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Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Am @ Youth.SG

I am @ Youth.SG
So, my blog has apparently caught the attention of some powers-that-be at Youth.SG. From their e-mail:
We have identified your blog as one of the popular youth blog around and we seek your help in making this event a success in the blogosphere.
Heh, really? Aw, geez, thanks! Considering that the daily traffic to this site is atrociously low and I don't tYpE lIkE tHiS (or is that "tYpE lIk DiS"?) nor post pretty pictures of myself, I'm actually kinda surprised that my blog is "one of the popular" ones.

But hey, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that one never bites the hand that feeds you... nor chastises the mouth that compliments you.

On with the show!


I Am @ Youth.SG because I fall within the required age bracket of 15-35 years old for this contest.

I read "I Am @ Youth.SG" and find nothing grammatically wrong with it when used in its proper context (but will drive lots of English teachers crazy!)

I see the "@" in a sentence and don't think twice about how overused it's become. The same goes for dot-anything.

I can't keep a secret. But that's why we blog, right? Even this contest's organisers have to share theirs. In their e-mail, they talked about a "Mystery Grand Prize". But on their website, they announce that it's an Apple MacBook!

I don't give two hoots about copyright violations nor stealing other people/organisations/entities' designs.
Stealing designs? Me?
Hmm, this design looks similar to that of a certain Google-owned website...

I love consumer-generated media, like the photos at Flickr and videos at YouTube. And Stomp. Wow, what a swell idea! If I only I was as smart as the folks at SPH. Not only would I be able to use other people's media -- and copyrights -- for my commercial offerings (because, you know, they gave up their media willingly), I could also sue them under the Copyright Law for using my media and my copyright on their websites. It's win-win, I tell you!

But though the mainstream media doesn't care about my writings, that's just fine by me because I blog for an audience of one -- me! (Well, actually an audience of two... or five... maybe 10... and a couple of curious voyeurs...)

I Am @ Youth.SG... and plan to be back with another entry in two weeks' time because I want that iPod shuffle!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday in Kuala Lumpur day 3

We had nothing planned for today except the journey home, so we slept in and had a late breakfast later. We then walked to Suria KLCC to buy some snacks, before returning to the hotel for a siesta.

We checked out at 1pm and waited for the coach to arrive, scheduled for 1:30pm. But due to a delay at the immigration, it was delayed till 3pm. Fortunately, the journey home was smooth and we arrived at our Singapore destination at 9pm.

Thus was my short holiday to Kuala Lumpur.


Holiday in Kuala Lumpur day 2

After breakfast in the hotel, we went to the Petronas Towers to meet Terina, who was already in the queue for tickets to the observatory deck. The line was long, snaking four times in the small concourse. I took over the place from her so that she could resume her breakfast. Some time later, I saw that, after about 50 people behind me, there was a sign indicating that there were no more tickets for the day.

I stood in line for about an hour before reaching the counter. We were given the 3:45pm timeslot. With some time to kill before lunch, we went to the Aquaria, a newly opened aquarium at KLCC. When buying the tickets, the guy behind the counter asked if I was her boyfriend or fiance! We corrected him and laughed it off.

While there were lots of exhibits of sea creatures, there were also a few for land animals, e.g. snakes, spiders, a monkey, and more. We also stayed for a mermaid show, which was just a female employee taking occasional underwater dips in a small tank -- while dressed in a bikini top and tail-fin bottom.

Next stop was Chinatown, which we went to by LRT. I thought it strange that the automated ticketing machine dispensed only single-trip tickets, whereas for round-trip tickets, one had to buy them from a ticketing booth. The trip across five stations took about 10-15 minutes in the air-conditioned two-carriage trains.

We walked to Petaling Street and browsed the few stores. We also had lunch there. I had prawn noodles, which came in a spicy soup that left my tongue tingling. We then shopped for the next two hours or so. Our final loot: two soccer jerseys for Terina, a leather belt and a pair of Timberland shoes for me.

We then took the LRT back to KLCC for the Petronas Towers observatory deck visit. We waited about 10 minutes in a small theater, watching how the towers were built, before being ushered to a large elevator, where we were whisked up 42 floors in under a minute.

