31 May 2006

The Final Hurdle

As I am slowly dragged towards my 21st birthday (kicking and screaming), I have one more rite of passage to go through as a teenager - the acne breakout. I know some will argue that 20 years old is hardly a "teenager" anymore, but since the Malaysian government considers 21 to be the legal age of an adult, I'll stick with the label "teenager", thank you.

I didn't have much of an acne problem during puberty, but it seems the pimples have caught up with me. Since the beginning of this year, I have had endless outbreaks around my cheeks. They don't come all at once (thankfully), but they do break out one after the other. It is certainly traumatic because I have always had pretty good skin. I use facial cleansers very regularly to keep it oil-free, but they still keep on coming even if I try not to pinch it.

I have no idea why this is happening, but I am praying beyond hope that it is caused by stress. This year has certainly been full of pressure to perform in my final semesters and I really, REALLY, hope that my skin will clear up after I finish. I certainly don't feel the need to propagate the stereotype of pimply-faced IT geeks.

30 May 2006

Rock Bottom

I have encountered several times, a piece of shit so hard and so big that it cannot be flushed. I'm not joking; When I enter the cubicle, I will see the carrot-sized piece of doody lying at the bottom of the toilet bowl. I can flush it once, or twice, or even thrice but the stool doesn't move an inch. It's quite amazing how it can remain there. I certainly wonder what those guys have been eating. I myself have never passed a turd as heavy as gold - have you?

29 May 2006

Save the Bunnies!

Gentlemen, we have a situation. A situation so serious, so big that it will threaten the entire bunny population. To help you understand the magnitude of this problem, I want you to soak in the fact that all bunnies are cute and important for the Earth's ecosystem:

When I was in Mid Valley Megamall last Sunday, I was trying to buy some carrots for my juicing pleasure. To my horror, I discovered that there's not a single stalk of carrot being sold in the whole mall! Actually I just checked Jusco and Carrefour, but if there are no carrots there, then you won't find it elsewhere either.

If you still haven't figured out the international crisis at hand, you deserve a bonk in the head. With the shortage of carrots, the entire rabbit world is doomed to starvation. We, as the responsible citizens of Earth, must not allow that to happen.

What was that, you say? "They're just animals?" ANIMALS!?!? YOU are an animal if you can let the bunnies die. I want you to look the bunnies below in the eye... no, I said look them in the eye! Don't you DARE scroll past the cute bunny pictures. Look them in the eye. Can you honestly say to the bunnies, "That is the last carrot you will ever taste?" Huh? HUH? You CAN'T, can you?

Once you close the browser window, I command you to write a letter to your local MP stressing this crisis once again. Feel free to include cute bunny pictures. And it wouldn't exactly hurt if you send $500 in cash to me. Y'know, for a good cause and all.

(All pictures stolen from CuteOverload, your one-stop centre for all things cute. Who needs Chicken Soup for the Soul when the pictures there heal your spirit just as well?)

I Would Like to Use My Lifeline

In a recent post, I wrote that The Gang of Four is terrorizing my semester with their incompetence. It is especially difficult for me to pay attention to Blurry and Sleepy. Luckily, my MP3 player has paid off its dues by providing me some soothing music as I listen to both of them do their job half-assedly.

Half-assedly. Hmm, I'm inventing my own words now.

28 May 2006


All humans need closure. To be able to move away from tragic or influential events, they need a sign that it's time to move on. You commonly see this in people who have lost a loved one. They will be rather sad for a period, and suddenly they become OK again.

I found my closure tonight for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I started playing it in March, mistakenly thinking that it would be a short game. After all, it is for the Game Boy Advance, so how long could it be? The last time I checked, however, it was 52 hours long. And that is pretty long by any RPG's standards.

The more I played, the more I got hooked. Being the anal-retentive freak that I am, I was insistent on finishing it. Slowly, it began to creep into every aspect of my life. Hours would just disappear while I battle it out in the game. I became demotivated in my studies, frequently turning to it whenever I get a mental road block. I've even stopped listening during lab classes, prefering to level up my characters instead.

There is no better word to describe this but "addiction". I was well aware of it, but I could hardly break free. Even when I vehemently resolved to only play it during lab classes, I still open it up for a quick battle or two during breaks.

But all that came to an end as I battled the final boss tonight. She was tough, but through sheer luck I won the fight on my second attempt. As the final cutscene rolled, I felt a sense of relief. This is it, I thought. This is the closure I was looking for. I have completed a good game, and I can continue my life now. I can begin addicted to my final project! The ordeal is finally over.

That is, until I found out that I can now access secret missions.


26 May 2006

Perfect Timing

It's inevitable, but I tend to bump into acquaintences at the swimming pool whom I'd rather not acquaint with. Of course, I mean "bump into" as in 'saw someone we know while we're recovering our breaths" and not literally bump into each other as we were swimming.

It's not that they are bad people. It's just that they are a friend of a friend and we don't really have much to chat about. I can almost hear you say, "Oh... THAT kind of acquaintence." It's a matter of politeness and social convention to say Hi to each other even if I don't really remember their names. While it's kinda boring to go swimming alone, I think it's worse if we have to make meaningless small talk when my body is already oxygen deprived. Seriously, if I had to comment on how hot the weather is for ONE more time, I would force my head into the water and drown there and then. At least that would make for a better conversation topic.

