all talk

things that i talk about (or will talk about) with friends at the age of ………

10 – comic books, action figures, cartoons

20 – fashion, music, movies, how big the galaxy really is and what the hell we are doing here

30 – career, promotion, future, life partners, money

40 – disease, dead or dying parents, divorce

50 – dead or dying friends, children and more disease

60 – loss of libido and ways to regain it, hair transplant

70 – life transplant

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the friendly enemy

after many years i bumped into an old school mate of mine. believe me when i say there is no love lost between the both of us. in fact for sometime we were mortal enemies. ok i have to come clean with myself; he punched me once in the stomach over some adolescent argument. the world is such a small place. this time the table has turned some what. this time he needed my help.

in a movie this guy would have received his just comeuppance but this being the real world we had to put on pretences and conform to social norms and graces. and so we carried on as if nothing had happened. i don’t even know if he remembers the incident and even if he did he was not telling.
looking at the 2 of us you would have thought we were the best of pals. it would have been easy for me to bring up the fact and then rubbed his face in it. however against my baser instinct i proceeded instead to explain to him what needed to be done for his present predicament and even threw him an offer that i would help him in all my capacity. is it because i am a nice person? i do not think that is even half the story.

we are social creatures and we above all crave human contact. if i were to go around making enemies and propagating hate, i would probably die a lonesome death. at least there is the remote possibility that he may even attend my funeral. that wisp of hope is enough to stay my tongue and there lies the magnitude of my need for human interaction. even in death i need the assurance that the idea of me as a living person lives on and continue to touch other humans.

modern ghosts

the ‘law’ must rank as one of the most important human invention ever. this is more astonishing for the fact that something so abstract and intangible can be so intertwined with everyday life and society as we know it. nations have been built and fell by it.

perhaps the beauty of it all is its inbuilt promise of prosecution if ever the means or urge arise to break it. i hazard to guess that without anarchy there would be no law bringing to mind the idea that god exists solely because of the devil.
a short few minutes ago i was waiting in my car at a traffic light. it was at a normally busy T junction but due to the fact that it was early and a sunday there was hardly any traffic to speak of. at the 3 o’clock position from me i noticed another row of motorists waiting patiently for the lights to turn green. the only light that was green out of the 3 was the one with no commuters. the seconds ticked away as both our lines waited. if i was an alien looking down on us from my spaceship overhead, i would have laughed my head off. still we idled until my light went green and off we putted away.

why do we do that? why do we still stick to the rules when its clearly benefiting no one in particular at this junction of time? of course if our 2 rows of cars had decided to throw caution to the wind and pushed ahead there would have a massive pile of twisted metal. that is just physics and thats not what i am talking about here. no one actually took the bait or rather no one dared. its interesting to see how ingrained the law is in the human psyche.

the lifeless traffic light consisting of a few bits of wiring, plastic and circuits framed within some very tough metal cowed us all. its awe-inspiring to see this soulless and mindless edifice exert such great power over the very species that gave birth to it in the 1st place. it embodies the law and the law will make life very uncomfortable if it is messed with. everyone knows that and everyone will tell their offspring. like folk tales passed on through generations it is the ghost of modern society, barely discernible from the djinns and imps that haunted people in the past. cautionary tales of our times told to keep wayward children in check.

why blog?

writing a blog is like writing a song. well at least thats what i would like to think. for the longest time i have been enamored of the troubled troubadour spinning his life and tribulations into musical notes and hopefully words of wisdom and great artistic worth. why do it? in the vain hope of sorting out the meaning of the human condition inherent in life. life is a disease and we are all infected as soon as we are pushed unceremoniusly out of our mothers in a river of foul-smelling liquid, sweat, blood and tears. unfortunately there is no treatment let alone cure for this ailment. perhaps the only salve we have is the constant search for the answer to the big ‘WHY’.

tech sidetrack – my linux experience

A New Beginning
i am a ‘new’ ubuntu user. why the quotation marks? well i have been dabbling in ubuntu intermittently but my current foray with this linux distro may be the one that i finally settle down with. i am a windows poweruser. my 1st pc had windows 3.1 on it. subsequently i ran windows 95, 98 and then windows me. sometime last year i switched to xp. i have tasted all the different flavours that bill gates cared to throw at the masses. in april last year i began to hear about this linux os and decided to give it a spin on a lazy sunday afternoon. i have never dreamt that i would one day actually install a whole operating system on my own and you could imagine my nerves at that time. the installation went well besides a few anxious moments when i had to partition my hd and i did not know what the hell was written on the screen. unfortunately when it came time for me to reboot my pc, x server failed! luckily for me i had my handy ibook and a wireless router and managed to go into the ubuntu web forums. after poking around i got a quick fix solution to my problem (some incompatibility issue with my graphics card and the video driver in ubuntu breezy badger).

