Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Singapore BloggerCon?

I have been following BloggerCon 3. BloggerCon is basically just a conference for bloggers to talk about blogging and meet other bloggers, including the high-profile one. There have been 3 BloggerCons held in the US since last year, and one in Shanghai. I was just wondering - wouldn't it be nice if we could have a Singapore BloggerCon as well?

Imagine, we could have high-profile locally-based bloggers such as Xiaxue, Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi, Adri (Popagandhi), and others I've missed out (such as those listed here) to grace the event. Lesser bloggers like myself and others could use the opportunity to get to meet other bloggers (who are likely to be interesting people) in person.

It seems like I'm not the only one with this idea. Here's what I found on Preetamrai's blog:

I have been downloading the Bloggercon3 podcasts from the IT Conversations web.

The Shanghai guys organised a bloggercon earlier this year. We have been seeing some interesting writing in Singapore blogs too. Time to organise a Singapore bloggercon?

Any ideas?

I wonder what you think. Should we, the bloggers in Singapore, organise a Singapore BloggerCon?

Comment Transition

Thanks to a reader 'complaint', I finally have the impetus to replace Blogger.com's commenting system with the one from HaloScan.com. Hope it works better.

P.S. Old comments will not be removed.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Small Talk

A friend spotted me at Ngee Ann last week.

She: Hi! How are you?

Me: Why do you ask?

She: I just wanted to see if you're okay or not...

Me: So what if I'm okay or fine?

She: Then that's good...

Me: What's so good about being fine? What if I'm not fine?

She: Then that's no good...

Me: Why is that no good?

She: ...

Me: Must we always feel okay?

She: Well...

Me: Can't we feel bad every now and then?

She: ...

Me: Do you realise that if we're feeling good all the time, then we wouldn't know that we're feeling good. And if we don't know that we're feeling good, we're really not feeling good anymore?

She: Well I...

Me: Anyway, I'm fine today. *smiles*

She: Get lost!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Top 10 Blog Design Guidelines

Update (Tuesday, November 23, 2004): Thanks to my readers' help, there are really 10 guidelines now (it was originally 5).

* * *

Since one of my interests is web design (okay I know you can't tell that from this blog), and since many of you are bloggers or future bloggers, I decided to do something for the blogging community by compiling a list of blog design guidelines.

As I forsee that some of you may get offended by this list, making slightly hesitant about putting it down, but I figured that since I've already offended not a small number of you with my previous Jay Chou post, I may as well ride the momentum and offend more of you with this one =)

So here are my top 10 blog design guidelines:

#1. Play music when your blog is viewed
All your readers love your musical tastes, or they wouldn't be visiting your blog, would they? And your poor readers probably don't have their own music playing already in the background, so they need you to provide the music. Or if they already have music playing, blending your music with theirs must sound really mellifluous.

#2. Horizontal (sideways) scrolling
Your blog should have your readers' undivided attention. This means that their browsers should be maximized, occupying the whole of their 1024 by 768 screen, otherwise they'll just have to scroll sideways to view all the great stuff you have on your blog. Although web browsers do support a liquid (flexible) layout, who cares? It's YOUR blog so you have every right to impose YOUR design on everyone who views it.

#3. Use of frames
Frames are a godsend. Otherwise how would you be able to squeeze your profile, your picture, your tagboard, your favourite links, your blogroll, etc. etc. into the 1024 by 768 screen? Oh yeah and the blog posts themselves deserve a seperate frame too. And since there are so many frames, you need to keep them modestly-sized, or they wouldn't be able to fit.

#4. Fancy mouse pointers
You readers will be impressed when their mouse pointers change from that boring arrow to something much more exciting, like crosshairs. Or if you're great at (copying others') scripts, there's nothing more awesome than a mouse pointer with a trail of words or stars following it.

#5. Hard-to-read text
You write so well that you shouldn't make it too easy for your readers to read your writings - make them work for it. An easy way to do that is to use tiny fonts, which also makes your blog design look cool. Plus you don't want those old and farsighted geezers reading your blog, do you? Or use low-contrast text that blends nicely into the background. When your readers work hard to read your posts, boy, will they appreciate your words so much more.

#6. Sticky caps
Closely related to #5, but deserving a category of its own because of its importance and what some call "sticky caps". StIcKy CaPs ArE dEfInItElY dA cOoLeSt WaY tO tYpE sTuFf. It TeLlS eVeRyOnE dAt YoU'rE cOoL aNd FuNkY.

#7. Scrolling/marquee text
It's just so boring having words that stay there and not move. Using scrolling or marquee text effects, whether on the status bar (at the bottom of the browser) or on the web page itself makes your blog look so much more dynamic and exciting. Even better if a few of your readers get epileptic fits from that!

