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Friday, January 18, 2008

Yuhui's Blogger - 2007 in review

All right, I'm going to reveal some secrets and insights into my blog. This will probably be most useful to PR folks (hi, Text 100 and Nokia!). How did my blog fare during 2007? How did people discover it? What were the hot topics? And what was the RSS feed good for?

Link to presentation

Why did I do this? Call it the curse of my job. I need to know! Also, I hope it'll stimulate other casual bloggers to see what strengths their blogs have that their readers value most.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Blackout" starring Yuhui (rated NC-16 for language)

Link to video

At the end of last year, a colleague mentioned that he wanted me to star in his short film. He said that I was the perfect person for the part, apparently because of my demeanour. Intrigued, I agreed to it.

Two weekends ago, I went to his house to film it. We discussed it for about two hours, and I got myself prepared for the role. In spite of his reason for casting me, it still felt very out-of-character and therefore unusual for me. Nonetheless, I didn't want to disappoint both him and me, so I persevered with it. However, I had to change some of the dialogue to better suit, well, me.

We waited till sun down to film it, since it was meant to take place at night. About five hours later, filming was wrapped. My colleague edited it over the next few days, all the time talking excitedly about it with me. He was obviously having a good time with it.

And "Blackout" was the film. He's submitting it to a few film festivals, and I eagerly await the good news.

Acting is definitely not easy. As a person who is conscious of my surroundings, it was an especially difficult time for me. I simply had to zone myself out and just pretend that I was somewhere else. Professional actors either have mastered the art of zoning out or are absolutely not self-conscious, or maybe both.

So now I've both acted and directed. Given a choice between the two, I'd rather direct. I'd prefer to have full control over my vision.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rejected ST Forum letter: "Unfair of HDB to demand $18k back for its mistake"

Since the Straits Times chose not to print my letter, I'll publish it here.
I refer to the article, "HDB wants $18k payout back from ex-hawker" (ST, Jan 12).

It states that the Housing Board wants Madam Lee Ah Muey to return $18,000 that it had given to her after she closed her stall. However, she was not entitled to this compensation since she had signed a contract agreeing to it. Four years later, Mdm Lee now has three weeks to cough up the huge amount.

This incident reeks of heavy-handedness and coercion. It is unfair of HDB to demand the money back for three reasons:
  1. It was HDB's mistake in the first place. So why is it forcing its former tenant to pay for its mistake?
  2. The incident happened in 2003. That is longer than necessary for HDB to realise and investigate its mistake, especially for such a large amount of money.
  3. Mdm Lee is a senior citizen living off her savings. It is unlikely that she can return the money in time and will probably be forced into debt by borrowing from others. The article even states that she may be forced to crawl back to HDB to rent a stall. Yet it is not her fault to be in this predicament in the first place.
I realise that the issue is about HDB's accountability of the usage of public funds. However, accountability can go both ways. HDB should admit to its screw-up and write off the payout. It is the only logical and compassionate avenue available to it.

For the sake of its brand and reputation, I advise HDB to take the high road in this issue and not pursue the matter any more. It should also ensure that processes are put in place to ensure that no such mistakes occur again, so as to ensure proper accountability of public funds.

If this incident had happened in a private company, the CEO would most likely have apologised for the mistake, then fired the employee responsible for it. The savings from the employee's salary would more than make up for the wrongful payout!
Background on the issue (from Today, because Straits Times doesn't have the article freely available on its website).


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Singapore Slingers vs Wollongong Hawks - entertaining but uninspiring

Inside the Indoor Stadium
I went to my first Singapore Slingers game this evening. Singapore's only major league basketball team played against the Wollongong Hawks at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Though I am no avid basketball spectator, I thought that the game was played in a scrappy manner and the players on both sides weren't up to standard. But there were some good moments, which showed overall promise for Singapore's basketball dreams.

Firstly, I should add that I was there only because Daphne scored a free ticket for me. And it turns out that bloggers get media-like privileges. I guess we're obligated to blog about the game, so as to increase the Slingers' share of voice in the blogosphere. Though we didn't get to sit in the box seats as we were supposed to (because AIA had booked them for its family day), we still got free entry and free drinks. And we could apparently go down to the court-side to take pictures!

Free throw shot
Slingers vs. Hawks
Ok ok, enough gushing about the privileges. Back to the game. As had been pointed out to me at the start of the game, there are only three Singaporeans on the team. The others are foreigners. During the game, only one Singaporean got to play for the last few seconds of the second quarter. I'm not sure of the rational for such player selection, but it did seem like we were rooting for a foreign team.

I thought that, with these foreigners, the Slingers couldn't be that bad, right? Well, how about dribbling across the court, only to let the ball slip from your fingers -- and there's no opponent around you! Or missing (relatively) easy shots. On the other hand, the Slingers seemed to defend well, forcing the Hawks to shoot from outside the three-point line several times.