The view from up there was rather spectacular, though I was disappointed that there were a few skyscrapers directly in the line of sight. We were given only about 10 minutes up there, so we took a few photos and admired the view.

Terina had to leave then, so we went back to the hotel to relax. At 7pm, we walked to Bukit Bintang for dinner. Terina had recommended the restaurants at Starhill, but we found them a bit too pricey. We walked around for a while and were amused that, after crossing a road, the shopping malls and hotels were replaced by shophouses with dodgy stores. So I suggested that we turn back and eat at Kenny Roger's Roasted Chicken. It was a roadside outlet but not as noisy as I had expected.

After dinner, we stopped by a night market, but found that the things on sale there were similar to what we had found in Chinatown. So we walked back to the hotel for an early night.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday in Kuala Lumpur day 1

Despite living so close to Malaysia, this would be my first time in Kuala Lumpur in about 10 years. The excuse this time was to visit a friend who had returned home from the U.S. for a holiday.

We arrived at our hotel, Impiana KLCC Hotel & Spa, on Thursday at about 4pm. After checking in, we then took a stroll across KLCC park to Suria KLCC, the shopping mall under the Petronas Towers. We didn't expect the walk to be so short, so we two non-shopaholics ended up with abour two hours to wander around the five-storey mall, ending with a cup of overpriced tea.

We met my friend, Terina, and her parents outside Burger King, then made our way up to a Chinese restaurant. It was my first time meeting her dad and third time meeting her mum. Dinner consisted of sweet-and-sour spicy soup, roast duck, bittergourd, prawns in thick cream, and dessert.

Over dinner, I caught up with Terina on her life. All of us also talked about our countries, weather, things to do in KL, etc. It also took me about half an hour to figure out how to send an SMS to her through mobile roaming.

We finished dinner at about 9pm. After arranging with Terina for the next day's activities, we went our separate ways.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Self-regulation of bloggers? part 2

Update: Malaysian bloggers have formed their own association.

Sometime back, I wrote my two cents (though I'll probably have to up that to five cents since one-cent coins are not in circulation in Singapore) on self-regulation of bloggers. Since then, I've come across two third-party blog entries that reference my entry, by Gerald Giam (are you my ex-classmate/school mate?) and Bernard Leong.

Gerald supports the idea of a Code of Ethics (yay!). Bernard has one question that I'd like to answer:

Do we need to form a bloggers association as suggested by Yadav?
Ideally, yes, it's probably a good idea -- in Singapore. Because our government likes structure. Forming an organisation doesn't mean painting a bull's eye target on itself. It means that members of this organisation agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics. It's like saying: "I hereby agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics. If I flout it, please shoot me (figuratively speaking)." So being a member of the organisation holds the blogger to a higher standard because it confirms his adherence to the Code.

This is similar to the Creative Commons, which I based the above idea on. A person who adheres to Creative Commons says, "I agree to use the Commons to allow my copyrighted work to be used by others under the specified restrictions. If I impose additional restrictions not mentioned in the specified licence, please shoot me (figuratively speaking)."

If a person doesn't follow Creative Commons, that doesn't meant he can't share his copyrighted work. It just means it's harder for a third party to figure out under what circumstances it can use that copyrighted work, if the person has allowed it to be shared.

Similarly, a blogger who doesn't follow the Code of Ethics does not necessarily exclude himself from adhering to the ethics. It just makes it more difficult for third parties -- including the authorities -- to figure out where he's coming from when he blogs.

To increase the chances of the Code of Ethics being acceptable in Singapore, especially in the courts, it's necessary, as I had suggested previously, to include the government, probably through a (ranking) minister or two, in its formulation and enactment.

Legally speaking, I've only heard of one case that came before a U.S. court over a third party who flouted someone's chosen Creative Commons licence. I'm not sure if the trial is over, and I forgot where I had read of it. It would be interesting to see the outcome of the case, because it would be a precedence to whether Creative Commons -- and possibly other community-created codes of conduct -- actually has any weight in the eyes of the law.

