt. That part seemed too forced, as if the writer just needed to make the team members start to come to blows with one another.

Another part that I didn't enjoy was the final fight between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom. Why? Because it was too darn short! As soon as I had got into the heat of things, Mr Fantastic was instructing the team about what to do, and then it was over. After Doctor Doom had been supercooled, I half expected him to unfreeze a la T1000 in "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", but round two never materialised.

For that matter, Doctor Doom's character was never completely fleshed out. He was taking revenge on the team because he had lost everything? Sorry, I don't follow the logic. If this were the comics, he would've come up with a nefarious scheme that would cause the entire team to face a real ordeal, like preventing planet domination.

On the other hand, Julian McMahon plays a pretty good villain: smooth, cool, evil...

One other thing that bugged me: where did Reed Richards get the funds to build his cosmic storm replicator??? The banks had already given him his final notices, his friend Victor von Doom was not only bankrupt but becoming his enemy, he had not cashed in on the team's fame and fortune. That part just seemed too far-fetched.

Mmm, Jessica Alba in lingerie... every fanboy's dream... and actually, that whole sequence was quite silly and unneeded, if you really think about it. If Reed and Johnny could reach Ben so easily on the bridge, did Sue really need to turn invisible and push through the crowd?

And about that bridge scene: haven't the drivers learned how to use their brakes??? Especially the emergency crew??? Even Ben had to tell two (albeit old) lady drivers to step on their brakes. Well, duh!

So I would say that "Fantastic Four" is a good movie to just kick back and enjoy, but not something that you would keep as part of your DVD collection.

One thing I should thank my lucky stars: about half of the hall was occupied by preteen children, yet I hardly heard an unexpected squeak from any of them. They all knew when to be quiet and when to laugh out loud. Whew!

Next up: "Sin City". Just need to find the right alley to turn into...

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Bloggers gathering

Hideout
Last night, I joined a few bloggers for drinks. Actually, most of us were the volunteers from Bloggers.SG and we had organised a get-together between ourselves. Then it became a whole Bloggers.SG organisers-and-volunteers reunion, and all the free drinks that go with that.

Okay, a bit of background. As I mentioned, a few of us had talked about meeting again at Hideout, that watering hole in town that is frequented by local blogebrities. I think the first person who mentioned this was Angela just before the doors to Bloggers.SG were opened. Then I mentioned it in my shout-out post-conference entry, though I don't know how much of that played a part in this gathering. Then Angela mentioned it again, together with Stephanie.

Around this time, the organiser-in-charge-of-volunteers, Sondra, had emailed us that the organisers wanted to organise a thank-you get-together for the volunteers. Someone mentioned to her that we were already organising our own get-together. Then one way or another, our gathering became the thank-you gathering.

Yes, you Bloggers.SG organisers, you piggy-backed on our plans! *grr* *gnash* haha

Hideout is located at Circular Road, and that road was in the press about a month ago because of the number of "health centres" that had sprouted up there. Now, by health centre, I mean "massage parlour", and by massage parlour, I mean "brothel". Yes, you can get a decent massage, but the objective is to get laid... according to what the papers report.

So while walking to the pub, which is about in the middle of the road, I decided to count the number of health centres. I could only spot two or three. There was another health centre/massage parlour, but it looked legit from its glass walls and rather open concept layout. No, I didn't go in.

However, there are a lot of watering holes at Circular Road, and these don't seem sleazy. I did notice an exclusive Gentleman's Club. The last time I saw one was in New Orleans. I couldn't tell what went on in the club, because it was on the second-storey of the shophouse. But there was a middle-aged decent-looking female bouncer sitting at the foot of the stairs, and I think by the word "exclusive", you need some kind of membership to get in. Maybe I shall explore it another time, when I'm feeling gutsier.

But yes, the pubs there seemed above the board. Maybe the papers were making a hoo-ha about the sex thing.

