My first job is taking a lot longer than I thought. The problem working freelance is that no one seems to understand that you need to put in the same amount of work as a full-timing nine-fiver, you only get to decide on the period in the day you’ll be slogging.

And my time has been everyone’s cheese the past few days, what with people having camps and courses and coming back from overseas and going overseas everything. Not to mention that school starts soon and I need to plan my modules this semester. It’s ironic that even though I’m taking half the number of modules I usually do, my stringent criteria (minimum study time) and having to fit it into a two-day-week makes it all very difficult.

I’m about a third of the way through (as far as I can gauge), which would make me… the slowest designer ever. Ugh.

In any case, that’s about all I can say about my work, having signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and also because I don’t want to get fired for making fun of my employer being bald, fat and ugly (which he isn’t) or complaining about the horrible habits of my colleagues (which I don’t have) or bitching about the pathetic working conditions of my workplace (which would be my room). The NDA was something of a shock, considering the company I’m working for is so small and I don’t really know much to disclose. I can’t even remember employer’s license plate number and I keep misplacing his name card, which mean’s he’s pretty much safe from stalkers, and I don’t know enough about the business to make sense of how he’s making money anyway.

On the other hand, the NDA does make everything I do the property of the company. It’s rather strange for me, really, selling my skills in that way. I can still point to the thing and say that I made it, but I don’t own it anymore. Which is the way of most products these days, but it’s weird for something so close to art, where ownership is supposed to count for less than production (no one’s ever become famous for owning a Picasso). I’m creating things of virtual value.

Sister’s birthday tomorrow. Family went out for dinner today to celebrate the event which was, like all our current family events, a terrible display of how much we’ve alienated each other and have nothing in common at all to talk about. Father made the observation when we did family portraits at Lau Beijing restaurant that it was the first one in several years with all five of us. For a moment I was stunned, trying to remember the last time we’d done it, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember a single one. There’d always been just one person not in the photo, sick of overseas or in the army or angry with one of the parents or something, and that had always spoilt it.

I guess we’re not exactly the model family that spends weekends together.

I told mother it was silly that she didn’t mind spending money to buy an extravagent (and too-large) birthday cake than to repair the toilet. Though I criticize, it’s a trait I share too, though my extravagences are in stationery and books (that I never read) than savoury treats. My mother always has food in the refridgerator and I always have spare notebooks, office files, staplers, envelopes and various other implements of everyday-office-life..

My parents, when I’m not screaming at them in frustration for their inability to understand my need to do something in my life other than become a teacher and breed children, scare me by showing sides of themselves that I recognize as being present in myself. It would be an enviable state of affairs if I hadn’t been spending my life trying to avoid that, and to make things worse I’m fallling into the lull of thinking it’s not such a bad thing to be a maniacal grandchild-hungry madman.

Sister has contracted a horrendous streak of service-industry-snobbishness and looks down on waiters. Shocked me with a diatrebe about how if people didn’t want to be looked-down-on then they shouldn’t work as waiters. She will be spending the next four days with her various friends at cheap middle-class restaurants fulfilling their excuse to pamper themselves and satisfy their petty consumerist greed and flaunting their parents’ money (and sometimes boyfriends’, though in the case of my sister it’ll have to take another one or two trips to the plastic surgeon).

Happy birthday, you evil girl, and may waiters spill soup all over your dresses!

I do so hate having to go live (referring to my works, not me – the only act I can perform on stage is pissing my pants). Spent the whole day overhauling an article for SciPhi (which really shouldn’t cause me so much grief, it is after all low-circulation and the readers are poor-english-science-students whom I’m sure will read any crap as long as it doesn’t involve rotational dynamics or DNA).

I am much much happier with this one, though there’s still that nagging feeling that it’s not quite as good as it should be, and if I could just be given a few more days I could make it all better.

You see, the thing is, you just can’t make it good at one go. You gotta take a few days to rest your brain and your eyes, read something and go to the beach to relax, before you can come back to something you’ve created and be able to spot the gaping flaws and wrongs that were there but which you missed the last time because you were high on coffee and your eyes were watering and the little fairies were singing about how beautiful the world was.

Ummm. As I am typing this two little girls are peeping in at me from the window facing the corridor. They seem nonchalant about their invasion of my privacy. Of course, it might be because I am rather high right now on caffeine and playing their little game of peekaboo, but still…

There! I managed to snag one on camera – and I’m gonna post it for the world to see! That’ll teach them about basic rights to privacy!

Right, where was I? Right, yes, about going live. You see, I am one of those people who absolutely detest not being able to correct my mistakes. Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilled-personality-trait, but I do remember when young being told that I preferred pencils to pens and I liked to say that I was sorry because I was uncertain of myself and that I didn’t like anything to be set in stone. Whilst I think personality fortunes are crap and that I am about as unceratin of myself as most other people who bother to think about themselves, I do grudgingly admit that I prefer pencils over pens and that my favourite school-time stationary was liquid paper.