Similarly, it would be interesting to see how a breach of the Code of Ethics would play out in our Singapore courts. Which is why I advocate including the government in it. A community-created Code with government backing would, I believe, have more legal weight and moral standing when tested in a court of law.

So that's another of my two (or five, depending on what's in circulation) cents.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Christmas with Corrinne May"

Update: I've noticed lots of referrals from Corrinne May's forum. If you're one of them,... hello! *waves hand*

Christmas with Corrinne May
I've just returned from the concert, "Christmas with Corrinne May", held at the Esplanade. As to be expected, it was a spectacular evening filled with heartwarming songs presented in a soulful, meaningful manner.

Each song was rendered in the same lush manner by Corrinne May, who was dressed in a dark blue evening gown, backed up by an incredible band and string orchestra that was totally in sync with her piano playing. There were few hiccups, no major boo-boos except for a minor audio issue that was laughed away casually. The only complaint I have is that, at times, her voice was drowned out by the loud background music, particularly the drums and guitars.

The song selection consisted mostly of tracks from her newest album, "The Gift". She also included a few songs from her previous albums, some unreleased songs, and a few bonus Christmas songs. Whereas most of her older songs had a more mainstream message, her selection this evening had an overt Christian tone. Perhaps she believed her audience has become more receptive to such music, especially at Christmas time.

And as is her signature style, she opened each song with a short, poignant story. This being a Christmas concert, all of her stories had a Christmas theme. Most of them were about her views about Christmas, from receiving presents in stockings to her first encounter with "snow" in a Singaporean shopping centre. She also reflected on the original Christmas story and wondered aloud how the people involved -- Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and the wise men -- must have felt that special night. All of this was done in a very childlike, innocent manner, which made the audience even more emotionally involved.

In the second half of the concert, the Singapore Youth Choir ensemble singers joined her on stage. It provided backup vocals that made her songs sound even more majestic. Together with the light display that shone all over the hall, the concert suddenly became more lively. So while it had started out on an intimate moment between Corrinne May and her audience, it ended as a full-on grand concert that made for a powerful, spectacular display.

But Corrinne May wisely ended the night with an encore that had a very personal touch. Accompanied only by her band, she sang "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" with a touch of jazz. It was a quiet way to end a wonderful night of beautiful music.

Run-down of concert


Thursday, December 14, 2006

I come bearing gifts...

Remember my wishlist for $20? Today was the day we received our gifts from our secret Santas. My secret Santa got me:
  • a donation ticket stub for a children's charity, which comes with a voucher for four movie vouchers from Eng Wah Cinemas (unfortunately, some would say)
  • a Coke bottle containing about $6.50 in one-cent coins, and
  • two two-dollar bills, or $4 in cash
Assuming I did not miscount the coins (yes, I really poured all of the coins out and counted 'em!), then that puts the donation at $9.50, for a total gift cost of $20. I had thought that the secret Santa only needed to buy one item from the wishlist. Little did I know that I would be saddled with a bottle full of copper coins.

I don't know who managed to scrounge up so many coins, especially considering that they are out of circulation. But I think it was a female employee. Why? Because not only was the bottle nicely wrapped in pink and green paper, but there was also a card saying that Santa and his friends from Hundred-Acre Wood, i.e. Winnie the Pooh and friends, had got me the gift. I can't imagine a guy doing all of that, even if he was gay.

Initially, I thought that I would deposit the coins, but now I think I'll leave them as they are. Besides, with one-cent coins out of circulation, I figure they would make a great treasure when I'm old and grey.

Later in the evening, we had our office year-end party at Table 108 at CHIJmes. In the lucky draw, I won... an iPod 30GB! Black! And it plays video! Wow! The Apple gods must be smiling on me. This is the second of two iPods that I've received absolutely free! On the other hand, I hardly listen to my older iPod and I don't have many iPod-ready videos. Anyway, if it becomes a white elephant, at least it's a free white elephant.

The top prize was a Sony PlayStation 3. I would've liked to have won it... so that I can sell it and use the money to buy a Nintendo Wii.


