Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Must be due to the last-minute shopping of Christmas presents. Yes, that's it. That's what the movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is about.

Heh. Like the above image of the terrified Santa Claus. (The link includes another link to the poem titled "The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore that consists the name of Santa's reindeer. No, Rudolph ain't mentioned.)



Talking about Santa, the comic Non Sequitur also 'exploits' the character. I remember once reading a series of Non Sequitur about 'Santa Dude'. It's about Santa going to Hollywood incognito--he donned his usual costume with an addition of sunglasses--to find out why there were more bad children than good ones. He's greeted something like "Hey, it's Santa, dude!" and eventually dubbed as 'Santa Dude'.

The following comic is not about 'Santa Dude', but it sure brings the story to mind. The image copied & cropped from this Non Sequitur page.




Wish you all a Happy Holiday Season. There's no Tiny Tim here but I'd like to quote his line "God bless us, everyone!".

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Different Seasons

‘Tis the season to be…different. I guess the King of Horror, Stephen King might have thought that way when he wrote Different Seasons. The genre is not horror, but surprisingly it is a very much pleasant to read.

The book is a collection of four novellas: “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, “Apt Pupil”, “The Body”, and “The Breathing Method. They are respectively subtitled based on the four seasons namely Hope Springs Eternal, Summer of Corruption, Fall from Innocence, and A Winter’s Tale.

The first three stories led to the movies: “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Apt Pupil” and “Stand By Me”.

If that is not impressive, I don’t know what is. Okay, so I am a fan. But I still retain enough objectivity to say “The Breathing Method” doesn’t take my breath away. It’s supposed to be a weird tale that achieves its objective too well. It’s weird and I don’t like it.

In contrast, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” is a story that inspires. I watched the movie version before I read the novella and I can’t agree more with the show tagline “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”

Imagine you’re accused wrongly & sentenced to a jail where the worst trashes of the society were locked. Imagine the jail’s administrator was equally bad. How would you cope? Will you sink in despair or will you sustain a belief that things would eventually be better?

The main character, Andy Dufresne chose the later. He was determined not to let the prison dampen his spirit. Utilizing his knowledge (no, he didn’t have a prison blueprint tattooed on his body like Michael Scofield in the TV series Prison Break), he manipulated the prison’s guards to protect him. He was a banker before he was a convict. His financial expertise was needed and in one case, abused by the jail warden.

Oh sure, the story has a happy ending: Andy managed to escape. But how he did it and perhaps how long he took to do it—now, that is why you ought to read this novella!

Although enjoyable to read, the other two novellas, “Apt Pupil” and “The Body” were not that impressive. The former involves a psychological blackmail between an old Nazi commandant and a teenager. Witness how the role of a victim switched. “The Body” was about four boys' quest in trying to locate a corpse of a missing boy.

The two stories are credible. Reading them prompt you to ponder that such a tale is very possible to happen in real world. That by itself is something fresh, something new, something that you don’t expect from Stephen King.

The Hill of Peace, The Sea of Mist (@Mae Hong Son: Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu)

This is to follow up to Pai post which hinted about the beauty of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, Mae Hong Son.

1. Trekking my way up to the temple through a misty path with a little misgiving that I might be lost. I had my fair share getting lost during the trip. Not that I complain, mind you.

2. Phew. I was on the right direction.

3. Guan Yin?

4. It was Sunday & there were a lot of people visiting the temple. They were given a bouquet which would be placed by worshippers near any of the Buddha statues--

5. --after which, the monks would retrieve them back for next worshippers to use.

6. Oh yes, I'm proud of this photo. Religion & technology in such a close proximity. ;)


Photo 7-12: Ineffable scenery. Or perhaps, I'm just too lazy to describe each photo. Love the mist.









13. Still at Doi Kong Mu hill, I hiked up to one solitary temple.

14. On my way up.

15. Jatayu or Garuda or ?

16. Can't comment. Undecided whether the door is supposed to represent a duality of good and evil or whether a fresh coat of paint is what the door needs.

17. Can't comment either. Intrigued with the long-haired lady in gold.

18. On my way down where I would meet the dogs earlier mentioned in this article.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lonely Road

Nice lyric. I don't recognize the song "Lonely Road", though. Now the above photo (taken in Singapore, not in Chiang Mai / Pai / Mae Hong Son. Am I that predictable?) is indeed about a lonely road (I counted only one or two cars at one time) just after the rain yesterday.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Entry prohibited to women (at Wat Buppharam, Chiang Mai)

and men, and all those without the padlock keys.

