Don’t tell me what your website’s name means

December 23, 2011  |  Tags: ,   |  

If your website’s name doesn’t make immediate sense, and you don’t have a good explanation for it, please don’t tell me how you came up with it. Here are two websites with decently cool-sounding names, until you read why they chose these names:-

Asian tech news site Penn Olson:

Starting the blog with just a few people was tough, so when we considered a name, we liked the idea of having some mythical partners to guide us on our journey. We created Penn-Olson, because blogging is essentially ‘penning ones thoughts’ and ‘Olson’ was a somewhat arbitrary addition, but it sounded (like) awesome.

I like what they do as a news site, but this paragraph just takes all the mystique from their name and throws it in the laundry.

[Update: Someone told me a few days later this para is gone. Good for them!]

Classifieds site ST701:

ST701 carries the initials of The Straits Times. The numbers “701” convey what the user will experience: 7 days a week search at the 01 place that matters.

The user will “experience” search seven whole days a week, guys!* At the zero-one place that matters! Thanks, ST701, now my forehead is sore from all that self-inflicted slapping.

Yes, this was written by someone who calls his company Tinkertanker. No, I’m not saying how we came up with that name. (Yes, that means we don’t have a good explanation for it.)

* I guess that’s better than a social media account that, until recently, ran Mondays to Fridays, 9am-6pm, excluding public holidays.

Ruined by antibiotics

July 17, 2011  |  Tags:   |  

I’ve been having a cough. It’s one of those super annoying ones where you lie down and are ready to go to sleep, and then your throat relaxes and you proceed to cough your brains out.

So I went to see the doctor, and picked up this set of antibiotics that I’m supposed to take before meals.

Medicine bah

But wait! Not just before meals — that would be too simple — half an hour before meals.

This, naturally, drives me insane:

  • I mean, what am I supposed to do if I forget, and eat first? Do I stop eating, take the medicine, and wait half an hour looking sadly at my food going cold?
  • What if I don’t wait a full half hour before having my meal — does that render the medicine ineffective?
  • Or, if I tried to plan it out, what if I take the medicine, expecting to have food in half an hour, but then I fail to procure anything edible? Can I snack on something, does that even count? But it’s not a meal, and the instructions say “before meals”!
  • Also, when does the half hour countdown start? From when the pill enters my throat? But I have to take two — do I start timing from the first or second? Should I take both at the same time? What if they don’t reach my stomach at the sae time? Wait, that’s right, what if the timing’s not from the point of swallowing, and that’s just an estimate for when it reaches the stomach? WHAT IF MY OESOPHAGUS IS ABNORMALLY LONG??!

My life is now an endless tormented guessing game. Thanks a lot, doctor.


January 20, 2011  |  Tags: ,   |  

Got this from the Immigration Checkpoints Authority today.


Thank you for using iC Online.

We wish to inform you that your registration is pending due to the following reason(s) :


Please adjust and resubmit your photograph showing more of the shoulder (as in current iC) so as to enable us to process the application. Thank you

Please resubmit the relevant image file(s) using the following iC Online’s URL:

For any clarification, please contact us at 63916361/63916410. Thank You.

Yours sincerely, iC Online Administrator IC Section Citizen Services Centre Immigration & Checkpoints Authority

So my facial image is too big, and they want me to “show more shoulder” before my photo will be “acceptable”? Awesome. This was my reply.


Thank you for your email.

I wish to inform you that your email is annoying due to the following reason(s):


Please adjust and resubmit your point-form paras showing fewer capital letters (as in the rest of your text) so as to enable us to read it without imagining you shouting. Thank you

For any clarification, please search for “email etiquette” online. Thank You.

Yours sincerely, A Citizen

Old counters

January 8, 2011  |  Tags: ,   |  

I received an email from Facebook a couple of weeks ago, telling me to update my Facebook apps (Bond Counter and NS Counter) because they called some functions which would be deprecated.

I haven’t been keeping track of developments in the Facebook API, but looking through the changes, I realise Facebook is no longer allowing apps to put themselves on user profiles as little boxes. This move makes sense given the new profile, but renders my apps slightly useless, because they were intended to show off your counters to the world.

I put off making any changes until today, which is apparently the deadline for any changes, because (a) there are too many other more interesting things to work on right now, and (b) I really don’t like looking at my old code. I was even tempted to just pull the plug on the two apps, but then I saw that each still has “monthly users” (20 for Bond Counter, 150 for NS Counter), whatever that means.

So now the two apps are severely crippled — you can see your bond/NS counter from your own app page, and you can still compare counters with friends, but that’s about it. I don’t have the time to figure out how to do an application tab, which is apparently the wall box replacement, but this is good enough for anyone who really still uses these apps.