However, I have found an alternative that works almost as well without requiring Dad to pay for my funeral fees. It is commonly agreed that Obligatory Small Talk only has to be carried out at the ends of the pool, while we're recovering. I doubt anyone would be thinking of what to say to that guy whose name probably starts with an 'M' (or is it 'K'?) while they're mid-stroke.

So when I'm resting and I see someone I probably have to talk to (but preferred otherwise, thank you) approaching, I will quickly start out on my lap again regardless of how tired I am. That way, we are synchronized to NEVER meet at the same end, but only when we're crossing paths in the pool. Feel free to try it - it's a strategy that works quite well with one or two people.

No wonder I don't have many friends.

25 May 2006

To Cut or Not to Cut?

I like reading Kenny Sia, but I rarely comment because he already has 5000 readers a day to write a response. But I couldn't help myself when I read his latest entry, Zhng My Penis. I had quite a reaction to his desire to get circumcised and gave a comment. I posted it below, but you should go read the full post before reading my reply.

I don't think you should go for the circumcision. To put it bluntly, you're just thinking of doing it coz you are:

a) Lazy to peel back the foreskin every time you pee
b) Lazy to wash under the foresking during showers
c) Lazy to practice and improve your sexual techniques so you can last longer

I'm not flaming you, but I think you need some Tough Love. If you go to a real medical specialist, they will advise you to go for it ONLY if you have a medical condition that is caused by your foreskin. You have none of those.

Yes, I understand how it feels like when you're peeing. One minute it goes here, then it goes there, and finally everywhere! BUT, are you so lazy that you can't spend 20 seconds focusing on retracting your foreskin? I'm sure your attention span is not that bad.

Like you, I make sure I clean my foreskin during showers. There's no need to sterilize it - just rinsing is usually good enough. It takes about 5 seconds to do. Again, not too hard.

And when it comes to the delicate issue of sex, there has been no study showing that a majority of women prefer circumcised penis over uncircumcised ones (at least in Malaysia). A person with circumcised penis can still have Premature Ejaculation, and a person with his foreskin intact can still know how to make his woman very happy (twice or more).

In conclusion, there's really no fantastic reason to get circumcised. But as your loyal reader, I support your decision and hope you blog about the outcome :)

As I already made clear, I do not support it. Needless to say I'm not circumcised. It's just irrational for someone to remove a part of their body when it isn't causing them serious problems. For example, our appendix. We all know it serves no function but do we purposely go and remove it if it's not hurting us?

I think that is a sign of the times. People want a quick fix to all their problems, instead of being content. Small boobs? Boob enlargement. Dick looks small? Lengthening surgery. Sad to say I am guilty of this crime too. There was once I almost had surgery to remove my tonsils. But more about that in another post.

24 May 2006

Deja Vu Part 2

Just last week I wrote about how some posts are gonna seem familiar since the blog is going into its second year. Unexpectedly, I felt all deja vu when I saw that the prom is upon us again. Just like last year, the organisers have seen fit to open up Babel Fish and randomly select a foreign language to translate their theme into.

They went with Spanish last year and this year they took the risk of going with French, thus making it all the less incomprehensible and more impressive sounding. The theme is "La nuit de mascarade" which translates to "The night of masquerade". Just like last year, I don't feel compelled to go even though it is my final semester. For the rest of the gang, I doubt they would be interested after last year's disappointing food.

23 May 2006

Anal Retainers Anonymous

The hall hushed down as he took a step up on the podium.

His nervous voice broke the silence, "Er.. hi. My name is Zemien, and I'm anal-retentive."

"Hi Zemien!" the crowd shouted back in unison.

Zemien began his story, "It was only recently I realized that I am anal-retentive. I thought I'm a perfectionist, but the habit of making sure everything is correct extends way beyond perfectionism. Even the smallest defect makes me cringe in horror."

Some in the crowd nodded their heads knowingly.

"When I fold pieces of paper, it has to be properly aligned or else I'd start over. Also, when I prepare sandwiches I always make sure that all the edges align properly or I'll feel a cringe of disappointment."

"My personal idol is Bree Van Der Kemp from Desperate Housewives, although I am changing my ways now. It was watching her obssessing with every little detail in her life that made me realize that I might just be like her."

"Thank you for listening. Thank you to my sponsor, and I hope to be back on track as a healthy citizen with your support."

Applause rang throughout the hall, and some of the senior members looked proud that Zemien had taken such a bold step forward in admitting his weakness. Of course, they took great care to ensure their teardrops did not stain their beautiful clothes.

22 May 2006

My Workout Plan

First off, may I just say, "Joshua, I hate you for dragging me into the path of becoming a gym bunny."

With that out of the way, let me just share with you my workout plan and you can tell me what you think about it. I'm no expert and I don't have a personal trainer, so I have to rely on the infinite wisdom of Google. Everything on the Internet is true. Wikipedia told me that, ok?

Monday: Chest, back, abs & 30 minutes of cardio
Wednesday: Shoulders, legs, abs & 30 minutes of cardio
Friday: Biceps, triceps, abs & 30 minutes of cardio

For each muscle group, I try to perform 3 sets of 3 exercises. Each set is between 8 and 12 reps at the moment but I'm looking to increase that over time. My gym is sparsely equipped so I may not always have 3 exercises for each muscle group, but I'm looking into alternative techniques with weights and dumbbells.

