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Thursday, February 23, 2006

My Google Page

Google released Google Pages, a free website-creation service.

And I've already created mine: Yuhui's Google Page. Yes, it's unimaginative, but my plan is to use it to drive search traffic to my "real" websites. I already have my own website, so this is just a placeholder.

For the technically inclined, yes, this is another Web 2.0 application/service. My biggest fascination is with the text input boxes. I seriously have to figure out how they do it!

Hmm, it seems that you cannot add your own custom JavaScript code... which makes sense, I guess, since it's geared towards novices.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcome, Digital Life readers

To all readers of Digital Life (the Straits Times supplement):

You probably came here because you read about my entry in this week's Digital Times coverage of the blogosphere, particularly, blog entries about Singapore Idol.

Welcome to my humble blog.

The actual blog entry featured in DL is four entries down. But to get a better idea of who I am (instead of what seems like a closet fan of DJ Daniel Ong), feel free to peruse the rest of my blog.



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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Singapore Idol auditions part 3: I'm out

Singapore Idol
I'm out of Singapore Idol.


Not that I was pinning my hopes of the future on this shot to "superstardom". Still, it would've been nice to progress beyond the first stage and meet the four celebrity judges.

That's right, I didn't meet Dick, Flo, Ja or Ken. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I arrived at Toa Payoh just past 8:30am to meet another contestant. We then made the one-minute trek to the neighbouring HDB Hub, where the audition was held. I thought that there would be a separate queue for those who had already registered. But there was only one queue for everyone. Depressed. I mentally prepared myself for another long wait under the sun.

Meanwhile, I sat down, napped a bit, chatted, waved for the camera, and just idled (Idol... idle...). And then, good news! Those who already registered last week would be moved up to the front! Whoopee!

Still, it was a two-hour wait before we were ushered away to the auditorium. This necessitated a trek to the other end of the Hub (about a minute's walk, but still, quite brainless, when the queue just could've been placed over there!), then down to the car park (where I thought we would board buses, be waved good bye, and given free rides home, ha!), and then to wait in line to verify our identities.

And then we were brought into the auditorium, where we sat in groups of five. A producer -- who really needs to speak better English, but then I guess that's not a prerequisite in Singapore anymore, even for an English language channel -- went through some rules, like no contact with unescorted media people, no prior contract with modelling/acting companies.

And the most interesting rule: no blogging about the audition experience!

So why am I blogging about it? Since I'm already out of the game, they can't possibly disqualify me any further. But I wonder about the other bloggers who got through this first round? If the rules are the rules, then Mediacorp has to disqualify them. If it doesn't, then those rules are just a waste of paper and ink.

Anyway, back to me.

Each of us was given a huge sticker with our four-digit number written in thick black marker. Mine was 3380. We were told -- repeatedly -- to stick it on our chest, not stomach, and over any jacket and jewellery.

Inside the auditorium, the most requested wish was... toilet break! Even though I hadn't drunk much, I felt that my bladder was going to burst. Row by row, we were allowed to go to the loo. But first, we had to give our number to a crew member, then upon returning, we had to "report back" to her. Just like in primary school!

Some people were interviewed in the auditorium. I chatted with a few contestants, and we were all nervous, but we said we were gonna treat it as just another fun experience. Most of all, we were tired of the waiting and just wanted to get it over and done with.

Oh, and Daphne, from the previous Singapore Idol, was there too, accompanied by a crew member with a handheld camcorder. Why? I think I'm not supposed to reveal this, lest I incur the wrath of Mediacorp.

But it rhymes with "flog". And maybe "broadcast".

Soon, each group of five was ushered out of the auditorium, accompanied by supportive applause from everyone else. A half hour-wait later, my group was led out too. We were seated outside Audition Room 2, where we were given further instructions about where to stand and "remember to look at the judges, not the camera".

Our bladders were bursting again. Another toilet break.

And then it was my turn.

