Tuesday, November 30

Tuesday: Payback's A Bitch, and She Kicks Hard

This is a rant of sorts. No, scratch that. Call it a personal observation. Pardon the angry tone - and also, the contents.

Having had a particularly good Monday (from beginning to somewhat late end, and then some) I was more than slightly perturbed to suddenly get one of the most incomprehensible and perhaps irritating kinds of people smash their stuff in my face. Today's lesson, boys and girls, is about who I call the Self-Validation Addicts (SVA, for easier usage).

I think we've all met them at some point in our lives. They're the people who whilst otherwise appearing extremely normal or even affable at times have a peculiar craving to feel good about themselves by:

a) Telling people every single thing they do or accomplish, normally in a manner that somehow seems like it's wheedling for a compliment, but confront them about it and they'll deny it to hell,

b) Making it appear that their efforts at being good/nice/sexy/whatever is the best thing since sliced bread, therefore everyone MUST know,

c) Generally talking about themselves a wee bit too much,

d) And also quick to assume an aura of self-superiority.

Is it a coinkidink that some of these people (at least the ones I've met) never really listen to what you say because they're too busy talking about themselves?

I think not. Yes, this is an angry rant. To a certain extent, everyone loves praise. The id simply cannot sit idly by and not be recognised for what it perceives are its achievements. I remember reading somewhere that one of the main reasons people enter relationships is because humans have an innate fear of not being remembered. The possibility of passing through life without anyone to notice you were there, or that you mattered scares the bejeesus out of most people.

This is true, I think. We all like feeling good about ourselves. However, most people learn to balance their need for praise and high self esteem as they proceed through life, up to a point where they know they are worthy of happiness/good sex/a good job/wonderful children/etc without having the whole world need to stop what we're doing and give you a huge collective pat-on-the-back.

Well, fuck-a-doodle-doo.

I have a theory, and it ties in with that Maslow thing. I posit - that SVAs, who actually can grow to fulfill Maslow's hierarchy of needs very well, somehow cannot seem to move beyond the "Self Esteem" stage. They seem stuck there, bound by an invisible glass ceiling that for all intents and purposes, is unbreakable.

And that, ladies and gents, is the sad thing. For every step they take towards self actualisation, they get dragged back simply because they cannot function without the validation they so desperately crave. One obvious consequence of this is that they turn out to be the best kind of psychic leech there is, and I've met a lot of different ones.

Okay, that's it. I knew having such a good Monday would have dire aftereffects. If you're still here, Gentle Reader, please accept my apologies and have some pr0n. Well, maybe not pr0n, but interesting links, nonetheless.

And that's all folks.


A vintage Japanese guide to handholding, foreplay, and navel sex (with the aid of paper cutouts, no less!)
Sotheby's to auction the world's oldest pornography material
Science fiction covers from the age of sleaze


Monday, November 29

Murder, She Wrote

Hot on the heels of my post on the perfect poison, we find that blogs can now have something infinitely sinister attached to them (in addition to everything else):


16 year old Rachelle Waterman, a LiveJournal user, had two 24 year old boyfriends kill her mother, and then calmly blogged about it (Link). In her blog, called My Crappy Life (Link), she posts this:

"Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered

I won't have computer acess until the weekend or so because the police took my computer to go through the hard drive. I thank everyone for their thoughts and e-mails, I hope to talk to you when I get my computer back."

If you're there, go take a looksie at the comments.

Interesting, innit. There's loads to say about the peek into our personal demons blogs afford us, but the day is short, and I've got tons of work to do. This will definitely make it into urban internet lore.


Sunday, November 28

Black and White

Back in KL now, the dust's settled, and as I begin to (apprehensively) gear up for the next working week, I look back and reflect on change.

Amazing thing, that - but most of us know that already.

This past weekend, I said goodbye to a friend of seven years. She'd been through a lot with me, and not once did she ever complain. Looking back, I am still surprised we lasted this long in the first place, although near the end she got sick a lot. Still, it was a hell of a good seven years, and I was sorry to see her go.

I am, of course, talking about my old white Kancil.

For seven long years she was the only constant in my life. I'd made and lost friends, snuck girlfriends out and back in, argued, flirted, made up, made out, driven to work, gotten stranded on the highway, taken long late night drives while the city slept, and so many more it seemed like a whole lifetime passed in those years.

Inevitably, I needed to move on, and the cost of keeping her healthy was seriously draining my bank account. So I took the plunge, and decided that I needed to let her go. It wasn't easy, saying goodbye to a huge chunk of my life, but I know it was necessary, and for some strange reason, even exhilirating.

As I look out my balcony I see my new ride: black and shiny. There's a load of new memories to be made, and I think me and the new girl will be friends just fine - as long as I make sure her payments go down on time.

Which reminds me: I need to do a bit of budgeting, since I foresee a thinner Ox. Oh well.


Have gotten the first accessory for the girl, and it's a Creative MuVo TX. Hooked up to a cassette adapter, I can finally bring Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts around with me.



Murder by Plant

I love low-tech, sometimes.

Just as I was about to despair about ever finding a good undetectable poison, scientists decide to give me a helping hand (Link). It's called the "suicide tree", it's common in India and parts of southeast Asia, and it makes for a wonderful tool for the discerning poisoner (or one with a grudge).

Appropriately named cerbera odollam, the toxin produced by this plant approximates the effects of a heart toxin called digoxin. The toxin disrupts the heartbeats, ensuring cardiac arrests in a matter of minutes. What's scary is that cerbera may have been used by some Indian families to eliminate unwanted in laws, especially daughters.

Whilst I may not be inclined to use this wonderful thing in such a manner, there are always those who perhaps deserve a little "shock". Now if you'll all excuse me, I have to get my year book out. One DOES miss those old friends so.



Friday, November 26

The Future is EPIC, and Video Games Rebut!

