Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Life Goes On...

I'm back at Ngee Ann today.

It's always a weird feeling coming back to school just when the term starts, especially when you've been around during the vacation, where it becomes really nice and quiet - plenty of seats the the library, the canteens, the atrium, the everywhere else. Now, it's more like saturday-afternoon Orchard Road again - swarms of fashionable and not-so-fashionable bodies streaming all over the place.

In the library, I can't find a seat - too many non-readers around chatting or just loafing. My New Scientist is in its usual spot on the shelf for once. A flock of Ah Lians sprawled out on the carpet laugh loudly, eyes glancing sidewards to see if they caught anyone's attention (they caught mine). 2 friends keep taking pictures of themselves with a digital ixus, hoping to capture a pretty angle (face the ugly truth girls). A bald indian guy is booting his 17-inch PowerBook (showoff). A plump girl advises her slimmer friend not to SMS the guy too much, in case they run out of things to say when they actually meet (jealous?). And I don't feel like reading today.

On my way to canteen 1, going by the sheltered detour via block 4 and 56 because I absolutely detest the torching sun, I pass by an innocent-looking girl at the study bench making a phone call. "Harlow? Where are you? You dunno? I also dunno where I am leh!" And I don't feel like helping anyone today.

Canteen 1 is crowded as usual, but I find myself a free table as lunchtime is almost over. Most people are chatting, or just sitting around, waiting for time to pass. A few isolated lonelyhearts fiddle with their shiny new Acers (not reading my blog). And I don't feel like finishing the plate of rice-plus-meat-and-2-veg before me.

This day marks the first day of a brand new school year. This means that a third of all the students are new. And I'm not a student anymore.

* * *

Some of you know that many of my posts have multiple messages or purposes on different levels, some more obvious than others.

Take my last 2 posts for example.

In "Interview with the Calm One Part 2", I wanted to highlight that many (female) bloggers have very typical likes and dislikes, which is very normal, and very boring. Of course, I also wanted to express my opinion on Philip Yeo's recent legal activities, while conveniently adding a snide reference to his infamous remarks about basic degree holders being qualified only to wash test tubes.

Then, the Musical Baton which got passed to me, triggering my last post "Billions of Blistering Batons". There, besides having some fun with my own interpretation of the Musical Baton, I divulged a little about my dysfunctional self, and gave a mini-rantanalysis of the psychology of this mutant chain mail phenomenon. But as I was thinking about writing that post, I figured I could sneak in a hidden hint that would lead on to this current post. Ever realised that I had more than one reason for passing the baton to those 3 (ex-)bloggers?

* * *

Those of you who have been faithfully following this blog forever may remember the time when I killed off this blog, then decided to come back one month later. In that coming-back post, I mentioned this towards the end:
And oh, I definitely won't be blogging here after this semester, which ends around April or May. This time, don't say I didn't give you enough warning!

I'm keeping my word.

But, there's no need to be too upset. I've since learnt that I like blogging so much, that I won't be able to stop for long. So, even though this blog is dead, I'll probably be blogging somewhere else, as someone else.

Drop me an email at calmster@gmail.com, tell me a bit about yourself, and who knows, I might tell you my new blog address when I'm ready (but don't tell anyone else). Or if you're more adventurous, keep your eyes open for new blogs - maybe you'll find one that sounds like me. If you suspect it's me, drop me an email to confirm (but don't blog about it).

"Why are you so secretive?" someone asked me recently.

"I have many things to hide," came my standard reply.

I shall end this blog with the same words as the last time:

You guys have been great.

Thanks, every single one of you, for reading.

It has been my pleasure.

* * *


Some of you will surely ask about my status in Tomorrow. I'll probably hang around as an editor for a while, but eventually, "calm one" will disappear from the list of editors. Perhaps, when my new blog is ready, you'll see my new identity on the list of editors? Hmmmmmm......

As for the Singapore Bloggers Convention 2005 (whatever it's going to be called), I'll certainly be there, if at all possible. But don't expect me to announce to everyone that I'm the calm one. You must be kidding.

