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Friday, December 27, 2002

Christmas was boring

Now this seems dumbassy for someone who said he was looking forward to celebrating Christmas away from home for once. I guess much of the Christmas fun I had wasn't on Christmas Day itself.

Went to church that morning with Donny and a couple of other Catholic buddies. Notwithstanding all the church decor and the grandiose solo soprano stints by the choir and kiddie jokes by the priest ("How is Noel really spelt? ... Noooo, it's N-O-E. Noel!"), Christmas was pretty dull this year. I didn't have the mood to wander downtown like most people would do after Mass.

I get what's bothering me now. I miss the annual family Christmas bash back in the kampong. And opening presents without knowing what the hell to expect because of not bothering to sneak peek into your parents' stash of unwrapped items. Not to mention Christmas open house-hopping and super abundant icing and fruit and chocolate frosting and sugar saturated among other insalubrious saccharine additives Christmas cake. Gah! We're all stuck here. Classes on the next day as usual.

(Start music) I'll be home for Christmas...
(music halted)

| 12/27/2002 08:32:00 PM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

I've been reviewed!

And now I shall review the review of my blog at The Weblog Review, dated 32 Dec 2002. Seriously, I feel this needs to be posted, to address a few things.

The review was pretty good. Yay. But you could halve it into two distinctive parts: one scrutinizes the presentation, and the other, content, and only the latter got a nod from the reviewer... which was fine with me. In fact I think content is all you need to be critical about a weblog — presentation is only secondary in importance. I was quite relieved to read this review actually, as it indicates that I need not worry about trying to be interesting, because apparently, it's already inherent. How elating it is to find that the reviewer could warm to the stuff I write and say she would definitely come back for another read. Yippee, I've got cred.

However, all that kinda got overwhelmed by the greater volume of what had to be said about presentation. At the very start of the review one very urgent nuisance in my blog is explicitly pointed out; the exact words were:

It’s white with black type. Sure it’s easy to read because there’s no color, but it’s boring. And when I arrive at a site that looks boring, I’m not particularly excited to read it. I did find an explanation on one of the side bars about this – apparently it’s some sort of bug, but it’s fixable if you click the link to skin the site. Unfortunately, in trying to skin the site I encountered an annoying plethora of pop up ads and it’s not immediately obvious that I skinned the site at all. Instead it looks like I was thrown into an older version of the blog at a different location. Finally I figured it out and went back to the original URL. Reading a blog should not be this much work.

Sounds familiar, huh? I know, this is something I shouldn't put my readers through, lest I scare them into reluctance to continue reading or — heaven forbid — link to me on their blogs. Actually the skinning seems to work in Microsoft IE 6. So what the fuck are you complaining about, go upgrade your browsers you indolent, wooden-headed twerps!!! Kidding, though. Dry those tears. I still use IE 5.5 myself anyway. Since the issue of presentation has gone seriously centrestage here, then fine, I'll work this around with a fixed skin, and then sit back and watch my hits skyrocket. With regard to the popup ads: I wanna move out soon.

The skin (color scheme) I was using at the time also got a mention. "Kinda ugleh" is how I interpret it. It would sure as shooting look awful on older browsers and inferior screen resolutions, but I'll refrain from making anyone cry this time.

Also, the review said:

It might be a nice idea to install commenting for each entry, as some of the entries could generate a lot of discussion.

I know, I know! I've been wanting to install commenting for a long time, but commenting hosts typically use popup interfaces — and I'm not comfortable with that. To have non-popup commenting I could use blogging software like Movable Type or Greymatter, but that requires me to have a domain with at least FTP support. Buy a domain, will I? Rather, I'm gonna stick with my plan to bet on a self-built, grand design of a blog on a new webhost. Ambitious, yes, but it's gotta happen some time.

An improved, revamped website is a dream away. And until I get there, I beg for your patience, thank you. Meantime, let's make do with temporary fixes, yeah?

The score was 3.5 out of 5. The presentation thingy had very likely made some difference. Not bad.

| 12/27/2002 08:32:00 PM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Carolling in KL

The past week had been eventful for me. Church-related, I might add.

On Wednesday, Sheena asked me to join her and the church's young adults group thingy for carolling, ad lib. Coincidently I had a sore throat at the time. Wouldn't that make a perfect excuse to say no?

I said yes though. Thought I owe it to all those nice people.