A couple hours from my trip back north, and I have seen the future.

Well, perhaps not exactly the future, but what may well be it. (Link)

Go ahead, click on it. Watch the 8 minute presentation, and think about it a second. If even half of what it says is plausible (and I'm thinking why not?) the world will be a hell of an interesting place to live in come the next few years. Damn, it will be a good time to be young.

In other news, here's a coherent, objective and I have to say well thought out response to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (Link)'s ultimately silly attack on violence and sex in video games. The rebuttal isn't very long, but it makes its point very well: context is everything.

Well I gotta get ready. The weather looks wonky, and there's some serious driving to do.

If you can't be good, folks...be careful as hell.


Wednesday, November 24

Backstage Porn, and Virgin Conversations

Before I begin - a little update on the student email saga:

I followed my reply with another email telling him/her that I gave the idea serious consideration, and to be in class on Friday to see my decision. I also apologised for the somewhat stern tone my previous email took, and explained why. I hope he/she understands.


In other news: I'm not much of an artist, or an art lover for that matter. Where people see wonderful Cubist, Impressionist, Realist, or abstract masterpieces, I see a painting, or a square, someone's uterus or a splotch of red on green. Photography on the other hand, is slightly easier to appreciate. There are those photos that somehow just ooze personality, and more importantly, story.

You can find some here (Link). Warning though, this is NSFW.

Photographer Elyse Butler manages to convey what happens backstage in the porn industry masterfully, without overly glamourising or trying to project some sort of a gritty underbelly to the proceedings. When I first got whiff of this gallery (from BoingBoing of course) I was literally blown away (yes, laugh).

Not that I'm justifying the existence of the porn industry, but oftentimes the viewer never sees the people behind those gyrating sexual acts, where it's just another day at work, and it's often a draining one at that. I can't even be tempted to source a pic from the site, it just feels wrong. If it doesn't offend your sensibilities, please give it a looksie.

And finally, something I heard today that set me a thinking about the way some people think:
"Kau kalau nak kawin, ingat sikit siapa awek kau tu."
"Ye la, sekarang ni ramai yang bukan dara. Kalau tiba-tiba dia yang mula dulu, kau pun tahu la dia tu dah bukan dara kan? Rugi engkau nanti."

And no, I did not have this conversation. Still, it was interesting enough for me, and one that may trigger a blog post of its own, in addition to something else I heard which still rankles at my consciousness.

Till then, take care.


Bad Form? You Bet!

There are moments in our days when everything seems worth it, and we take a little extra delight in the things we do. I did not have such a moment today. In fact, I'll call it a non-moment, if you will. It all started when I received this creative composition in my inbox about an hour ago (and this is it in its entirety, no cuts):

"di sini sy nk bg sket cdgn mengenai projek.sy rasa utk subjek project management lebih baik en a___ bahagikan team member untuk final project.coz kalo pilih sendiri team member mesti xcampur melayu,cina dan india.sedangkan dlm organisasi sbnr pengurusan projek terdiri pelbagai kaum dan jantina.so sy nk praktik kan kerjasama dan komunikasi tersebut tp malangnya cina dan india xsuke utk 1group projek ngan student melayu..
akhir sekali sy hope en a__ dapat membahagikan kumpulan projek mix antara student melayu,cina,india ,laki dan perempuan..sekian.."

Now bear in mind that this supposedly comes from a third (read: final) year student in the project management class I'm taking over this semester. There was absolutely nothing in the form of a preamble, salutation, or even a general 'hello'. I like to think that I can relax myself when dealing with final year students, since they've got all of 3 years to acclimatise themselves with the way things work. To help that, I'm generally pretty much lenient when it comes to formal structures, especially since I don't like them too much myself.

Still, there is a time and place for everything, and I'd prefer at least some decorum from a supposed adult, but it looks like it's waay too much to expect from some people to at least keep their spelling full. Anyway, here's an excerpt from my reply (beg pardon, I had to use BM since I'm pretty sure this sorry excuse for a stain doesn't boast English as one of his/her strengths), and annotations are below:

"Assalamualaikum saudara (saudari?)*

Pertama sekali: saya harap saudara/i dapat menggunakan bahasa yang lebih baik ketika menghantar emel kepada pensyarah anda...Disebabkan ini kali pertama anda, saya tidak akan menghukum anda, tetapi saya beritahu di sini:

saya tidak akan melayan emel seperti ini lain kali.**

Saudara/i ada menyebut tentang kerjasama dan komunikasi, tetapi bagaimana jika kemahiran komunikasi anda sendiri masih lemah?....Jika anda tidak mahir menyampaikan maksud anda, mungkin tiba masanya untuk mengupah orang lain yang lebih mahir***..Anda harus memikirkan mengapa kaum lain keberatan untuk sekumpulan dengan pelajar melayu?....Jika seseorang itu pelajar yang baik, saya rasa semua orang akan tertarik untuk sekumpulan dengannya."

* I wasn't sure if it was even male or female, hence the dual salutation.
** Sometimes, a little emphasis helps. Besides, I was angry.
*** A bit of sarcasm, which will undoubtedly be wasted.


Tuesday, November 23

Things You Notice After Awhile

I just knew it. Barely two days into the semester, and my earlier hunch was right: they gave me the 8 am slots. Having spent just four years doing what I do, there are some trends that can easily be picked up:

1) You'll never get dibs on a nice, suitable-for-everyone teaching slot (and by nice I mean anything after 9 am). Most of those will already have been given out to senior members of staff who live just around the corner from the university.

2) The academic schedule will inexplicably appear one day before lectures commence, even if there was a period of several months in which it could have been drafted and passed around the faculty. During this first week there will be amendments, open to mostly senior members of staff who live around the corner (do you begin to see a trend here?) from the campus.

3) Any attempt to request for a change will be met with bureaucratic red tape so thick and wide it puts the Van Allen belt to shame, and could probably encircle the equator several billion times, making the Earth look like one huge round lopsided mummy.