I take a small snack about an hour before starting my routine and I try to eat as much protein-rich foods after. I don't believe in protein shakes, partly because I'm afraid I will take too much which will make me fat. But I've come to change my views on that small matter. A couple of weeks back I placed an online order for a small bottle of cheap protein concentrate powder.

I'm not sure how effective it is but I am definitely seeing some improvements for the time it takes my muscle to recover. Again, I don't know how much the protein supplement helped. My gym buddy Dave thinks that it is just the placebo effect - a psychological boost to an otherwise limp bicep.

21 May 2006

The World's Most Disobedient Stapler

I own, without a doubt, the world's most disobedient stapler. Not only that, it has won the 3M Award for Excellence in Wasting Staples. You cannot imagine how much grief that little black bastard has caused me. Everytime I want to staple a few sheets of paper, I find myself proclaiming shit. I think the metal bar that pushes the staples down is a little crooked, which results in sharp little protrusions. Being the anal-retentive perfectionist that I am, I have to remove it and re-staple it. However, I can only get it right 1 out of 6 times, or rather, that little black bastard can only get it right 1 out of 6 times. So I sometimes spend about 3 minutes just to staple something in. And don't get me started when I try to staple anything beyond 4 pages. It is just impossible, I tell you.

Maybe that's what I get when I spend 99 cents on a stapler. Yes, the stapler comes from those 99 cents shops that were once popular. Maybe I should not place so much hope on a 99 cents stapler, but I believe that price is not indicative of quality. Maybe this time it is, but I have conveniently blocked this case out of my mind so don't bother trying to convince me otherwise. Ignorance *is* bliss, after all.

However, I do realize that this is my final semester and I need all the help I can get. So the next time when I was in a stationery shop I bought a more decent one for RM5.50. It claimed to be able to handle 15 pages. When I went home and tried it, I got an orgasm from the sheer strength of the stapler! What took the old stapler 5 times, took the new one only once. And I exerted only half the energy as well.

So, ignorance is bliss, but a good stapler is HEAVEN.

20 May 2006

Now THAT'S Authentic

Some of you may or may not like cucur udang (Malay prawn fritters). I guess I'm ok with it, but I dislike the bad breath that goes with it since it usually contains garlic (or is served with Thai chilli sauce which does).

Anyway I was picking my dishes at the usual vegetarian economy rice stall when I spotted something similar to cucur udang (without the udang, of course). I decided to try it, and it was great.

Unfortunately, the vegetarian fritters were so good it came with bad breath too.

I Propose A Change

There is an excellent Buddhist song "Truth of Change" that had the line "Cause the only truth in this world is change".

However, I would like to propose another universal truth. The second truth in this world are horny young men.

19 May 2006

Deja Vu

It was inevitable that as the blog gets past the 1 year mark, certain occassions are repeated and I am in danger of writing the exact same post. On the other hand, being able to recollect my thoughts on certain events enables me to make better decisions since I have better hindsight. One such event was the Buddhist Society Life Liberation Ceremony. Exactly 359 days ago, I blogged about the smelly experience.

We did the same event this evening. Yesterday, I checked with the person in charge and I was shocked to find out she did not know the potential problems associated with buying catfish to release. I quickly advised her based on my horrible experience last year, and I'm proud to say she adapted to the changes. As a result, the whole thing went smoothly and we avoided all of the pitfalls.

For one, the lorry drivers stayed through the event so I did not have to shove oversized tongs into my boot. Next, we chose a more accessible spot to release the fishes. And lastly, and most happily, the schedule ran as planned. For some of you international readers, you may not realize the MAGNITUDE of that achievement. It was enough to cause another tsunami, I tell you.

Anticipating the Code

The Da Vinci Code officially started screening today. Everyone around me seems to be all hyped up about it, but the only response I could give was "Huh?" I just don't understand all the love the movie is getting. Is it because it criticizes Christianity? Is it because of Tom Hanks? And who is that girl acting as Tom's beauty accessory?

I just don't think it will make a good transition from paper to reel. I may be wrong, but at the moment 79% of reviewers agree with me. I hate films where the characters have to explain every single thing happening on the screen. Tom obviously has to do this because he has to explain every single clue to the viewer and His Beauty Accessory.

I haven't read the book, though I have an e-book copy (pirated, no less). I might get to it soon, but I'm too busy anticipating X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Now that is a show that I can't wait to watch. I have always been a fan of the X-Men, and next week I will get to see the conclusion (or not?) to their mutant saga. If The Da Vinci Code is so good I might just do a marathon next weekend. We'll see.

18 May 2006

Almost Cured of My Addiction

I did mention my little addiction with Japanese RPGs lately. Well, that love affair has not ended. I have now logged over 40 hours of gameplay, but something happened tonight that threatened to stop me.

I sometimes play when I should be paying attention to the lecturer in lab classes, and as a result I have to synchronize my save files with the one on my laptop when I get back. Earlier tonight, I made a few mistakes and ended up losing the save game. When I couldn't restart my game I almost got a heart attack. I WILL NOT REPLAY 40 HOURS OF MY LIFE. Unlike David, I can only watch movies and play games at most twice - and that's only if it offers something memorable like good graphics, beautiful soundtrack, or gratuitious nudity. The last time I checked, Final Fantasy Tactics had none of those 3.

