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

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

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.


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

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

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.

Inspired to draw

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.


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.

Moving, moving

Had my last staff dinner last week, and didn’t win anything in the lucky draw for the third year. Hung out with colleagues afterward and the conversation steered itself in the exact same direction as after last year’s staff dinner. Full marks for consistency, everyone.

Met the new colleagues for the first time today. This might be interesting.

Going home more often to try and figure out how best to fit the giant TV (that I bought last year for the apartment) into the spare room when I move back home. I’ll need a sofa, a new table and maybe some way to soundproof the room so I can still hold Rock Band / Guitar Hero parties. And a new OS; the Ubuntu box is getting a bit long in the tooth (haven’t upgraded since 6.10). And a new TV. And a Mac Pro. Er, wait.

Done with having to go back to work on a regular basis, but need to resist the urge to play Fallout 3 until my eyes bleed. I still wonder if I should have planned a trip somewhere for the break.

Saw the ex for the first time in very, very long, and found out from a good friend (thank you) that she’s moved on and found someone new. Hey, it’s been nearly two years; I’m just the one who’s slow and useless like that. Felt sorry for myself for a day or so, but ran 30km in a week to not feel like crap (old post), and hey, it worked! Ignore the time dilation I did right there.

Been slowly seeing my boarders vacate their rooms to go home for the holidays. I doubt I’ll ever see most of them again, and I keep wondering if I ever got the pastoral care role of this job right. Last piece of advice I offered to them on my “Level 12 Blog” (er, post-its on the pantry wall) was to please, please use this break to do something they’d been putting off all year. Upon further thought, I think that was for me. 

I’m okay now.

Reunion Book

I received my Fifth-Year Reunion book in the mail this week. I’d been getting (and ignoring) reminders over the last few months to fill up a personal-updates page online, which would then be printed and sent to everyone in the class of 2003.

iPod nano: Thinner than a reunion book.
iPod nano: Thinner than a reunion book.

The first thing I did when I got the book — after marvelling at how heavy it was, then attempting to kill a cockroach with it — was to check if my ex had submitted a page. She had, and after reading it (semi-disinterestedly, I’d like to claim), I turned to where my update page should be, as if to check if I’d submitted something and completely forgot about it.

(I hadn’t.)

Many of my best friends from college hadn’t submitted their pages, either. Maybe it’s because we know we don’t need to catch up in a book sent out five years after graduation; more likely, it’s because we’re all ridiculously lazy, and that’s why we got along so well in the first place. Anyway, I’ve been very lucky in having been able to see them pretty often, thanks to the work trips (three in just over a year!), and many have come to Singapore.

In hindsight, it would have been terribly amusing to send in a whole series of Chicken comics to put on my page. Maybe someday I’ll write a blog post answering the questions posed (“favourite Stanford memory”, “life after Stanford”, “current life motto”). Or maybe I’ll be too ridiculously lazy to do it.

Running to not feel like crap

I wonder why other people run. To get fit? To challenge themselves? To compete?

I run to not feel like crap. See this New York Times article:

Yes, Running Can Make You High

Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

I only started running at the beginning of last year. A few things happened, really — a friend recommended I do so to feel better about the breakup, and it sounded reasonable (I had no idea the endorphin thing wasn’t proven at the time); I realised I was, strangely enough, feeling very positive after each NS remedial training session; and, most of all, Akmal encouraged me to join him in volunteering with the Special Olympics running club, and that’s been making me run regularly ever since.

While I was busy feeling sorry for myself at the beginning of the year, I did resolve to not let the year go to waste. Thank goodness, then, for the amazing volunteers and athletes with Special Olympics. While I risk sounding like a terrible cliché, running with them really made me feel alive, and finishing the half-marathon in December with my athlete and friend Shaun truly made the entire year worthwhile. I don’t think any of the other volunteers knew why I started going (except maybe Akmal), but it still means a lot to me that they took me on — even when I was initially unable to keep up with their training — and let me have a chance to be part of what they do.

One comment from the article above:

Nothing quite compares to how I feel when I finish a run: everything becomes possible, I feel great exuberance and joy, and completely and totally energized. If that’s a “runner’s high” then I’m in, for life.

Yeah, that’s about right.

This year’s been awfully busy so far, so I’ve been running a lot less. My mood’s been suffering as a result, and even though that could also be attributed to any number of things (new responsibilities at work, living by myself, living at work), running has so far still succeeded in giving me that rare feel-good moment.

I hope the rain eases up soon. I need to go for a run.

(Aside: The Nike+ kit Hansen sent over (before it was available in Singapore) helped a lot, too. Having something track my distances every run, every week and every month (even if it was mildly inaccurate) did push me to run more. Seeing numbers stack up on the Nike+ website makes me unnecessarily happy — it’s like a RPG of some kind, and all they need to do now to complete the experience is to level us up after a certain numbers of miles. And add weapons and armour.)