Of course, all this doesn't change the fact that I am now cramming for my second lecture on Multimedia Project Management due at the absolutely marvellous time of 8 am tomorrow. In a peculiarly auspicious turn, I managed to finally source the long-looked for Thomson Online website for the textbook with all the updated slides I'll need to kick start my lecture (since the ones the old prof had got stolen with his laptop).

Okay, now I really have to get back to my book(s). I project an expected sleeping time of 11 (okay, half past latest) if I'm to wake up early enough to beat the jam that is surprisingly located -

500 metres from the university's front gate. Yeah, beats me, too.



Monday, November 22

Movies: Sponge Attack, and The Halfway Depressed Shutter

The first day of term, and I am oh-so-mentally-drained.

Let's face it: 2004 is almost over, shopping malls have started to hang up their Xmas decorations even though the best bet for a Christmas tree in these here parts may come from Carrefour, and we're seeing the final wave of the cinematic onslaught Hollywood (and certain other parts of the world) deems it necessary to wash us over with.

Whilst to a certain degree I'm anticipating releases like Alexander, The Incredibles (it's Pixar, it's automatically good!), Bridget Jones 2, Saw, The Machinist and Blade: Trinity, there's one little (okay, maybe not so little) flick that may just float through our collective peripheral vision without leaving as much as a ripple, and it won't be through any fault of its own.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking about SpongeBob SquarePants: The Movie. Sure, it's a cartoon on Nickelodeon featuring a manic yellow sponge living in a pineapple house at the bottom of the sea and his friends, and which I'm sure more than some of you find extremely juvenile and annoying. I know, because I used to think the same thing, until my brother made me sit down and watch a couple episodes. The amazing thing, I realised later was that though the show MAY be airing on a kids' channel, some of the messages/gags in it appeal to a distinctly grown up audience.

Be it Patrick's absurd Homerian (and I mean Simpson) level of stupidity, Sandy's Texan bravado, Squidward's obsessive snootiness, or any other of the colourful characters who inhabit Bikini Bottom (yep, that's what it's called), there's something just appealing about the whole show, which may explain the rabid fan base the show's accumulated since its inception. Truth be told, I haven't laughed so hard at a cartoon since Ren and Stimpy went off air (although the Happy Tree Friends come in a close second). Reviews I've read have been favourable so far, so I hope at least ONE local cine chain will pick it up.

On to other things, having sat thru Thai horror flick Shutter last night, I've come to the conclusion that the Asian horror cinema biz is in grave danger of eating itself out of house and home. With the sudden surge of Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai efforts, it's inevitable that the ghostly image Sadako so effectively portrayed in Ringu will become as tired as the classic vampire archetype. I've sat through so many mediocre attempts at horror (The Wishing Stairs, Whispering Corridors, Acacia, The Sisters, The Phone) that whenever something with some promise does appear it's washed out without getting a chance (and I DO blame the Koreans for some of the worst horror flicks this side of the Pacific, with Thailand trailing close). Having said that, I found Shutter to be a better than average teeny-horror flick which, had it been edited a little better and had some insanely drawn out emotional angsty scenes thrown out would be a definite must watch.

I'll try and get a review going soon, but in the meantime if you're looking for a good date-squeal-and-hug-movie, Shutter should fit the bill very nicely. Okay, I think I've exhausted my brain today, what with semester opening and myself giving the dreaded Project Management first lecture trying desperately to come up with something that sounded intelligent (by God, these students deserve something good) on top of everything else, I think the time to switch off should be right about -



Sunday, November 21

NSFW: The Hotlanta Kink Test

Just in case anyone missed the NSFW part of the title, I'll say it again: this post is Not Safe For Work (although if you work at home you lucky bugger, you may access it with impudence). Also, if anyone's wondering the Kink Test rates just how kinky you are from a possible score of 700. I figured this particular test would be interesting for all us sexually repressed Malaysians out there. Don't worry, no one keeps track of any kind of info, and you don't have to sign up. (Link) Besides, you don't actually have to have had sex to take it - just look into your deepest darkest raunchiest bits and let the imagination rip (it helps).

Now go already, and before I forget: I scored a respectable 450. Not bad, if I may say so myself.

Work week, here I come!


Saturday, November 20

Things Get Hairy


It's amazing how some words can have such ominous overtones, much like the phrase "we need to talk" never seems to precede good news (as couples all over the world know by now), or the surprising way the word "hollow" conjures up an image of an empty tube of some sort. You know what I mean.

Sitting here in the study room at my parents' (and Meet Joe Black in the background), I've been slowly taking stock of how my life is going to change in the next couple of years, at least financially. There's no two ways about it: a lifestyle change is imminent, no matter how I personally feel about it. There'll be at least some cutbacks, especially when it comes to frivolous spending, and now more than ever I'm just thankful that the apartment (though rented) is just a few inches away of being truly complete (I still need to clean up) but at the same time I will definitely have to consider moving.

Scary, because moving just as everything seems to be okay requires a whole lot of work, and with university policies being what they are, opportunities for me to moonlight are kinda limited. I take comfort in the fact however, that I've been worse off; that I've had to live with way, way less than I have now, and that there are some things in life I refuse to run away from.

Which sadly, does not include saving the universe, but I'm sure people will understand.


"`My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes.'"

-- Ford Prefect's last ditch attempt to get out of helping Slartibartfast in Life, The Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams


Friday, November 19

Rambles. Friday.

My, how time flies. All of a sudden it's November, there's the new semester peeking through next week (entailing the loss of most of my weekends in December), more fiscal commitments that I have to adjust for (this time it's one I can't run away from, but more details later) and there's an odd feeling of an almost imperceptible moving. I can't explain it. It's as if something's changed irrevocably somewhere and it's sending some sort of signal me-ward. The sad thing is, I have no idea what it is (although to be fair, if I did know it would take out a whole lot of fun out of it, hence the way the Universe works). All I can say is that right now it feels like there's something in the pit of my stomach, a mixture of dread and anticipation, but of what?