Brown Is The New White

with the brown gnome desktop sitting in front of me, i spent the next few days getting video and audio running in breezy. the forum members were in full force holding my hand while i waded through hours of software updating and configuration. i was a happy camper for the next month of so once i got everything up and running. at that time i was still dual booting between winxp for some program like itunes seeing that i could never get gtkpod or banshee to work with my ipod mini and nano. and also i missed my games in xp.

Breaking Wind

after the initial novelty, i started to neglect breezy and found myself turning back to winxp more and more. finally breezy was left sitting in a dark corner of my hard disk uncared for. to add salt to the wound, i also read a posting in another forum that referred to the ubuntu gnome desktop as ‘child-like’ . for some reason i found this less then complimentary remark apt and felt that ubuntu’s ranking as the most popular distro in distrowatch unfounded and over rated.

The Green Gecko

my pc finally gave up the ghost end of last year and i had to purchase a whole new desktop. this of course came with the ubiquitous winxp preinstalled and that was that. in april this year on another lazy sunday i decided to try out suse 10.0. this time i was less scared seeing that i have had some experience with my last ubuntu installation. everything went smoothly but again no multimedia capabilities out of the box. another few days went by and with the help of members in the suse web forums i got everything up and running. the suse kde desktop was an improvement over the ubuntu gnome desktop. it had a more professional and grownup feel to it. after a few months suse 10.1 was announced and i dutifully downloaded the iso’s and installed it on another partition ( i was now tri-booting!)

The Evil Brother
all my hope for a shiny new fully functional linux os was dashed when i ran into problems with the zen updater which came with suse 10.1. i was inundated with strange errors and unexplained alert messages while trying to update. i came away with a bitter after taste in my mouth. on the positive side i was now well on my way to becoming a linux convert. at least the ‘terminal’ now does not look so alien to me and i was no longer in mortal fear of it.

Dapper Drake To The Rescue
enter ubuntu 6.06 LTS codenamed dapper drake. at the expense of looking like a linux slut (sleeping with every distro that was available and willing) i again took the plunge and downloaded this new ubuntu not knowing what to expect. i have to admit that i was getting tired with suse and was itching for new experiences. of all the distros i have toyed with this was the best installation i have had. smooth as butter and everything went by flawlessly. updating the os was a breeze and after my recent encounter with suse and zen this was a definite plus point. in order to get multimedia, flash and java working in firefox i again relied on the cool folks at ubuntu web forums and within hours i was up and running. to my delight, this time gtkpod and banshee picked up on my ipod and i was able to transfer mp3s to it. a few days ago i even managed to install and set up compiz/xgl in dapper.

In Love Again

my initial reservations about gnome was largely unfounded. i now appreciate the intuitiveness and sensibility of this powerful desktop and wouldn’t change to kde even if i was offered a lot of money.
it may have something to do with the better specs of my new pc but dapper feels much snappier and faster when compared with breezy.
of the two that i have encountered this is the better version of ubuntu. having read through some of the threads in the ubuntu forums many people would even argue that this is the best version ever.

Some Lizard
but of course for the past few days the entire linux community at large has been stumbling over each other to download the latest edition codenamed ‘edgy eft‘. poking around the forums, i see a lot of red and angry faces ranting about how the new upgrade has royally screwed them with broken x servers (an example of an irate customer can be had here) and what have you. as for me i started the download but then stopped it midway. perhaps let the people at ubuntu iron out the bugs first before i take the plunge. i am a cautious one. Link

Sleep – Is it over rated?

For the past 2 months I have been having considerable problems getting my quota of 7-8 hours of sleep. Most nights end in frustration and I will crawl out of my thoroughly tossed bed and sit in front of the pc randomly surfing websites that I barely read due to the effects of sleep deprivation. Rarely I resort to taking allergy pills which carry a mild sedative effect and lately I have been downing a can of beer before going to bed. I can fall asleep alright after these measures but will wake up after 5 hours without fail.

Going to work after a restless night is no picnic in the park. Not that work is but you do not need to add another dimension of torture to the whole endeavour. The whole day I would be walking around with my own personal rain cloud hovering above my head and woe to the one who rubs me the wrong way on that day. A dull throbbing starts from the center of my forehead and radiates outwards until my whole head seems to be encased in cement. It is not exactly pain but a dull discomfort that stays with you througout the day.