My study notes seldom contained cancellations – I would carefully correction-fluid any imperfections and wait patiently for my paper to dry rather than marr the surface of my pristine white paper with gross marks. I also seldom managed to complete a set of notes, being such a slow note-taker. I only thought of it as a problem when, one day in Secondary schoool, I realized that I was correction-fluiding an entire page of words.

In any case, all this resulted in a growing inability to perform in environments where immediate action that brooked no second chance was required. I hated stage, talking face-to-face and even talking on the phone, preferring instead emails and instant messenging where you were allowed at least a modicum of time to correct your sentences before you had to hit send. I would rather you see a photo of me (that I can use photoshop on) than to let you see me in person. If I could, I’d install a backspace in my mouth.

I imagine these artpieces – these three pieces of canvas, the first pristine and white, the second painted over with white paint (or correction fluid, for effect) and the last covered with phrases like “Fuck the world” and somesuch pseudo-artistic raves. I’d call it “Uncertain of Perfection” or something.

And just to add to the message, the artwork would only be available for viewing after the gallery event.

A blog, though, you can post all the crap you want and not get nervous.

It’s not the first time I’m getting paid, but it is the first time I’m getting a cheque for payment. The feeling of being so close to actual earnt money as it leaves tha hands of my client was nerve-wrecking.

I didn’t earn much, but then I didn’t ask for much. Negotiating money is such an awful thing to have to do, especially for something you’ve been doing for free for so long (all those bloody ECAs to which I have sold my souls). It’s no wonder there are jobs for Account Executives and Managers – those people who manage a stable of technically-inclined personnel – who preferably have little in the way of technical expertise themselves, such that they can put high prices on their slaves’ services.

A little bit like handling Pokemon, I suppose. In a reflection of modern society’s spurning of actual production-values, no one wants to be a pikachu anymore. Rather, we’d all rather get people to squirt water out of their asses for us. And they’d better love us even though we put them into little balls that can’t possibly allow for much leg-room, never seem to feed them and suck up glory for “training” them by apparently flinging aforementioned balls and shouting as loudly as possible. Notice how the human protaganists in this show have absolutely no skills or talents to speak of other than exploitation of cute little creatures. Let’s have our kids watch elitist-capitalist Pokemon cartoons in preparation for their careers as pointy-haired managers in the future!

On the other hand, like a Pikachu, I ended up pretty much unable to speak when trying to quote. My client turned to me and asked, since he’d requested I do a lot more than was previously agreed on, how much I would like. I stuttered and beeped some sounds (not quite “pika pika” but close) whilst my brain whirred and clicked with figures about how much I deserved. Yes, I am the kind of person who does work without thinking about payment. In the end I settled for something I thought was pretty decent for two weeks of work, but he informed me that it was probably too little and he’d give me more.

For some strange reason I felt compelled to defend my choice of payment, and muttered something about it being a fair price, considering I was relatively inexperienced and not-that-good blah blah blah. It was one of those moments when you’re talking, but you can’t really believe you’re saying it and you’re floating above your own head, thinking to yourself that normally you’re not that stupid and that you deserve to be hit with something. I think my client laughed a little bit at me, or was at least trying to stifle something that looked like a bad cough.

Ouch.

A conversation in my Learning French aid:

Man: Mademoiselle, est-ce que vous voudriez boire quelque chose avec moi? (Excuse me, miss, would you like to drink something with me?)

Woman: Non, c’est madame, pas madamoiselle. (No, it is Mrs, not Miss)

Man: Ah, pardon, madame, mais vous voudriez boire quelque chose avec moi? (Ah, sorry, Mrs, but would you like to have a drink with me?)

W: Non, merci.

M: A une heure? (At one o’clock?)

W: Non, merci.

M: A deux heure? (At one o’clock?)

W: Non, merci.

M: A huit heure? (At one o’clock?)

W: Non, merci.

M: Ah, je comprends maintenant. (Ah, I understand now)

W: Tres bien, vous comprenez maintenant. (Good, you understand now)

M: Vous ne voulez pas boire quelque chose avec moi. (You do not want to drink something with me)

W: Oui, je ne veux pas boire quelque chose avec vous. (Yes, I do not want to drink something with you)

M: Mais vous voudriez manger quelque chose avec moi? (But you would like to eat something with me?)

M: À restaurant. (At a restaurant)

M: À huit heure ou à neuf heure? (At eight or nine o clock?)

W: Pas une heure et pas deux heure (Not at one or two o clock)

W: Pas huit heure et pas neuf heure (Not at eight or nine o clock)

M: À quelle heure? (At what time?)