My heart was beating fast. I did as we were told: walk in, say my name, say my song title, say the original singer's name. In the end, I had selected "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton. It was easier on my throat than my original choice, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Andy Williams. I faced four people: two middle-aged female producers at a table, and two male crewmembers in the shadow.

I composed myself for a moment, then started singing. I sang with (some) emotion, remembering to gaze in the producers' direction, and just did the best that I knew how.

Two verses later, a producer said the magic words: "Thank you." So I left.

Next stop was the Results Room. Another group was there and when the results were read out, that entire group of five had been eliminated! Wow. This was as real as it could possibly get, I thought. It was about a five-minute wait, though it felt like an hour, before my group's results were read. If a number was called out, that person would have to leave.

I crossed my fingers.

She said one number. Not me.

Then "3380".


Dejected, I pulled the sticker from my shirt and gave it to a crewmember, who tore it in four and tossed the scraps into a rubbish bag.

So that was it. Eight (cumulative) hours of waiting later, it came down to a half-minute audition, which led to my elimination after only one round -- without facing Dick Lee, Florence Lian, Jacintha Abishegenadan, or Ken Lim. Nuts. I would've liked to hear what Ken Lim had to say. He's the only one worth listening to, unless Ja is good this year too.

But I must say that this was a truly interesting experience. It's probably the craziest thing I've ever done. No one, including me, would ever think of waiting hours upon end just for a slim chance of winning a singing contest, let alone the chance to be a local celebrity.

And yet I had done it. As I had reasoned: this was probably my last chance to try something this wild. I'm getting on in my years, as it has been drummed into me repeatedly. Pretty soon, God-willing, I'll be married and a father and then would I still want to queue up for hours just to be in another contest? I think not.

Yes, mathematically, I have one more chance for participating in Singapore Idol. Check back with me then to see if I'm still crazy.


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Saturday, February 18, 2006


I went to ACJC's 19th Fun-O-Rama today. It's a big funfair that's held once every two years. Every class is compelled to set up two stalls each: one game stall, one food stall. And every ex-student, e.g. me, is compelled to buy coupon tickets. I shelled out $100 and I wasn't going to buy any more!

Everything that's earned is channelled into some fundraising event, this year's being the building of a Centre of Performing Arts. Sometimes, I think that the school would've built everything that it needs to build already within the last 36 years. Apparently not.

Students in costume
I and my friend arrived at about 1:30pm... and it was still crowded! There were areas where, due to the narrowness of the road, it was a squeeze to get through.

Meanwhile, some students were hustling for people to patronise their stalls. Some in creative ways, like in costume, others with homemade cardboard placards. These students, so creative.

As usual, the haunted house queue was fantastically long. Actually, there were four haunted houses with four fantastically long queues. Needless to say, I skipped them, as I have for all of the previous Fun-O-Ramas.

Chocolate fondue
Also as usual, there was the SCOne Cafe, run by the 2SC1 class and occupying the smallest of the lecture theatres on the second floor. One of the dishes served was the latest craze in town: chocolate fondue! We ordered two sticks, one with strawberries, the other with banana.

Then the liquid chocolate hardened! Within two minutes! After eating the fruits, we used plastic spoons to scrape the chocolate, which had become like frosting, from the styrofoam plate. It was hilarious to see bits of chocolate flying everywhere.

I had decided not to play any games this year, partly because I feel that they're un-win-nable, i.e. they're designed to prevent you from winning anything more significant than sweets. So I decided to spend my $100 on buying stuff from the "supermarket" in the auditorium. (Oh, and $1 on a canned drink.)

Turns out that it's difficult to spend $100. Between my friend and I, we left with:
  • 6 folders
  • 3 notebooks
  • a pack of 3 badges
  • a pack of 2 pencil cases
  • 2 packs of macaroni
  • 2 tins of Milo (I actually tried to bargain it to 1 tin instead of 2!)
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • a pack of 3 muffins
  • and a partridge in a pear tree
Along the way, I met three old friends. Good time.

