Archive for February, 2006

8 Down, 44 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)


Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore is pretty much as fair and balanced as I imagined it might be, never really overtly critical nor given to nation-building sentiment. Professor Chua Beng Huat more or less tells it like it is, along the way giving a history lesson on the PAP’s political methods and finesse over the decades.

An important concept that is laid out early on is that of hegemony/consensus, where the electorate (that’s us) are subject to somewhat repressive, intrusive but still legal restrictions – freedom of speech, home-ownership, family-planning – but with the intrinsic understanding that these are to be endured or even welcomed in the interest of pragmatism (economic survival).

One interesting event brought up in the book is the General Elections of 1984, the turning point when the PAP suffers its first setback since independence – a mere 63% majority, its lowest ever.
“However, noone was under any illusion that the shift in voting behaviour represented an endorsement of the opposition. A post-election survey confirmed the frustration with certain policies, and a desire to keep a check on the PAP government, were the overwhelming reasons for casting protest votes.”

I see a bit of a parallel with the upcoming GE, case in point – the Worker’s Party going for Ang Mo Kio GRC, coming up against PM Lee Hsien Loong himself. But then again, noone is under any illusion here as well as to the likely outcome of the contest, least of all WP chief Low Thia Khiang,
“We’re not saying that we’ll win Ang Mo Kio, what,” he quipped, “We’re going there to participate so people have a choice. I think the people in Ang Mo Kio would like that.”

So 20 years on, the extent of our political vigour is still limited to symbolic gestures instead of actual change in the status quo. Of course, our political apathy can easily be explained away by ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it‘. Is full-blown democracy really that essential to our society’s well-being? Or to paraphrase my Uncle Harry, “Democracy for what? Can eat one ah?”

In any case, read the book to better understand Singapore’s political history, not just the old chestnuts of Raffles, the Temenggong and Bill Farquhar. This is not stuff we learn in school. Good to read as a primer for the upcoming GE.

Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore
(ISBN No: 0415164656) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be David Benioff’s The 25th Hour.

Also…
Here’s shouting out to the librarian bloggers of High Browse Online for posting about my 52 Books project again. Thanks for the support, guys. At least someone other than me reads my reviews.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… in jurong east

So since I’m officially a lad of leisure and possessed of copious amounts of free time, I decided to finally make my pilgrimage down to the Science Centre with Grace and pay my respects to me Lord Vader at the Art of Star Wars Exhibition.
It’s not the first time we’ve gone to the Science Centre; I find that it’s actually a pretty good place for a date, especially if you’re as geeky as the both of us. So anyway, it’s $18 for the Star Wars bits as well as free run of the Science Centre proper itself. No Omni Theatre, mind.

Loads of opportunities to make a fool of yourself while remaining cute as a button, as evidenced above.

Here’s me attempting my best Airwolf expression.


Here we are in our very own Wong Kar Wai movie poster. Note my attempt at heroic but stoned expression and her content, damsel look. Not very successful.


That’s me with a TIE fighter pilot. Yes, if there were ever a Star Wars convention and if I were to wear a costume, this would be it. Why? Because I used to pilot a mean TIE fighter in the days of DOS. Plus, I got a 12″ version of this mean dude that my brother gave me. I rock the TIE fighter Academy. Hail to the Empire!


My brother Andy is a massive Boba Fett fan. He almost had a Boba Fett tattoo done until someone stole the idea from him. Disrespect! Damn, can’t remember if they included the Wookie pelt on this…


Another favourite of my brother and I. Everyone thinks the Royal Guards are the ultimate badasses in the movies though they never do anything but stand next to the Emperor.

Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?

Here’s my turn with the Sith Lord himself. Please erase all traces of sulky Hayden Christensen from your mind. THIS is how Darth Vader’s supposed to be like.

Full Flickr set to be found here.
The Art of Star Wars is on till 3rd April 2006, so go check it out.

i’ve got way too much free time

Jumped on the anagram remix bandwagon and did one for MRT.