I arrived at Hideout at 9:30pm, thinking that there would only be a handful of people since the supposed meeting time was 9pm and this is Singapore-time. Turns out that bloggers are a different breed. There were already about 10 people there: Sondra, Angela, Stephanie, Yanying, Jeff, Yew Jin and his female friend, and Brendan (I think that's who it is, didn't really talk to him), and my sister and brother-in-law had just arrived. Most of them had arrived promptly at 9pm! I ordered the Miyagi Special, named after the local blogebrity. It's a sweet drink made of cranberry and blackcurrant and vodka. Nice and sweet!

Angela, Stephanie and Yanying kept asking when mr brown and Mr Miyagi would show up, especially the latter. Poor Sondra didn't have a ready answer. The three girls were like schoolgirls who were waiting to meet their newest pop idols, with eyes all a-flutter.

I didn't do much talking, just listened to the others. But then, I didn't think the place (or any pub, for that matter) is conducive for talking due to the relatively loud background music. And I have a soft voice. Sometimes I think I should smoke just to make my voice deeper. But I shouldn't smoke, so I won't.

The only person i talked to was Yanying. I had noticed a book sticking out of her bag: "History of Languages". I resisted from saying anything like "Wah, so cheem!" because I feel that such statements make the other person think that they may be typecast or treated as outcasts. Does that make sense? Anyway, I asked her about it and she said she was interested in languages, but the book wasn't really what she was looking for.

Angela and Stephanie whipped out their cameras and started blinding us with flashes, though they didn't allow their own faces to be taken. However, Angela, Yanying and I did an impersonation of the three monkeys "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" for a photo. I'll have to get that photo. I wanted to bring my camera too, but only remembered about it while at work.

The barflies showed up later and then it got really noisier. And then this photographer guy with a huge professional camera (who may have been a barfly) started taking pictures of us. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind letting my picture be taken, but in this case, I felt revulsed by this invasion of privacy, so I hid my face where possible.

mr brown showed up around 11pm. We teased him because he went around to meet other people who were at the bar before coming to us finally, even though he was a conference organiser and we were the volunteers. He bought us a round of drinks (I had plain ol' Coca Cola), then chatted with us. He also told us about his job: he comes up with the sitemap for his clients' websites, then pushes the job to his employees. It's that easy??? Mr Miyagi showed up later and we sang him a birthday song. He joined us and chatted for a while.

I finally left at about 11:30pm and decided to explore the other half of Circular Road. Of note, I found another health centre and one interesting pub. This pub had glass walls, but the women standing outside were in these short tight tops and super-short denim shorts. I happened to look at one of them and she asked if I wanted to go in. I shook my hand and walked on. From what I could glimpse inside that pub, it was like any other pub, i.e. people sitting around and drinking. So I don't know what role these woman play, besides attracting male clientele.

Having recced the area to my heart's content, I jumped in a cab and returned home.

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Technorati tags: bloggers, gathering, hideout

Monday, July 18, 2005

To: arsena1.blogspot.com

Who are you, arsena1? And how did you learn about my blog?

No, I'm not asking this in a mean tone. I'm really curious about you since I don't think we've ever met in real life. I think that means I've reached a certain level in blog nirvana, because I'm listed together with famous bloggers like James Seng, Cowboy Caleb, Lancerlord and Xiaxue. Thank you for stroking my ego.

I've seen your blog and it looks neat, though I'm not a football fan myself.

And I nearly choked when I saw what you call me: "singatechie"! I'm flattered that you would make me sound like I'm the go-to guy for techie problems in Singapore. And if that's not your intention, then my ego bubble has just been burst.

Please reply, arsena1. Thanks!

Bloggers.SG photos

Finally uploaded my photos from Bloggers.SG. 28 photos in all (some are marked family/friends-only). Here's a tease:
Belly dancer
... Oh fine, here's another tease:
Belly dancers
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Technorati tags: ,

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bloggers.SG

Nametag
Bloggers.SG was held yesterday at DXO, the NTUC (local labour union)-owned-and-operated nightclub at The Esplanade. It was scheduled to start at 2pm and end at 6pm, with a sponsored party after that.