And then it rained at 4:30pm. But by then, it was time for us to leave anyway.


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Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Strings and Serenades: Corrinne May in Concert"

Photo with Corrinne May
Ah, my first Corrinne May concert! She truly has a beautiful voice, and it sounds even better when heard "live". The concert was held at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre. It was to kick off NUS' slightly-more-than-a-month-long Arts Festival.

The SBS Transit bus from the interchange to the venue was packed with attendees. It was quite funny, because we were all jammed on the bus, and at the second bus stop, everybody just got off. I think the driver must've been bewildered.

In spite of planning to arrive early, I and my friend arrived five minutes after! But unlike The Esplanade, the UCC is more gracious about delays. In fact, the concert started about 10 minutes after its scheduled time of 7:30pm. Corrinne May, dressed in a red shoulder-baring evening gown, walked across the stage to the grand piano, to rapturous applause. She was accompanied by two guitarists (one bass, one normal), a drummer, a percussionist, eight-piece string band (who were NUS students) (I think there were six violinists and two cellists) and the keyboard/conductor, her husband, Kavin Hoo.

Here's a rundown of her playlist. It's not complete nor in the correct order (mostly) because my memory has failed me. Note to self: bring pen and paper next time.

(Song links lead to iTunes Music Store.)

Open with:
"Mr. Beasley"
I think this is her favourite song. Mr Beasley is supposed to represent the love of her life.

She then introduced the band, naming each and every member, including the students.

She talked about performing at the "Make A Wish Foundation" with a 14-year-old patient. (The Foundation supports terminally ill children.) When asked what his wish was, he said he wanted the latest cellphone!
"Angel In Disguise"

Her next song was inspired by the cartoon, "Powerpuff Girls". She also mentioned that in Florida, a school teacher uses her songs to teach music to his elementary school children. He records their performances, including this one that has both boys and girls singing about being a superheroine!
"Little Superhero Girl"
And she smiled widely when she came to the lyric, "Singapore".

She thanked the audience for attending on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, or "chap goh meh". Someone in the audience said that it was "worth it!" She asked if anyone still followed the tradition of throwing oranges into rivers and ponds "or Macritchie Reservoir" to find a suitor. Another person asked if she did. She laughed and said no. Then she said that the moon was supposed to be the brightest on this night. It was her corny intro to her next song.
"Same Side of The Moon"

She then sang a new song for all of the Eeyores (Winnie the Pooh reference) of the world, i.e. those who are lonely and down-in-the-dumps.

She mentioned how she always felt sad when flying from Singapore back to Los Angeles, where her home is now.
"Fly Away"

The next two songs were done with her playing the guitar.

Her next song had been covered by her friend, local singer Tanya Chua, who was also in the audience.
"Something About You"

She sang another song on guitar, but I forgot what it was. Then it was back to the piano.

She talked about how, in Warner Brothers cartoons, there would be a little angel and little devil sitting on the character's shoulders, making him choose which side to follow. In the end, it was always about choosing the correct path. This led to her next song, another new one.
She fumbled during this song because she started on the wrong note -- literally. Halfway into the first verse, she stopped and said that it was too low. She conversed with her husband about it. "It's in F? Really?" Press piano keys. "Oh yeah!" Audience laughs and claps.

She once had a bad shopping experience and returned home very angry at the sales person. Her husband comforted her with a hug, and she was inspired to write the next song.
"Safe In A Crazy World"

Driving in Los Angeles can be crazy, what with drivers speeding and cutting in. She suspected that it was the same situation in Singapore. The title of her next song was her advice to all drivers.
"Let It Go"

She asked if anyone had gone for the "Singapore Idol" auditions. She didn't go to the venue, but thought that she could've walked down the line, singing her next song.
"Everything In Its Time"

Her next song was for an uncle, who was celebrating his birthday that night. And she also dedicated to anyone else who was celebrating his/her birthday.
"The Birthday Song"

The night was coming to an end. She thanked the organisers, which made her feel like she was giving a speech at the Grammy Awards.
"Save Me"

And then she thanked the audience.
"If I Kissed You"

She left the stage, but of course, she wasn't done yet. To howls of "encore!", she peeked from behind the curtains, then stepped back into the light and to the piano. She sang two more songs, but I forgot what was her closing song.

