28 September 2006

Congratulations, I'm A Workaholic!

I guess the transition is almost complete. Since yesterday, I've been arriving at the office at 8am, and going back at 6.45pm. I'm sure it could be worse but at the moment I can barely think cohesively. And since I have to be at the office around 7am tomorrow for a web conference, I don't even have time for movies tonight.

As I was preparing to go home today, I was wondering if I should bring home a stack of documents to read. It was some studying I had to do for a meeting tomorrow. I glanced at the documents, then at my watch, and finally at the documents again. I threw the papers on my table. It'll just have to wait. After all, wasn't there something about allowing work-life balance as a company policy?

26 September 2006

Making Fun of Dad, But in a Good Way!

My next piece about a seemingly innocent Picasa function is up at Last Sociable Hacker:

Last night my father called me over and asked where some of his photos have all gone. It was certainly strange - all photos within a folder had vanished. I instantly ruled out a virus attack as they wouldn't target a specific photos folder to destroy. My first instinct was human error. Dad's not exactly IT-savvy.

25 September 2006

6 is the New 5

It used to be that those who went home at 5pm had to endure a horrendous jam. As a result, more people started going back later, and later, and later. Until 6pm became the new 5pm.

I found this out the hard way when I decided to go back a little later today. I would usually leave the office by 5.30pm, and though it was already clogged up, it was nothing compared to 6pm.

Driving in a traffic jam with manual transmission for 30 minutes is more draining that 2 hours of work.


As of this precise moment, I am having:
  • A small zit inside my nostril (you know how painful these little buggers are)
  • 1 week old sorethroat from my coffee experience
  • Blocked nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Minor cough
  • Fever (under control with paracetamol)
Life sure ain't fun when the combined powers of the flu and food poisoning come to haunt me all at once.

22 September 2006

Weird Trends

Does anyone else notice that the moment I write that I'll be taking a break from blogging or that I'm running out of ideas, is the precise time that I'll have a deluge of new posts?


21 September 2006

The Final Frontier

Loyal readers will know of my Three C's, and why it came about.

It's been almost 1.5 years since I took any antibiotics for sorethroat/tonsilitis, so I felt that it's the right time to slowly re-introduce those C's back into the menu. The first item was of course curry/chilli. It's true what a hawker said to me - how can a Penangite not like spicy food? While I still steer away from laksa (never a favourite), I've been able to enjoy more spicy foods nowadays without fear of waking up sore.

I've been taking curry again for some time now, and it was only recently that I attempted to have chocolate again. As I joyfully discovered, I can indulge in it once more! In moderation, of course.

The final frontier, then, is coffee. Some people wonder how I can study/work till late without a shot of caffeine every day. The answer is simple - I don't. I'm a firm believer of adequate rest, but by starting a career well-known for its late nights, I realize I better get used to coffee, fast.

As with most offices, we have an unlimited flow of coffee and tea. I never quit drinking tea so I usually have a cup around 3pm when the after-lunch effect is in full swing. But yesterday, I decided to take things a little further by adding some coffee into my tea. I added only about 20% of the cup, so it's still mostly tea. I enjoyed it!

I woke up this morning with a slight sorethroat. How very nice.

20 September 2006

New Blog

Calvinsanity is starting a new blog - Last Sociable Hack3r, and he's inviting me to be a member! Being the attention whore that I am, I accepted. Even though it would mean putting more effort to write posts for it, I think I'll enjoy it.

I'll notify you guys when I update that blog by putting a snippet up here as well, but do check it once in a while to see what the other contributors write.

My latest post, "Free USB Drives!" is now up. Excerpt:

When we think of hackers, we imagine a group of nerdy teens who sleep in the morning and spend the whole night in front of the monitor. We think they live on Coke, and the only communication they know is through IRC. That is a dangerous assumption, for the real truth is further than that.

19 September 2006

Lingua Franca

Back in college, most of my friends spoke Mandarin. Being the boring banana that I was, I didn't take Mandarin too seriously. After all, English is the lingua franca, and I am sufficiently good in it. Nevertheless, my command of spoken Mandarin has grown by leaps and bounds over the years in college. It was the only logical thing to happen, really, when all your friends speak Mandarin among themselves even though you are sitting right there.

Try as they might, they failed to coax me into speaking Mandarin for their amusement. I will not be used as an object of abject pleasure! I tolerated them, knowing that once I join the corporate world, English will be the most important language.

Long time readers would know what to expect next.

To my dismay, most of my colleagues also use Mandarin for their casual chit chat during lunch. They can speak English perfectly fine, but in informal settings, they revert to their strong Chinese roots. And you can imagine how depressing it is to me.