W: Vous ne comprenez pas, monsieur. (You don’t understand, sir)

M: Qu’est-ce que je ne comprens pas? (What don’t I understand?)

W: Vous ne comprendez pas l’ francais, monsieur. (You don’t understand french, sir)

Hahahahahaha. It would have been a lot less humourous if it hadn’t all been said with that flat, humourless tone the language teachers use. It’s like listening to robots flirt.

Wherein I Hate My Hair

July 10, 2005

Pictures from the Osim Triathlon. I hate my hair. It looks like an angry hedgehog. I have also neglected to post the images of myself just leaving the water – my choice of swimwear that day was reproachable.

Note that I have a slight smile on my face as I cross the finish line. It is because that was the only time I was aware of a camera being on me, and trying my bes to get a good shot in. It turned out more like a grimace of pain, though, which wouldn’t be far off the mark in describing my feelings at the time.

Note also in the second-last image the slight speed-blur of the person behind me, whilst I am perfectly clear. That will give you an idea how slow I was on the bike (which resulted in my placing 180+ whilst Nick finished at 120+). Next time I get thin wheels.

Won’t be around for the next few days – off for yet another Freshman Camp with CBLC. I’d thought my days showing freshmen around school were over, but it seems I have one last duty to do before I graduate. I’m already shuddering, thinking of the young, fresh, acne-filled faces.

Youth is wasted on the young!

So I was washing my face this morning, rubbing some exfoliating gunk into my face and leaving me looking like some kind of facial-cream monster and smelling of peaches, when my roommate walks up behind me (toilet door was open) and sas, in a most serious tone of voice,

“Alex, sorry to disturb you but I think I have to tell you something.”

He sounded so strict and stern I thought it must have been a complaint about my late-night-ramblings or my incessant (and excessive) usage of the internet. A little shocked and apprehensive, I turn around to look at him, unable to continue massagin my face.

“The mee siam downstairs is very good, you must try it.”

I must have looked quite stunned at this point, because he went on to elaborate:

The mee siam downstairs? Beside the store where they sell the pau?

It finally registers in my still-somewhat-sleepy brain that he is, in fact, making me food recommendations while I’m standing half-naked in a toilet exfoliating my face. I mutter some thanks and try to smile, tasting exfoliant while I’m do it.

He leaves, and it is a while before I can get back to massaging my face, such is the weirdness of the situation.

Vanity

July 9, 2005

Time taken to dress before I got a mirror in my room: 1 minute (depending on how tight the jeans are)

Time taken to dress now I have a mirror in my room: 20 minutes and at least 3 costume changes (but at least the tight jeans are sensibly ignored)

And speaking of vanity, I saw it! Tucked away in a corner of the washroom… a nose-hair clipper! For a moment I’d thought my roommate was devoid of vanity.

I was supposed to write this article for Science Club, and as all my projects, I procrastinated doing it until the very last minute – about a day or two before the deadline. Thankfully I was in a particularly lucid frame of mind for that period, and managed to whip up a three-page long rant about my poor grades in the past semester.

The editor got back to me today with the complaint that my article was too long. I’d known that, of course, but my philosophy with content is always that too much is better than too little (as opposed to layout, where too little is better than too much). So now I’m supposed to trim it where I can to reduce the page count to something like one-and-a-half pages.

Reading the article again made me cringe. It was so incredibly whiney and pathetic even I decided the person who had written it must have been a really sad person. It was supposed to be satirical, but somehow the effect was lost and I just sounded like a bratty irresponsible person with a spine of jello.

Dull retard that I was, I didn’t even consider asking my editor if I could revamp the whole thing. And now I’m alsready haldway through editting it.

It’s always something of a horror to me whenever anything I create has to go live, wheter it’s an article or poster or website. There’s never enough time to really make anything perfect, and when people start criticizing you can only wince and think to yourself how you should have thought of that or corrected this.

Notice that the term “Creative Industry” is something of an oxymoron – you’re supposed to be creative, but you have to work within the framework of an “industry” – on demand, forced, and rote. I’ve always been better at the “industry” bit – I suppose I’d better admit to myself that my works are a little staid and similar, but luckily I can get away with it because of current design trends.

Okay, better get back to work.

So I’m looking for some kind of work I can do, and I stumble upon this website that offers freelance jobs. And I come across this. It is a request by someone from Estonia to produce a java cheat to reverse-engineer the online game Runescape to duplicate items.

3 companies are already working on it.

I’m not quite sure who’s more despicable – the employer or the employees.

July 3, 2005

Little music video by Faithless, featuring the gymnastic feats of the people of North Korea. I don’t know if it’s meant to be meaningful, but the title of the song (I’m not sure if electronic music is delineated as “song”) is I Want More. Can’t catch all the lyrics, but sure I heard something like “… a land where people live in faith, not in fear…” In which case no prises for guessing which fear-ridden land he’s referring to.