We carolled in the homes of the group members' families living in PJ, so there was a comfortable atmosphere of informality. The night was rainy. We'd giggle self-consciously singing the more contemporary songs about snow and flying reindeer.

I genuinely had a sore throat, so there wasn't much of an audible voice coming from me. Being out of practice, I was also sometimes losing concentration and the tenor or secondo I was attempting would fly off into another dimension. Sheena however had an unchanged expectation of me; she'd often ask me how the alto or whatever in a song would go. I'm flattered, because I'm SO not an expert.

Two of the three American missionaries were with us, Bridget and Crystal (surely they too were amused by the irony of singing certain carols on this geographic latitude).

Michelle, my senior way back in school in KK and also part of the group, was there as well. Small world, huh?

Also with us, thanks to the smallness of the world, was the girl I used to have a crush on back in matric college. She knew, as did the whole damned campus. I still don't talk much to her. Whenever we meet, we become walking smileys and chirpily exchange hi's and she hugs me like old friends. But I bet neither of us knows what to say to each other. *sigh* She's still hot, by the way.

For every stop we made, we followed this sequence: crowded into a house, carolled, swiftly attacked the food, took some away, said our goodbyes and Merry Christmases, and rushed back into our convoy of cars because we were constantly "behind schedule."

I agreed to do it all again on Thursday. The weather that night was again raining perfectly. Roddy, in the car on our way to our next stop, mesmerized by the precipitation on the windscreen, quipped "Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!" to the tune of Let It Snow. I think going out carolling on a rainy night is... nice, quaintly in a way.

There were more of us this time. Among the new company were amazingly Martin and Brother Adrian, two guys I first and last met at the youth prayer camp months ago — how fucking small can a world get? Other than being a larger and merrier lot, and my being able to babble carols a little more skilfully, the night was a clone of the last one. Same carols. Lots of rush. Lots of food. Lots of weather.

And hardly talking to that girl.

To not to be awkward herself (and to be characteristically nice), she did ask me though, "So, you're having fun?"

And I said, "Oh yeah, sure!" skippily.

Oh yeah sure...?? Damn, I wish I displayed a little more wit or something! No, I actually wish I'm in my room talking to the trees outside my window; they're more talkative at night, y'know.

I faintly hoped things would change a bit at our last stop, on our last carolling day which it was. It was at Josephine's (the group's president) place. There we all were, tired, happy, sitting around in the small, crowded apartment, eating pizza, chitchatting. Nope, it didn't change. She and I were separately mixing with different people at any one time. But I tried not to mind her at all, until — surprise! — she handed me a Christmas card. I unthinkingly tried to open the envelope but she stopped me and said, "No, no, not now!" as if I was being really, really stupid. I thanked her, looking like a rock hit my head.

And I was like... what the hell do I do now? Am I going to reciprocate with just a damn thank you?! *punch myself left*punch myself right*... *ow*

Hold it. You thought I was over her, right? Well, so did I. Still think I am, so there.

Well, there was a reason she needed me to read the card in private. She wrote really nice, personal stuff in it, something like, "it's great that I get to see you quite often again." Man, this card CANNOT be left without a response. She is so damn nice to me! I had one chance: we were to gather again for a Christmas Bash on Sunday.

So I went out to Sungei Wang on Saturday to buy a few rather expensive (never did check the prices first) Christmas cards. Took a lot of time and thought picking out the cards specially for the individual intended recipients. I usually choose witty cards, but not necessarily the cartoony ones, which can get cheesy sometimes — and each one has to have just the right message. That goes for all but one: the ex-crush gets a simple, touchy-nicey-type greeting card, much like the one she gave me. But of course, my selections are careful; the ready-to-use message inside goes along the lines of: "I always think of you at Christmas time." Heheh. Coupled with some written content of my own, I thought I'd totally smite her with this.

It was like I was still crazy about her. To really put sugar on top, I dug out of my stash of emergency gift paraphernalia a stainless steel bookmark, one with a Bible quote inscripted on it; s'really cool.

And get this: I bought the little trinket, and even had it blessed by a priest as a special bonus, back while I was in matrics almost two years ago. Yes, it was originally meant for her. And after hiding it away on her birthday and the day of her early departure from matrics, I've been saving it for an obscure time when I someday get to meet her again. The time had come. I slipped it into the envelope with the card (because I didn't get wrapping paper), along with a brief written note to explain the little extra.