Who knew Somerset could be Sore Stem? Click on the map above for the full pic. Ah, thanks to LTA for the map.
Hope u guys got a sense of humour.

update:

So I’ve been boingboinged. Cool shit, that. And got the highest hit count on my blog thus far. Well worth staying up til 330am doing this then.
I quite like my own train stations – I live smack in between A Hancock Hug and Wet Yet. Really, my MP should be proud.

update:

Another version here by Michael Slater. Got ‘Groin Hair at PC’, how cool is that?

rejections

This blog was begun with the intent to document my career change but more pressing matters seem to have taken over. I’m going to keep blogging about my Dad’s surgery, just to have a journal to have for reference, and also so my friends know why I’m just not that keen to go out and have a laugh as much as usual. Sorry, guys.

In any case, here’re some updates on my job situation, which is pretty much as non-existent as it was when I quit. Granted, my last day at work was only last week, but I started sending resumes out since October and I’ve only had 2 interviews so far.

1st interview – MINDEF
So to fill you in, the 1st was for Nexus, the National Education department of MINDEF, back in November. Basically it’s PR for Total Defence lah. I had a lot of fun doing the psychometric tests, and got called in for the interview – my first ever – and went in pretty relaxed about the whole thing.
Way too relaxed…

So I’m being my usual charming self, chatting up the nice ladies, when they ask me why I’m leaving my job as a producer. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to prepare an answer for this question, so I throw them one of my carefully composed thoughtful expressions, a calculated raise of the eyebrows and say the first gem that pops into my head –
“Sometimes, you know, the juice is just not worth the squeeze…”

The most senior lady gives me a bit of a stare and it dawns on me that The Girl Next Door is not one of those movies you quote from during job interviews. Yeah, I got one of those ‘Thank you for participating’ emails a week later. Serves me right, actually. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, I don’t know, cause I’m not really cut out for that kind of job. Still… I could’ve done a much better job with the interview if I’d bothered to prepare a bit.

2nd interview – Singapore Poly
This was just yesterday and it went alot better, actually. But… still no result.

Basically, I was recommended by an ex-colleague (thanks, Jeanine) to be a lecturer for video production in the School of Media and Infocomm Info-Communications Technology. I’m pretty qualified for the job, except for the fact that I look more like a poly student than a lecturer.

Anyway, I get there and it turns out what was a full-time post is now a part-time post. Someone who was resigning gets cold feet and opts to take a semester off instead, so I’m only needed for 16 weeks. Now, it’s pretty lucrative being a part-time lecturer, the amount of money for the amount of time spent working is a pretty steep inverse relationship. But of course, there’s a catch. There’s only a set amount of hours part-time lecturers are allowed to work a week. So when it all adds up, it’s really just not enough.

I could be Part-Time dude, and do all sorts of freelance work along with lecturing, but where does that leave me in the long run? So… thanks to the ladies who interviewed – it was an enjoyable interview – but I think I’m not going to take the job after all.

So I’m back to square one. Again. Still submitting my damn applications to the library and others, trying for the Information Studies scholarship – which I bloody submit late cause I forget about reading RECRUIT between spending full days at the hospital – and spending all my time reviewing books and finding album art for iTunes.

There’s usually a bumming or honeymoon period after quitting your job and before reaching a state of panic about being unemployed. I think I’ve skipped straight to panic stations, DEFCON 1. Fuck.

Still got a last resort, which I’ve just deployed. But I’ll talk more about that trap when it’s got me properly caught and maimed.

more scanning

Well, the angiogram on Monday's established a few key fact, chief of which is that the swollen part of Dad's aorta is as large, if not larger than his heart.

His head surgeon isn't giving us great odds, just that it will be a challenging operation. Risk of death is minimal, thankfully. But now along with paralysis and stroke is the added danger of kidney failure.