I know it's just my second week, but I have yet to make any good friends. The blame is mostly on me, I guess. Most people who just got to know me think I'm pretentious and a snob, and for good reason! I mean, if you were a native Chinese speaker, what would you think of someone who can understand Mandarin but insists on replying in English?

I'm hoping for a good opportunity to let them experience the joy and warmth that is Zemien.

18 September 2006

Vegetarian Update

In some of my earlier posts, I have lauded the fact that I'm on the verge of becoming a full-time vegetarian. Well, now that I came back, I can safely say that I'm no longer on the verge of becoming one.

It's really problematic when you have family members shove animal flesh onto my plate. As a policy, I do not reject any food given to me. In other words, I've been eating A LOT of meat since I returned. It's hard to explain my new position on consuming animals, especially since they know I do not like greens since young.

So the only time I have full control over what I eat is when I am at work. And I've really been enjoying the ability to savour vegetables without curious eyes looking at me.

17 September 2006


Just like my good friend Jackson, who also just joined the rat race, I'm in a transitionary period. I'm a bit numb from the new routine - waking up at 6.30am and reaching home at 7pm (usually) definitely eats up most of the time I use for leisure. I usually blog about my daily life, but at the moment I am refraining from writing about my workplace in fear of being dooced.

With some simple mathematics, one could easily calculate that I can only blog about the things that happen between 7pm and 11pm (before I pass out from the exhaustion). Unfortunately, that also happens to be the most boring time of my day. If I were to blog about what happens between 7 and 11 everyday, my blog would look like:
7pm: Watch downloaded movies
9pm: Take a shower
10pm: Read blogs
11pm: Sleep

7pm: Watch downloaded movies
9pm: Take a shower
10pm: Read blogs
11pm: Sleep


7pm: Watch downloaded movies
9pm: Take a shower
10pm: Read blogs
11pm: Sleep
I'm sure you get the idea.

Weekends are definitely another source of blog posts. While I hope to make my Saturdays and Sundays more exciting and productive, at the moment I'm just too lazy to put keyboard to Blogger. I would rather unwind from the week by watching even more downloaded movies. In the long run I plan to join a gym, get active in Buddhism again, and work on my love life.

But until those things come along, there will probably be a serious dearth of posts. After all, I'm sure you wouldn't want to come in everyday and read:
7pm: Watch downloaded movies
9pm: Take a shower
10pm: Read blogs
11pm: Sleep

16 September 2006

Pop Quiz!

Quick! Name the three necessities of life!

A biologist might say "shelter, food, and clothing" but I've realized that for programmers it's "shelter, computer, and caffeinated beverages".

14 September 2006

Unforeseen Side Effects

A few days back, movie star Orlando Bloom finally bought himself a computer! It's quite a landmark for the 29 year old technophobe, I believe.

Guess that is what happens when you act in films like Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Carribean. You become a Luddite.

13 September 2006

Sudden, Complete Understanding

Today I finally understood why nylon is such a popular material for making men's slacks. Although it is relatively uncomfortable, its most important feature is that it can't absorb or retain water very well - a useful thing to wear when accidents happen in the toilet.

The last thing I want is for my boss to see a wet mark at the back of my pants.

12 September 2006

All I Want to Say is...

... we nerds love our acronyms. Especially if they're Three Letter Acronyms.

11 September 2006

Starting Out

So, today's the first day of work! I arrived at 8am sharp, but HR is only supposed to come at 8.30am so I sat around reading a Buddhist book I brought along. Which was a wise move on my part because the other new hires just sat around looking dreamily ahead.

Ms. W, from HR, then attended to us individually to go through all the documents we were supposed to fill up. This took a painstaking 80 minutes. Having exhausted my book, I had no choice but to sit around and look dreamily ahead too.

She then went through some of the finer points of being an employee. We then proceeded to take a photo for our ID badge. My picture, as always, made me look like a refugee. Or so Dad says.

I guess the funniest part of the day was when we were herded back to the conference room. We were then supposed to wait for our managers to pick us up. Yes, just like kindergarten! We all waited patiently in the room. Whenever a head pops in through the door, we all looked up to see if it was our parents manager coming to collect us. Just like children!

I was the second last person to leave, out of 18. My manager was busy, so his secretary came instead. The entire software team was in a Status Report meeting, and I was suddenly shoved into the room unceremoniously. Suddenly, all my new colleagues had fixed their eyes on me. I had SO not anticipated that.

I smiled nervously, did a brief introduction, and took the only seat available - the one right in front of the room. Surely nothing to get shaken up about?