Oh gawrsh, smack my cranium with a spade right now.

Forward to Sunday afternoon. The Bash was great. Your typical Christian youth Christmas party. I still wasn't talking much or crossing paths or even getting eye contact from her, which was kinda frustrating. Nevertheless every card got personally delivered, and she got hers. I didn't care if she opened it straight away, so that she might have fantastically thrown herself at me before the end of the day.

Card writing is something I don't do very often, and obviously can be really taxing mentally and financially... but ultimately, it's extremely satisfying. I don't think anyone can disagree with that.

Sheena, an old friend whom I also know since matrics, got one from me too. Despite being one who mercilessly teases me on occasion about my past infatuation with the girl (she probably still thinks we make a pretty couple and wants to play malicious cupid), I leaked out the bookmark story to her. Not surprisingly, I had to make her promise to hold Her Mouth shut and keep it to herself, as she looked as if she was about to explode with... with... approval? I dunno what on earth it was. "OH MY GOD, LIONEL, THAT'S SOOOOO SWWEEEEEEET!!!!" she exclaimed. "Shit, I'm so smitten myself I'm gonna blush and run and make a Sheena-shaped hole in the door!" (Nah, kidding.) Thasright, I'm a helluva ladykiller.

Well, that was a fun week.

[postscript] Roddy said he has a different favorite Christmas song each year. I'd like to try that myself. So this year, my favorite Christmas song is one I had just learned, Christmas Isn't Christmas, while doing this carolling business. It's very contemporary, but not at all Western commercial with the Santa, stockings and snow shit. It's perfect. The chorus goes:

Christmas isn't Christmas till it happens in your heart
Somewhere deep inside you is where Christmas really starts
So give your heart to Jesus; you'll discover when you do
That it's Christmas, really Christmas for you!

I even composed the tune in someone's Nokia phone. Key these in if you want it. (tempo: 160bpm)

4e1 2g1 8e1 8d1 4e1 2g1 8e1 8d1 4e1 4g1 4e1 4g1 1a1*
4f1 2a1 8f1 8e1 4f1 2a1 8f1 8e1 4f1 4a1 4f1 4a1 2.b1**
4g1 4b1 2c2 8b1 8a1 4b1 2c2 8c2 8d2 4.e2 8c2 4b1 4c2 2.b1
8g1 8f1 4e1 2g1 8f1 8e1 4f1 2g1 4d2 1c2

*If only fucking Nokia allowed more tone space I'd replace this one with 4a1 4g1 4f1 4e1. Sounds jazzier.
**Ditto, this one with 4b1 4a1 4g1

| 12/24/2002 01:25:00 AM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Gawker. The hippest new thing on the block.

It's a Manhattan weblog type magazine that just went live recently, about living high in this part of New York. The hype about it is stupendous. "It's got all of Manhattan's posh tongues wagging""Gives me even more Manhattan envy than usual""A guilty pleasure""Perfect tone, a bitchy pleasure""Gag me with a yuppie spoon".

There's a lot of discussion about it that is such a romp to dig in. It appears to me that people like it for its light satiric content, and hate it for its elitist "we know all the good stuff so listen to us" tone, for the ridiculousness in its choice target audience ("NYC's financial and media elite"), and for not living in Manhattan, among other things. Easy to note is the spot Gawker is in being new and all, trying to find its voice, and ironically, its actual audience. Everyone else is trying just the same to figure out what the site means and stands for.

I got it! It's like Playboy, right?

Where you read about making the perfect martini and choosing the best audio equipment for $30,000 and how to buy a Ferrari and how to convince your girlfriend to do a menage à trois; even though you only drink beer, all the audio equipment you can afford is a sony discman, your car is rotting in the street because you don't have money for a mechanic and you don't even have a girlfriend to start with.

It's like Playboy. We read it, and we make believe we are part of NYC's financial and media elite.

Even though they do not read it.

falameufilho, on Metafilter

Incidentally, there seems to be a Gawker vs. Metafilter saga going on. Plenty of Gawker jokes and poking fun at.

| 12/24/2002 01:10:00 AM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Having Christmas in KL

Since the mid-semester break isn't extended all the way to Christmas, I'm back in KL. Yep, I'll have my first Noel away from home this year. But I'm not the least bit perturbed; I think I'd like to spend a Christmas in KL for once. (Though I don't know if I'm going to have my next three or four Christmases here as well.)