When installed, the stent might end up disrupting blood flow to the my Dad's legs, and also to his one remaining kidney. So we're looking possibly at the rest of his life in a wheelchair and the need to undergo regular dialysis. Of course, he'd be alive, and these are ailments with solutions, to a certain extent.
Dad's worried, and so are we. It's not an easy decision. Is life worth it if the quality of life is gone? I want him to have the operation, of course. But it's his decision to make.

He's having another angiogram done at the end of the month for his heart, to see if it'll be able to handle the stress of the operation. We'll have a better perspective then.

i heart my new nano

Grace bought me this for Valentine’s with her hard-earned freelance money.
Thanks, baby.

7 Down, 45 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)


Batman: No Man’s Land is supposed to be Batman’s darkest hour. Gotham City’s suffered a debilitating plague and a devastating earthquake in quick succession. Its citizens have left, the criminals released from Arkham, and basic law and order broken down. The US government blows all the bridges leading to Gotham and declares the city to be No Man’s Land and no longer US territory. The key villains such as Penguin, Two-Face and the Joker stake territorial claims all over Gotham and Commissioner Gordon is left alone with a skeleton GCPD to try to take back the city.

This trade paperback chronicles a year from the declaration and Batman’s struggle to win back control of his city. Pretty interesting, especially now when the Bat family has expanded to include Knightwing, Robin, Oracle, Huntress, Azrael and Batgirl. Much as we like Batman as a dark loner, it’s a testament to the character’s rich history that his various disciples are as well-formed and fascinating as his various long-time foes.
I like that the focus is not all on Batman, and also zeroes in on “real” Gothamites like GCPD’s Renee Montoya or Sarge, a WWII veteran who refuses to leave the house he built. Really, Batman: No Man’s Land is as much about them as it is about Bruce Wayne and his extended Bat family.

My only real problem lies in the inconsistent writing, which is overall pretty good except when Larry Hama takes the reins. I cannot emphasise how wrong this guy is for Batman. For some reason, someone thought hammy, 50s comic book dialogue would be a good idea.

Here’s a cringe-inducing exchange between Batman and Bane as they beat the shit out of each other in the sewers:

Bane: I knew you would still be here, Batman! Your precious city has fallen into the long night… and the DARK is your element!

Batman: I prowl the night because that’s where the evil lurks, Bane.

*puke*

But still a pretty good storyline lah, just skim over the Larry Hama stories. I really do recommend it. It’s spread over 5 volumes though, quite a heavy load to bring home.

Batman: No Man’s Land
(ISBN No: 1563895641) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

Since the elections are coming, my next book will be Prof Chua Beng Huat’s Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore.

now, it’s dad…

There’s going to be a lot to deal with in the coming months. We’ve just found out about a week ago that Dad’s going to need major invasive surgery done quite soon, or he runs the risk of serious internal hemorrhage, likely leading to death.

It’s happened before. He had a 20% chance of survival then – almost 10 years ago. This time, it’s further up the aorta. The inner wall of his aorta has torn and blood is leaking out to the space between the inner and outer walls, leading to massive swelling. Normal diameter is 35mm, Dad’s was 86mm 2 months ago, and probably past 90mm now. Add his high blood pressure to the equation and we’ve got a pretty bad problem here.

A: Original stent installed 10 years ago.

B: Now swollen to 3 times the normal diameter, the aorta will have a new plastic stent tailormade and fitted here to regulate bloodflow and ease the swelling.

C: These carotid arteries lead to the brain, and need to be bypassed during the op so my dad’s brain continues to be oxygenated. 10% risk of stroke.

D: The stent should end somewhere around here. Here, the aorta feeds into the spine, so there’s a risk of paralysis.

Tomorrow, I’ll go with Dad to NUH to check in for angiogram, where they’re going to get detailed specifications of the various arteries and tailor make a stent for him. Or, they might find the danger too high and rule out surgery altogether.