I had volunteered to help at the conference, initially as a videographer, then when the venue was moved to DXO (which has its own crewpeople), as tech support for folks with problems using the wireless network. All of the volunteers were supposed to meet at 12pm. When I arrived at 12:15pm, there were only two or three other volunteers, besides the organisers. Ha, I forgot that we're still working on Singaporean time.

Lexmark had sponsored four printers and up to 500 free 4x6 (4R) photograph prints. I helped to set up the printers, which was really as easy as taking them out of their boxes and plugging in the power cord. When more volunteers arrived, we chatted for a while, were introduced to one another, then taken on a tour of DXO. This was my first time there and it seemed to me like any other nightclub in town, i.e. dance floor, central bar, exclusive private rooms, etc.

One of the rooms was used for the organisers and volunteers to keep their stuff. While we chilled out there before the event, I saw Lee Kin Mun aka mrbrown, Benjamin Lee aka Mr Miyagi, and Wendy Cheng aka xiaxue. And I needed someone to point out that the plumpish man dressed in long-sleeve shirt and tie was Malaysia's very own Kenny Sia aka kennysia.

BTW notice that I'm not linking to these "blogebrities" (blog celebrities). They're so popular that they don't need someone like me to link to them.

At about 1:30pm, word was buzzing that there was already a queue outside the door. Like celebrity-crazy fans, a few of us rushed outside... and saw about 20-30 people waiting in line. The doors were eventually opened and we helped to usher people to the dance floor, which had chairs laid out already.

Meanwhile, James Seng aka jseng briefed a few of us that some people might experience wifi problems because of the strangely weak reception in spite of having five base stations spread out over two floors in a place that was definitely much smaller than Bill Gates' house (and he probably only needs two base stations). As luck would have it, I was never asked to troubleshoot any network-related problems and I assume that everything went on without a hitch.

The conference started at 2:15pm or so. The first order of the day was an introduction to various local blogging communities. The few that I remember are an Indian expatriate community, a marine nature community, students from Temasek and Victoria Junior Colleges who blog for a government-sponsored blogging competition, and a community called "barflies" that engage in quite a number of alcohol-indulgence-related activities. Sorry, I don't know their web addresses.

There was a break at 3pm (refershments sponsored by government organisation, SHINE) and I chatted with my cousin. He remarked that this conference was a gathering of geeks, even if the attendees wouldn't admit to it. I agree to a certain point, since one needs some level of understanding about and comfort with various technologies to blog.

The next segment was a discussion on the legal aspects of blogging, e.g. defamation, copyright, etc. In summary, whatever goes on in the real world can be applied to a blogosphere. Just keep one thing in mind: we're in Singapore, not the United States, so we are subject to local laws in spite of how high-falutin' we may be.

One topic that got my attention was about Creative Commons. There is a growing movement to embrace this, especially in the U.S., but in Singapore, there are again no explicit laws to protect Creative Commons works in spite of the free trade agreement with the U.S., so it's really up to the copyright owner to defend his rights. Ideally, anyone who uses Creative Commons (including me) should never have to deal with such legal problems.

As the panel for the third segment prepared themselves, a video from Shaun Chng was shown, partly because he had "promoted" himself during the first segment. His video was of the last days of military training before his batch was done with national service.

The third segment covered some blogging-related tools that the average blogger may not be aware of. Kin Mun raved about Flickr, especially moblogging (mobile blogging), and demonstrated how he was able to email a picture to Flickr, and it would appear on his personal blog in mere moments. The catch, which he neglected to mention, is that this is not free. First, you need to subscribe to GPRS and/or 3G mobile service provided by your phone operator. Then you need to subscribe to the premium features of Flickr to enjoy this level of moblogging.

If there is one thing I learned from this segment, it's this: tools exist that can be used by anyone if he is either willing to pay and/or is comfortable in dealing with technology. For the young who are technologically saavy, money is likely to be an issue. I know it is for me. For those who are older and have deeper pockets, their use of computers may only be limited to what they know, e.g. writing documents, reading e-mails, browsing the web. Ask them to fiddle with RSS or design their own templates? That may be quite a task.