What's the story behind the highly secured well? Exercise your creativity, weave a tale why the well is guarded (the opening is barricaded, the door twice locked & chained). However, try not to be influenced by the well in the anime, InuYasha or the horror movie, Ring.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Bah, humbug!"

Received an email that started with "A beautiful story....makes you understand that everything happens for a reason." It's about a tablecloth. Beautiful indeed at least till the end part of "True Story - submitted by..." which triggered my automatic response of "True, eh?"

According to the link above, it's unproven--neither true nor false. I reckon if I were to forward the story to others, I'd substitute 'True' with 'Unproven'. Yeah, I think I'll do that.

Thank God It's Over (TGIO)

Attended the TGIO party last Saturday at Earshot Cafe.

Organized by the two MLs (Municipal Liaison): rozen and sarahcoldheart, the programme included reading excerpt of novels, participating in the NaNoWriMo not-so-trivial trivia quiz & announcing the winners for forum activity (who posted the most--the winner is halfcrazed, who could give the most interesting explanation about their user names--ellimist3, and who could give the best alternative words for the acronym TGIO--celia141). It's fun.

There were 19 of us: AikiChaos, avalon182, bruise_d, celia141, Chiquit, eatyourgreens, ellimist3, Ganoidyn, halfcrazed, jeremiahadolpher, kuaizi, nerwenfaelvirin, ravensilvers, red265, rozen, samjo, sarahcoldheart, and sunlitstranger.

Chiquit asked me whether all were students (I'm flattered. Heh). You've got to see her look of relief when I regretfully told her that I work. I guess she must have felt out of place as the majority were still schooling.

Stubborn flu mixed with work proved to be an ingredient for ensuring me to snap lousy photos. Poor timing, bad angle, shaken arm--you name the excuses. Bleah. So much for trying to post pictures like this 8@Earshot Cafe article.

Anyway, let's see how Singapore perform this year compared to last year. Impressive, isn't it? ^_^"

2005:
185 WriMos with Singapore as Hometown
235 affiliated to Singapore (includes above)
28 winners
Singapore came 105 out of 271 regions in the world with a total of 783,344 words.

2006:
192 WriMos with Singapore as Hometown
244 affiliated to Singapore (includes above)
35 winners (official) + 1 (unofficial)
Singapore comes 105 out of 304 regions in the world (official) with a total of 2,501,447 words. If the unofficial winner is included, Singapore would be in the 101st rank with a total of 2,551,493 words beating "Iowa::Elsewhere".

The unofficial winner was caramelmermaid. She did not manage to validate her word count on time. Couldn't blame her as she just joined this year. Congrats nevertheless! You know you did it. We know you did it.



And here are the screenshots (nabbed from here) of the 35 official winners from Singapore.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Battle of Wits


Remove the 'A' and it becomes a book title. Watched the show to reward myself for completing NaNoWriMo 2006. Bad decision. The air-con inside the cinema was killing me even though I was wearing a sweater.

Never heard about Mohist or Mozi till I saw the movie. Eagerly checked the external link that Wikipedia provides: Full text of the Mozi (Chinese with English translation). Browsed the list & tried to read 'Book 14'. Dang! No translation yet.

Book 14
- Fortification of the City Gate
- Defence against Attack from an Elevation
- Defence against Attack with Ladders
- Preparation against Inundation
- Preparation against a Sally
- Preparation against Tunnelling
- Defence against Ant-Rush

Interesting to note that they don't have a section about 'Preparation against Aerial Warfare'.

PS. the above screenshot was snapped from the official site which its 'English version' leads to a page still written in Chinese. Sigh. Touch-up keywords: crop & negative.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Logos

Logos--but not in philosophical or religious sense. To avoid ambiguity, "logotypes" is a better term. Surely not "logoes".

The unedited logo was created using Serif PhotoPlus 5.5. Keywords: layers & positioning. I like it for its lack of subtlety & the meaning conveyed by the colours. Copy and paste from Merriam-Webster Online), "black and white" as in "sharply defined" and "red" as in "flushed especially with anger".

Of course I played with the design by applying Microsoft Photo Editor "watercolor" & "texturizer" effects. Nah, kinda messy. Did not find the results appealing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Did Wrote It My Way

A screenshot from my NaNoWriMo user profile.

Finally! 50,739 words. Done.