She talked about being marvelled by how small things can lead to something big and powerful, like a tiny seed into a gigantic tree. This led to another new song.
"Beautiful Seed"

And that was it. Two hours of beautiful music! Needless to say, the audience was extremely thankful and appreciative. The only negative thing I thought was that she could've had more rehearsals. Before and after every song, she would fiddle with her earpiece and wire. With a giant video screen above, those fiddlings couldn't be missed. And she seemed unsure about how things were supposed to go, e.g. when she was switching from piano to guitar.

Interestingly, about midway through the concert, she did a tune check with her band, i.e. pressed a piano key and everyone checked their instruments. Like an orchestra warm-up.

Before one song, she also thanked her parents, parents-in-law and brother-in-law (her in-laws are from Seremban) for attending.

After that, she had an autograph session. The queue was long and by the time I got out, I was near the tail end. It took two hours of queueing for me to reach her. But it was worth it. She autographed the booklets of her CDs that I own and I got a photo with her. I thought of asking her to autograph a poster too (there was a stack of posters), but decided against it because I know that it would just end up collecting dust.

So that was it. A good ending to a good weekend.


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Singapore Idol auditions part 2

Singapore Idol
Yesterday's audition queue was incredible. At 9am, the queue had stretched way beyond the designated area. When I returned at 5:30pm, the queue filled about half the area. But I skipped it because I had another appointment to attend, and crossed my fingers that there would still be a queue when I returned.

No such luck. But then the audition had been extended to today. So at 10:30am, I found myself joining the queue. This time, there were two queues: one for those who had registered yesterday and were back for their auditions today, the other for first-time registrants like me.

I gave myself until 4pm before giving up, due to a prior engagement in the evening. So I waited... and waited... and waited... I and the other hopefuls sought solace under the sparse shade of the surrounding trees. I basically just sat down and idled the whole time. I also talked with a few others, and learned that almost all of the other first-time registrants were also participating for their first time.

As I waited, I saw more and more returnees join the audition queue almost every hour. It was quite disheartening. It looked like I wouldn't be able to make my 4pm deadline. Would I be wasting my time after all?

At 1:30pm, our queue moved from the rear half of the queuing area to the first third, so that was a slight relief. And then co-host Daniel Ong did something very surprising: he paid for $100 worth of bottled water! His offer went like this:

"It's a hot day, you guys need to drink lots of water, don't be dehydrated. Who wants water? You want water? I have $50 on me, I'll buy you a drink. Hands up, who wants water? I just stopped by the ATM, and now I have $100. You guys want water? Okay, hang on, I'll get you water."

And he really did! A few minutes later, Daniel and his crewmembers appeared with two boxes of chilled bottled water. He went from row to row, tossing bottles at the participants, and imploring us to share with the others. Wow!

But wait, there's more! Apparently, his charitable contribution moved the sponsors, 7-Eleven and JJ Drinks, so they too got into the act. And sponsored a free can of JiaJia Liang Teh (cooling tea) for each and every one of us! And so Daniel and gang went around again, passing cans and cans of tea to all of us. Wow!

Firstly, I really must applaud Daniel for his generosity. I honestly thought that he was joking about the offer. But when he returned with the drinks, I was really taken aback. And he had set a precedent that the sponsors couldn't afford to ignore for the sake of good publicity. So kudos to DJ Daniel Ong!