During the second half
During the second half
The only Slinger whom I remember was No. 7, McDonald, who played pretty well during the third quarter. He stole the ball a few times and sunk it twice. The crowd went wild when he scored. Then again, the Slingers had its best show in the third quarter, when things were just whizzing all around the court and the points were racking up.

But if the Slingers played badly, then the Hawks was the punching bag. Even those whom I talked with agreed that it was a lousy team overall. Lost possessions, multiple fouls, and - most importantly - failing to score, even for the free throws! Sure, it had a few bright moments, but as mentioned before, the Slingers' defence pretty much shut it down for most of the game.

Cheerleaders - unintentional butt shot
Another consolation for the spectators: the cheerleaders. No one can fault a contingent of pretty ladies wearing short shorts that show off their legs. Daphne mentioned that they were probably professional dancers hired to be cheerleaders. Whoever they were, they made for a good break from the game.

Link to video

Link to video

Slingers mascot
In the end, the Slingers won, as it deserved to. It led most of the time, usually trailing by a few points. I think it has two strengths: good defence with tight marking, and a few stand-out individuals. Looking at the scoreboard, I couldn't help but notice that there were only two or three players who were scoring. But then, wasn't it the same with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls?

By the way, the organisers need a better announcer/host. The only thing I remember him saying was "Everyone, big D!" (as in "defence").

Incidentally, this was also my first time to the Indoor Stadium. I'm so suah-ku!


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Whither Singapore's Internet grassroots organisations?

After attending the Singapore PHP User Group meeting, I started thinking, "What has happened to all of the other Internet grassroots groups?" It seemed like such groups, or at least the ones that I knew of, had either died or gone into extended hibernation. Which is a shame because it doesn't bode well for the future of such organisations.

Today, I did a mental checklist of the groups that I'm familiar with.
  1. (ok, not strictly a group, though it was organised by the folks at
    Objective: To promote the local blogosphere and educate Singaporeans about it
    Conceived as an annual conference, nothing happened after the first one in 2005. There was talk of another in middle or late 2007, but that was just it -- talk.
  2. Web Standards Group (WebSG)
    Objective: To encourage web designers/developers to use Web standards in their work for cross platform compatibility
    This was apparently the third incarnation of the group when I joined. Unfortunately, the "phoenix" burned up after the third meeting. I attempted to restart things, but was met with a deafening silence.
  3. The Digital Movement
    Objective: To build a community of Web 2.0 and social media leaders
    This one-year-old group had organised three events in 2007 with apparent success. And then... nothing (unless it organised PopOut! in October). Besides, I'm out of the picture too. I was involved in one meeting, but felt shafted after that for offering dissenting views.
  4. Mac Meetup
    Objective: To bring Mac users together to discuss Apple news and provide support
    The original group died after Meetup ended its free services. A second group was started and I attended some of its meetings, but it died again because of cost. The original group is supposed to live on through a blog, but I haven't heard of any more offline events.
And there you have it: four grassroots groups that have seemingly died. I don't count because the people who are actively involved are more like friends who organise get-togethers informally. The only one formal event it had was to celebrate the website's first anniversary.

Of course, I realise that some naysayers would say that I jinxed all of these groups, since I participated in them. Hmm, if that's true, then that's bad news for the Singapore PHP User Group...


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Singapore PHP User Group meeting - my first time

After missing the first two Singapore PHP User Group meetings (due to unforeseen last minute events), I finally managed to show my face at the third meeting this evening. I must admit that I went in with low expectations, based on the programme, but came away, well, a bit more knowledgeable.

There were two parts to the meeting. The first part was a presentation about "design patterns", i.e. a run-through of three popular methods for structuring a (software) program, regardless of programming language used. It's similar to how you can learn to drive a car, but don't need to know how to specifically drive a Toyota (example taken from the presenters).

The key takeaway was that design patterns simplify development work through a "divide and conquer" method, such that one person's work not only doesn't overlap another person's, but also doesn't overwrite other work. Theoretically, this can be expanded to cover any form of work.

From this first part, I learned a bit about other design patterns besides the familiar model-view-controller one (which I was forced to learn when doing my first program for Mac OS X). However, it was the second part of the programme where I totally tuned out.

The topic was to learn how to connect to a MySQL database with PHP. I didn't follow this session not because I am already familiar with the methods, but I believe in making use of commonly available frameworks. These sets of pre-built code not only simplify the whole process, but also reduce the chances of programming errors.

But I guess that's the problem with a one-size-fits-all meeting. There was a mix of experienced PHP developers and newbies. Like they say, before you can walk, you must learn how to crawl. Frameworks are for developers who know how to walk already. But once they learn walking, they'll be running very soon too. And that's why I personally believe that newbies should be exposed to frameworks as soon as possible.

Anyway, I got to chat with a few people, both familiar and not, so that was pretty fun too.