Life goes on, with or without me.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Billions of Blistering Batons

Updated (again)

* * *

I'd always been known to be a loner as a kid. Sure, there were times when I hung out with other kids I was close to, but I never really liked hanging out in large groups of more than 5, where too many people are trying to talk too much at the same time, where I would slink into an obscure corner and sink into my own thoughts, oblivious to the mindless chatter around me.

Part of my problem was that I was a non-conformist. I suppose my parents emphasised the evils of peer pressure so much that I became quite impervious to it.

Like the time when the whole class would be cheering and egging me on to be the one to present the Teacher's Day card to that Chinese teacher who was particularly fond of giving me a 50/100 for my compositions, but I would simply give a curt I'm-not-doing-it announcement and get back to Smiley's People. What they couldn't stand was not the fact that I didn't want to do it (of course they knew that), but because I didn't even bother to put up a big show of protesting.

So not-fun. So un-sporting. Why you so lidat. So blah blah blah. I've heard them all.

Then, a few bloggers sent me the dreaded musical baton, expecting me to join in the fun. Fun.

First came Adri's baton. I guess she doesn't like phallic objects. (But neither do I.)

Then came a big brown baton.

Then Roxanne shoved me another. She thinks it's art.

Then batons rained on me.

This reminds me of the chain mail I used to get from friends when I first started emailing, promising me that I won't die next week or I'll find a girlfriend or Bill Gates will send me money if I forward it to 10 of my friends.

Of course, I would immediately shoot back an email telling them that now that you've received my email, you will die if you send me another chain mail. And it helped - my supply of chain mail eventually ran completely dry.

But this muscial baton thingy - it's much worse, much more dangerous, evil, and insiduous than chain mail. Like chain mail, it spreads quickly, and will soon reach epidemic proportions. Our blogosphere will soon be infected. Worst of all, it doesn't depend on the naivety of clueless and gullible email users - it thrives on the pressure exerted from fellow bloggers whom you respect!

You can imagine the pressure I'm facing right now.

Imagine, getting it from Adri - the oh-so-sizzling-yet-oh-so-unattainable Adri. How many guys (and gals) are just seething with envy?

Or from none other than the great brown cow mr brown?

Or that artistic Roxanne whose blog is destined for fame?

Or that innocent little Raine - how can I refuse small request from an innocent little girl?

These are loaded batons. Very heavy, very stressful.

But, to borrow Harry Truman's famous sign on his desk,

The baton stops here. Come, hatemail, come!

* * *

Fine, fine. Give a bit of face. Just a bit. And just this once.

Total volume of music files on my computer:

I have no music on my computer. After the harddisk crashed, I decided to forget it.

The last CD I bought was:

Actually I bought a whole stack of CDs. Imation blank CD-Rs.

Song playing right now:

N.A. Even my ipod has no music. Seriously - it's all people talking. I try not to burst out laughing when I'm on my ipod, because it looks too weird.

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

1. Marikita. I'm such a loyal Singaporean. (I can't remember the correct title.)
2. The Ngee Ann Song. Yes, we actually have a Ngee Ann song. I'm so loyal to my school. (I seriously don't dare to click on the link that plays the song.)
3. Hit Me Baby One More Time. I lub you Britney!!!!
4. Tornado (Long Juan Feng). By you-know-who.
5. What song? Simi song? I buay song leh!

Excuse me.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

My true idol, who is also Singapore's & USA's Most Handsome Guy!!!
My distant relative. (Yes I have royal blood.)
One of my favourite bloggers, who was also my early supporter.
My favourite scholar.
My favourite lawyer.

There. Don't say I'm not sporting.

* * *

Updated (again): Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me

Monday, May 16, 2005

Interview with the Calm One Part 2

Interviewer: Hey it's been a while since the last interview...

Calm One: Quite right. I'll grant you this interview, but don't you forget why the last one ended. Mention that name again, and...

Interviewer: Okay, okay! No need to be so uptight! I promise NEVER to mention him ever...