When the issue of trackbacks came up, Angela asked me what it was, and I did my best to explain since I hardly use it myself. Apparently, she's writing her own blogging tool/program that will pull together the best parts of the various blogging tools (e.g. Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.) already available. And I learned from her how exactly a computer would receive and decode an SMS. Apparently, all one needs is a gadget that accepts a SIM card and is plugged into the computer. It then receives SMSes and transfers them to the computer to handle. I may need to look into that one day.

The conference ended with a belly dance performance. That, of course, attracted the attention of the audience, especially the men. Lots of camera flashes went off. And when they were done, the dancers were willing to pose for photos with the bloggers.

For dinner, I joined a few volunteers: Angela, Yanying, Stephanie and Jeff. We just went to the crowded Marina Centre food court. Over dinner, we learned a bit more about one another, e.g. what we did (3/5 of us were students, Yanying is a graphic designer), where we lived, etc. And we made recommendations of our dinners, e.g. what was good, what should be avoided.

We returned to DXO at about 7:30pm or so and just hung out there. I talked with Jeff and learned about the difficulties faced by support groups for mental patients, e.g. finding volunteers, getting publicity, etc. But it seems like a worthwhile service.

MSN (Microsoft Network) had sponsored the club's premises and free flow of drinks from 6:30-9:30pm. We sat at the balcony and chatted over drinks. I started with a gin tonic and moved to a vodka orange juice.

We were happily enjoying our night when the peace was broken by loud explosions. These were the fireworks from the National Day Parade rehearsal, which was at the Padang. Given our proximity, we had a prime view of the display. Quite a few rushed to see it, again, like celebrity-crazed fans. I also heard some cheering and clapping. All of this reminded me of the fireworks that I saw in Madison every Fourth of July aka Independence Day.

Yew Jin and Chin joined us later. And we met Terence and Tracy. We also played a trick on Chin: we insisted that Yew Jin had joined the five of us for dinner, not him. He was so taken in by us that he had to ask Adri aka Popagandhi to confirm that Yew Jin had joined them instead.

Jeff, who is a psychology student, remarked that this was a classic case of conditioning (or something like that) conformity. Anyway, it was a good laugh for all of us there. Sorry, Chin!

On a sidenote, Jeff also became more open and talkative. He apparently doesn't drink and just had two gin tonics. A classic case of alcohol lowering one's inhibitions?

We noticed that the only patrons at the nightclub were the bloggers themselves. I remarked about how dead the place must be on other days, considering that this was a Saturday night. Even when I left, the dance floor was stark empty. It seems like not all union members are party animals. Is DXO a drain on NTUC's funds?

BTW besides the other bloggers mentioned, I also caught sight of Silly Celly (who I recognised but didn't know who she was until I heard someone mention her name), Cowboy Caleb (whose identity is supposed to be a secret but someone in our group recognised him), Agagooga (whom I somehow recognised because of his long hair even though I had never seen a picture of him), and Sarong Party Girl (with her Caucasian beau). The newspaper reported today that Sandralicious was also there and mentioned that she was apparently the sexiest blogger there. I didn't get to see her though so I can't comment.

It was a long day and I finally left at about 10:45pm. For me, the conference was less about what blogging is about and more about bringing bloggers together. For almost all of us, we are just faceless individuals who write online. So this was a chance to "expose" ourselves somewhat. Of course, a few chose not to reveal their blogging persona, and that's just fine. And there were those who already knew other bloggers and remained within their cliques.

So from a networking perspective, I think Bloggers.SG was a success.

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

New friends from Bloggers.SG

I've just returned from the Bloggers.SG conference. I'll blog more about it later, because I really should be going to bed... now!

But first, a shout-out to the following bloggers whom I befriended:
  1. Angela
  2. Yanying
  3. Jeff Yen
  4. Yew Jin
  5. Stephanie aka Princess Hyper^ger
  6. Chin
  7. Tracy aka mercuranium
  8. Terence aka dr3am
(Those without blog links practise separation of church-and-state reality-and-blogosphore.)