Thankfully for the Recycle Bin I managed to get back the save file. So I happily played for another 30 minutes before calling it a night. So I decided to synchronize the save files and I fucked it up again. I am absolutely left aghast and appalled at my own incompetence. It's just TWO FILES! And this time the Recycle Bin could not help. But all is not lost - the save file just rolled back to 35 hours.

Losing 5 hours isn't as bad as losing all 40, but it's still a lot of time. And I would have to replay 25 missions to get my characters back to where they are. This is damn annoying, as it means I am still addicted. If you are kind, break into my room tonight and destroy both copies of my save file. That way I can finally focus on my project, which is starting to go haywire.

17 May 2006

Real Estate is Expensive

The other day I had dinner at Marry Brown, a local fast food chain. Their wash basin area was so small that when I bent down to rinse my hands, the automatic hand dryer started drying my elbow.

Crispy Laziness

I'm sure you've tried chips dipped in mayonnaise - it's delicious, isn't it? But mayo is quite expensive, and you need to keep it chilled if you do not wish to go to the toilet more times than you think of sex every day.

But fret not! Coz you can still enjoy its wonders with the newly introduced Mister Potato Chips with Mayonnaise and Tomato Flavour! I didn't taste any, but it smells very close to the real thing. Though I don't think I'll get used to powdered mayo.

16 May 2006

Hidden Costs

In cost estimation theory, we are told to look out for hidden costs that may jeapordize an activity. This begs the question:

If hidden costs are accounted for, are they still hidden?


If hidden costs are supposed to be hidden, how the hell are we to estimate them?

Spare me the lecture on risk mitigation, for I have fallen prey to hidden costs. When I joined the gym recently I did not foresee the increase in dirty laundry. I am currently working out around a 3 day schedule, so that means an extra three t-shirts to wash per week. Yes, I do realize I'm claiming that using a washing machine is hard. No, I don't give a damn to those who have to use their hands.

Other small, but noticeable expenses have cropped up. This includes more food to feed my hungry stomach, protein drink for better muscle growth, and rental fee for heart rate monitor (RM2/30 minutes).

It had better be worth it.

15 May 2006

Basking in the Limelight

I noticed that a few days back the blog got its 5000th hit.

That means I got the number of hits in a year what Kenny Sia gets in a day.

I hate him.

I Joined The Gym

I did it. Finally. It was inevitable, really. Guys and girls, I joined the college gym two weeks ago.

Sure, it is cramped. And there are no Les Mills classes for me to join. And they only have one step machine, two treadmills, three stationary bicycles, and four resistance machines. For those who haven't visited Fitness First, those are VERY few machines.

But they come at the cheap, cheap price of RM139.80 for FOUR months. Actually, I'm not sure that's very cheap. Maybe it's because by comparison, Fitness First costs about RM999 for four months. Joshua (and his other gym bunnies) will curse me for even attempting to compare Fitness First to the college gym. But I say- let chickens be chickens and pterodactyls be pterodactyls.

Actually I didn't understand that last sentence either.

14 May 2006

Happy Mudders Day

Have any of you heard Amber Chia's radio advertisement for a massage chair? She's a pretty woman, but it was clear from her English that she was Chinese-educated. Most funny was her pronounciation of "mother" - she said it "mudder". It was funny because I committed the same offense last time. While practicing for a debate in school years ago, my debate teacher commented on how I would say "mudder" instead of "mother".

Which brings me to another language concern: is it Mothers Day, Mother's Day, or Mothers' Day? Grammatically, all three are correct in different context. Of course, for Amber Chia there's no confusion as it has always been Happy Mudders Day.

New Year, New Direction

The past one year has been great but when I look back at many of my posts I find them deathly boring. So this year, I will head in a new direction. If the first year of Zeem! was the Year of Experimentation, then this is the Year of Outrageous Humour and Lame Analogies.

There really are two ways to blog - within the confines of reality (reporting an event) or beyond reality (making fun of an event). So this year, I shift into the second style of writing. I can't guarantee it will work or if I can maintain it for so long, but let's try, shall we? After all, I AM THE SUPREME RULER OF THIS BLOG AND I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT.

Now, get on the bed and spread eagle - Zemien is coming in.

13 May 2006

Photo Week: Meet My Brothers

They are the younger brothers I never had, and are very close to both of them. Here, they are playing their own Playstation 2. I still remember the days when they would clamour to visit my house to play my old Playstation 1. The elder one is in his mid-teens, and so has renounced all physical affection in order to appear 'cool'. But no worries, I still have the younger brother to play with.

12 May 2006

Photo Week: The Way Things Were

This is one of the last group photos we took before some of them started going off in separate directions. With me leaving college soon, I put this up for memories sake:

(David, as usual, was the man behind the lens)

11 May 2006

Photo Week: Pick A Colour For Your Tongue

Sandwiches on sale at a stall in Hatyai, South Thailand:

Just think of how much colouring is being used here. Still, it did its job by attracting attention and making me salivate. But I didn't buy any - I don't need cancer so soon.