Anyway. I can't wait for Bridget Jones 2. There's something just so inherently justifiable about Colin Firth beating the crap out of Hugh Grant's character in the first one that makes that scene rank as one of my personal favourites. Of course, that I am slightly sadistic goes without saying, and having read both books in the series I'm just curious to see how the celluloid version pans out (especially if Hugh Grant gets his arse kicked, I like that).

The only trouble with this scenario is that as a certified Singleton I'll either have to download it or watch it on DVD much, much later. Date movies are all fine and dandy if you've actually got a date to go with - but at this point in time the notion's pretty much something I'm putting on the backburner, and this particular burner's about a couple hundred miles down my priority list.

Which brings me to an interesting question someone asked me earlier today:

"What the hell you doing spending so much time fiddling with your Xbox and LAN, when there's so many other things you can do, mate?"

Short answer: I just don't feel like doing any of those other things.

Long answer: Refer to short answer, and sprinkle liberally words like "priority", "issues", "general malaise" and "fear of commitment".

Well, when all's said and done, my apartment right now is almost perfect (and I say almost because there still needs to be some clearing of stuff to be done) as my personal geek pad. The broadband's on, the Xbox is a fully functional media player that reads all the media I stream to it from the PC, I can play my games and watch my DVDs on the surround setup...

Heck. It's almost like I'm in some obscure real life version of the Sims. Now all that's next is to build up my Social meter.......


It Ends!

Short update on the router saga:

Managed to swap my faulty USB (&^#%@$) router for a sleek D-Link all ethernet one, and it's running like a charm. I've got LinksBoks open, GameSpy Arcade (for online Xbox games working) and am updating my Kai Evolution (also online gaming) config.

Life is sweet. I have to run now, it's a Friday.



Dead: One Router

You know, just when I thought things were going relatively alright, this happens:

It died on me. One moment it was alright, the next thing I knew none of the indicators were blinking. Fearing a connection problem, I tried my trusty old DSL modem. No problems there, so I power cycled the router. Zip, Zilch, Nada. My worst fears had come true: somehow the whole thing had just fizzled out.

Word of warning to anyone curious about these contraptions- try and avoid those USB combo routers. They're a bit iffy connection wise, and are prone to SRDS (Sudden Router Death Syndrome). The only solution I can come up with is to get it exchanged for a D-Link fully ethernet router (the one that died was an Aztech). I hope I can do this painlessly by today (else there will be a big explosion in the Bukit Bintang area).

In other news, I fear this blog has become somewhat stagnant. For the three readers (or are there only two now) I'd like to apologise for the obvious decrease in quality. Rest assured the management is working on rectifying this issue as soon as possible. We greatly appreciate your patience, and hope you will return soon.

I just need to get this (and some other things) sorted out first. Heading back up north this weekend, so anyone coming back to KL: take it easy, and drive carefully.



Thursday, November 18

Router: Devilspawn

Routers, to me, are in the running to be the new spawn of the devil.

After recently getting wind of GameSpy's Tunnel app (which allows me to hook up and play online Xbox games via my broadband) I hopped off to LowYat, got myself a DSL router and several metres of CAT-5 patch cable. In theory it was REALLY simple:

1) Connect router to PC
2) Connect Xbox to Router
3) Let DHCP do the rest
4) Sit back and frag, or surf the net via my TV

Estimated time to completion - 1 hour. That was two days ago.

Yesterday afternoon, I managed to get the PC and router to talk to each other, and even got the FTP running to the Xbox. I installed LinksBoks (the web browser ported from Linux's Links) onto the black box and waited. Nothing happened. Several gruesome curses (and some more twiddling) later, I booted up the box again and voila! - I was connected to the router AND the internet. I. Was. So. Happy.

Alas like all happy stories in my life, this one didn't last. I just HAD to change a setting somewhere, which made LinksBoks clam up and not want to open ANY internet hosts. Further tweaking proved to be useless. I gave up at about 1 am, and vowed vengeance today. I also promised myself that I'd settle for one out of two - either gaming OR surfing; if it came to that.

Earlier this afternoon, I did a clean start of everything with the pleasant result being I could actually connect with someone else in the states (don't ask me how. I just rebooted and reinstalled). A couple rounds of Halo 2 later, I decided that at least SOMEthing was working. So God has decided to grant one of my wishes.

However...there's this niggling thing in me that still WANTS to be able to surf the net using the Xbox, chiefly because I did it once, and I'm sure I can do it again. Until then, I expect no end to the sleepless nights, at least until I can conclusively prove that it is impossible (but I did it!!). In case anyone out there is a certified network guru of some sort, I'd be really grateful for any help.

Really, really grateful.

Till next time, it's into the breach for me.


Wednesday, November 17

Eid Aftermath


KL's deathly quiet, there's tons of work to do and I have classes to teach come next week. Before that, though there's a little matter of a side project I need to finish up in my apartment involving a router, some miles of CAT-5 cable, and the Xbox. Call it obsessiveness, but I wanna see what else Microsoft's little black box can do for my personal titillation. Yes, like Spongebob and his essay, I SO want to see what I can come up with tomorrow evening.

In other news, booting my RSS feeds shows me that several trillion posts have gone by in the past week or so that I've been gone. There are obligatory Raya posts, photofeeds, newsfeeds, deaths, births, more deaths...seems like there's a big restructuring going on somewhere, someplace and the world's gonna be seeing a lot of change..

which brings me to one last thing. Being outside of KL always draws into relief the gap that still exists between KL-ites, and The People Out There. Religious celebrations like the Eid are always an interesting time to watch for the little (and not so little) differences in ideology, culture and general way of life. It's a wake up call to the fact that as much as we'd like to think life revolves in the Klang Valley around our particular little existences, it doesn't.