Calm One: Get on with the questions - I've a tight schedule - I still need to do some work to justify my position at Tomorrow.sg...

I: Yeah, yeah, this is the 21st time you've mentioned Tomorrow...


I: Calm down calm down...


I: Sure, sure... so tell us your likes and dislikes.

C: Okay I like shopping, movies, music, clubbing, surfing the internet, watching TV, and smoking. I hate liars, backstabbers, hypocrites, smokers, perverts, cockroaches, and lizards.

I: Uhmm... you know that some of your readers may not appreciate your mockery...

C: Oh, and I love PINK!

I: Er... I fear for you.

C: There's nothing to be afraid of. Sure, some of my readers may get a little offended, and may start hating me, which would hopefully get me some hatemail. But at least none of them would be moronic enough to threaten legal action against me.

I: Ah... threatening legal action. This reminds me of the case where Philip Yeo threatened to sue AcidFlask.

C: Oh Philip Yeo. I don't know him personally, never met him, but I think he must be a really nice guy.

I: Nice guy?

C: Yup. He invited a blogger for tea. How nice of him.

I: But he didn't invite you.

C: I'm sure he would eventually.

I: For your info, he invited AcidFlask for tea. AcidFlask is a Ph.D. student. You don't even have a degree!

C: Hmmm... you do have a point.

I: And if you do get invited, You'll think you'll be drinking tea? You'll be made to wash the teacups!

C: Dang. Thanks for busting my ego. End of interview.

Friday, May 13, 2005

No Life At Ngee Ann

You may have noticed that the name of this blog is becoming a misnomer, since I haven't been writing very much about life at Ngee Ann Poly. The reason is simple - this is the vacation period (in Ngee Ann at least), where nothing much happens. I'm sure there are isolated activities in isolated corners which I could write about, if only I was there to observe. Probably not, since if I were there, the most interesting activities would probably grind to a halt...

But yes, just the other day I was near the Sports Complex when I heard some screaming. Sounded like screaming to me anyway, but it was really a bunch new students trying to cheer, I suppose. I think they call that orientation.

During orientation, the subjects are said to be having fun. Maybe it's me, but I never understood their idea of fun. Is burying my face in flour fun? Is crawling through a wet sewer fun? Is trying to squeeze through a ridiculous spider web contraption fun? I can see that it could be fun for the sadistic seniors who planned the "games", or fun for those with repressed masochistic tendencies, or very fun for some guys who think that it's a fine opportunity to get close and oh goody even touch that cute girl as part of the game...

Anyway, this is supposed to be a short explanation why my posts haven't been on Ngee Ann. So now you understand.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mother's Days

"So, what did you do for Mothers' Day?" someone asked me, "brought her out to lunch?"

"Nah I don't celebrate Mothers' Day."

Pregnant pause.

"Yeah it's getting too commercialised nowadays," he offered. He must have felt awkward for me, although I wasn't the least bothered, as I was thinking about other things.

"Oh yeah..." I responded rather absently, even though that wasn't my reason.

Those who have been reading me before this year would probably have an idea of my reasons, and I have a few. (When you don't have a good reason, it's always good to have a few.)

No, I'm not some mother-hating Nazi with matricidal fantasies.

And for the record, I do love my mother.

And no, not in a Freudian way.

Anyway, here are the reasons:

1. It's a good reminder for someone who doesn't stay with mom, that they do, in fact, have a mother somewhere. Not applicable for me.

2. When you've been treating your mom like dirt all year, bringing her out to Crystal Jade restaurant on Mothers' Day will cancel out all those misdeeds of yours. Not necessary for filial sons like me who have been nice to mom all year.
Fine. Most of the year.

3. Besides, Crystal Jade is much more crowded on Mothers' Day. Don't wanna keep mommy waiting at the entrance, do you?

4. Dad might get jealous. For different possible reasons, depending on the nature of the dad you have. Applies to step-dads and mom's boyfriends, if any. (You know, times have changed.)

5. Mothers' Day is SEXIST! Related to #4.

I hope mom doesn't read my blog, otherwise I'll get whupped when I get home.