Monday, December 11, 2006

UW-Madison stuff: McDonald's

McDonald'sWow, another landmark is closing in Madison. Looks like McDonald's closes on Christmas Eve. It's the small outlet along Lake Street, just before State Street, right next to a multi-storey car park (Google Map).

Actually, it took me almost a minute to remember this place. I guess that's a testament to its low profile, yet high importance. Because it was next to Madison Central that is State Street, where the bohemian shoppers and diners hang out all day, but also beside UW-Madison Central that is Library Mall, where students hang out in the summer.

I thought I had a "fond memory" of this outlet, but confused it with the Burger King branch further up the road (which I think has closed already). I suppose this memory will do: on the night my parents came to Madison for my graduation, we had dinner at this place because it was convenient, familiar and cheap, and we didn't want to think of where or what to eat.

Another memory would be when I had dinner there with a Singaporean and went too far into talking about quantum theory (because that had been my craze then). Yeah, she probably thought I was weird too.

All of these memories are making me overly nostalgic. Once, I had remarked to a Singaporean that we could return to Madison in 10 years, maybe even 20, and we would still be able to recognise the places. I'm starting to rethink that claim, especially with the planned redevelopment of the southeast area of campus.


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Sunday, December 10, 2006

UW-Madison stuff: commercial, student travel center

I finally decided to read the UW-Madison Alumni newsletters that I get in the e-mail, and discovered these two gems:
  1. A 30-second commercial (requires Quicktime) touting the achievements of the alumni (also on YouTube, which will probably be removed one day)
  2. Wisconsin Union Travel Center to close
The commercial looks kinda amateur-ish. I think it's due to the soft colours. And it sounds snarky. Then again, as the saying goes, "if you've got it, flaunt it!"

The travel center closure hit a soft spot for me. Not because I booked an alcohol-and-sex-party-filled spring break package through them. (Actually, I never booked an alcohol-and-sex-party-filled spring break package from anyone.) Nor did I go to them for overseas study advice, since I was already studying overseas.

Rather, it was the one place to buy discounted Van Galder (later, Greyhound) coach tickets from Madison to Chicago. Lots of fun trips were had from those coach trips, especially before I got the car. Most of the time, the trips were to-and-from the airport. Some were for Chi-town getaways.

I'm sure there'll be a new venue for current and future students to continue buying these discounted tickets. As for me and thousands of people around the world, those trips to the office in Memorial Union will just be another memory.


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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Self-regulation of bloggers?

Most Controversial Post
Update 1: continued in part 2
Update 2: I've noticed lots of referrals from Google and Yahoo Malaysia searches for "blog regulation singapore" or similar. If you are one of them,... hello! *waves hand*
Update 3: Malaysian bloggers have formed their own association.
Update 4: This entry has been nominated for the Most Controversial Post in Ping.SG's 1st Anniversary Blog Awards! Vote for me!

So, it looks like I'm late to the "party", but between work and sleep, I've had little time to mull over this... Which isn't entirely true because, in a way, this has been at the back of my mind for a long time.

But before I begin, here's some background reading for what I'm talking about:I'm not trained in the legal profession, so what follows is based on my layman's observation. Also, because of time, I'm not going to write out a full-fledged editorial.

The primary reason for self-regulation is to pre-empt the government before it enacts laws targeting blogging specifically. It seems to me that the fear of such an action by the government is due to the proposed amendment to the Penal Code, which will have explicit laws against illegal computer and online activity. And also because the government has explicitly regulated other media, like newspapers and TV (if one considers a blog to be a similar form of medium).

In other words, it's like bloggers telling the government, "Look, we're gonna police ourselves, so you don't have to do it for us, and as long as we (bloggers) play nice, would you be so kind as to focus on other matters at hand?" (Of course, not in such a frank and curt manner.)

On the other side are bloggers who say that blogging is all about free expression and "why should we subject ourselves to any form of regulation, whether self-imposed or not?" Also, enforcing such regulation on a group as diverse as bloggers is like telling bacteria not to reproduce.

Not to mention that there is the implicit requirement of forming an association to enforce the regulation on wayward bloggers. Which leads to the issue of why a blogger, especially one who values his anonymity, would want to register himself with an association. (And on a logistics side, how would a group blog be registered and regulated?)