10 May 2006

Photo Week: We Will Survive

We all have our own ways to deal with the recent hike in fuel prices. Here is an actual police force vehicle in Cambodia:

I kid you not.

09 May 2006

Photo Week: Always Use Protection

I don't know why, but this photo just reminds me of a condom. If you think about it, my raincoat does faintly resemble a condom. It is thin, semi-transparent, and it has a little pouch right at the top. Plus, bonus points for the rain that added the final lubricating touch.

(Photo taken by Dad)

08 May 2006

Photo Week: Dressing Etiquette

Here's a simple quiz for you guys. When exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, which of the following attire is the best?



I would personally go with Option #3, but here's someone who actually defied expectations:

When I first saw her, I was shocked. A chick wearing that while walking around ruins? Huh? Her male companion was taking photos of her in various poses, so she might be a model of some kind. But with those thighs, she had better be a model for extra-large clothing.

Here's another one for posterity:

Photo Week: It Ain't Easy (Being Me)

You think being a stone guard is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. But oh no, it's worse than making lame British jokes. Just look at the sexual abuse I had to go through for more than 500 years:

My brothers around the temples have been left intact, but someone just decided they needed to make me the prostitute around town. But I can't really blame them. With curves such as mine, anyone would be tempted to stick something in.

06 May 2006

The Geek List

Dear Zeem! Readers,

How do you like the new blog design? The colour scheme did not change much in order to maintain consistency, but I hope you like the new masthead. Sure, it rips off Microsoft .NET, but who's suing? And I hope you notice the even cuter picture of me in my profile.

Some of you readers have been reading since the early days of the blog. For that, I thank you. Some of you only caught on during early 2006. For that, I thank you less. But lots of loving all around anyway.

I hope you have enjoyed reading some of my earlier writings this past week. I have purposely withheld a particularly racy post involving masturbation, in order to maintain my female reader base. OK, so it's just Kelly regularly commenting, but who's counting?

I really don't fit into the stereotypical image of an IT geek. Well, my wardrobe may be a little bare and boring, but that's where the similarities end. I don't wear thick spectacles with huge rims. I am not a fan boy of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I don't know how to play Magic: The Gathering. I can interact perfectly well with the ladies while I'm sober. I have not invented any secret code, algorithm, or robot.

Get the picture?

Still, I am an IT guy, and therefore I'm at least expected to be good with using computers. Let me tell you a little secret about us IT guys - we're not really that smart. Well, there are some hardcore people who do everything the hard way, but for the rest of us there is certain software that help bring us through the day. And today, I show you some of the best utilities that have helped me be more productive. You may have heard of some of them, but chances are you will find a couple of gems here that you will love.

I will provide a link to the website of the software, plus a short write up on why I love it so much. As of now, all the software recommended is free but who knows if it will change in the future? So get a copy now and spread the word for these wonderful programmers.

With much love,

Gadwin Print Screen (www.gadwin.com/printscreen)
Screen capture utility
I have to type many reports in my course, and I sometimes need to get a screenshot of what I am currently seeing on my monitor. Common things I need include the window of a program, a particular toolbar, or the entire desktop. The old way of doing things is to press the PrintScreen key on my keyboard, which will store an image of the entire screen into my clipboard. If I only need a small section of the screen, I would need to open up Adobe Photoshop, paste the screen shot in, and then extract the part I need. It's a time consuming and troublesome task.

Well, not anymore. With Gadwin PrintScreen, I am presented with the power to be flexible. It can automatically save just a particular window or an arbitrary rectangle that you draw yourself. It can also be saved to a variety of locations, inclluding to your clipboard or even a JPEG file. Best of all, you can still use your normal PrintScreen key to access its features and then change the settings quickly. So now, I easily shave off much frustration and minutes when I need to capture a lot of screens.

uTorrent (www.utorrent.com)
BitTorrent client
This is the BitTorrent client that everyone's been raving about! If you don't know what BitTorrent is, then you can skip to the next program. The major strength of uTorrent is its simplicity and compactness. When I first explored BitTorrent, I used Azureus. It was good, but it lagged and frequently hogged my memory. I then switched to BitComet, another popular client. However, it is blacklisted by many seeders because it has a bad reputation of leeching.

So I have switched to uTorrent and never looked back. However, I suggest you get it fast and get it now. I have been monitoring its development for some time and I can see it is also getting bloated. In the past it was very lean and compact. But due to its popularity more features were added which is usually unnecessary. As a result it needs more memory to run, and looks more complicated. If the developers aren't careful, uTorrent would violate the idealogy it started with. Latest version is 1.5, but I'm sticking with 1.2 and have no plans to upgrade.

Memento (www.guyswithtowels.com/dev/apps/memento.html)
Virtual Post-It notes
Post-It notes are one of the biggest productivity boosters in the new century. It has helped people the world over to remember little things like meetings, messages, and online banking passwords. As many office worker's work revolves around the computer, it is logical for vritual Post-It notes to be used. I have looked around for many types of Post-It notes, but the best I've found so far is Memento.

In the creator's own words, he wrote Memento when he "found the only programs available seemed to be either crap, not free, a 7Mb download, or some combination of the above." And Memento is the opposite of all of them. It is very simple and usable, free, and only 345kb. It is fast to add a new post and then hide it for later. It is free of all unneccesary clutter like alarm reminders and password protection. What you get is pure, useful virtual notes.