The head surgeon seems to be quite confident, so I got a good feeling. Nonetheless, it’s going to be a difficult time ahead for awhile.

I hope we’ll make it through this alright.

6 Down, 46 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Eastern Standard Tribe posits the fracturing of communities into global tribes by time zone, rather than national boundaries, where loyalty is determined more by your own circadian rhythms than by your political bent. In short, it’s a world gone mad in a way only Cory Doctorow can dream up.

Much like in his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Doctorow’s main character contains a fair bit of himself. Neurotic, effortlessly inventive and fiercely loyal to his pet cause, Art is irritatingly likeable, and the quintessential geek underdog (my favourite kind). He’s also a Tribalist – in deep-cover in London, working tirelessly to sabotage the Greenwich Mean Tribe. Things go awry when Art comes up with a social networking idea so good, tribal loyalties get on the line.

Cory Doctorow’s schtick is this: He comes up with a cool idea – in this case, societies chosen by time zones – as a jumping off point and drops smaller cooler ideas all over the place, from tune-swapping on the highway to children’s toys made of synthetic turtle penis (don’t ask).

But beneath the better-living-through-tech catalogue beats the heart of a classic morality tale, of choosing between smarts and happiness, and choosing Gran over the hot girlfriend. Boingboing and EFF credentials notwithstanding, Cory the geek never trumps Cory the storyteller. Get his books from the library now or go to his site and download his books for free. NOW.

Eastern Standard Tribe
(ISBN No: 0765310457) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

Next week, I’ll be reading volumes 1 – 5 of Batman: No Man’s Land.

Songbird tonight!

Songbird is supposedly launching tonight. Its touted as the Firefox of media players, so open source geeks take note. Quite exciting – I’ll be giving it a whirl as soon as I can.
Thanks to TechCrunch for the heads-up.

Here’s a tasty screenshot to whet your appetites first.

update:

Have had a proper go at the thing, first impressions –

  • It looks bloody gorgeous, much like the Darth Vader to iTunes’ Stormtrooper
  • The library is nicely implemented, making it super quick to find exactly the song you want.
  • The various bundled services are a good idea, with sites like Pitchfork, Odeo and Shoutcast already in the left sidebar. Basically Songbird is a media browser, so you can basically use it as a web browser – which brings me to my next point…
  • The sweetest feature is when you browse a site with mp3s, Songbird automatically detects it and pops up a window at the bottom, with options to play, download, subscribe (RSS, i presume), add to library/playlist, burn to CD and copy to device. Which is a damn good feature for someone who gets his tunes from mp3blogs as much as I do.

Problem is, this is only a proof-of-concept release, and it’s buggy as hell.

  • It crashed within 5 minutes of launching. All I did was switch to the miniplayer view and back. Not really very stable.
  • Bloated as hell, it’s slow slow slow. Other than library navigation, everything else is practically crawling.
  • Making my Firefox incredibly sluggish if I run both together. Browsing is slow and Web browser or not, I’m not ditching Firefox.
  • Doesn’t detect my crappy Samsung Yepp. Not surprised, it doesn’t even have iPod support yet. But this might be more a legal problem than anything.
  • Doesn’t recognise all my mp3s as well. Well, they pop up in the library, but can’t play.
  • Can’t edit the id3 tags!! What’s up with that?! My shit is all over the place! Not good.

So it’s not an iTunes killer… yet. But I believe it will be. Just gotta wait for the alpha release, beta release than a final, stable release…

But so far, it’s very encouraging – they’re implementing some very cool ideas, and it looks uber-cool. There’s a crapload of kinks, but they’re only to be expected. All in all, I think Songbird is going to be a player to be reckoned with when it goes beta.

But like I mentioned, there’s going to be legal problems holding them back as well. DRM, Apple disapproval and the like. It remains to be seen, but I think if they can overcome the whole DRM crapfest, iTunes and WMplayer are going to go the way of Internet Explorer.


broadcast

del.icio.us