There's a whole other world out there, with issues we'll probably only read about in the news, if ever. And some of them aren't pretty. At all.

Later, people.


Sunday, November 14

Eid: The First Few Hours

It's Eid.

Snippets from tonight's takbir session in and around a certain small town:

It's the second house of the night, and outside, not far off a group of youngsters (mostly in their late teens) gather under a stall. Closer inspection reveals that they are having a sort of inpromptu barbeque, with more people joining them as the hour passes.

Someone inside the house comments on their feast. "Hedonists," he says, a note of finality evident in his voice. "What can we do," asks another, "when they want to have fun with everything?".


Sometime later:

"...and the sad thing is, they persist in putting up those damned lights outside their houses! If the Hindus don't do it, why should we Muslims? Don't they know what the rules are about that?" This is answered by a general murmur of agreement. "It's like that fish story:" someone answers. "When it goes bad, it starts at the head."



They agree to send the document for photocopying, and then it's to be distributed at the local suraus and mosques. Three new fatwas that not many people know about. "It's about time," someone says. "Thank God we're in Perak."

I learn something new every day, in addition to also getting told very specifically what kind of person I'm NOT to bring back home, ever.

I think, being a Singleton should suit me for just a little longer.


Saturday, November 13

The Big Three Oh (Not Yet)

Ramadhan's set to leave us, again. Inevitably, one might say.

As it is inevitable that being at home somehow makes me more reflective of the things that's happened in the part few years, and of the place I'm in right now. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

When I was six, my father first proposed that we move to a small town in Perak, one that I'd not heard of before. Strangely I remember a lot of that time, most of all being my childish reluctance to leave the place I was used to, and my friends. Actually, it wasn't that childish, because part of that reluctance DID come from a certain other seven year old, which we'll call Julie, who every so often would invite me over and- well, let's just say there goes my intentions of going into politics, and I mean really.

Still, when you're six, almost everything's an adventure. My whole life seemed to stretch, boundless and unknown into the future, and I can still remember how after we moved I use to sneak out and buy those little boxes of chewing gum from the shop across the road, throw (and lose) assorted boomerangs and frisbees into the trees, go to the cinema near the school every Children's Day (and get kacang putih from the kindly man at the stand outside) having a crush on a classmate...

Then came 16, and boy what an age that was. I was actually athletic, had a spot in a (supposedly) good school, and I felt like I could have done anything (and I very nearly did, too). I remember coming back on one of my holidays and actually thinking as I drifted off to sleep how I couldn't wait to get to 20, and how far away it seemed. 1995, that was. We'd just gotten the internet, and boy was life interesting.

We never really know why we wish for the things we do, do we?

Now at 26, I recall those days and remember so much, and then think of how I still have no idea where I want my life to go, not really. People from my past are settling down (I have the wedding invites to prove this) while I'm still fidgeting about my career, my (proposed) further studies, and what the hell I'm looking for. There's roughly four years before I hit the big three-oh, and I think I'm not alone when I say those are some years I hope will take their own, sweet, time.

Now excuse me, while I figure some more things out. Oh, and have a safe and happy Eid, everyone. I'll see you when I get back, I hope.


Thursday, November 11

Some Stupid Gamer Behavior

As much as I'd like to celebrate my finishing Halo 2's campaign mode, I won't. For one thing, not because it's bad (in contrast, it's probably one of the best single player experiences out there), but because Bungie and Microsoft have singlehandedly ensured that at least several million gamers out there will have their cash primed for the release of the Xbox 2 (or Next, or Xenon, or whatever it's gonna be called). Yeah, it's that good.

The second reason is this:

"ONE of the world's best-selling computer games was the inspiration behind a terrifying random attack on a Sydney family that left father Josef Logozzo dead, the Sydney Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Sophear Em was so fascinated with the game Counter-Strike that he and an accomplice dressed in black fatigues, balaclava and ski goggles to emulate characters from the game.
They then allegedly armed themselves with a pistol and a rifle and went to the Cecil Hills home of the Logozzo family and waited for them to return." (Link)

Obviously, these two perpetrators lack a fundamental ability that any gamer has: the one that enables them to distinguish gamespace from meatspace. It is people like these (and their compatriots here) who through their inability to differentiate those two different environments harm not only people's lives, but affect gamers everywhere.
It's a sad day when a medium that is meant to promote competitiveness and fun, is used as an inspiration for murder. Some people just never learn, and the backlash this will incite will serve as more fuel for future legislation that in the end makes things harder for the rest of us.

What a world.


Wednesday, November 10

Semi Fiction: Ritual

The clunky, slightly dusty ovehead fan whirred noisily above their heads as they sat in the heat of the late afternoon. Outside, the air was still and stifling, carrying almost all of the sounds the kids made in the school nearby inside. It had been a long day.

She reached nervously for the pack of cigarettes on the table, seemed to think about it, took it anyway, and shook a single one into her hand. With a calm, practiced efficiency, she rolled it between her fingers and began twirling it once, twice, three times. She looked at the cigarette for a few seconds before bringing it to her nose, inhaling deeply and then replacing the unlit fag into the pack.

His bewildered look was evidently amusing, more so since his right hand was frozen in the act of proferring her a lighter. As it was, it now stood hovering over the surface of the table, elbow bent and fingers splayed out in a now almost comical gesture as he grasped the bottom end of the device.

No wonder she was laughing. "I stopped smoking three years ago," she said, after he'd withdrawn the hand and placed it into a somewhat un-funny position.

"So why the cigarette pack?"

The laugh, again. "It's a ritual I developed over the years. Somehow when I do that, it helps me feel better, especially when I'm stressed out."

"Must be the smell of the tobacco," he ventured. She was looking outside, lost in her thoughts and he was about to repeat the sentence when she simply said "It's the actions. It's always the actions."