But really, mothers deserve much more than one day of recognition a year - at least mine does. Hopefully, the tinge of guilt I feel for not celebrating Mothers' Day (yes I do have feelings at times) will drive me to treat mom better all year round. Call me mommy's boy.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Vignettes of Races and Racism

Any serious photographer would know what's a vignette (pronounced "vin-YET"). Vignetting is said to occur when the edges or corners of the picture are darkened, often because the lens angle of view is too wide for the lens hood used, or simply because the lens is poorly-designed. Still, photographers and artists sometimes create a vignette effect on a photo for artistic effect, normally in Photoshop, by making the borders darker.

* * *

Dark-skinned people tend to be the victims of racism, for some reason, and fair-skinned people are often viewed as superior. A universal association of white and light with purity and righteousness and all things good, with black in diametrical opposition? Perhaps.

* * *

I was the dark-skinned one in class, once upon a time. The kids used to chant "Chinese, Japanese, don't forget to wash your knees" which I found amusing, only because we were all too young to understand the racist undertones. I knew I was different - it was obvious - but we were all colourblind, and treated all alike, just having a fun time like any kid should - going to one another's birthday parties (in those days I still celebrated birthdays), drawing our favourite cars, having races on the school playground...

* * *

Races are pretty much skin-deep - that's what some scientists would tell you. The genetic difference between 2 individuals of the same race is more than the overall genetic difference between 2 races. In other words, the difference in genes between Tan Ah Kow and Lim Ah Beng is greater than the difference in all the genes of the Chinese averaged together and all the genes of the Indians averaged.

* * *

"Indians are smelly," according to mom. She never did say that outright, but as they say, actions speak louder than words. There must have been numerous occasions when she grimaced while standing behind an Indian woman in the lift, enough for me to get that impression. "And Malays are lazy." Maybe she did say that. But I wouldn't consider my parents racist, for they treated everyone of all races well, and we had family friends from the different local races.

* * *

But it's not difficult to develop racist feelings here in Singapore, mixing around other kids who had parents who were actually racist. It would have been so easy for me to turn out somewhat racist too, because of the impressions I got from those around me.

* * *

My primary school classmates were all Chinese. There were a handful of Indians and Eurasians in the school, but they were never my classmates. And we had no Malays. I sometimes played Chinese Chess with the Indian kid from the next class. We were having a fun time like any kid should.

* * *

In secondary 1, my class had 3 Malays and 3 Indians. I didn't really mix with the Malays. I didn't like Asli because he was the class monitor, not because he was Malay. Ismail was okay - I thought he was kinda smart as he did Higher Malay - but I didn't mix much with him because he was pals with Asli. But I got along quite well with Mas actually - we even sat together in Design & Tech class - and I respected his artistic talents - until one day he tenderly placed his hand on my thigh. I would have broken his nose, but he was too feminine, and I could never get myself to hit a girl, so all I could manage was to swipe off his hand in horror, and place my school bag on the bench between us from that moment on.

I got along with the 3 Indians better. Much better in fact, as we were always hanging out together - Ezekiel, Raj, Kumar and me. I guess I stuck with them because they were the only ones who spoke only English, and that was my type. And Ezekiel had an impressive vocabulary - he actually knew what "apocalypse" meant (okay, my vocab sucked real bad then). The four of us would walk to the bus stop together, playing pranks and basing one another, having a fun time like any kid should.

* * *

In secondary 2, I was banished to the "condemned class" where most of the problem kids ended up. All Chinese. Sec 3, sec 4, all Chinese. I spoke more Mandarin then.

* * *

In poly, my classmates were all Chinese, all the way. And if you read an earlier post of mine:

Eventually, an interesting phenomenon would always set in. While I was perfectly comfortable using Mandarin with my classmates, more and more of them would start speaking to me in English (Singlish). Soon, they were speaking to me in English, and I would reply in Mandarin, and that would be how we communicated. And we were perfectly comfortable with that. I wonder if the linguists have any term for that phenomenon.