I use Memento when I create small lists, such as what to bring back to Nilai and even the list of software that I need to recommend in this post.

Foxit PDF Reader (www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php)
Lightweight PDF reader
PDF is one of the most common document file formats to be used everywhere. Normally we will use Adobe's own Acrobat PDF reader. However, since version 6 Acrobat is becoming a memory hog, and takes almost a minute to open.

With Foxit PDF reader, it should not take more than 10 seconds, and you get all the basic navigational tools. There are some missing features, but if you only need to read some PDF files on your computer, there is no better way to go than Foxit. They also have a commercial Pro version that supports editing.

Slickrun (www.bayden.com/SlickRun)
Command line program launcher
This is one of the programs that you must download and try it yourself to see why I love it. It is extremely useful for people who need to frequently open programs or documents.

When you want to open any software, such as Mozilla Firefox, there are several common ways that people use. Most people are familiar with the mouse, and they might use it to access the Firefox icon on the Desktop or through the Start menu. Or, you could use the command line, such as the Start menu > Run command.

Most people use the mouse, but for those of us who have used computers long enough, we know that the keyboard is actually faster. Pressing Ctrl-C to copy some text is faster than using the mouse, hunt for the Copy icon, and click on it. Therefore, program launchers were created. They basically assigned specific hotkeys to each program. For example, to launch Firefox you only need to press Ctrl-Alt-F. However, there is a major flaw in the design. You have to remember what the combination is for each software, which is very troublesome as how can you differentiate between similar hotkeys, like Ctrl-Alt-F versus Ctrl-Shift-F?

That's where SlickRun comes in. Instead of assigning long, cryptic hotkeys for each software, you assign a single word that you can remember and logically associate with. For example, I associate Firefox with the command 'firefox', but you may find 'internet' to be more suitable. No problem - SlickRun can accommodate that! You can set commands for almost any application. You only need to remember ONE hotkey - the key to activate SlickRun. For example, I use Ctrl-Q but you can easily change that as well. And it remembers your latest entry and AutoCompletes it. What this means: to start Firefox, I press Ctrl-Q, type 'F', and press Enter key. I don't need to waste time using my mouse, minimize all my windows, and hunt for the Firefox icon to click.

If there's one software you download from this list, THIS IS IT. I purposely put it in the middle to reward those who actually bothered to read everything. Congratulations! We have 4 more programs to go.

PIXresizer (bluefive.pair.com/pixresizer.htm)
Bulk image resizer
I love photography. Not as fanatic as Dad and David, but I always aim to take good photos instead of mindlessly pressing the shutter. With my digital camera, I have taken thousands of photos by now. Once transferred into the computer, the photos can then be stored, uploaded to the blog, or e-mailed to friends. A common problem is the image file size. Photos taken with modern digital cameras are usually 1 to 2mb. Even with broadband, it is a pain in the you-know-where to actually download 10 photos that are 1.5mb each.

What if we can reduce the image file size to 150kb per photo? It is possible with a combination of JPEG compression and resolution reduction. A photo is usually good enough for the web and email if it is 1 megapixel (1024x768), so we use an image resizer to take all your 5, 6, or even 10 megapixel photos and reduce them to 1.

There are many image resizer tools, but the one I like so far is PIXresizer. You can resize all photos in a particular folder, and then place them in another folder. So you maintain the quality originals as well as the compressed versions, both with the same file name. This has a very niche application, but when I need to resize many photos, nothing beats PIXresizer.

Winamp 2.92 (www.winampheaven.net/old.php?major=2)
Multimedia player
Winamp is one of the earliest and most popular audio/video players around. So why feature it here? Notice the version 2.92? That's why.

It is now in version 5, and like most modern multimedia players, Winamp is B-L-O-A-T-E-D. It takes up memory, has all the functions that I don't need, and is just too whiz-bang for my liking. Therefore, I have stunted its evolution at just version 2.92. It is stable and good enough. Before you think it is outdated, I can still add all the latest plug-ins and play all the latest Lost episodes I download using uTorrent.

Obviously you won't find 2.92 on the official Winamp site, but the website I linked to above has an archive of almost every Winamp version released. Scroll down the page and get 2.92 or 2.95. If you don't believe me, go ahead and download version 5 as well. In terms of being able to play music and video, they are literally equal.

wBloggar (www.wBloggar.com)
Desktop blogging software
Most bloggers use a web interface to post new items. However, this can be annoying. We have to launch the web browser, log in to our blog, and then type our post. What if we can launch an application, and then type our post without needing to load any website? wBloggar is the answer.

It can plug-in to many blogging platforms, but it supports several popular platforms like Blogger immediately. If I have a quick thing to post, I will just use wBloggar. But it is not specifically for Blogger, so it does not have several important features like image uploading. I still use Blogger's web interface to type many posts (including this), but for spur-of-the-moment stuff I love wBloggar.

EvilLyrics (www.evillabs.sk/evillyrics/)
Automatic lyrics displayer
I enjoy music, and I sometimes like to sing along. But I'm quite anal and would like to know that I'm singing a song correctly. So online lyrics are one of the best creations after Zeem! (gotcha!).