I also realise now I didn’t write about my bond having ended in August! Well, it did, and I no longer need Bond Counter. Making this little app, and seeing it spread, was really one of the highlights of my indentured service, though.

Useless book suggestions

March 8, 2010  |  Tags: ,   |  

My friend Andrew asked on Facebook:

Anyone keen on writing a “The Student’s Guide to…” book? Let me know.

So, who had useless suggestions for Andrew? ME ME ME OOH YES CHOOSE ME PLEASE! The Students’ Guide to:

  • Creating senseless online comics in under 2 hours a week (bonus: How not to feel guilty about neglecting the site for weeks at a go!)
  • Making actually-light-hearted-but-which-may-come-across-as-sarcastic Facebook comments (sorry)
  • Making PDF selling websites that you don’t have time to develop further and which don’t net your only client any sales. At all. (Sorry)
  • Apologising through Facebook comments
  • Making lists
  • Extending lists
  • Overdoing a joke

I’m actually really happy for Andrew and his two wonderful books on “The Student’s Guide to Life” and “The Student’s Guide to Exam Success” (buyable from Aktive Learning or the aforementioned neglected PDF-selling website experiment). Back in 2008, he’d given me copies to give away to my graduating form class, which covered for my thorough lack of imagination in graduation gifts. I’m happy to see it’s doing well on the Popular Bookstore charts.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Andrew is publishing “Diary of a Taxi Driver” by Dr. Cai Mingjie, Singapore’s most educated taxi driver and blogger. Good stuff. I hope Dr. Cai’s writing finds the audience it deserves – his poignant memoirs are always among the first articles I consume from my Instapaper reading list.

A post for my dad

January 8, 2010  |  Tags: ,   |  

This is going to be a pretty drastic departure from my usual flippant (and brief) self… but bear with me for a few minutes on this, because it bothers me so very much and I really need to get it off my chest. I’m writing this because I’m genuinely worried about what work is doing to my dad. 

My dad’s an old Chinese teacher who’s near retirement age. He’s been Chinese-educated all his life, and never quite managed to get the hang of English. He’s been teaching for at least 25 years by now – I’m honestly not sure when he started – and I sincerely believe he’s done his job to the best of his ability. 

In the last couple of years, he’s been facing what must be an unbearable amount of pressure at work. From his (naturally one-sided) perspective, he’s been given some of the worst classes, and yet he’s been consistently chewed out when his students graduate with B3s and C4s. He’s been assigned non-teaching duties that he just can’t seem to perform well in – just today, four days into the new academic year, he was yelled at by one of his bosses (so loudly his ears rang, he says) for not writing a good emcee script… in English. For this, his boss threatened him with a D performance grade (i.e. no performance bonus) for the year. Four days into the year. This hasn’t been the first time he’s faced such threats and humiliation, either – it’s been this way since last year, and it’s made him so worried about his performance bonus that he slogs extra hard just to get things right. Which, as today proves, hasn’t turned out very well. 

I’ll be the first to admit he’s not necessarily easy to work with, especially at this age. He can’t hear well, he has trouble adapting to new situations, he can’t really figure out his computer beyond email and photo management, and he can be awfully stubborn about things. I’m sure that, in the eyes of school management, he doesn’t hold a candle to young teachers who can come up with innovative teaching strategies and who can truly click with the students and who can drive their students to do their very best in their academic and sporting competitions. Worse, he’s probably paid nearly twice as much as one of these amazing young teachers.

But… this doesn’t seem right. I know, it’s all meritocratic, so maybe he’s truly under-performing at work – that wouldn’t be too surprising, given some of his traits and maybe the language barrier. But is this how you motivate one of your 60-year old staff – by tearing apart his dignity and heightening his stress levels until he becomes a bundle of nerves? According to my dad (again, one-sided, entirely biased, all that), the same boss drove one of his peers to quit the service after he got D’s two years in a row, before turning her attention to my dad. I’ll stop here and not insinuate anything about his boss’s personnel management strategies with regards to older staff, but his story really disturbed me.

Of course, I’m only hearing his side of the story. Well, not only his side – I’m also hearing my mum’s side of the story, where she tells me how my dad yells at night from recurrent nightmares, and how he talks to himself all the time but doesn’t realise it, and how he’s so constantly wound up about his performance at work and just comes home looking so defeated every single day. She asks him to just leave the job, but he can’t give up his salary, he can’t give up the retention bonus at the end of the year, he’s even worried about how this will impact me as a young MOE employee. We try and tell him it’s okay, it’s just a month’s salary, we don’t need it to get by. But my dad is the way he is, and he won’t just give up and do something badly, and he’s going to push himself even harder and I’m just so afraid that, at his age, he pushes himself too hard and snaps.