Much, much later, he wondered about the nature of rituals and routines in people's lives as he walked the rain drenched street. A lucky pen, the sequence of steps when logging into a PC at home, the twirling cigarette, the breakfast spot, the visit to the mall.

Rituals, he thought, allow us to maintain sanity in a world that seems to have the consistency of jelly and mud, where every fresh wash seems like a new reboot, and nothing ever really makes it into secondary storage, unless you count the one we carry in our heads. We generate personal memes all the time, but only a few make it to that unconscious, programmed state that ultimately differentiates each and every other dreamer out there.

"So we make our own realities," she told him before she left. "Sometimes they're not much better, and sometimes they're even worse, but hell it's good to know I'll still have this no matter what reality I dream up. You know, to remember what it's like to be me."

And that, he concluded, was perhaps the single biggest reason for any ritual. Ever.


Tuesday, November 9

Mummies Unite!

While the whole world is still reeling from the impact of Flores Man (you should google the debate between the Creationists and Evolutionists) I found out that it's not the first time anomalies like these have been found.

As I'm typing this, Discovery is showing a highly interesting special on something the Chinese desert has coughed up relatively recently- mummies, and lots of them. On their own, mummies are unremarkable, since we know now that several ancient cultures mummified their dead. The striking thing about these mummies is this :

None of them are even remotely Chinese. Here we have small, forgotten Silk Road outposts deep in the deserts of China, and who do we find perfectly preserved there? Caucasian mummies, wrapped in clothes and shawls of European weave, from European wool. Celtic, to be exact. All this wouldn't be as surprising if some of these mummies hadn't predated Christ, as carbon dating later showed (we'll not get into some of the controversies this method brings, but it's accepted generally that it CAN give an estimate of relative age). DNA analysis now shows that these mummies share genetic traits with Swedes and Tuscans, among others. A precursor to the great IKEA explosion? Perhaps.

These western inhabitants of the inhospitable deserts not only brought their own culture and traditions, they also brought in some eerily modern medical techniques. A surviving third century text describes basic surgical techniques, and the researchers soon found a mummy with incisions bound with horsehair - evidence of surgery. Intriguing stuff for a Tuesday morning.

So before I'll leave you, here are some links, just in case you need to restore your sense of wonder at the world:
Infography on Bronze Age Mummies and Population
Online Discover Magazine article
Bodies of Evidence

Till later, have a good Tuesday.


Monday, November 8

Be Careful Who You Wish What

First off: Halo 2 is officially out in stores, and I'll be forking out for the original 2-disc Limited Edition release after Christmas is over (and the online stores get back their delivery capacity). I am doing this simply because it's THAT good. The French bootleg I've been sampling just blew me away, and joystiq has a page full of links to reviews in case you need any more convincing. (Link) Also related to the big black console is Kevin Rose's take on LinksBoks, a web browser that runs on the Xbox (Link). Sure, it doesn't support CSS (yet) but this is one app I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for. In the meantime I'm still looking for a way to install a switch, allowing me to disable my modchip and get on Live..it's either that or get another console.


Now to slightly more..serious matters. I've been back in Perak for almost two days now, and in the midst of the upcoming "Deeparaya" celebrations I just found out last night that in this state at least, it's haraam to wish Hindus a Happy Diwali (or anyone else a happy anything, for that matter).

Yes, you can now pick your collective jaws up from the floor. Apparently the statement was issued by the Perak mufti (someone will have to confirm this for me, please) sometime recently, and I have to say that I personally am still reeling from the implications of this. Not being able to wish good friends of mine a happy celebrations for their particular belief system seriously gives me a bone to pick. Are the Muslims now so insecure that by wishing another human being well, we degrade the sanctity of our faith? Does this then validate the several people I've met since getting back who seem to think that your parents' chosen jobs/religion they were born in influence the way YOU live (and I'm referring in part to the sad stigma our police force have earned, although not without some justification) ?

I'm seriously, seriously confused, and sad. There are many non Muslims I know who are intelligent, decent human beings, and it seems that I'll be violating my faith by wishing them well. So how long before we become the very things we supposedly DO NOT advocate? How long before we take a leaf out of the so called "Zionist" (and here I'm referring to the way some people think) way of looking at the world and wear our smallmindedness proudly on our chests, while proclaiming the unworthiness of anything that is not of the same faith?

Until then, I'll be looking for answers. If any of my readers have any explanations, comments, or pointers, please feel free to leave something. Let's keep it civil, though. I don't need to be told I'll be burning in hell for heresy, or have to look out behind my shoulder for disturbing yet another obscure theocratic tradition. Please, we're all learning, here.

Have a good one.


Sunday, November 7

Blips In Night-Morning

The clock says 3.25 am.

Outside, a brisk breeze seems to portend some later rain. There is a stillness in the air, somehow; the kind that is only noticeable at times like these, when the whole world seems to take a collective breath and all is calm. He likes it this way. He's tried to sleep, but all he seems able to do is to roll around aimlessly on the bed, his breath loud in the stillness of the room. It's as if all of the synapses in his brain are firing one after another to some unknown purpose, and it damn near is driving him crazy because for the life of him he can't figure what to make of it.

Some small part of him, however, thinks he can. It's a lot of things: the week, the upcoming holidays, the loose ends he is somehow still afraid of, inconsiderate loudmouths, that sense of emptiness that somehow seems to come stronger these days...

A lot of things. The morning will see him making the trip back up North, where he hopes the change of air and pace will help reduce the clutter in his head. He was reminded tonight of some of the things he misses the most, and that scares him, too much to mention. This fragile little spider's-web construct of a life he has going now could topple at any time, and the price of sanity is too often eternal vigilance.

He chuckles, as this thought sloshes through his brain like the remnants of a glass of gin and tonic left outside too long. It hurts too much to think of the consequences if he should slip, and the wall crumbles like so many other illusions and dreams he'd forgotten about along the way.

