Two Years On

So it has been almost two years since I last wrote. Mostly because I started working on a real job.

I do miss writing though. I’m going to keep on writing and not let “life” get in the way.

More to come.

Pick Your Poison

The heart cannot lie, but it cannot see.

The mind can think, but seldom feels.

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Political Parties Are Not Soccer Teams

In Singapore, when the General Elections draw near, views tend to polarize quickly. Those for the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) government will be singing their praises, and those against will rise up with a distinguished vehemence.

A large portion of the population, however, carry a certain attitude that bears highlighting. These are the politically apathetic. Their mentality can be summarized quite simply as “ I couldn’t quite care less the PAP is going to win anyway”. 

With the PAP winning the lion’s share of the people’s votes every election since decades ago, it comes as no surprise that a mindset like that would eventually emerge. Political apathy does have its appeal though, as I found out from talking to friends and family.

1. Why bother? This is the reply that I got from many friends. Why bother to even vote when we know who is going to win? Despite repeated reports of opposition parties like the Workers’ Party (WP) fielding strong candidates such as Chen Show Mow, armed with degrees from such distinguished institutions as Oxford and Stanford, they still are not convinced that their vote will make any difference.

2. But they represent an opposition voice otherwise unheard! Surely that must matter? “Heard or no, why does it matter?” They reply in harmony. It’s not like it makes a difference. People complain about ERP, COE, ISA, HDB, CPF, PAP and look, there they still are, beeping loud and clear every time cars pass under the gantries.

3. You guys don’t care about it at all do you? I asked finally, you guys don’t quite care what the government does! To this, they retort, “NO NO NO we DO! Recently they gave us some cash right, now that’s good!” I just chuckled along. Money rules the day, true story.

Perhaps it is the education system that we were brought up in, or our need to import everything from kangkong to Gaga, but in between them, I believe we are seeing a growing apathy towards politics and everything outside of themselves. The so called “Me revolution” would see everyone striving hard for themselves, blogging about themselves, at some point, I have no doubt, someone is going to compose haikus in praise of themselves.

I think there is a fundamental need to raise general political awareness. Realize that there can only be room for “Me” when there is “We”. Recognize that we cannot live sheltered forever from the perils of politics and governance because it is what makes or breaks the nation we live in.

This is all pretty tongue-in-cheek, but the point is, I think we have a system that still works. That is the only reason why people can care so little and yet life goes on in a reasonably well (3 square meals a day, long meetings, short naps, occasional shopping) for most and grudgingly coasting along for some.

Until election time, that is, where the embers of dissent and unhappiness are coaxed into billowing flames, fueled by powerful rhetoric (Sylvia Lim, Chiam See Tong) and high drama (Tin Pei Lin vs Kate Spade). What we don’t see is that this system might be on the brink of breakdown. The PAP has done a lot in the decades they have been in power and will likely continue to do so for at least the next 10 years. However, as our people get more educated, we will see more diverse views and will eventually need more people in parliament who dare sing a different, but not necessarily opposing tune. That is the basis of harmonics isn’t it? Making different tunes work together beautifully?

I would like to see some changes, but find it hard to vote for any one of the opposition parties because while they generally have a vision towards a certain direction, it is difficult to see them implementing them without thoroughly overhauling certain aspects of governance and consequently throwing the country into at least temporal instability. Passion and purpose are admirable qualities in any politician, but perhaps a more moderate, progressive approach that would not destabilize the country would be more appealing for me. In my opinion, stability is the one asset that Singapore has that makes the it work, we lose that, we risk losing everything.

Surely some will say that there cannot be real change unless there is a shakeup, I say, in that case, I’ll keep the stability until someone comes up and tells me look, I have a plan to change things in an orderly way, here are the plans, they are modest, but slowly but surely, we will make it work. A party like that comes up, and it really wouldn’t matter what it was called (The Other A Team perhaps?), it will have my vote.

This is not time for a shakeup. There is probably never a good time for a  proper shakeup in Singapore. The system is not yet broken enough for that, and with a little cooperation from the incumbent and opposition parties, may it never be. Instability is the bane of businesses, our entrepot roots have given us an edge in the area and is now arguably our lifeblood, let us not flush it down the gutter with “shakeups”.

Supporting Crystal Palace when they are play Manchester United in Old Trafford is a statement, voting is not. Political parties are not soccer teams and should not be viewed in that light. Vote for the betterment of the country, so that the “Me” in “We” can flourish.

This is what I feel at this point, a few weeks from the elections, criticism is, as always, welcome.

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Legal Disclaimers In E-Mails Are Useless

emaildisclaimer

This is probably not the most relevant thing to post on the COM125 blog, but I think it is worth noting.

The Economist explains the truth about these long, annoying, but very prevalent email signatures:

[Email disclaimers] are assumed to be a wise precaution. But they are mostly, legally speaking, pointless. Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries.

Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.