At about 3pm, the audition queue had shortened, and our queue was moved up again. And at 3:15pm, we were allowed to register in groups of 10. I was in the second group and completed my registration at about 3:45pm. My audition is scheduled for next Sunday at 9am.

I must really thank my lucky stars and The Guy Up There. As the minutes went by, I really thought that I would have to give up what could be my last chance to do something different. But everything worked out in the end, and I have one more week to prepare.

Aside: theoretically, I have a mathematical chance of participating again if the next contest is held in two years but before March.

On to next Sunday!


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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Singapore Idol auditions

Singapore Idol
Two years after the first Singapore Idol competition, a new one has sprung up again. The auditions were held today, with the queue at the new youth park, *scape, and the actual audition taking place in a cinema hall at the neighbouring Cathay Cineleisure.

I went down to *scape at 8am... and what a sight greeted me! Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of Idol hopefuls! They queued in a barricaded area standing on nothing more than plywood boards. The line snaked left-to-right and right-to-left about 20 times. Almost everyone looked like they were in their teens, though I spotted a few young adults too. Those who were at the front of the queue held on to their Singapore Idol "survival kit" (comprising of T-shirt, poster, water, etc.) (with a huge Channel 5 logo on it).

How long was the queue? It stretched all the way up to the junction of Orchard Link and Grange Road. Yup, where the ERP gantry stands. (Map)

On the cement walkway stood the friends, family and supporters. Most of them were young too, though there were a few parents and families. Oh, and it was filled with smokers too. Yuck.

The host, Gurmit Singh, showed up at about 8:15am. His first task was to film the crowd shouting "Singapore Idol!" Then he gave a short introduction, before filming another segment, ending again with the shouting crowd. His co-host, Daniel Ong, showed up too, and they went about their grooming and stuff. Later, Gurmit gave a briefing about what would happen once it began. He and Daniel also chatted with the first two hopefuls in line.

For the rest of the time, nothing much happened, and Daniel kept saying drivel like "We'll begin in just a short moment" and "We're just minutes away". The crowd basically booed at him whenever he said that. Gurmit saved the day by saying that previous Singapore Idols, namely Taufik Batisah and Sylvester Sim, had also waited hours in line, so everyone should just be patient and befriend the people nearby. Because you never know, that person might be the next Singapore Idol.

You know, usual pep talk.

At 9am, it was finally time to begin. And as luck would have it, there was another event going on at the Youth Park just across the road. And the MC's microphone volume was loud enough to interfere with the Singapore Idol side of things. So Gurmit and Daniel had to wait a moment for that side to die down before counting down.

Aside: the other event was a inter-tertiary institution (universities, polytechnics) round-the-island treasure hunt.

A brief spiel, 10, 9, 8, etc, blow air-horn, and the Idol hopefuls rushed forward... only to be stopped by a crewman. I couldn't hear what he said, but from his gesture, I think he meant "10 at a time!" The first group was led to a covered area next to Cineleisure, where I presume they confirmed their application and identity. And then it would be the audition, but I wouldn't know anything about it since it's a restricted area.

I walked to the end of the line, just to see how incredible this phenomenon was. Even at that time, more people were joining the queue. And the view from Grange Road/Orchard Link was simply astounding. So many people, eager to clinch the dream of becoming a pop star.

It is indeed a mania, and it has begun anew.


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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Singapore Idol

Singapore Idol
Ok, I cannot keep this secret any longer:







Auditions are this Saturday. I need two songs, and my chosen repertoire is:If I appear on TV, you may laugh at me if you wish.


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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Punggol LRT first experience

View from Punggol LRT

Today, I went to Punggol for my first time ever since the farms had been bulldozed to make way for a new housing estate. Before this, all I had known about the area was that it was grossly under-developed and the government was using almost all of the tricks in its books to get people to move there.

But I digress...

View of Punggol MRT/LRT station
(The blurriness is due to the train's tinted windows.)