I'm still looking for the technical term for it (it's not called "code-switching"). Maybe there isn't one yet, so it's up to me to term it. I think I'll call it a "chiasmic exchange" - it sounds obscure and pretentious enough for linguists.

* * *

The problem with writing rambling posts like this is that you don't know how to end it, leaving the reader dangling because there's no closure. Terrible feeling, and I feel for you.

But do check out the other meanings of "vignette" if you don't already know them.

a. A short, usually descriptive literary sketch.
b. A short scene or incident, as from a movie.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Ultimate Blogger Stalker Tool

I won't be posting very much these days as I'm facing some problems.
No need to speculate, and no need for concern, since I just need time to solve them. No big deal.

Some of you check back here periodically, and more often than not you're disappointed because I haven't been posting anything much.

This is why you need an RSS aggregator like Bloglines.

Bloglines allows me to stalk too many bloggers (I stalk close to 100 local blogs, and I don't even bother to count the non-local bloggers I'm stalking), while still allowing me to have a semblance of a life, because Bloglines will tell me which blogs I'm tracking have been recently updated, and show me their posts that I haven't read. This way I don't have to keep going to the blog to see if it's been updated.

The only problem is some bloggers I want to stalk did not enable RSS feeds, so I end up forgetting about them.

Anyway, Preetam Rai has a great tutorial on Bloglines which I recommend (it got browned too).

Okay if I'm the only blogger you're stalking, you probably don't need bloglines.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Casino Courses

I think I'm in a news-gathering mode, especially since Tomorrow started.

Since the casino decision and announcement was made at the top of our national hierarchy, everyone else below is expected to shut up and toe the line, whether one likes it or not.

Me and a few friends were joking about Ngee Ann starting a new diploma on Integrated Resort Management the next semester, and it seems like we weren't too far off.

The NP website has recently posted a press release:

27 Apr 2005: Ngee Ann Prepares Students For Integrated Resorts

Singapore, 27 April 2005 – Some final-year business and first-year Engineering students will become the pioneer batch in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) to take up new course options to tap the 35,000 job opportunities in the upcoming integrated resort industry.

NP’s School of Business and Accountancy (BA) will give its final year business students the option to take up Resort Management (RM). These students will graduate in mid-2006, well in time to contribute to the new business sector.

[blah blah blah blah]

By the way, you won't find the word "casino" in the release.

I wonder if we get to go to Vegas for attachment.

P.S. I'm sure the other polytechnics will put up similar announcements soon. As of now, I couldn't find any fresh information on their websites. They should have an official blog soon.

* * *

Talking about official blogs, Tomorrow (this must be my 27th time linking there) has a new blog for its editors to rant about their sad lives as editors. Since I'm an editor and I lead a sad life myself, you can expect me to post there every once in a while.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Handling Online Criticism

If you've been reading Tomorrow.sg, you might have noticed a post about a Singaporean blogger being threatened with legal action:

would like to claim the dubious distinction of becoming the first singaporean blog (that i am aware of) for being threatened with legal action over one of my most recent posts. was it something i said?

He has since closed down his blog, and has issued an apology on the site where his blog used to reside:

AAA would like to apologize in particular to XXX, Singapore, for having hosted or made remarks which XXX felt were defamatory to him and the agency that he leads. AAA promises to not make such remarks again on this website.

I have edited the names of the involved parties, since it's not really relevant to this post.

* * *

If you've been reading Tomorrow.sg, you might have noticed a post about a British blogger who made some remarks about some of our top Singapore bloggers:

but go read the likes of MrBrown, Xiaxue and other certain blogs that shall not be named, and it is full of infantile concerns or pulling silly faces.

For some reason, mr brown did not take legal action against Steve (the British blogger); instead, he made a joke out of it and created a post entitled "Help Steve find more mature blogs than this one":

Steve of Singabloodypore laments the lack of mature blogs in Singapore and wonders where he can read blogs besides the infantile ones like Xiaxue's and mine.

* * *

I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I think...

I think I'll start posting really short posts from now on, otherwise I'll never get to update this blog.

Blogging is hard work you know.