They go on to explain that these disclaimers are probably so prevalent because companies see other companies using them, and then decide they should too. If you’re using these in your business emails, you can probably get rid of them—you’ll make all your contacts a whole lot happier, without making yourself any less protected by the law.

All credit for pictures and the article go towards Lifehacker.com. Spread the word, get rid of these meaningless bytes of junk in our inboxes forever!

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Manual Touchscreen Menu

While out with some friends we decided to make a short short video of a manual touchscreen swipe menu system just for laughs.

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Google’s Social Push

Watch it to learn about Google’s brand new “+1” feature!

Google, still the reigning King of the Interwebs, has long faced pressure from Facebook to become more social. In a move towards that direction, they have added a feature called the “+1” feature.

From Google

The +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out.”

Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1’s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.

This is a direct competitor with Facebook’s “Like” feature, that seeks to colonize the internet bit by bit.

How successful will Google be is anyone’s guess. My take on this is that Google might eventually win out, since it has the plus point of being literally all over the internet i.e it does not require content creators to agree to have the “+1” feature to be implemented, since it is in the search results.

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‘Live’ Coverage Redefined by Twitter

Black Swan

The year was 1962, Anthony Burgess’s now infamous classic, A Clockwork Orange had just made it out of the printing press and into bookstores. In it, he portrayed a dystopian world set a few decades into the future. Anyone familiar with the sci-fi classic would remember his idea of a ‘world-cast’. It was essentially what we would call a ‘Live’ broadcast today.

1967, the program Our World made the first global telecast, The Beatles’ performance amongst the highlights. That day onward, ‘Live’ coverage could only get better and better.

Fast forward to this day, ‘Live’ television is not only demanded, but taken rather for granted. For all of its merits, ‘Live’ television had a drawback – it required the audience to physically be watching it; or in the case of radio, be listening to it. If you missed it, there was no immediate way of finding out what you missed other than to nudge the person closest for a quick update.

Enter Twitter. Its 140 character updates, combined with the ability to fire off tweets from anywhere in the world with an internet connection as fast as one’s fingers can compose text, make it perfect for ‘Live’ commentary and coverage of any event. For the audience, it provides a quick way to keep up with events as they unfold. This allows news consumers to stay informed even when they are not actively listening or watching the news. The best examples thus far would be the unrest in Libya, and, on a lighter hearted note, the Oscar’s award ceremony this year, where journalists (of the citizen sort or otherwise), kept audiences up to speed with bursts of tweets kept within 140 characters with telegram like pithiness.

In an age where audiences have their hunger for fresh information bolstered by such technology, the succinct, headlines only approach to newscasting is setting a standard never seen before. Newspapers, still the most widely distributed formal form of news dissemination, never had to play catch-up quite like that.

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Google’s Search Engine Updated: Original Content Preferred

google-beta

Anyone who follow’s Google’s updates would know, Google is on a content farm stampout rampage. Here’s a short timeline so far:

31st Jan 2011: Google rolled out their first changes in a slew of moves to curb the prevalence of content farm thrash. It affected an estimated 0.5% of search results.

25th Feb 2011: Google updates its search algorithm to be heavily biased towards original content.

[Placeholder for further updates]

This is a huge boost for many ad supported websites. According to Downloadsquad, a website featuring worthy downloads and fun time-waster apps, this has boosted their traffic quite significantly. They regularly produce original, useful content that gets plagiarized often enough. Google’s recent moves have allowed them to recapture traffic that was lost to blatant plagiarism.

In its own way, Google is making the internet a better place. A place where content producers get the credit and traffic they deserve, and audiences reach the content producers directly, where all enquiries and the likes can be addressed.

On the whole, this looks like a smart move from Google to further reinforce its already vice-like grip on information indexing and retrieval. Bing and Yahoo! (both owned by the other software behemoth Microsoft) will need to buck up (setting yourselves as default top-right-hand-data-field search engines don’t really count in this respect) if they are going to pose any real threat to Google Search’s dominance.

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Military aircraft fire at Libya crowds

66857-demonstrators-protest-against-libyas-muammar-gaddafi-outside-the-libyaFiring upon their own countrymen with Apaches and various other aircraft, mowing down civilians indiscriminately, locking down all forms of communication including land lines and the internet. A rebellion quelled this way will not rest easy. A government like this is not sustainable.

They have only given their citizenry even more reason to revolt. Even behind the veil of politics, the loathsome mug of oppressive dictatorship reveals itself. This does look like a massacre in the making.

The two fighter planes that landed in Malta in brave defiance, flown by two senior Libyan air force officials who were ordered to bomb civilians, indicate that even its military is fragmented. This is no Egypt, and has the potential become a lot worse.

Edit: Current Death Toll 160 (Arabiya Television) look here for live coverage of the unrest in Middle East.

If there is anyone who wants to make the case for Colonel Qaddafi, I, and, I think, the international community would like to hear it.

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