The rest of the day was quite a blur. And I can't reveal some parts because they are very much confidential. No, it doesn't involve any company scandals.

I'll have my own desktop computer tomorrow, so my learning and real work starts soon.

10 September 2006

An Interesting Story

As I promised a few days back, I have an interesting story to tell. Well, it was an interesting event, but whether or not I can convey that same feeling is another matter. But I try my best.

So the other night I was waiting at Puduraya for my bus to Penang when I saw this group of elderly women (I'm sorry, should I be calling them 'age-challenged females'?) lugging their sizeable bags. I could see the luggage check-in tags that airlines attach to the bag's handles, so I assumed they were returning from an overseas trip. What was interesting was that there were no young ones among them. Well, there was one in her 40s, but the other five were at least in their 50s or 60s. And my heart actually ached when I saw these ladies struggle to carry their bags down the steep staircase to the bus platform.

Did I help them? Of course not! It was already so tiring to have my heart ache for them, and now you're telling me I should go and carry their bags? I prefer to be rude, thank you. Anyway, we soon found ourselves on the same bus, and I kinda rolled my eyes when I realised that. As a general rule, crowd of old women = loud talking about petty stuff. I hope all you girls don't turn into petty aunties in the future, but it's really quite unavoidable. I expect scientists to find the gene causing this trait in women soon enough.

Example of Aunty Pettiness: After they were seated, one of them wondered (quite loudly) that she had to go pee. And she continued wondering (still loudly) if it was wise. You know, just in case the bus suddenly left. The other aunties then urged her to go now. Now! But the aunty in question said that it was actually quite fine and she could hold on. Then the other aunties countered with... yada yada yada. Finally she caved in and got up to go. Two other aunties went with her as well. As she was quite old, she couldn't really walk that fast but the others still asked her to hurry up, knowing well enough that she could only shuffle, not take Olympic strides. And all this commotion on the bus! My only glimmer of hope was that old people get tired easily, and would doze off soon.

Anyway, that wasn't the interesting story.

So not long after several of the aunties went to pee, a guy came up. He's probably in his 30s, and he was holding a sling bag and wearing a cap. I didn't really notice him until he suddenly sat next to me. Then he begin speaking to me in Hokkien. I immediately perked up and felt uneasiness. I took off my earphones and strained to hear his soft-spoken words. Our conversation (more or less):

Man: This bus is to Komtar right?
Zemien: No, they stop at the Sungai Ara bus terminal now.
Man: Actually, I just came out of the prison. I have no money to go home.

I felt sympathy for about one second before his next sentence triggered my Bullshit Detector.

Man: I was wondering if you could give me the money to buy the ticket fare...
Zemien: (shaking my head) I'm sorry I don't have any money.
Man: Please, I really have no job and money. If you could just spare me a few ringgit, I'll be...
Zemien: (shaking my head and looking away)
Man: What if you asked the aunties over there for help? ...
Zemien: (shaking my head and looking away)

He left the seat and I was relieved. He then targeted the aunties. I felt a little concerned, because old aunties are sometimes more gullible. But I needn't have worried. Quite smartly, one of the aunties countered that she herself does not have enough money! The man stuck around a bit longer, probably because he thinks old ladies are more gullible as well. Finally though, he relented and left the bus, muttering some complain that society doesn't give ex-cons a chance.

As I was sitting next to the window, I saw the man walked off hastily. If he was really feeling sad, he wouldn't be walking that fast. He's probably off to find his next victim. I heaved a sigh of relief that it was safe again, but I think I still have to work on my BS Detector. I should have put up my defenses the moment he suddenly sat down and talked to me, but I guess I'm still the doe-eyed innocent boy. I just hope I don't get pwned by my new colleagues.

Anyway, that is STILL not the interesting story I wanted to tell!

So after some time, the aunties who earlier went off to the toilet came back. They took their seats, and the others related the story of the con man to them. Suddenly one of the aunties yelled, "Eh, where's my handbag?" I immediately looked up because that aunty was sitting at the exact spot where the con man was when he pleaded to the others.

Even with their aging grey matter, it didn't take long for them to piece the puzzle together. And it also didn't take long for me to understand why the con man was walking away so hastily. There was a little commotion but they knew it was too late to go after that asshole. Her Identity Card was lost, but thankfully she had her passport on her. There were also some minor accusations going around on why the others didn't look out for her, but these con men are too smooth to notice unless you were paying attention.

Then out of nowhere, one of the aunties exclaimed, "Oh no! What about our bags?" They all ran down to inspect the luggage compartment. It appears that nothing was missing, but they were worried all the same. I have to mention that the driver wasn't around this whole time. In fact, not a single staff was around the platform. What if a suicidal maniac stole the bus and drove us off a cliff? Anyway, I digress.

