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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cleaning Onomatopoeia

iMac G5, Onomatopoeia
After owning Onomatopoeia for a year and a half, I finally got down to cleaning it. So for an hour, I sat on the floor, facing my iMac's exposed back. Since this is a rare occasion, I realised on hindsight that I should've taken some pics for the heck of it.

One common trait about Apple's designs is the way everything fits just right in the chassis. That is a boon and a bane. Boon because there is no wasted material. Bane because it's so darn difficult to disassemble, then reassemble!

Case-in-point: the lower fan. (There are three fans, one at the bottom, two at the top.) It's about the size of those rubber stamps with the plastic housing. And it fits snugly into its assigned space.

As with anything, it was relatively easy to remove. The fan popped out of the casing and I cleaned the dust inside. Surprisingly, there wasn't as much dust as I had expected. Then I proceeded to replace it in the chassis.

It took me half an hour and countless tries to finally get it in! It's not that I forgot how to do so. Because everything is a tight fit, there was little to no margin for fiddling and readjustment. It either fit or it didn't. And the little wire to the motherboard (from which the fan draws power) also had to fit just right in a little notch.

But the most terrifying part for me was to ensure that, as I pushed and prodded at the fan, I didn't end up breaking it! Given how fragile electronics are these days, I didn't want to be saddled with a spoilt computer just because I broke the fan. So it was a mix of impatience and caution throughout the entire time.

In the end, it got into its position and everything was well again. I next unscrewed the top two fans, but they were surprisingly very clean! I just had to wipe a thin layer of dust in an empty cavity.

It turns out that the dustiest parts are the lower fan and the portion of the grille that the fan blows air from. Cleaning the grille was as easy as wiping my finger over it.

Maybe my room isn't as dirty as I thought it to be!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Guy vs. girl talk

I was talking to a male colleague about comics, graphic novels, "300", "Pathfinder" and "Heroes". A female colleague sitting nearby overheard our conversation and remarked about our conversation topic.

She: You know, I tell my husband about what you guys talk about.
Me: Oh? I hope you don't feel left out.
She: Oh, no.
Me: Maybe we should talk about rainbows and ponies instead.
She: ...

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Steve Jobs' anecdote at iPhone launch that no one talked about

Macworld Keynote
It's been about two months since Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. There's been a lot of news coverage and gossip and rumours about it. Yet, I haven't come across anything that mentions something that I think should be especially significant too.

During the presentation, Jobs' clicker for the slideshow stopped working suddenly. While waiting for it to be fixed, he regaled the audience with a tale from his high school days.

Back then, Steve Wozniak, who later co-founded Apple with Jobs, made a device called a "TV jammer". It worked like a remote control, but scrambled TV signals instead. When the picture got fuzzy as a result, someone would tweak the antenna to get the picture back. (Remember, this was back in the day when television sets had antennas sticking out the back!)

In the end, Woz would play with his jammer until the student, who thought he was "fixing" the antenna, got into an awkward position. And it was hilarious to observe (for Jobs, Woz and anyone else who was in on the joke)!
Sounds familiar? It should. It's a story that's entered Apple lore, joining other tales like "phone phreaking" and the Apple I computer. I've personally read variations of the story so many times that I've lost count, yet I never grow tired of reading or hearing about it again.

But to have Steve Jobs tell it was breathtaking. It has nothing to do with how familiar the story was with his audience. Rather, it's about Jobs' relationship with Woz. Somewhere along the way, the two close friends drifted apart to the point where they simply acknowledged each other. But as these stories go, the two patched up a few years ago (though I don't think they're as close as before).

And then Jobs goes ahead and tells this story about his former best friend. When I heard it, I thought, "Wow!" It sounded like Jobs was, in his own showman way, proclaiming publicly how proud he was to have Woz as his buddy. As if he was saying, "Woz was my best friend and let me tell you how awesome -- no, insanely great -- he was!"

On another level, Jobs, who rarely reveals anything about his personal life, was willing to relate this story in such an intimate manner. I think it made him come across as more "human". It felt like he was removing a barrier between him and his audience, giving them permission to enter his personal space (albeit very slightly).

And those are the two reasons why I think his little anecdote was so significant. It's not necessarily news worthy, but to the Mac faithful, I think this move was more ground-breaking than the iPhone announcement.

Pity that no one else seemed to pick up on this. Or maybe I'm just a sentimental fool.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

De facto promotion

It was Environmental Challenge Organisation Singapore (ECO Singapore)'s annual general meeting today, and I was only asked to attend yesterday. When my team partner, who's in the Exco, told me about it, she also asked if I wanted to take over as the Web Team's head.

She said that she'd been busy with work and needed to let go of some of her responsibilities, including this role. So I agreed, but only if she stayed on because my workload is going to increase in the middle of the year.

The change in roles was officially announced at the AGM today. By the way, the AGM was attended by the Exco members only. As a small organisation with no real membership, the Exco members are the de facto members, so they have to attend the meeting.