Basically, EvilLyrics takes the work out of searching for a lyric. Open EvilLyrics and play the music. It can automatically detect the song being played in Winamp, Windows Media Player, and several others. As long as your music file name has both the artist and the song title (e.g. Pink - Leave Me Alone), it has a good chance of finding it. It uses Google to search and extract the lyrics so it is pretty accurate.

Once in a while it does screw up and it displays the wrong lyrics (or no lyrics). But that happens only 20% of the time. Just think of the effort saved for 80% of your lyrics! And some members contribute the karaoke timings for a song, so it can highlight the appropriate line that is being sung.

Works best for English songs, but it can sometimes get the hanyu pinyin romanization of Chinese songs.

YES! That's it! You survived (possibly) The Longest Zeem! Post Ever! I'm mightily proud of you, unless you scrolled down here first without reading everything. If so I will have to slap you around with a trout.

The software I recommended may not be the best, but it does its work well enough for me. If you have other alternatives to the above, please suggest them in the comments. Refrain from suggesting software not related to the above categories - I know I didn't cover every fantastic category of software.

Well, with that we will move on to the Photo Week! From tomorrow onwards you get to have a break from reading and instead just enjoy some of the pictures I took (or appear in).

P.S. Happy birthday as well to Jackson, who is 20 years older than this blog!

05 May 2006

The Ancient Vault: For Profit or For Worse

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration.)

My college's prom night is this Saturday, 20 September 2003. I'm paying a hefty RM50 (for students, that is) to go to a hotel ballroom and eat good food, and hopefully, be entertained. It is an annual affair organized by the student body - let's call them Greedy Inc., or GI for short.

Before I elaborate, allow me to divulge some technical details. GI sets up a counter along the main corridor to allow us to order tickets. Now, to order the tickets you can either buy a table for 10 and get to choose your table (good) or you can buy them individually and let GI decide where to put you (not good). Those who buy individually usually get pushed to the worst possible spots of the ballroom where those table-bookers do not sit.

Now we go on to the real meat. Today is Thursday, September 18, 2003. I went to the counter to collect the tickets for individuals. As I approached the lady (Ms. Nice) at the counter, I overheard her conversation with the organizing chairman. I will call him Mr. Cold.

It went something like:
Ms. Nice : Hey, what about this 3 people who can't fit in anywhere?
Mr. Cold : We definitely won't open another table for them. If we can't fit it then we'll refund them their money.
Ms. Nice : But…
Mr. Cold : I cannot open another table with 3 people. Do you know how much we'll waste?
Ms. Nice : That means we need another 7 people to fill up 10.
Mr. Cold : No, we need 5. We need 8 to break even.

That was when Ms. Nice turned to me and I got my tickets and left.

Did you get the point of this article? The thing is, GI is willing to reject 3 students, who paid in full, just because they can't fit them in anywhere, and he won't open another table as GI will lose money!

This shows just how profit-minded we are. It's not wrong to expect profit from events like this, but it's wrong to turn away people whom we have made a commitment to! Those 3 people expect to go to that event but they have a good chance of being turned away just because they will lose money over it.

Since young, we were taught that it's important for us to keep our promises. Once we have committed to something, we were expected to keep our word. That was why I was distraught when I heard that people from our very own student council, who were supposed to be model students, would do something like this.

I don't really have much to say, just that I'm very disappointed. I know having to pay another RM250 from their coffers suck, but GI has a commitment, and if you can't bear to live through it, you shouldn't have started. Returning the money automatically 'delegated' GI's blame to the customers they're supposed to be serving. It's like saying, "I'm responsible for it, but now I'm returning your money because I want you to be the one in the wrong because you didn't come earlier."

04 May 2006

The Ancient Vault: Shoe Blues

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration.)


That pretty much sums up how I feel about finding a nice pair of shoes. I didn't know it was so darn difficult to find size 12 shoes in Malaysia! Ian Thorpe wears size 17, but I don't see the Aussie walking around barefooted. Of course, he has them tailor-made and all, but it doesn't discount the fact that local shoe makers can't be bothered to "size them up".

I went to no less than 10 places that sell shoes, and yet there are no 'slip-on' shoes that have size 12. Maybe one of the criteria for me in my quest to buy shoes is that it must not cost more than RM100 - RM150. And all the conditions were so right! Nice design, nice price, but, "Sorry, sir, we don't have a size 12."

Since we were on shoes, I don't know how people can pay RM300 (US$ 79) upwards for something that they stomp on the dirty earth with. In my opinion, the most expensive I can go is around RM250 (US$ 65). A cheapskate? Maybe, but with all you can get for less than RM100, I can't seem why these people can't find something better to spend it on. Donation, upgrading your PC (RAM cost so little for so much), video games, ok, maybe video games doesn't count, but still…

While we are on the subject of my tarsus, there is a pre-conceived notion that foot size is connected to penis size. I don't know if you had heard of it, but it was proven false by scientific experiments. So readers, rest assured, I DON'T have a "monster member" to go terrorizing the whole town with.

03 May 2006

The Ancient Vault: SMS- The Killer of Interpersonal Relationships

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration.)

Communications, more specifically interpersonal communication, is an important aspect in human lives. If you keep a man on an island with adequate food and water but NO communication whatsoever (ala Tom Hanks in Cast Away), he will go crazy.

