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Archive for January, 2009

Dinosaurs

Great news, my PC is fixed. My power supply blew its brains out, and along with it the UPS’ fuse for good measure.

In Malaysia, I would have just went to the nearest shop and have a chat with the first available salesman – there are endless numbers of them- and be immediately up to date with the latest dips in hardware prices, get a free diagnostic on my CPU’s problem, and the replacement unit at a cheap price. Over here, I had to make do with buying two magazines, and calling someone to come and rob me of my money, so to speak. My current PC is 2 years old, and has followed me halfway around the world, across the English Channel and then back again, from Scotland to England, and who knows where it will go next. Throughout that time I have not been scrutinising the latest developments in the industry, and when I flicked through the magazines it just seemed like the industry had been totally revamped in just 2 years.

Me and my peers grew up just after the PC’s introduction to everyday society, in the 90’s. We grew up side by side with the electronics industry, and now I think the industry is outgrowing us at a phenomenal pace – If we do not make sure we are up to date, before long we will be staring at latest technology with unblinking and uncomprehending eyes like our parents once did.

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Drawn Lines

In a moment of extreme carelessness (and a healthy dose of stupidity) I accidentally switched off the power of my computer, at the wall, while it was shutting down. What resulted was a flash of light, a “pop”sound, and later, a frustrated groan of understanding. I do use a UPS (they had me believe it stood for uninterruptible power supply, but apparently it was quite interruptible), but still my CPU is now kaput. Further diagnostics are still pending, as I went off on holiday shortly after and now am back at work immediately after.

That, and other events resulted in quite a rather inauspicious start to the New Year, and had I been more superstitious I would have considered trying to find a temple in which to express my woes. As it is, I prefer to see things positively, and see it as an opportunity to spend all my money on new hardware, ignoring the fact that I don’t really have much (money).

Similar events throughout the last two years has led me to wonder about the line one should draw between optimicism and plain delusion. It’s easy to feel disappointed, frustrated etc when things don’t go your way, but it’s equally easy, after practice, to ignore these unlucky events and be optimistic, but after a point it just seems like being stubborn and perpetually in denial. And what a convenient and ready-made excuse it is to “look on the bright side”, when it is really just another way of ignoring the reality of things. Since whining about your problems or being stupidly optimistic doesn’t really help the situation, I really do wonder where should the line be drawn, and what is the best path to take. (some sort of balance, obviously…)

Anyhow, I will ponder that while I shop for a new CPU…… and perhaps wear red underpants for the rest of the year. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Greetings from Prague

As the title clearly implies, I am in the city of a Hundred spires, and it is, of course, very pretty. It’s after all yet another important European city with a long history, and all these historical cities are of course peppered with the accomplishments, so to speak, of combined rulers’ egos over the centuries, so you can imagine the field day tourists all over the world have the instant they land in this cobblestoned city…

Anyway. 2 more days before I leave this city, so I should really be making full use of my time here, and not in front of the computer. Later!

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So I was going to blog earlier, but I got distracted, which is usual, by an article about physics that I was trying to read most of the night. Trying, because I was in turn distracted from the article by a website showing badminton matches on youtube. Eventually I finished it though;  both the badminton matches, and the article.

That is the best thing about being on a year out internship. Not badminton matches, but the fact that there is now time to explore, to learn, to see, and to experience other things, other disciplines, other fields of knowledge, other interests. It’s not merely about architecture as any university program worth it’s salt would require an extraordinary amount of effort to get through with entire skin intact, and this amount of effort is usually translated to 24/7 focus. It’s true that you are similarly “freed” from the yoke of education by graduation, but the unique advantage of a year out is you get the rare opportunity to reflect on your years as a student, gain a new perspective, AND then get a second chance to correct your mistakes in uni when you go back to finish the program. So it has become a very pleasant, and previously unheard of, luxury to be able to see and learn new things everyday, especially with the internet.

People have remarked that all this “input” is pointless without some sort of “output”. While I do agree, somewhat, I certainly don’t agree that learning has to be justified with some kind of results, that everything one person does in this world has to have a price or a catch attached to it. In one of the badminton matches I watched earlier, a commentator was, well, commenting on recent Far Eastern players not trained to tactically, but to do exactly what their coach says and rely almost completely on them to provide tactical advice. I’m being overly cynical and paranoid as usual, but it would seem that athletes are now being trained to essentially be robots, completely reliant and dependant on their masters coaches, trained just to win competitions and break records. It seems, people are just continually searching for a material end to justify their acts, something quantifiable to provide reason for their daily lives. Or, is it meaning in their lives that they are looking for?

It seems that there is an increasing distinction between “entertainment” and “work”. Daily life is now categorized into these two segments, with no room in between. Entertainment should be unproductive, mindless. People whose interests are not something generic and “entertainment-ish” like watching TV, going to the movies, bla blah are constantly milking it dry for its novelty, for yet another materialistic end. The recent and sudden death of Future Systems co-founder Jan Kaplicky was sad in this sense, because as far as I could ascertain he was one of the few intellectuals unwilling, or unable, to give in to the compromises of reality, continuing to fight for his ideals and his visions (no matter how strange they seem to be to certain people.)

Bah.

Anyway, I got way off topic there, rambling about things I shouldn’t be rambling about. 2008 was a great year of travel, and I managed to see parts of the Benelux region, parts of Germany, a few “miscelleanous” cities all over Europe, and parts of UK. I say parts because I am not under the illusion that I saw “all” of one city or country. It’s just impossible. 2009, even at this early stage, promises to be a good one for travel as well – Leaving for a 6-day trip to Prague in a few days, and a 5-day trip to Oslo in March. The recession is of course keeping travel budgets to an absolute bare minimum, but that’s hardly new for us poor students….