#8. Pop-ups
Pop-up windows and dialog boxes are just the way to grab your readers' attention, differentiating your blog from other less interesting blogs which don't have pop-ups, thus showing how unique and great your blog is.

#9. Explosion of colours
Computers these days can display about 16.8 million colours. The normal human can distinguish even more colours. Obvious conclusion? Make use of those colours! Using only a few colours is so boring and monotonous and drab and gloomy; using lots of colours is the only way to do justice to your colourful life!

#10. Customised CSS
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are now the in-thing in web design, so the best way to gain some respect from geeks is to overhaul the CSS on your blog. And as long as it looks OK on your maximised browser (probably Internet Explorer) and monitor resolution (probably 1024 by 768), there's no reason why it shouldn't display correctly on other computers. And can't all those Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc. etc. users just shuddup and use Internet Explorer maximised on a 1024 by 768 screen?

* * *

Darn. I think I've just made a lot more enemies =)

But really, I hope no one is offended, as no offense was meant. I compiled the list with no particular blog in mind - it is the result of a subconscious assembly in my mind as I went through hundreds of blogs over the past months, many highly annoying, some simply painful.

I believe that the most important thing about your blog should be your writings. Okay, and pictures too, if you are pretty =) Thus the overall design of your blog should reflect that, making it as easy as possible for your reader to read your writings. Everything else should be secondary.

* * *

Okay I lied. It's only 5 guidelines.

But you can help me with the other 5 =)

Thanks to you, I now have 10!

P.S. I just realised that most of the items can be found in Singaporean blogs. I wonder why.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Calm Chou-der

Great. It seems like Jay Chou is going to have a concert here in Singapore, if I gather correctly from those irritatingly distracting TV Mobile ads on the bus.

* * *

I was at the CommunicAsia exhibition earlier this year. I can't remember whether this happened at the Panasonic or the Samsung mega-booth:

Promoter: Would you like to play this game? You'll get a chance to win a Jay Chou T-shirt!

Me: Jay Chou T-shirt?

Promoter: Yep!

Me: I hate Jay Chou.

Promoter (horrified look): Why???

Me: I'm jealous of him. Do you have other prizes?

Promoter (with mock pity): Aiyah... no other prizes. Can give the T-shirt to your girlfriend what.

Me: You siao ah!

* * *

Jay Chou wouldn't have appeared on my people-to-be-suspicious-of radar screen if the following incident didn't happen some time back:

"You know, you remind me of Jay Chou," a friend of mine from another course half-jokingly told me.

"Huh? What?"

"You remind me of Jay Chou."

"J what?"

"JAY CHOU!" she was losing her patience.

"Ermm... how do you spell that?" I was starting to feel a little ignorant.

"J-A-Y C-H-O-U! Don't tell me you don't know Jay Chou!"

I was starting to feel very ignorant.

"Actually... I've never heard of him," I mumbled weakly, "who is he?"

"Oh my god! You don't know Jay Chou! Oh my god!!!"

"So who is he?"

"He plays basketball!" as if I knew everyone in the world who plays basketball.

A search through my mental NBA player database yielded a total of 0 search results. The closest match was "Jay Williams". How could she know something about a famous basketball player whom I've never even heard of? And I was supposed to be the expert (self-proclaimed) in NBA trivia. Something was not quite right.

"Is he a good player?" I asked. Maybe she was trying to insult me by comparing me with a bad player, which would explain my ignorance.

She gave the rolled-eyeballs response coupled with an exasperated sigh, before kicking up her Windows Media Player in her Toshiba.

Was she going to show me some replay video clips showing him perform some wicked rim-rocking dunks? I didn't know she was into basketball...

"I'll show you one where he's playing basketball..."


The screen was filled with a whole list of Jay Chou files. I had a feeling that she liked Jay Chou.

"Ah.. this one..." she clicked on the play button.

This Jay Chou guy had better be good-looking, I thought, and he'd better display some decent ball skills.

There was music. Music? Is this another dumb MTV?

Then this guy appeared on the screen and starts croaking. Okay some people think it's singing. Whatever. He must be Jay Chou. But he doesn't look like me!

... and he's ugly!

Okay maybe I'm jealous that he's better-looking than me. SLIGHTLY better-looking...

Then he was shown fumbling around the ball. It was painful to the eyes.

Darn, he's giving basketball a bad name! This is sacrilegious!

"So how do you find him?" my friend asked hopefully when the MTV was finally, finally over, "wanna watch another one?"

"No need lah," I responded a little too quickly. "He's okay lah..." I added with unenthusiasm.

I think she got the idea. She never mentioned that J-word to me ever since.