Congrats, guys, you made it to My Bloglines.

Oh, and of course a shout-out to and her friend whose blog URL I cannot recall right now.

We shouldn't wait for another bloggers conference to meet again. Hideout on Thursday, anyone?

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Electronics expo or softcore porn exhibition?

E3 girls 5/16
E3 girls 13/16
By way of GirlFusion (rated M-18) (please don't ask how I found this page/site), I found some photos, supposedly taken at E3, which make me wonder just how far computer gaming developers/publishers will go to woo their testosterone-laden market. It seems that it's all about flashing the thong sensually to draw potential (male) customers.

Here in Singapore, the closest we get to such erotic/exotic ladies is with the digital camera models. These girls are dressed in the tightest, most body-hugging lycra ever invented by man. Most of them are in miniskirts, a growing number expose their (usually) flat abdomens, and all of them show off their curves in all of the right places. Naturally, photographers, who are usually male, will take photos of them eagerly, whether with professional bulky cameras or handy cameraphones.

However, in both local exhibitions and E3, how many of these trigger-happy men actually buy the products/services that the women are promoting? Are the companies spending their promotional/marketing money wisely by hiring these ladies? And are the girls who are hired for their bodies only slightly better than prostitutes/exotic dancers?

No, I'm not a member of the religious right or a similarly conservative group. Just wondering openly if sex still sells. Yes, the sex will attract the men, but what's the return-on-investment, i.e. actual product/service sales due to the scantily-clad women?

By the way, just a few days ago, I was thinking about what to do if I saw a woman expose her underwear. Heh.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

To: offpoint and lancerlord at blogspot.com

I was looking through my Technorati profile and found out that I had been linked by you. Thanks for adding me to your list of blogs! It's heartening to know that my voice is heard in the ether that is the Internet.

I've added you to my Bloglines list, so now I'll be reading your blogs too!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fight at food centre

(Mr. Police Officer sir, if you want to use my blog entry for your field report, please feel free to do so.
Mr./Ms. Journalist, if you want to quote from my blog entry, please respect my Creative Commons License.
Thank you.)

My parents and I had just arrived at Ayer Rajah Food Centre at about 7:45pm. thinking that it would be just another night of dinner in relative peace. How wrong we were.

Food Centre fight 1/8
We had just found a table in the crowded food centre and my dad had gone off to order his dinner. All of a sudden, we heard a loud commotion coming from the middle of the centre. I couldn't see what had happened, but I heard these: dishes crashed, glasses smashed, women screamed. Almost immediately, a crowd of people started running away from the disturbance. Being curious, I wanted to see what was going on, but the stalls at the corner of the passageway blocked my view, and I'd be a fool to venture further.

Food Centre fight 2/8
And being me, I was concerned that someone would take our table and it would be a pain to find another, so I returned to it. As soon as I sat down, I saw three youths emerge from the scene. The lead youth had a small gash at the right side of his temple and blood had streamed (or was it still streaming?) down the side of his head. The other two youths seemed unhurt. They walked off in the gangster-type strut, their faces filled with anger and hate.

Food Centre fight 3/8
Following behind was another male youth, holding a Heineken bottle, which looked empty. I knew then that the fight wasn't over, but whether or not it would continue at the food centre, I didn't know at that time. I also knew that the bottle would play a bloody part. The youth looked quite angry too, as if he was looking for blood.

Food Centre fight 4/8
Another male youth followed behind. This one resembled a character from a gang movie because the right side of his shirt was covered in blood, although he himself seemed unhurt. He looked back once, but continued walking. I think he had a male companion, but I don't remember clearly. All I remember is the bloody shirt.

Food Centre fight 5/8
Then two youths appeared, one male and one female. He clutched a glass of drink that seemed like it had not been drunk from. She was on her handphone and running after him. The only word I heard from her was "kenapa", or "why" in English. From the way she ran to him, it seemed like she was either trying to calm him down or getting him as far away as possible.