The real reason behind this is beyond me. I have blamed work-related stress, coffee, interpersonal strive between workmates. Those are the easy targets. In fact recently I heard in a podcast that we as a society are sleeping less due to the astronomical rise in popularity in coffee drinking. We are over-caffeienated. I imagine the cavemen would have slept for half a day everyday during his lifetime and looked what happened to them; chased by blood thirsty reptiles and all the rigors of pre-historic life. Coming back to my point; I have cut down on the cups of coffee that I consume a day down to the one in the morning. Still not doing it for me.

I have tried to cut down on conflict at work but there is really no arguing with the sleep-induced bitch of a headache that has taken root inside your skull. Every situation no matter how mundane becomes a thorn in my side. A wound that has to picked at until it is all inflammed and oozing pus. I rip multiple new ones in my work acquitances and they reciprocate in kind. Walking home with a tattered, bruised and tired ego has become the order of the day.

Which way do I go now? How to capture that elusive deep sleep? You tell me. As for now my best hope is for that miserable 5 hours where I can forget my self and slip into the great beyond. Rock-a-bye baby indeed.

ps – this i got from wikipedia ‘Total sleep deprivation in rats leads to death in around 28 days‘. thought you might want to know.

keeping it stiff

this really irks me. why do publishers of perfectly good magazines see fit to slip in little pamphlets and cardboards with ads on them in between the pages? it used to be loose pieces that will drop to the floor annoyingly while you are leafing through the magazine at the newsstand earning you murderous stares from the owner. now the geniuses are binding these irritants along with the legitimate pages. nothing wrong if there are made out of soft papery material but these are industrial-strength cardboards! now i can’t get the mag to lie flat on my bed for easy reading because those ads keeps it all stiff. i have to keep the pages apart through dexterous use of all my fingers. curses!

6 items or less

just got back from the mall. on the way to the carpark i realised that i did not have enough change to slot into the parking machine. i retraced my steps to the food department and picked up a bag of chips just to break my notes. i headed for the express lane and a huge sign hang above the cashier saying 6 items or less. in front of me was a caucasian lady probably in her early fifties with a huge basket of grocery. the lady at the counter pointed her to the regular checkout aisles but she whined and said that the lines were too long. i glanced over to the other counters and they were relatively empty this being a working day and all.

the checkout lady gave her a pained smile and proceeded to scan all her items which were definitely more than 6. the other people in our line did not say anything including yours truly. it is just not in our genetic makeup to voice out our opinions. better to keep quiet and not draw attention to ourselves. this probably harks back to our education system which is soundly built on blind faith and the intolerance towards questions but thats another blog.

however this little seemingly mundane scene in the mall throws up some interesting questions (the nation’s educators collectively click their tongues in disapproval). if any of us oriental types were standing in line in the express lane in a mall in a predominantly caucasian country some where to the west of asia, would we have received the same treatment? of course i have never lived in any of these countries for any prolonged periods of time to say but i have had occasions to visit these places. i will go out on a limb here and hazard that the cashier would have stuck to her guns and insisted that i go to the allocated aisles. this may not be as bad as it sounds but to the westerners, right is right and there is just no two ways about it. some may even argue that they are living in the first world because of this guiding principle. on the other hand we in asia have this habit of bending the rules for convenience and again in order not to draw attention to ourselves seeing how mundane the actual event is. radiohead with their song ‘how to disappear completely’ should have been our national anthem although trying to play it in a marching band would be a bitch seeing that it largely consists of electronic bleeps and wheezes.

another thing that may have been going on in the cashier’s mind was perhaps the residual effect of colonialism. as a people we were after all displaced albeit temporarily by the british who were the generic white rulers. being ruled by foreigners can seriously fuck with your self esteem and hence the commonly held perception amongst asians that what the whites are always better and more sophiscated than our own sorry asses. coming back to our poor cashier. what is a lowly asian to do but kowtow to the mistress and ring her up?

another interesting and worthwhile (at least to this asian and therefore inferior mind) scenario to ponder would be this; say the white lady was a local. what then? would she have been shown so much kindness? again i am guessing here but my answer to that would not be yes. who do you think you are madam? the queen of london?! get back in line and please not this line! the sad truth is that it is easier to be mean to your own kind and get away with it. take the path of least resistance and go with the flow.

in case i be accused of being cynical, i will end with this scenario. a local chinese lady in her fifties approaches the express lane laden with groceries. the cashier takes one look at her and without asking starts to ring up her items for her. an irritated guy standing just behind the customer, protests. in a firm and steady tone the cashier explains that this senior citizen needs our help and it is unkind to let her walk the few extra steps to the regular lanes as she is clearly discomforted by the weight of her purchases. she goes back to working the cash machine and the lady customer throws her a smile of thanks. the world is full of ordinary heroes and there is hope for humanity yet.