Although not according to my Game Plan--I should have completed the 50,000-word novel by 26/11/06--I still feel the similar soothing sense of satisfaction. Just like when I accomplished my first NaNoWriMo last year. Inebriating.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Apparently not the customer.

Happened to come across this board last Sunday morning & it reminded me about my recent article. The keyword: 'drugs'. Right, somebody was trying to tell me that I was being insensitive with what I wrote in that article?

Did a little search about 'drug free' campaign and I came across this site. The campaign of "If you take drugs, who really pays the price?" seemed to be the continuation of year 2005 drive. But I still like best the media campaign 1997/1998. Simple. Artful. Effective.

Of course I too admit the merit of the latest campaign. By having both parties behind the bars, the indirect consequence of the drug abuse was clearly shown. To the family. They're imprisoned by the fact that they fail raising their son properly.

Not to mean to adopt holier-than-thou kind of shitty mentality. (There must be reasons why people abuse drugs. To focus on the reasons--the root cause(s)--may help the offenders not to repeat their mistakes or prevent those who are considering to misuse the drugs for the first time. Again at the moment, I cannot think of any reasons.)

So let's just focus instead on the picture taken. The top right photo was not modified. You can still see the annoying reflection. The below image was that edited with Microsoft Photo Editor "watercolor" as it eliminated the reflection from the glass panel.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Discus this.

Took these pictures during Tetra World Discus Championship yesterday. True it's not much a challenge because the fish were confined. And subjected to blinding flashes of the camera (okay, now I feel bad).

1. Disabled flash when shooting this (no, not because I pitied the fish but because many photos before this one had the flash reflected back).

2. The same fish as above. The persistent me tried to shoot it with the flash on. The lights were still seen reflected. But it's interesting to notice how the color of the fish changed.

3. The fish & the color purple (or is it pink?)

4. Reflection. (Duh!)

5. By now, I realized I was more interested to capture the bubbles & how they hit the water surface.

6. Like the red & blue contrast. This fish didn't win any prize, though.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fight or flight.

When I read this soon-to-be privatized blog, I just wonder why the hell those shameful copycats (assuming they are two different people, that is. You never know) do not set their blogs as private? Don’t these people read newspaper anymore?!

Like it or not, a blog—unless it’s set as private—is accessible by all. So if you are indeed committing that disgraceful act of plagiarism, shouldn’t you think to set your blog as private??? Think, you plagiarist, think!

But what if it’s not an act of copying? What if it’s a mere coincidence? (Watch “Lost” and you will see plenty coincidences there. Especially involving the numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42) Then shouldn’t the accused have the duty to explain? Shouldn’t he/she post a comment there & clarify?

That does not happen.

So if the accused did not fight back but instead chose to flight, what would the implication be? Your guess is as good as mine.

Not for sale in the UK - why?

I tried this medicine yesterday. Oh, yes. I am into drugs, alright. Only when I'm not well.

I must be seriously ill as I find myself disturbed with the label. Why is this Lemsip 'not for sale in the UK'? There must be perfectly valid reasons which I cannot think of any at the moment.

Not to gripe about the product--and put myself in a position to be sued for defamation?! No thanks.

In fact I especially like that the medicine does not cause drowsiness (I still could cruise through 3,472 words of productive writing last night).

Friday, November 24, 2006

You just have to love this guy (4)

Part 3: here.

Dear Author,

We've been through a lot together these past 21 days. We've laughed at our books. We've cried at our books. And, in the last three weeks, we've progressed steadily together through the five stages of novel-writing.

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

And together we've grown as---oh wait.

Those aren't the five stages of novel-writing. They're the five stages of grieving.

Well, there goes this week's pep talk.

But you know what? Those stages actually work pretty well for NaNoWriMo too.

Stage/Week One definitely had plenty of denial ("this isn't going to be that hard"). Stage/Week Two was full of anger ("why do I do this to myself every year?"). Then came Stage/Week Three's bargaining ("I'm spending Sunday in bed watching TV, but only because I'm going to get up at 4 AM Monday and write 18,000 words before I go to work.")

And now we reach Stage/Week Four. Depression.

Why depression? Shouldn't this be the all-out party point? What about the stuff in last week's email about 35K and the gravity changing and the Tibetan yak farmer with the superpowered writing totem? Isn't Week Four supposed to be the point when everything gets easier?

In a word: Yes.