Today also marked my first time in a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) train (I think that's what "LRT" stands for). The LRT is basically like a monorail system that runs through the housing estate. Each station is at most half a minute away. The trains consist of one carriage (for maximum 50 people comfortably?) and are driver-less. Yup, entirely automated.

Punggol and Sengkang LRT map

Since it was my first time using it, I just hopped on the first train and mentally crossed my fingers that it would bring me to my destination. Fortunately, it travels in one direction only. Unfortunately, it has two different loops, so I didn't know if I was on the correct one.

Inside the Punggol LRT train Inside the Punggol LRT train

I was the only person aboard this particular train, so like a pseudo-tourist, I snapped away inside. Based on this first experience, I have nothing bad to say about it except that the air-con is so cold! It's so cold that I could be comfortable with a woolen sweater. But then, that's what it's like in Singapore, isn't it? The air-con must always be set to its lowest temperature.

I wanted to take a picture of an LRT station, but I couldn't get a good angle. Oh well.


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iTunes Music Store coming to Singapore!

Apple iTunes
Apple's iTunes Music Store is coming to Singapore!!! Wheee!!!! *jumps up and down in delight* And to think that I had just written about this.

This morning's Straits Times featured an article of 200 gizmos for 2006. I flipped through most of them, stopping only to read about the Sony PlayStation 3, Motorola's 3G-enabled RAZR V3x, and something about Internet TV. And buried in that last article was this line:

"... until the Singapore iTunes store opens next year."


It's about bloody time! Okay, so it's 12 months away and a couple of years late, but it's coming!!! Finally, I—and the thousands of iPod-toting Singaporeans—can get some legal digital downloads. Hopefully, there'll be a couple of videos too.


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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Letter in newspapers about Palestinian elections

Yeah, I was published again today, this time by free newspaper, Today.

As I did with my previous letter in The Straits Times, here's a look at how my letter was edited in Today. Note to Today: 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.)
Need to respect Palestinian election outcome Continue to engage Palestine

I refer to your article the commentary, "Respect the choice of the Palestinians" by Jonathan Steele (Today, Jan 28, 2006).

(added paragraph break) Like the writer, I think that I agree with him that the global community should respect the outcome of the Palestinian elections. (removed paragraph break) The West, and the United States in particular, has championed democracy for a long time, to the extent of overthrowing dictatorships in Afghanistan and Iraq. It introduced free elections as the cornerstone of democracy.

In Palestine, the people have exercised their democratic right to vote. The result outcome - they brought Hamas to power. As a result, the US and European Union could cut aid to Palestine, which will set setting back its continued development. They may also shut the doors on the Middle East peace talks.

The West cannot be seen to coddle with an openly terrorist group such as Hamas. However, the new Palestinian government is, as US founding father Abraham Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people, for the people". The West cannot afford to be seen as hypocrites in their championing for democracy.

I hope that the Western powers - and Israel - will do the sensible thing in continuing to engage Palestine, even if an old enemy is now leading it.

(added paragraph break) I think peaceful engagement is preferable to all instead of continued armed conflict and unnecessary bloodshed.
This time, there were less edits than before, probably because I wasn't talking about Singapore or the government. I suspect that the edits that were made (except for the title and date of referred article) were due to space constraints in the paper format. Since I don't have access to the physical copy, I can't verify this.

I also can't comment on the differences, if any, in editing styles between The Straits Times and Today since my letters were on different topics.

This time, I wrote my letter as my reaction to an article about the Hamas victory in recent Palestinian elections. On one hand, I understood why the democratic West would be miffed that a terrorist group won an election. On the other hand, having experienced first-hand how Americans value and champion democracy, I felt that it would be a dangerous precedent if they rejected a democratic government because of the latter's ideologies. If the Americans or British elected militant parties to power, I don't think they would tolerate being denigrated by other countries.

Consensus is better than conflict, isn't it?

Oh, and just to be clear: I DO NOT SUPPORT TERRORISM!


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