There's much to do, and so little time to do it with. A little rest. Peace can come later, if it comes at all.


Thursday, November 4

Thursday - Moody

I'm in a bit of a sour mood today, so forgive me. For one thing, after being tasked last week with taking over a final year subject formerly taught by a full professor (it's Multimedia Project Management, in case anyone's interested, and which I thought would be kinda cool) I finally managed to catch the man himself to get the course outline and materials to digest before classes resume and the semester opens in three weeks. Unfortunately though, the faculty was burgled a couple of weeks ago, and among the things stolen were some laptops including his, which happens to contain most if not all the of the soft copies of the course materials.

As a small consolation, he DOES have a textbook, which happens to be about two inches thick. Given that this is my first time even teaching this kind of a subject, I'm a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, especially since semester reopens on the 21st of November. He was also kind enough to provide me with his file on the subject, which I straightaway photocopied and took along with the book. The challenge, ladies and gentlemen, is this: I have to read through the book and other references, make sure I understand the gist of it all and then attempt to educate some 80-odd students on the finer points of project management, all with the impending Eid hols around the corner.

This is gonna be a hairy time for the Ox. I'm already teaching Multimedia Audio/Video Tech (which isn't something I worry about too much) next semester, and I hope I can digest enough of the info to be able to passably teach these kids come crunch time. If I don't, the consequences are too ugly to contemplate. We're talking people's futures here.

Ugh. Anyway, in order to release some of that stress, I've resorted to bouts of intense Halo 2 (the French release) which DOES help (by the way, it's so frustrating to not be able to tell any other gamer the plot points without being flamed into oblivion). That and listening to a lot of easy sounding music, and oh, breathing.

That definitely helps. In the meantime, I also try to entertain myself (well, with whatever time there IS left to me) by looking up somewhat interesting bits on the net (whilst trying to sift the way clear of pr0n). One of the more exciting pieces of news comes this way via military.com, which has an article on the new modular Masterkey system, which in effect allows a person to wield a shotgun AND an assault rifle in the same weapon, allowing for effective short- and medium range coverage (Link).

In essence, employing this modular technology allows almost any assault rifle to be converted into a double-death dealing weapon of mass destruction. While the pacifist in me strongly opposes these guns to ever be made available (outside of video games, where even I have fired millions of rounds from the M60, AK47, M16 and my personal favourite, the OICW/GL) some small part of me can't help but be awed at the awesome genius we can attain when devising tools to help destroy our fellow man, or defend ourselves against them. There's even a link to another article about what some people are calling the next revolution in armament, the XM-8.

Gritty stuff. Anyway, the US Election saga is over (for now) and armchair (not to mention computer chair) political analysts and strategists the world over are talking about the ramifications Mr Bush's victory has for the entire world. I say world because no matter how far we think we are from the US of A, every little policy shift, advertising campaign or belch the leader of that particular country makes, we'll all feel it. While it's tempting to argue that we can't really say anything since we don't actually vote the guy into office, since everything he does WILL eventually trickle (or wash) over to us, I say there's no harm in telling the world we're disappointed with the Americans' decision. Take some time and surf around the 'net. You'll see rants, incredibly intelligent commentary, and even a guide for repatriation, all by Americans who realise just how far the man with the title President can reach.

So while what they do eventually is out of our control, at least we've tried. Now all that's left is to see what else is going to happen circa re-election.

Good night, folks. I think I'm-a-gonna kill me some aliens.


The Morning After

So I wake up, and nothing much's changed. Unlike George Orr in The Lathe of Heaven, my dreams don't shape reality, so Bush is still president of the US of A for the next four years. Congratulations, Mr Bush. Victory should be savoured.

In the aftermath, amidst more reports of e-voting problems, FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) requests and all that, the fact of the matter is that the whole world will have to live with the consequences of yesterday's results. There are no illusions that things will pretty much go the same way they have been, so it's up to us to adjust, adapt and improvise. My knowledge of the political clime is far too shaky to be able to write authoritatively, so I'll take it from someone who already has. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Xeni Jardin, of BoingBoing.


Spend five minutes reading it. It gives us a good insight into the opinions of some out there, and they're not limited to only the US. There's excerpts from Dan Gillmor, a couple of bloggers abroad, even a Texan.What I like most (or at least the more idealistic side of me likes most) is the last few lines of the article, taken from Kerry's concession speech:

"Audience member: We still got your back!
Thank you, man. And I assure you -- you watch -- I'll still have yours."

Have a good day, folks.


Wednesday, November 3


Tonight's CSI: Miami episode wasn't really remarkable except for the fact that it starred a certain character who played a strange mutant-type killer in one X-Files episode (as a murder suspect, no less), a brush fire that damn near kills Alex and Delko, and the fact that no one can dissuade a victim of an abusive relationship to give it up, no matter how bad the damage.

Alone, they don't add up to much, but taken as a whole, they help the second season of this CSI spinoff perform a little better this season. I personally think David Caruso's improved by leaps and bounds, and while some may say he's no Grissom, the point of the matter is that he's not supposed to be. I've always liked his acting skills (the seminal Session 9 comes to mind) and his quiet intensity is brought out to good effect the last couple of episodes. I wish I could say the same for the others, but they're serviceable more than actually engaging (with the exception of Calleigh's character, girls with guns...mmmm).

Anyway, it's been a slow kind of week, but with some major work issues I'll need to settle before term starts (yes you guessed it) the Monday after Eid. Looks like this Ox will be comin back a little early to KL. All those with open house invites, do send them here. I'll be happy to oblige.

Till next time, ta!


Inconsequential Actor Trivia:
David Caruso also played a young sherrif's deputy in Stallone's First Blood. He was the most sensible character in the whole posse. Does that surprise us?