* * *

If anyone has extra tickets to the Jay Chou concert, find someone else.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

New Word: litotes

litotes (pronunciation: LIT-tuh-teez)

n. pl litotes

A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in This is no small problem.

Make a sentence:
My lecturer has not a meager liking for the use of litotes, and his habit seems to have rubbed off on me in no insignificant way.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Beauty of Language Learning

During my secondary school days, I was surrounded by classmates who became suicidal if they didn't score an 'A' for Chinese.

I managed to blend in, though barely, since my own grades were quite decent too, at least during my secondary 1 and 2 days. It helped that I had a young and pretty Chinese teacher.

But another teacher, older, sagging, and hardly attractive, took over when I went on to sec 3 and 4. My morale and grades sagged.

Being the only student who had to attend every single remedial class of that Chinese teacher, we quickly gave up hope on each other (she was a completely hopeless teacher).

So when, by some kind twist of fate, I got a 'C' for my mid-year 'O' level Chinese paper, there was great rejoicing and relief for the both of us. While the guy sitting right in front of me was actively volcanic because he got an 'A2'.

I had to face Chinese torture again when I went into Junior College for 3 months. But it wasn't so bad there, since the Chinese lessons were actually quite interesting (interesting-looking tutor too). But still, I had already developed a deep phobia for learning the Chinese language, so I came to Ngee Ann Poly. (Chinese wasn't the only reason though; I hated the pressure-cooked JC environment and culture.)

In poly, most of my classmates have been Mandarin speakers, and the only English they know is Singlish. As long as I didn't reveal my past Chinese scores, I could blend in quite well, since my spoken Mandarin is passable (I speak exclusively Mandarin with my family), and I can speak Singlish like any native. But somehow, they would always find out that I was not quite like them - a wolf in sheep's clothing. Maybe it was how I never used Singlish when I argued with the lecturers, or how my technical reports would always be filled with unnecessarily cheem and sesquipedalian words (to impress and depress the lecturers).

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.

Anyway, every now and then, someone would call me a "kantang" (literally a potato; figuratively a pejorative term for a Chinese person who does not know the Chinese language or culture, just like the stereotypical Westerner who eats potatoes).

The comment never really bothered me, I guess because I'm comfortable in my own skin. Talking about skin, I'm sometimes called "banana" too - yellow on the outside, white in the inside.

I found out later that blacks who try to be like whites are called "oreos" (after the famous black cookie). You can imagine why.

But these days, things are getting confusing. Some Chinese want to be like the Japanese, others want to be like Korean, and some even want to be black. More Malays and Indians particularly seem to want to be black too, like this Indian friend who greets me using "Yo homie!" and I tell him to "cut the fake nigger crap".

And now, I'm wondering if I should learn another language. I can almost hear my mother's expected response (in mandarin of course), "Another language?!? You can't even master your own mother tongue, and now you're thinking another language?!?"

But before that happens, I have to decide if it's going to be German, French, or Japanese. It's really hard to decide, because I hear that all 3 have pretty lecturers, which is a crucial factor for me when it comes to language-learning.

Unfortunately, I probably can do only one. Very tough choice - it will probably end up a photo finish. That's if I can even get hold of their photos.

Oh well.

P.S. Here's Eddy's entertaining post about his experience being a kantang.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Starblogs, Sexblogs, Shamblogs

I was at NP yesterday talking with an insightful friend about blogging, and we soon started commenting on xiaxue's blog, said to be the most popular Singaporean blog. Both of us agreed that the quality of her recent posts has dropped (by our tastes).

I was first attracted to her blog because of her interesting observations, sense of humour, and good writing voice (even though not always grammatically correct). Her recent posts, however, have become rather inane and too silly for my liking.

Too much pressure from too much fame?

But it seems like her blog is still getting the hits. My guess is once a blog or blogger reaches star status with a sizable fan base, it is no more crucial to have consistently good content. Look at Mr Brown's blog, another Singaporean starblog. Great posts have become precious few. My friend thinks it's got something to do with his wife and kid. He may be right.

But back to the starblog of xiaxue...

"You know that they're in trouble when they start adding sex in it," my friend observed.

Quite true. Sex sells, and xiaxue's recent posts seems to have a tad more sexual content.

Then just now, I find this guy's blog - check out the dickchan blog at blogspot if you have a strong stomach - I refuse to link to it as this is a family-friendly blog =)

My blog has been around longer than his, has more posts, and I would argue, a little more "intelligent" posts, but I'm only getting a fraction of his pageviews! I console myself by thinking that I'm refusing to pander to the sexual cravings of the mindless majority. Then I find myself reading his posts and getting disgusted by such a skank specimen of humanity, yet somehow I'm compelled to read on, until I exhaust all his (thankfully few) posts. Human interest?

