The power of suggestion

I was watching a Nova documentary on The Perfect Pearl and, when taking some change out of my coin ban, suddenly had urge to wash them.

I have never washed my money before. It was only when I submerged them into water and then fished them out one by one that I realized that that was exactly what I had seen them doing earlier on the show (albeit with cooler equipment than a worn tee and shorts).

I guess it’s just as well that I prefer watching documentaries to infomercials.

I also think I need to get out more.


A web gallery application named Singapore.

The reason for its name is, sadly, nothing to do with the island I am a native of. I quote Tamlyn Rhodes, the developer:

Why is it called singapore?

Short version: Why not? It’s a nice name!

Long version: The software was originally started as a quick, one-day, must-build-a-gallery project. I have a habit of prefixing function names, global variables and css rules with the names of the package to which they belong (in order to reduce the likelihood of conflicts later on) so I needed a name for the package. Imaginative as I am, I used ‘sg’ for Simple Gallery. However, there is already a PHP gallery called Simple Gallery and as the project evolved it outgrew it’s name so I decided to just call it sg. Then when I applied to have sg hosted on SourceForge they told me that the name had to be at least 3 characters long so I had to think of something else. The name singapore came to me because sg is the country code for Singapore and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Note, though, that this software is spelled singapore – all lowercase – whereas the country is spelled Singapore (in English, at least).

So I’m assuming Rhodes has never been to Singapore.

Incidentally, a search of Singapore on Google (as of 27 Apr 2007) lists the free software in 9th position. The Singapore Tourism Board website is number 1, whereas STB’s corporate website stands at 10. I’ll bet the poor sap who works as their webmaster cowers in fear at the thought that someday, singapore could be more web-visible than Singapore.

The nodding bear

In my pantry, there is a nodding bear – one of those solar-powered toys with a head that goes up and down in a hypnotic nodding fashion. This one isn’t cute at all – it’s styled after a realistic bear with a rather ferocious head.

It sits in the pantry, atop the water dispenser, a mound of plastic grass acting as throne atop its otherwise barren white plastic domain of ultraviolet sterility.

And it nods, and nods and nods all day long, under the unrelenting neon light.

Because our water dispenser trickles its blessed offering into our assorted cups at a rate more closely associated with a man with prostate cancer, a queue often forms in front of it – a queue of thirsty programmers. And as we stand there, one after the other, there is nothing to do but stare at the bear as it nods, and nods, and nods.

Wherein I start at my new job

First day! As an official IT Engineer!

… and it was rather boring, too. Perhaps it was because I slept at 2 in the morning the previous night, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d entered the twilight zone as I stepped into my office.

I work in a gigantic “cube farm” (as Gary puts it) with at least a hundred others in the same room. It’s an open office concept, so even the managers are seated in cubicles that look exactly like mine, seperated by waist-higher partitions (”higher than waist-high” seems like such inefficiency of expression). Standing up, one has the impression of an endless stretch of cubicles, each filled with another human being typing industriously away at a computer.

My colleagues, as far as IT people go, seem pretty nice. Which is to say that they’re mostly quiet people who won’t talk unless spoken to. Other than my senior, the HR lady and my direct superior, no one else in the entire room said more than a single line to me today upon introduction. I would have tried to break the ice with the girl beside me, but she seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown about some bug and her boss had to keep coming over to look at her code, so I left her alone.

I am unable to start work, largely because my phone doesn’t work and therefore Helpdesk is unable to assign cases to me. My senior told me it wouldn’t be a problem eventually – Helpdesk has its ways. Funny – seems Helpdesk isn’t very well liked even on the support side.

No wonder people complain of loss of individualism, working in large companies.

Well, I did want to see what working in a large company was like.

Bored at work

Today I spent a large part of the day playing with a drop of water that had fallen from my lips and onto a piece of paper on my desk in front of me. So I picked up my trusty Pilot pen and proceeded to make small jabs into the water, creating blue spirals within the strangely resilient drop.

I also swirled the drop about on the paper, admiring the surface tension of the drop and how it continued to persist desite my brutish attempts to destroy it.

It is rather evident, that I am supremely bored.

Games I used to play

I remember when I was younger, that there was this game I used to play. Being a shy and somewhat timid boy, I hated being on public transport, especially the interminably long minutes spent in crowded bus stops waiting for the bus to appear. And so, partly to avoid having to look at people and partly to avoid the sensation of people looking at me, I would pick a spot on the ground and stare very very hard at it, unfocusing my eyes which (I’ve been told) gave me a wistful, faraway look.

(To any potential young readers who poo poo the idea that Singapore’s public transport system could be less than beyond reproach, I can vouch that it didn’t use to be quite so good. Once upon the time all the buses weren’t air-conditioned.)

I used to be able to do it really well, too, for minutes on end without moving. It was almost meditative, because I would be concentrating so hard on only a single task that it took over all other sensations. I would usually have to consciously start myself breathing again when someone broke my concentration (I missed a lot of buses this way). Mostly it would be friends or family who would start asking me what I was staring at or if I was ok that jolted me back to reality, and (only a child and already a drama queen) to which I would always turn my head slowly towards them slowly and reply in the negative. I could also get it to work in class, or anyplace I was bored, really, a

Needless to say, I got a reputation for being somewhat weird and unpopular (not that I needed this little exercise to be that way).

Also, it was a nightly ritual for me to stare up at the bare ceiling of my room, and do another trick with my eyes/mind, by focusing on a spot very very hard and suddenly the world would melt away, and I would shrink. It was always such a wonderful and strange sensation doing it, to have the world suddenly grow enormous and see the room I slept in every night in a brand new fashion. (It also ended up giving me existentialist issues, but that’s another story.)

But I can’t do these things anymore. And it’s not for lack of trying.

I don’t know why – sometimes, rarely, at night the old feeling comes back, and I stare at the ceiling for hours, basking in the strange special state of mind where I’m an ant in my pillows. But mostly I’ve lost it. If I consciously try to force it, it just slips away from my brain, no matter how hard I pursue, and I end up staring at the wall feeling frustrated. And I can no longer do the thing with the eyes in public transport any longer. A few seconds, perhaps, but any longer and it actually hurts.

Perhaps in the years that have passed my brain has become hooked up differently, or it’s become so cluttered in there that meditative staring is no longer possible, or even that I haven’t done it in so long I’ve forgotten how to do it. It was just a silly thing, really, but it was pretty personal, and I feel a little sad that it’s gone.

Of course, the games I get to play these days are much more fun, but sometimes when my body remembers how it used to feel when I could do that thing with my eyes, I do miss the old days when I was the fat, lonely, unwanted kid.