This weekend, we'll hit the home stretch. Where our books leap into the 40,000s, and we bat out the last 10,000 words in an exuberant rush, crossing the 50k finish line with a few days (or minutes) to spare. A true storybook ending.

But there's also a certain bewilderment that comes with setting an impossible goal, working like mad, and then looking up to discover that you are on the verge of achieving it. Winning NaNoWriMo is something that you'll remember for the rest of your life, but winning means ending, and it's a little sad to accept (Stage Five!) the fact that the focus, productivity, and imaginative mayhem of these last 21 days will go away soon.

I'll talk about maintaining that momentum year-round in my final email, which will go out the first week of December. For now, though, we have a challenge to complete. And whatever your word count, know that you are on track for completing it. If that means you need to write 49,900 words this week, so be it. People do it every year. We'll have the wrist-icer, massage technician, and a gilded novelist crown ready for you when you come flying around the 50K bend.

The end is in sight! I'll see you at the finish line.

Chris
32,100 words and counting

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Plague of Sparrows Welcome the Kusu Pilgrims.




Missed Clifford Pier (with its strategic location), but its replacement, Marina South Pier was not really that bad. The pictures were taken on 20/11/06, the last day of Kusu Pilgrimage Season.

It was quite a sight to see many people go to take the ferry. Many of them were very old but determined. Some came with their children & grandchildren. A rare sight that put me in awe (and thus hopefully excuses me for not taking their photos) & shame as I felt that I failed my parents.

Never mind.

Let's talk about Kusu Island. I like the part about (quoted) "Legend has it that a magical tortoise turned itself into an island to save 2 shipwrecked sailors - a Malay & a Chinese." and the preceding sentence "From 2 tiny outcrops on a reef, the island was enlarged and transformed into an 8.5-hectare island holiday resort."

Poor tortoise.

Now ought to find some time to visit the Island. Next month, perhaps, to celebrate the completion of my 50,000-word novel. So I'd better accomplish it by the end of this month as per schedule.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good/bad service charge

What ‘me’ commented in the previous post makes me wonder if ‘service charge’ is the culprit of the current dissatisfaction that some may experience, in particular in the F&B industry. Quoted:

in Singapore as tipping is not customary due to the service charge, many (but not all) in the service industry have this thinking that I'll get the same paycheck every month as long as I do my bare minimum.

I googled for ‘service charge’ & it led me to this Think Centre article by Tan Kim Chuan. An excerpt:
Restaurants get to keep the 10% service charge and only the tips will be distributed to the service staff. Good service should be rewarded with tips and not a mandatory fee. By doing away with the compulsory 10% service charge and encouraging a tipping culture, we may experience a better delivery of quality service.

That was in November 2002.

Was there any experiment done to get rid this mandatory service charge & was there any subsequent study conducted to examine whether the customer service did improve after that?

The thing is I am not sure whether this service charge was uniquely Singapore or whether other countries do have similar mandatory fee under different names.

Does Hongkong have it? Does Japan have it? Do the world’s top 25 service providing countries have it?

If they do, perhaps this service charge is not a factor to determine the quality of the service provided. Otherwise, why not getting rid of it? Let’s see how it affects the quality of the service.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Superior Customer Service.

No, I don't intend to further discuss about the word 'superior' & its meanings. I have had enough of it. Heh. But for the sake of being complete (also because I was too tired to elaborate about it), the below WordWeb screen capture may give you an idea what it is that the two linguists--spotlight to Ole'Wolvie & Sonic, please--were arguing last night. About the right usage of 'superior' in a sentence.

Click to enlarge.


Me? I prefer witnessing its implementation in real life. And I had seen it earlier that night. A superior customer service by one of the Surf 'N' Turf waitress. The following was an email that I sent to the email address found on the card. Why did I do this? Because I am still very tired & it's very easy to use 'blockquote'.


Oh, you meant why I posted the content of the email here? Because I believe the waitress deserves a recognition. Because I always have this suspicion that some companies do not let their employees know how much their service is truly valued by customers. Because I have no doubt that customers do play a role in a good or bad customer service.

Dear Sir / Mdm,

I'd like to higlight to you how impressed I am with your customer service. In particular, your waitress by the name of Catherine (or is it Katherine?).

She served us on Friday, 17/11/06 night.

It was my birthday celebration yesterday & we jokingly asked her whether there's any discount for me. She was very professional & friendly in handling our request. She even advised us patiently & with a smile which flavour of ice cream--that was given free of charge because of the celebration--to go with. She also waited & sang the "Happy Birthday" song with us.