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure if she was on a phone, because there was a stallholder who resembled her and was on her handphone too. Damn, I make a lousy witness!

Food Centre fight 6/8
Whatever her efforts were, they failed. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't see what their facial or bodily expressions were because my line of vision was blocked by a pillar. But my hearing was still good, and I heard a loud crash. The male had thrown his glass on the ground. He backed away slightly so that I could see him talking loudly (shouting?) at her.

Food Centre fight 7/8
All of a sudden, Heineken-clutching male ran up and -- holy cow! -- smashed his bottle on the other male's head from behind! Now this was really a scene from a gang movie! The bottle shattered on impact, sending shards all over. Fortunately, I was seated far in enough that the shards were on the ground when they landed near me. But a few shards were just millimetres from my foot! It took me a whole second to register that I might be in the line of danger before backing as far back as possible.

Food Centre fight 8/8
I was looking down to ensure that there were no other glass shards flying at my feet. By the time I looked up, the three youths had disappeared. I assumed that they had fled before the police showed up. But the evidence of their fight -- the pieces of glass from the cup and bottle -- were strewn all over the area.

Things slowly returned to normal after this. People were still standing around, afraid to return to the scene of the fight in the middle of the food centre, but the rest of us carried on. Stallholders cooked and patrons ate and drank. My dad told me to call the police but I had not brought my phone with me. On hindsight, I wish that I did. I would've also been able to take pictures too, although given the quality of the camera, the pictures would have come out grainy.

Anyway, someone else had made the call. As we were leaving, I saw police tape cordoning off the area, and two policemen getting statements. The mess had been cleared up and patrons were eating as normal, though I'm sure they were speculating about the fight.

By the way, yes, my family did continue to have our dinner there.

This was the first time I had ever witnessed a fight, or at least the later part. Part of me was excited about the opportunity, while another part was wary about my safety and the safety of others. I entertained heroic thoughts like rushing at Heineken male in a rugby-type tackle and then slamming the daylights out of him. Must be the effect of all of the superhero movies that I've watched. But even if I were bulkier or more gung-ho (or had batarangs), I'm not sure that I would have intervened. I think it would be foolish to place oneself, especially when glass containeers are in use, in the middle of what could have erupted into a gang fight.

And I don't think that it was a gang fight anyway. Based on my understanding of today's Singaporean youths, it could've happened for any of these three reasaons:
  1. a disagreement,
  2. jilted love, or
  3. ego
(Since the youths involved were of the same race, religion and age group, I don't think it was terrorism-related.)

But you know what really pissed me off about these youths? In spite of the recent bombings in London and the overall looming threat of terrorism, they still chose to fight among their own people and age group. Don't they realise that there are bigger problems out there? Or are they -- and by extension, Singaporeans -- too preoccupied with themselves?

Wake up and smell the gunpowder! People are dying out there because of something as silly as religious intolerance! We've got to stop thinking about and fighting among ourselves. There are larger issues at stake.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

What to do in a "zao geng" situation?

Zao geng (v) -- (Hokkien) to have one's underwear exposed accidentally from beneath one's clothes for anyone to see (if that person is looking in the correct direction). Usually true for women's panties/thongs/G-string/whatever-the-fashion-is. Can also be used as a noun to refer to the exposed underwear.
In America, such exposed underwear may be called "whale tail" because the exposed portion resembles the tail of a whale. Also: "pull me thong", or PMT, even if said underwear is not a thong. I don't think I need to explain the "pull me" part.

No, I'm not the victim of a zao geng. But as female fashion changes, more and more women are wearing low-rise bottoms, especially pants and hipster jeans. And then zao geng-ing will most likely occur, e.g. when she bends or squats or even just sits.

If a man sees a female stranger zao geng, he should politely look away. If he knows the zao geng-ing woman intimately, e.g. she is his wife/girlfriend/lover (female relative?), he should tell her about it so that she can "fix" it.

But if he is in the company of women whom he knows reasonably well, e.g. friends, colleagues, should he tell the zao geng-ing woman? I've only ever done so once to a female friend (you know who you are (unless you've forgotten)!). But now I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do because of the embarrassment caused to her.