How did I end up with this job? I started volunteering at ECO Singapore in January 2006 as a member of their Web team. During that time, the team consisted of only me and my team partner, who's also a founding member of ECO Singapore. Along the way, someone else joined the team, but I was still the second member of the team, and therefore the "deputy head".

Now that the former team leader has stepped aside, I've been "promoted". I don't foresee any change in the team's plans right now, so everything's still status quo. As the Exco member, I guess I'll have to attend the monthly Exco meetings, which means more time eaten up.

As if that's not enough, back in December, I also volunteered as copy editor for ECO Singapore's publication, Express! It's published quarterly, so that shouldn't be too time-consuming, right? But with about 40 pages of content (and no ads!), that means that there are a lot of articles to edit.

However, I enjoy editing. It's something that I've always wanted to get into, because I tend to pick out little mistakes in newspapers, magazines, written pieces, etc. When I was an intern at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, I helped out in editing their journal too. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to edit anything else after that, the usual excuse being that I "lack experience". With Express!, I hope to get that out of the way.

So, editing and Exco and Web stuff. Looks like my plate is not only full, but almost spilling over. I still wonder what I've got myself into...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The big Three-Oh

So, I've hit 30. Time continues to fly by.

I celebrated by watching "300". A movie with good effects but "spartan" story (it was just "rah-rah" repeated constantly).

Ally McBeal once lamented about being single at 30. I know what she meant.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Walk in Madison

Madison, home of my alma mater, has been voted "most walkable" city! Wow, what award will they think up next?

One thing that really impressed me about Madison was the way the city planners allocated road space for bicyclists (and skaters too). Along the main road of University Avenue and West Johnson Street, one lane in the four-lane road was reserved for bicyclists (with another lane for buses).

Also, State Street, which is in the heart of the city, was closed to all vehicles except public transportation (buses and taxis) and delivery vehicles... and, of course, bicyclists and skaters and other human-powered wheel transportation.

As for walking, well, every UW student certainly understood what that entailed. The 15 minutes between classes were just sufficient for us to get from one end of campus to the middle -- on foot. For me, I learned the warm short cuts through the heated buildings during winter, even if it meant climbing up and down staircases.

I knew of people who walked across Lake Mendota when it was frozen. Personally, I never did that because I didn't have the need to go to the other side. I suppose it would've been fun to have just done it once. Ah well.

But at least in the city and around campus, Madison was a good place to walk. In the outskirts, though, driving was still the rule.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

View of the city

Looking towards Raffles Place
Looking towards Raffles Place

Had a chance to take a picture of the city skyline from the other end of the office.

(Other photos)

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chillin' at Long Bar

Heineken
Office declared the rest of the day off. A few of us took the opportunity to get a drink at Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. Later, some of us adjourned to Ice Cold Beer for pool and more drinks.

(moblogging)

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Evacuated again

We've just been evacuated again. There was an aftershock.

This time, almost all of us brought our things as well.

It's no fun walking down 26 floors -- twice!

(moblogging)

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Earthquake!

Whoa, the whole office building just swayed!

We've been evacuated. And it looks like the whole Beach Road area as well, and maybe Raffles Place and Orchard Road too.

Reason: earthquake in Sumatra, 6.3 magnitude.

(moblogging)

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Friday, March 02, 2007

XM's Chinese New Year dinner

Lo-hei aftermath
On the 13th day of the lunar new year, my company held its Chinese New Year dinner. It was at a function room in Raffles City Convention Centre and resembled a mini Chinese wedding dinner in terms of table layout and food.

Talking about the food, it was a nine-course set including usual fare like shark's fin and fish and vegetables and prawns... Except that the food didn't taste very good. The fried chicken with sesame oil was barely tasty and the fish was chewy.

The first dish was yu sheng. My table was the last to be served, and when we started tossing it, colleagues from other tables "joined in" and made a complete mess! There were scraps of food in the sauces, our drinks, all over the table. Our chopsticks were sticky and had to be changed. I felt more sorry for the waiters who would have to clean up after us. I couldn't help wondering what was going on through their minds. Probably something along the lines of "Young punks...".

Curiously, there was no entertainment for the night, aside from a brief presentation by our boss. Playing cards popped up and small groups congregated around tables. But the games ended early when a representative from RCCC stepped in.

Then some other colleagues played "pass the orange peel with your lips/teeth". I didn't participate, but recorded some good video with my phone. It was all immaturish fun in getting colleagues to lock lips.

And some colleagues did lock lips. Two girls got our attention when they kissed -- twice. Yup, I got those "Kodak moments" on video too.

Dinner lasted till about 10pm but some of us stayed later. We adjourned to Wine Bar at Zouk. Let me state for the record that after almost 30 years of existence, this was my virgin trip there. Like any night spot, it was crowded and smoky and dark. We spent our time chatting and some people danced.

At 1am, I decided to call it a night.

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