And one more thing: the government has already taken action against bloggers using the Sedition Act. So what's the point of using up time and resources to enact regulation?

All kinds of cans of worms here...

Here's what I know:
  1. There are all kinds of bloggers. There are serious bloggers, like those mentioned above. There are teenage bloggers wHo wRiTe LiKe tHiS and use a lot of SMS-style language. There are satirical blogs. There are group blogs. There are even blogs written by politicians.
  2. Blogging, in general, is by nature a personal affair.
  3. The government used the Sedition Act to punish racist writers. However, the government can, at its discretion, use the Sedition Act to punish anyone who abuses a race or religion, which is the point of the Act. The Act does not target bloggers specifically.
  4. The Penal Code review is, to me, an exercise in updating it for 21st century realities, like consensual oral sex between husband and wife (yes, it's illegal as of this writing). One of these realities is the impact of the online world. I believe that the government does not see any distinction between online and offline speech. So, the Penal Code review brings it in line with existing laws, including the Misuse of Computers Act (I think that is its official name).
  5. Singapore does not have the First Amendment found in the Constitution of the United States. Bloggers here like to think that it does, but seriously, look it up in the Constitution and our laws, and you'll come up empty-handed. While the Singapore Constitution does guarantee free speech, there are a couple of caveats, including speech about race or religion, and anything that will "excite the people" about the government (use your own interpretation).
My thinking is that it's still possible to self-regulate local bloggers. It requires three parts to work successfully:

1. Follow the Creative Commons "opt-in" model.
(This is key. Everything else that I propose follows from this.)

Creative Commons is an "opt-in" system, that is, the publisher chooses whether to use Creative Commons or not. Creative Commons cannot force anything on him. Likewise, any regulation on blogs can be on an "opt-in" system. Opting in is like declaring publicly to follow the set of rules. It also means that the blogger has agreed to set himself to a certain standard which he will not deviate from.

There is no negative impact on not opting in. Just as publishers who don't explicitly use a Creative Commons license can still share their work if they choose to, likewise, bloggers who don't opt in can choose to blog according to the limits of the regulations. The difference is that the public will perceive them to be in a grey, "are they or aren't they?" area. There's nothing wrong with that. Opting into the regulation simply clarifies the blogger's position.

2. Form an association to enforce the regulation.
First, you opt in. Next, you put it down in writing. This goes against the Creative Commons model. However (and Singapore Angle will say, "Unfortunately"), we live in Singapore and are bound by its quirks. There is a better chance of closing an integrated resort than the government letting a bunch of bloggers run free with some so-called regulation.

The association could be like the Law Society, which enforces its rules and takes action against wayward members. When the government recognises that there is a proper method to the madness, I believe that it is more likely to trust the individuals involved and let them operate on their own.

3. Bring in a minister or two.
Yes, I'm serious about this. Without government backing, any self-regulation will just be hot air. The government can play a role similar to an adult chaperone for children on a field trip., i.e. it provides guidance and safety.

Of course, this will require the government to recognise that it can't be heavy-handed. Maybe something similar to how IDA manages the telcos. Or something like "As long as you don't cause trouble, I'll stay out of your way."

All of the above is really just an idea in my head. Maybe someone agrees it, but I think most bloggers won't. We'd prefer to just be left to our own devices. Why bother with self-regulation? That's just another headache.

Well, I think the alternative -- that of the government setting laws and/or policies targeting bloggers specifically -- is one that will agitate bloggers even more. Indeed, it sounds like choosing the lesser of two evils, doesn't it?


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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wishlist for $20 gift

Who would've thought that it'd be so difficult to come up with three items for a $20 gift? It's all part of the gift exchange for the company's year-end party.

In the end, my list was:
  1. Copy of a receipt for a donation to a tax-deductible charity, dated 6 December 2006 or later.
  2. 2,000 one-cent coins in Singapore currency.
  3. Contribution to my Nintendo Wii fund.
Of the three items, I'm secretly hoping for #3, ha.


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