My mum’s asked him to speak to another of his bosses, who’s been fairly neutral about this, and we’ll see how that goes and hope for the best. She’s ready to march down there and slap someone, which is what I love about my mum (happy birthday, mum!). As for me, I just really needed to get this out there, and for someone to read it, and if you have any advice to offer to me or my dad, I’d love to hear from you – please email me directly. Thanks for reading. I hope I’m over-reacting, I really do.

Afternote: And people wonder why I don’t want to stay in service. I mean, if I did, I could be a principal one day! Ick.

Posted from Posterous

So-called Photography

December 14, 2009  |  Tags: ,   |  

The iPhone 3GS has made me take many, many more photos this year, and it shows on my flickr account. I guess it’s true what they say: the best camera you have is the best one you have camera with is you is have best have camera camera camera. Or something like that.

After trying out an overly wide range of iPhone photography apps (my $$! boo-wah!), I’ve settled on using Tilt Shift Generator for most of my iPhone photo post-processing. I really do like the way it makes my photos turn out, because I’m a complete sucker for overly-saturated, unnecessarily-vignetted and puzzlingly-blurred photos.

Here are some from my recent trip to Korea: Statues, Wheel and an adorable wooden round pig. More as I get around to post-processing my photos (this is also something I find myself doing far more with the iPhone, since I can do it anywhere. Like, er, not while on the toilet).

Inspired to draw

July 31, 2009  |  Tags: , ,   |  

I’ve realised it takes quite a bit of discipline to draw stupidchicken on a regular basis. Yes, I usually just end up taking existing drawings, making small modifications, adding some senseless text and pretending it’s funny. It’s still tiring. Be quiet.

This last half-year of doing the webcomic has been quite rewarding, though. I’ve set up a Facebook page for it (factoid: biggest fanbase – teenage girls from the UK. Go figure), and a nice commenter went “love these comics, really make my day, keep it up!”. A nice comment! On the Internet! Probably a sarcastic troll. Anyway, thanks, nice commenter or sarcastic troll. I’ll keep it up as long as I can.

I also found drearyweary recently. The creator is a Singaporean comic artist who does some really, really amazing work, and he posts entire long (and coherent) comicbooks online (Creative Commons licensed, even). I need to buy some of his stuff, if I can find it. I’m really enjoying The Resident Tourist – it’s a (presumably) autobiographical story about the life of a returning Singaporean who feels displaced in his home country. Speaks to me more than a little, I guess. And the crisp art is just awfully impressive.



Evil Tofu is a character from the webcomic, who showed up here and here. Drawn for Toru, my evil friend who’s in Nairobi or Narnia or something.


July 30, 2009  |  Tags:   |  

I’ve set me up a tumblr page, for all the linkblogging and photoblogging which seems to be all I do nowadays on this blog. I’ll reserve this one for the long, insightful articles. (Snicker)

It’s at, unsurprisingly,


January 17, 2009  |  Tags: , ,   |  

I managed to rush out today’s new stupidchicken comic only an hour before my self-imposed deadline. I imagine this will become more common as work gets busier, but I’m glad this Wednesday-Saturday update schedule is forcing me to be disciplined about drawing regularly. 

New chickens since the last update (also, you can subscribe to stupidchicken by email or RSS!):


Before the internet grew up and ate all my free time, I doodled a lot. I bought reams of white A4 paper, laid on the floor, drew with my cheap fountain pen while dreaming up all kinds of ridiculous story arcs, left my drawings all over the house, and got yelled by my mom who threw away the drawings. This sequence, repeated regularly until I enlisted, made me happy. I even entertained thoughts of drawing and making comics for a living, half-aware that I really didn’t have the talent or patience for it.

At 19, I was being interviewed by the Public Service Commission for the scholarship (in engineering — math is easier than art, after all), and they asked what I would like to be doing in ten years’ time. I told them, all earnest and naive, that I’d really like to be drawing comics. I can’t remember what their reaction was — maybe I couldn’t see their bewilderment through my nervousness — but I remember my scholarship officer mentioning a year later that she had heard about it, and found it funny. Seemed to me it had gone around the office that some kid had dared to tell the PSC he wanted to draw comics! Not serve the public good! Just wait till he comes back and serves his bond!

So now, it’s ten years later, and I really want to draw some comics so I can tell the 19-year-old version of me that I didn’t mess up his dreams too badly. 


Also, I spent $500 on my new tablet, so I’d better use the hell out of it.