What should his politically correct move be?
  1. Look away and pretend that it's not happening.
  2. Tell the woman about it (discreetly, of course).
  3. Tell a female mutual acquaintance to tell her.
  4. Whip out the camera, man!
  5. Something else.
I feel like the answer is (c), but that could cause the mutual acquaintance to wonder why he sees the zao geng and think that he's secretly a pervert who likes to find zao gengs.

And then what happens if there is no mutual acquaintance present during the zao geng? Does he tell and open himself potentially to accusatory questions like "Why are you looking there in the first place?!", or does he keep quiet and let her continue zao geng-ing?

What to do???

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rating the Olympic bid videos

Olympics logoSo, London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. I seriously thought Paris would win.

I watched the announcement over dinner where they showed the videos that each city used for its bid. If I were to choose the winner based on their videos, this is how I'd rate the cities, from least likely to most likely winner.

(I wish I could show the videos, but none of the web sites for the cities has them, except Paris, but to keep it fair, I won't link to it.)

5. Moscow
The first half of the video shows various cities that have hosted the Olympic Games, and with each city is the phrase "Thank You" in its native language. This goes on and on, and you're starting to get the real message. And then the message is hammered home with a scene of Moscow and the phrase "Fair Play".

You want to host the Olympic Games only because other cities have hosted it and you haven't, and it's only fair that you should? You sound like a tantrum-throwing teenager asking for the world plus interest!

You're out!

4. Madrid
Within the first five seconds, you have Antonio Banderas endorsing the city. And then other Spanish celebrities endorse it. Then you pull at the emotional heartstrings with a cute Spanish girl endorsing it.

So the message is that Madrid should host because everyone who's anyone says it should host it. This kind of marketing/selling is all the more reason why I wouldn't want you to host it.

Next!

3. New York City
As an aspiring filmmaker, I really liked this video. It was gritty, realistic, and touching.

As a consumer, though, it didn't work for me. The entire video was done in drab grey and resembled too much like CSI:NY, which I think is already the drabbiest (is there such a word?) in the CSI franchise. It even had the flying shot looking down on the city's buildings, which CSI:NY always uses!

So the video made me feel gloomy. However, the Olympics are supposed to be happy-happy-joy-joy! Maybe the city wanted to get across that though it had suffered a catastrophe in 9/11, it was resilient and would still be able to pull itself together to host a major global event like the Olympics.

But overall, the video was just too dark for me and made me feel wary of the city. Thumbs down.

2. Paris
This was the first video shown in the series and I really, really enjoyed it. But you'll have to read my review of the London video to see why I picked it as the winner.

As I said before, the Olympics are about happy-happy-joy-joy and this video really showed it. People were smiling, laughing, painting their faces, going all out with colours and acrobatics and all. It gave the carnival-like atmosphere that (I think) the Olympic Games possess. Most of all, it made me feel good about the Games.

A potential winner. Unfortunately, there was one more city to go, and that would be the nail in Paris' coffin.

1. London
There's this sports advertisement, I think it was Nike, that showed a jogger running through a city like it's an ordinary thing to do. At the end, while he's resting, a passer-by asks him for directions, and he gives it casually. The idea was that sports is just another part of life, so take care of your body with the right gear.

This same idea -- about sports as part of life, not the right gear -- was used in London's video. It too showed a single (female) jogger running through the city, and anyone she passed was inspired to do something sports-like, e.g. stewardesses racing across a pedestrian crossing, a construction worker doing the pole vault, etc. More than just happy-happy-joy-joy, this video's message was that sports could inspire you, and by extension, the Olympic Games can inspire the world.

And that was a very good, very powerful message. It's not just showcasing the city, but going into how the city can bring out the best of the Olympic ideals. And that's why I would pick London as the winner.

As it turned out, London did win and Paris came in second, which is in line with my video-based ratings.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Discovering XML and XSLT

Moved to The Savage Doctor.

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