Till the next post, and happy CNY to CNY-celebrating readers!

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Grouchy

Everything is at our fingertips at these days – whatever you wish to know, whatever you need to buy, whatever you need to do.

There’s not many of them nowadays, but I remember a time when the internet still had good, quality blogs. Some of these served as my motivation and my inspiration, helping to keep my dreams afloat, keep them alive. Among other things, familiarity also breeds apathy- I have learnt not to visit them too often; for I am afraid the magical power these sites possess may fade with too many visits. They are reserved for days and periods when I am down in the dumps, gloomy and dejected, and they, like a band of superheroes, have never failed to plug the leaks in the boat, fill voids and provide me with the energy I need to keep my enthusiasm and spirits alive and kicking.

Wasted youth and a fistful of ideals
I had a young and optimistic point of view
I was a young boy that had big plans
Now I’m just another shitty old man
Life’s a bitch and so am I
The world owes me, so fuck you~

The Grouch by Green Day. I used to like that song very much until I realised it wasn’t a particularly good influence, especially when you are at the stage in your life where everything is *still* possible, but also a stage where everything is rapidly becoming *less* possible.

dinant-summer1

Noticed the blog is getting a little too wordy, so here is a sneak preview of an upcoming post – A picture of picturesque Dinant, in midsummer. Something is wrong with the proportion, and I am too lazy to fix it, so click on it to see the large one. Summer seems so far away, when all I have is freezing winds and frosty mornings to look forward too :( The equatorial blood in me protests.

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Looking around the blogosphere, it seems that quite a number of people do not like making New Year Resolutions. “It’s pointless”, they say, “Resolutions should be made year-round, not just during the New year. Plus, nobody keeps their resolutions anyway… So, why bother?”

While I see their point, sort of, I constantly feel bemused because personally I rather like making new year resolutions. I suppose any day is as good as any to reflect and look back, but I find that the new year is particularly suitable as it is when the calender is ripped and a new one put in. I think we shouldn’t underestimate the psychological power of a “new” start, and harness it to our advantage. There are endless superstitions when it comes to celebrating Chinese New Year, which range from the baffling ( No sweeping the floors during the New Year) to the sensible ( Do not start the new year with financial debt, or any kind of debt really). Even if you do not believe that washing your hair during CNY will result in having all your good fortune “washed” away, for the whole year to boot, it’s good to start a new day without debt (and as the resolutions-cynics would say, every day).

Nevertheless, setting resolutions like “I will grow my hair long this year” is admittedly pointless. Instead, what I find myself doing each year when New Year rolls around is to, firstly, look back and gauge the progress, the success, or the failure, of last year’s resolutions, and then sit down and have some thoughts about what I would like to achieve this year around. (Given my chronic procrastination, this normally doesn’t happen until 2 weeks into the new year, but I look on the bright side and tell myself I’m early for CNY).

Given the fickle nature of life and lady luck, I feel it’s important not to set any sort of defined, detailed resolutions. It makes more sense to define what characteristics I would like to possess this year, what principles I would like to practice, in what areas of myself that I need to improve, and in what direction I should go, and leave the tangible, quantifiable results to the day-to-day grind of life’s engines. A guiding philosophy of your actions and your decisions of the year; like an indispensable map (these days, it’s the GPS) on a year-long journey: that’s sensible to me.

As for the statement that resolutions can be made year round: that’s true, so why not on New Year’s day as well? It can be the first one of many.

Wish you all happy resolving your dreams for 2009!

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For the first time in years I will not be waking up on New Year’s Day afternoon with a terrific hangover. Exactly a year ago, I polished off a bottle of Martini vermouth mostly by myself and got completely drunk. On this New Year’s Eve I stayed around home, did my groceries, cleaned the house, boiled a pot of herbal soup, cooked dinner and as it drew near midnight spent an hour in my bathroom, slowly brushing stains off one of the most expensive pieces of clothing I have. With an old toothbrush, no less.

How I got that piece of clothing (a sweater) is a long story for another day, but in a strange way, my bathroom episode sums up 2008, the year I hereby dub “the year of growing up”. (or getting old). It has been a year of shifting physical and psychological boundaries, and of course, boundaries concerning perception. After all, it is the first time I chose household chores over parties friends are attending in Camden and River Thames, and as fireworks break out in the sky outside my window, I am drinking herbal chicken soup instead of alcohol, boiled by my own hand nonetheless.

I was tempted to join my friends counting down, but an even bigger, almost reflexive instinct was to choose to stay at home. I recalled an earlier conversation with my dad, who told me to spend my year end holidays “consolidating myself”. Even then, I sort of understood what he meant, and in the weeks that followed I have come to see how dispersed and scattered my energies, my priorities, and my… soul? had been most of the year, and how important was it to regroup and reorganize myself.

In the end though, I never really finished getting the stains out (of the sweater). Tiny bits of stubborn remnants remain even after my careful brushing. Try as you might, some stains can never be erased just by effort of will. A clichéd analogy, but some things takes time, and eventually, I am certain all the stains will be off. And then I’d be happy to stop hiding it in the depths, bring it out from the shadows.

Happy 2009, dear readers~

P.s – I know the blog has not been updated for some time, but the past couple of weeks has been extraordinarily hectic. Bit by bit… pieces are falling into places, and I will endeavor to update more often…

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