Then I remember some of the sexblogs I've come across. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if some of these are for real, for at least some of these must be shamblogs, especially those with masculine origins. But would someone create a sexblog which is a shamblog hoping to reach starblog status? I think so...

I think this leads somewhere, but I'm not sure where so I'll just stop here. I hope no one gets offended by my xiaxue and Mr Brown comments; no malicious intent there =)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Fishy Business

I was at the Chinese Food Stall in canteen 1 ordering dinner not too many days ago. Here's the exchange that ensued, translated idiomatically into English:

"Little boy, how old are you?"

The stallholder is a little too friendly for comfort, so I pretend not to hear. And no one calls me "little boy"!!!

"Are you 20 yet?" she persists.

Aunty, I'm probably half your age!

"More or less," I reply as vaguely as possible. So her persistance is paying off, as I try not to be rude.

As I pay for my order, a canteen cleaner stops by the stall.

"You know what I'm doing? I'm fishing!" declares the stallholder to her cleaner friend, "I'm fishing!" she repeats gleefully, jabbing her finger in my direction, while I pretend not to notice.

"Ignore her," the cleaner advises me, shaking her head, "she's crazy."

I know.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Religion of Politics

"Bush or Kerry?" I asked a lecturer from the US not too long ago.

"Kerry" he declared without any hesitation.


"Bush is stupid."

He's certainly not the only one who thinks that way. Reading the news, commentaries, political blogs, even blogs by Singaporeans, one cannot avoid the impression that Bush is somewhat of a nincompoop.

But some months ago, soon after Kerry's presidential ambitions became full-blown, I read in a Newsweek article comparing the president and the hopeful. Both were in Yale, both were in Skull and Bones. I also found out later that Bush is the only US president to have an MBA (his was from Harvard), and the only one to have CEO experience.

That's when I started wondering - are we hearing the whole story?

I voiced my thoughts to a rather insightful friend yesterday, when it became clear that Bush was likely to win. The conversation went something like this:

"How come we in Singapore keep hearing that Bush is dumb and all, and we believe it, when some other facts indicate that maybe he's really not that dumb? Somehow we hardly hear from the Bush-supporters, even though it's clear now that there are so many of them."

I further commented, "I know people who are clearly pro-Kerry, as well as who are strongly pro-Bush, and there's no way you could convince those pro-Kerry guys to vote Bush, and vice versa, no matter what the evidence." Think the Iraqi quagmire.

"Well, politics is sometimes like religion. People don't always go by the evidence."

He's right.

I've engaged in a good number of religious debates, and what I've come to realise is that logic and evidence is almost never enough to change the view of the religionist (including atheists etc), and if I probe deeper, the reason for the believer's belief is almost always profoundly personal.

The same with the strongly pro-Bush and pro-Kerry people. I remember watching BBC after the first Presidential Debate. The Bush people thought Bush had won, and the Kerry people thought that Kerry was clearly the winner. The BBC commentator couldn't commit.

Religion or politics, humans have this ability to hear and remember what they want to hear, and forget what they don't.

Bush is stupid.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Running for Leadership

Some of my friends have started taking up running of recent days thanks to the somewhat-impending NAPFA fitness test which would decide their fate after they graduate when they enter into military torment. It's almost heart-rending seeing some of them run, or at least valiantly try to run to last through the 2.4km of unadulterated misery.

Then you have the US elections on the other side of the globe, with countless bloggers airing voicing their opinions in the blogosphere. I, too, felt like I had to add in my own insightful assessment (ahem). I actually started typing a paragraph or so about my analysis and prediction of the elections when it hit me (quite painfully) that my views were really nothing new, and rather typical in fact.

Then I remembered reading in a Runner's World issue many months ago about the physical fitness of Bush. Even though the reporter was Democrat himself, he was almost gushing at the President's fitness and running ability.

I searched for the article in vain, but I found something more intruiging. This article, Bush, Kerry the latest to 'run' for president, says that Kerry is a good runner too (although not as good as Bush), and so is John Edwards. Hmmm...

Then I remember that Lee Kuan Yew used to jog regularly. Goh Chok Tong jogs. Lee Hsien Loong jogs (I think). If he does, then the current and past Prime Ministers of Singapore are all runners. (I remember reading somewhere that former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is also a strong runner.)

I also recall seeing the Minister for Defense Teo Chee Hean pounding the pavement one weekend morning, as well as a previous Chief of Defence Force (LG Bey).

And guess what? The Ngee Ann Principal is a good runner too, I hear.

Looks like I'll be joining my friends real soon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Colour Change

I got tired of a black background, mostly because it just occured to me that there are about a billion or so other blogs that look just like mine. Ok, my blog looks like a billion other blogs. Whatever.