Besides, I feel like the Raya break wasn't so great. It wasn't so greatly desired. I feel like I've worn out my welcome. I mean, I just got back here three months ago, and then another trip home again? Boy it didn't feel like it was worth six hundred plus ringgit (MAS Airlines, back and forth). Only three months! You know what? I think I should wait entire semesters before I take breaks. Yeah, six-month absences should definitely make hearts grow even fonder. Then it would be a much greater joy to reunite with friends and family. Yeah. And they're all gonna love me again.

I didn't do much during the break. I guess the de rigueur Raya house-hopping and — of all things — going to church were the most fun outings I had. Plans to meet old friends were called off because everyone had something to do; it's either "mid-semester assignments" or "help my dad paint the house." It's like a rotten time for a holiday.

And I owe my readers an apology, because I was awfully slow at blogging as well. All two weeks, my online time was spent on blogsurfing and Kazaaing almost out of boredom, to passively entertain myself. And porn never helps. Hell, I felt as if there was nothing on The Whole World Wide Web that was exciting or enriching at all. (The blog Hello Pinky And The Brain, my most hopeful source of disarmingly gut-wrenching unintended humour, looks dead now.) Dare I say it? I had little passion — for and during the break. What a sad way to square off a vacation post mortem.

Tune in head: All My Life, off the new Foo Fighters album, One By One. This is the one CD I would wanna get this year.

| 12/19/2002 12:51:00 AM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Third day of Raya

Picture this.

We are at Aunt Elsie's house. By today, the festive partying should be slowing down some. (On the first and second day you typically visit the houses of friends and the local Datuks who either happen to be relatives or old classmates of one of your parents. Meanwhile you won't be meeting your other relatives yet since they're doing exactly what you're doing.) Today she and hubby guests the extended family on our side. And we're making ourselves quite at home.

We've had our lunch. It's a late, lazy afternoon.

The womenfolk are in one corner of the living room, chattering away. They seem to be talking about health, and what they can do or buy for it. In full participation was my nurse mom, and generally all of my aunts who are seasoned players in the realm of Elken, Omegatrend, Cosway and Amway.

The uncles are enveloping the TV area. But they're not watching TV. They're absorbed in the ASTRO minesweeper game. The one who just came to see what the fuss is all about is now lying in one of the couches, songkok rested on stomach, remote control in hand, trying his luck at the numbers puzzle. I wish they would let it go, because I'm bored and I wanna watch the damn TV.

The kids have been running up and down the stairs, in and out of the house. Playing "Chase Me For No Apparent Reason" or something. We the older kids have been herding the little riot all over the premises, easily a dozen or so of them tykes. The two teenage girls who have been in baju kurungs all morning have now switched to t-shirts and jeans (I suddenly remember how notoriously often they bring along spare clothing when visiting a relative's house). I'm exhausted from giving the squealing toddlers piggyback and flight sim rides. It's not fair; only so few of the older kids are around for Raya this year... and evidently, I'm the oldest one here. Hence, the sole supplier of brawn.

Me and the teens now plop onto the sofas in the other side of the living room. The youngsters, still blatantly full of energy, gather before us to offer some off-the-top-of-their-heads entertainment: the Ketchup Song dance. From that day on, this stupid song will always remind me of my crazy little cousins. Come to think of it, one of the Las Ketchup girls actually looks a bit like my cousin Sharon, who was ringleader of the little dance impromptu. That never fails to make me bite my smile back.

I had dinner here, too. Goodness, we've been here all day. I realized the men and children have been waiting for their wives/mothers to finish off the yapping, as usual.

| 12/08/2002 07:39:00 AM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Monday, December 02, 2002

Back for Raya

I'm back in Sabah for the mid-semester cum Eid holidays. I had spare cash for the fare and my folks want me home.

I certainly told my parents about my bad exam results. With extreme tact, of course. I put on a most miserable face, and spoke in a most believably sombre manner. They seemed to be taken by my solemn frankness on the phone and my sulking through the car ride from the airport. Hmm, a good sign.

I definitely look forward to the Raya (Eid) holidays. No way am I gonna miss eating Raya food, collecting Raya angpows and meeting my favorite Muslim cousins. Sigh. Bring back the days when we used to run around the houses of their relatives.

| 12/02/2002 07:02:00 AM Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!