When we talk to each other, we learn to express our feelings and also learn to observe theirs. Unlike writing letters, we do not have that much time to compose words, and so through conversations we also train our ability to speak politely and courteously.

Communication is vital in raising our standards. If we want to ascend the corporate ladder, we must be able to speak forthright and share our views. We must be able to present our views if we want to show our capabilities. I'm not including "sucking up" but it is sometimes necessary. But in the end, the important thing to know is that interpersonal communication is vital to human survival.

Enter SMS. Strangely enough, this service has barely caught on in the US market. The rest of the world, specifically Europe and most of Asia is enveloped by its usefulness and affordability. You don't even have to worry if the person on the other side is free or not. Send him one and he can access it anytime he's free. You can fit in quite a lot within the 140 character limit if you know how (I certainly don't).

Yet, when you think of it, over-usage of SMS is creating a barrier between the user and the rest of the world. SMS is like cyber dating and chatting, it does not possess the "human touch". We are not communicating with humans, we are talking to computers! What this happens is that the user loses his or her ability to communicate effectively when it is required. They rather send an SMS than call the person up if possible. Yes, even if the cost of the SMS is double the cost of the phone call.

A perfect example of this is yours truly. Earlier this evening (24 Dec) I wanted to contact a colleague. Before I called him up, I contemplated. Should I call him or SMS him? I felt intimidated by the thought of actually speaking with the person on the other side. Fear crept in and I started making excuses. "Nah, he's probably busy right now.", "He may not welcome my call.", "What if it's engaged?". I ended up SMSing him.

Then I realized. Though I only had my cell phone for 2 months, I was beginning to forsake interpersonal communication. I decided to call him the next morning for if this trend continues, I know it will become a habit. I had the mindfulness to pull myself out from this disturbing trend. How about others? How about you?

Moral of the article: Take every opportunity to talk to people, it feels good. If you ever find yourself choosing between SMS and calling, don't hesitate to call first, SMS later.

02 May 2006

The Ancient Vault: The Day I Turned 18

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration.)

The day you turn 18 is supposed to be the day the REAL fun begins. Alcohol companies are supposed to be standing outside my door waiting to lure me into their luxurious brands. Tobacco manufacturers are purported to hold secret parties at McDonalds after midnight as a welcome for their future 'patrons'. But as I sit here, in a meditation retreat, writing this article using pen and paper (a first), I start to wonder… "What does it all mean?"

Turning 18 tomorrow, it does not really impact me that I will soon become what the government calls "responsible adults". To me, I became one soon after 13. If I were a supreme ruler of all things living and moving, I would change the legal age to 13. After all, most of us have experienced one or more of the following 'adult' phenomena by the time we reach 13:

1. Boy-girl relationship (Applies to boy-boy and girl-girl)
2. "Sexperimentation" (Need I say more?)
3. Alcohol consumption (Even a teeny-tiny bit)
4. Not wanting to be their age (A universal truth)
5. Shaving (Both genders)
6. Tobacco (Minority, but statistics show that most smokers start young)

Therefore, I really think turning 18 is not a big deal. I do not expect the monks to chant "Happy Birthday" tomorrow morning. If they DO, I'm relocating. To me, turning 18 means edging another year towards the unavoidable frontier of taxes, EPF and credit card bills. Or if I'm less lucky, divorces as well.

In the end, being 18 is just another age for me. Nothing extraordinary - no fireworks and wild parties. Just more homework and mundane responsibilities.

Wow, that rhymes!

01 May 2006

The Ancient Vault: Gender Equality for Guys

(This post was written circa 2003/2004. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebrations.)

Before I start out, I would like to emphasize the fact that I support the gender equality movement. I abhor the discrimination against women and I believe everyone should be given an equal chance. However, there are some motions of this movement that I do not feel comfortable with as it borders on the extreme. Here, I'd like to talk about one of the least obvious problems: segregation of roles when it comes to partner relationships.

I know a couple who are friends of mine. About a month ago, they had an argument for which the girl, Sandy (not her real name) was responsible for due to her flaring temper and stubborn nature. They of course, separated briefly. My other friends (guys & gals) persuaded Danny (not his real name) to apologize and make up with Sandy. Although Danny shared my stand on equal responsibility in relationships, he relented, apologized and they both became an item again.

Sound familiar? Especially to all guys who are in relationships? Well, you're not the first. Strange, isn't it? With trust comes responsibility, and when women ask for equal chance and subsequently, trust, they should exhibit the same amount of responsibility. In relationships, why should men always be the one to make the first move? Why should men be the one to say "Sorry" even though both parties know that his other half is to blame? I'm not applying this to a universal rule, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, women expect men to be the "one".

And don't start talking about traditions. The whole purpose of the gender equality movement is to break away from traditions! If the woman is to blame for a specific problem, she should not feel ashamed to admit it and patch things up. Remember, guys don't have it any easier.

Moral of the story: Girls, take heed. Take charge of your life and use every opportunity to show that you are just as responsible as anyone by correcting your mistakes. Guys, if you ever find a girl as stubborn and uncooperative, try imagining what it would be like 10, 20 years down the road and take precautionary measures or you'll end up breaking everyone's heart.