I hope it can be let known to her and other staff of Surf 'N' Turf that we're very appreciative of the wonderful treatment. You guys do not need to do any "Go The Extra Miles" campaign. You are already doing it.

best rgds...(name omitted)

Friday, November 17, 2006

You just have to love this guy (3)

Part 2: here.

Third week & I too am lagging behind. So much for my Game Plan. Heh. The butterflies in my stomach must have been drowning in anxiety. Love the feeling. It will just make reaching the 50,000-word finish line a more satisfying experience. And I'd better remember this whenever I feel like giving up. ;-)

Here's another weekly email from Chris Baty.

Dear Author,

You remember those overachieving participants I talked about in last week's email? The ones speeding past us with word counts in the 20,000s, and "kick me" signs fluttering from their backs?

Most of them will be cruising into the 50,000-word winners' circle this week.

Sheesh.

But you know what? I've been doing a little research. And I've discovered that thousands of participants haven't written word *one* of their books. Which makes those of us with more than 10,000 words to our name look pretty darn good by comparison. Not as far ahead as we'd like to be, maybe. But nowhere near out of contention.

And this is where I need to talk a little bit about 35K.

To me, there are two milestones in NaNoWriMo. The obvious one is 50k, when the champagne flows and the confetti falls, and your friends hoist you up on their shoulders and sing songs about your heroic novel-writing feat.

My favorite moment of the whole endeavor, though, comes at 35K. There's less singing, mind you, but when you hit 35k, you won't need a word-count tool to tell you you're there. If Week Two had a wall of fatigue at its core; Week Three is built around this glorious, chocolate-covered door called 35K. That portal opens into a wonderland of renewed energy, revived bookish enthusiasm, and serious happy-dances at the computer keyboard.

Because when you pass 35k, the gravity of the whole event changes. Writing is easier. Plotting is easier. And at 35K, you will see something in the distance that is both wonderful and bittersweet.

You'll see the end of this crazy noveling adventure.

We'll talk more about that next week. For now, the only important thing is getting to 35K. For those of us in the lower rungs of the word-count bracket, that may seem an impossible feat. But as NaNoWriMo participants, we eat the impossible for breakfast.

And just to make sure you have everything you need for this week's intense writing sessions, I've asked our technical overseer Russ to pack a little something extra into this email.

You see, eight years ago, while trekking across Tibet, I met an old yak farmer who lived alone in a small yurt filled with paperbacks. The older volumes were self-help guides to better living through topical applications of yak butter. But the more recent books included an array of detective fiction set in London, sci-fi tales about interplanetary wars between asparagus creatures, and a sassy series about a young woman just starting to make a name for herself in the publishing industry.

The farmer, it turns out, had written all of them.

When I asked him how he managed it, he explained that he'd found a secret totem on the steppe that endowed its possessor with superheroic noveling powers.

I excitedly told him about my idea for founding a project where everyone in the world would write a 50,000-word novel from scratch. He wept. Then he went and dug out the brown, wooden totem, and placed it in my hand. "Share it with your people," he said. "I don't need it anymore. Book contracts have ceased to have any meaning for me since Bertelsmann AG bought Random House."

He then lowered his sad eyes, and disappeared, leaving me with the curious object and keys to his yurt.

Thanks to that totem, I've managed to write a 50,000-word novel every year, overcoming dastardly word-count deficits and my own diabolical procrastinatory tendencies.

But now I think it's time to pass the torch. This morning, I ground up the totem, and asked Russ to carefully imbed a tiny portion of it into every Week Three pep talk email. You have it no w, and its magical writerly effects will last at least through the end of the month, and probably much longer.

All I ask in return is that you honor the last request the old man made to me before riding off into the yak-filled sunset.

"Please be at 35,000 words by the end of Week Three," he said. I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about.

But I know now. As do you.

The challenge is mighty, but you are mightier still.

See you at 35K, writer!

Chris
NaNoWriMo
18,400 words, 4 yaks, and 1 jumbo latte

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What's next is this...

To answer 'wei in the previous post. Both photos were taken in Chiang Mai.




I am not sure whether the above two places are used for NaNoWriMo write-in sessions. Like in Singapore, it is at Earshot Cafe. The place is cozy but their customer service has much to be improved as some commented (Source: NaNoWrimo Forum | Newbies. Click to enlarge).