So You Wanna Be An Extra In A Zombie Movie?
Read this funny anecdote by Nick Holdsworth as he shares what shooting a B-zombie flick REALLY feels like (Link).


Vote Save Error #9

Since the US election today is perhaps the single most important media event this year (as evidenced by the many rants, blog-postings and other stuff online) I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon as well, with something posted by an American blogger (and with photo proof too!). Just goes to show that blogs can keep up, if not top the regular media in terms of speed and coverage. Since I don't want to rob the people who came up with this, check out the link below (via BoingBoing, of course):


Interesting stuff, not to mention the ramifications of this. In the meantime, there's still some time left so I'm sure at least some of us will be tuning in to the news for updates.

Some other Malaysian bloggers' posts on the matter:

Idlan does a nye-nye
Sashi Watches
Zsarina Perplexed

Later, folks.


Tuesday, November 2

Halo 2, and Snatchers Strike Again

It's ten pm, and I'm slightly ashamed of myself. You see, just as I got back from work today, I popped the French release of Halo 2 (which was leaked all over the internet a couple weeks ago) into the Xbox, booted it up and for the hour and a half before iftar was just lost to the world.

Nevermind that the Master Chief, Cortana, and even the Covenant aliens were all speaking French (which made it all seem even more incredibly compelling, IMO) but the crux of the matter is this: if you own an Xbox, and have at least heard of Halo, please, give Halo 2 a try come November 9. Hell, I'm even planning to get the original release (no joke!). It's one of those sweet experiences every gamer should feel before they get old, or married. Microsoft expects to make it big this November, and this gamer thinks they'll be laughing all the way to the bank, especially after the not-so-favourable reviews of Sony's attempt at a Halo-killer on the PS2, KillZone.

Okay. Enough gamer-geek talk. A friend forwarded me this funny little piece of internet news today. Seems that over in Johannesburg, a schoolboy declined to answer an exam question on Harry Potter because, and I quote:

"....he believes the best-selling children's' books promote witchcraft."

Incredible. What seems even more apt is the fact that the MP who has purportedly researched all of JK Rowling's books and found them to be nothing more than witchcraft manuals is named Cheryllyn Dudley. How close to the books is that? While one could argue that it's nothing more than coincidence, is this further evidence of Jungian synchronicity at work?


In more serious news, the sad case of the 12 year old girl who almost lost her fingers during her fruitless struggle to protect her mother from being stabbed repeatedly by a snatch thief got my teeth on edge. Right now, I'm expecting the usual rounds of righteous indignation, anger and finger pointing from all points of the compass. The question being: so what do we do NOW? Are things so bad that there's an unseen, yawning gap between the haves and have-nots that's so big these people have to steal to make ends meet, or is this just a symptom of a deeper, unexplored disease? I for one hope that we find out, and soon.

Till next time, be safe.

Ash.ox out.


Monday, November 1

Monday: Putting Off, and Screwing On

I've just finished fixing several light fixtures around the apartment (yes, I am THE great procrastinator) and as I am typing my bedroom is filled with a warm, subdued orange light. Having relied on the lone fluorescent for the better part of a year (or was it more) the room feels different, somehow cozier. I can also stop sleeping with that blasted fluorescent on now (don't ask, it's a habit I picked up last year and never really outgrew).

It's wonderful the things we can do when we put our minds (and lazy arses) to them. Hovering between near consciousness and sleep later this afternoon I managed to catch Mythbusters, one of the newer programmes on Astro's Discovery Channel. It's about these two special effects-pros who decide to debunk urban legends and e-mail myths, and I do mean really debunk. Today's episode saw them destroying the myth that mobile phones cause petrol station fires and silicone breast implants explode when at altitude (I forget the third). What's intriguing is the fact that they found the real cause of these explosions are static discharges that occur when a person enters and exits his/her vehicle during the course of filling petrol, not mobile phones ringing. Apparently by doing so we accrue a static discharge that, if ungrounded will cause a fatal spark that will ignite the petrol. Something I know will rile up a lot of people out there is the fact that out of research done in the States, 78% of these accidents occur with female drivers, as they seem to pop in and out of the vehicle more often.

I'll not comment on that, since I'm sure there's a whole bees' nest somewhere in there. However, I have now learned enough to know that one should always try to discharge static buildup, regardless. PC-repairing geeks know this as canon. I guess that's one more good thing I got out of the Astro subscription.

In other news, BoingBoing served up some interesting dishes for today. For starters, it seems that our favourite Nigerian friends (read: scammers) have resorted to using some fresh tactics in order to yoke in an unsuspecting suc- er I mean victim. Barely a few weeks ago I remember at least one of them using popular roomie classifieds service roomates.com to trawl for and ensnare new fodder for complicity in grand larceny. Today it's a date site -webdate.com. Interesting read, and one can only guess where our resourceful friends will surface next.

Next is a sure-to-spark-controversy piece of news. Yesterday Apple announced an upgrade to iTunes 4.7 (which will be downloaded by most if not all iPod users) which in essence removes the capability for users who use the iPod Download app to move music on and off the device easily. I don't have one myself, but I've heard it facilitates getting music off the iPod and into their Macs. Does this affect PC users? I have no idea, and would appreciate if anyone could help clear this up for me. In the meantime, this little "reverse engineering" by Apple has sparked an interesting rant on BoingBoing, and I quote:

" Imagine if your mobile phone manufacturer enlisted your car maker into ensuring that you didn't use a third-party charger with your cigarette lighter, but instead bought the official, expensive licensed charger. Every time you take your car in for warranty-mandated service, the manufacturer's representative rips out your lighter and puts a new one in that locks out your charger. And when the agent is done, he smiles and tells you he's "updated" your car."

Interesting, nonetheless. Well, it'll be a shorter week for the Ox this week, as he gears up to join the exodus back home for the Eid, so the rest of you have a good week, and take it easy.