So the aunties wanted to close the luggage compartment, but the driver wasn't around. So they tried closing it themselves. But I've seen the driver use a remote to control the luggage door, so all their attempts were futile. Still, that didn't stop me from enjoying myself as I watched 7 middle-aged ladies pull and heave with all their might on the door. Again, I didn't go help them because all that excitement just made me tired. But after awhile I felt sorry, and I gestured to them through the window that they needed to find the driver with the remote. The driver was still nowhere in sight, so two aunties stood outstide and kept watch until the driver returned.

Moral of the story: Always be alert around crowded areas, especially when strangers approach you. Make sure personal belongings are always watched by someone (preferably not the thief). And oh, that Zemien is cruel towards all old aunties? Not sure that counts as a "moral", but you certainly wouldn't want to be old and needing my help. I'll just point at you and laugh.

09 September 2006


John Mayer's new album Continuum is going to be released soon! I really like his lyrics and raspy voice. I recently downloaded a sample copy of the album complete with commentary by Mayer. Seriously - if you're someone who actually pays attention to the lyrics, you must get this album.

Check out this excerpt from Dreaming with a Broken Heart. John Mayer comments, "This song is about when things go wrong with somebody, but you meet them in your dreams when you're still alright. And that moment when you wake up and go 'Oh yea, they hate me.'".
When you're dreaming with a broken heart,
The waking up is the hardest part,
You roll out of bed,
and down on your knees,
and for a moment you can hardly breathe.
Wondering was she really here?
Is she standing in my room?
No, she's not.
Coz she's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.
Seriously. So beautiful beautiful beautiful. Accompanied by melancholic piano too!

Another great song is Slow Dancing in a Burning Room. John Mayer says, "It's kinda about a partner relationship and you know it's over, and you have your final bow together... It's about the end of a relationship, and it's kinda like watching it all burn down in front of you and making it in a beautiful thing."
It’s not a silly little moment
It’s not the storm before the calm
This is the deep and dyin breath of
this love we’ve been workin on
Can’t seem to hold you like I want to
so I can feel you in my arms
Nobody’s gonna come and save you
we pulled too many false alarms

We’re goin down
and you can see it too
We’re goin down
and you know that we’re doomed
my dear
we’re slow dancing in a burnin room
The title really describes that feeling huh? So go get it or download it as soon as it's released!

By the way, don't ask why I'm in the mood for such sad songs.

P.S. That really good post I'm promising will be up next.

07 September 2006

Scheduled Break from Blogging

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6.15am, took a bus, LRT, and KTM to Nilai, gave a talk from 4-5.30pm, had dinner with Albert, and then took KTM, LRT, and bus back to Penang. I reached home at 2.30am the following day.

I'm tired. Give me a break. But I have an interesting post coming up next.

04 September 2006

Those Stupid, Stupid People

Of which I am one of. Unfortunately.

Those who keep abreast of local news, or more specifically, local Chinese daily newspapers might have caught a whiff of the rumour that the price of renewing passports will jump to RM500 come September 1. According to the rumour mongers, the Prime Minister will announce the price increase in his Budget 06/07 address on that day. As RM500 is almost twice the current price of RM300, it was certainly cause for concern. If it were true.

For better or for worse, the rumour spread faster than an STD in a jail cell. Soon the Immigration Office in Penang was swamped by frantic people who wanted to renew their passport under the old price. The rumour floated mainly among the Chinese community, and so Penang was the only state experiencing this as we have a Chinese majority.

I am ashamed to say that I am one of those stupid people.

But wait! Before you throw me to the crocs and forsake my blog, I have a valid reason. My passport is going to expire this November, and since I need at least 6 months of validity to travel internationally, it was high time to renew anyway. Not that I planned to go out of the country. But at least I had a better reason than the other 300-odd people who turned up last Tuesday.

The usual process for making a passport before all this great stampede was: queue an hour to get a number, wait for your turn, submit all the relevant documents and thumb prints, and collect your travel document by late afternoon.

However, when I went on Tuesday the rumour has spread far and wide. I arrived at 7.30am to find a queue that stretched several buildings. I took my place and waited for the doors to open at 8am. To cut a long story short, the queue moved at a snail's pace. I waited FIVE HOURS just to get a number, and not just any number. My turn was not in 3 hours, but next week. Yes, they had to start giving out numbers in advance to appease those of us who have waited half a day.

So, I'll be going back tomorrow at 11am to finish what I started. I'm glad that I'm doing this before I actually start work. Taking time off from work even before you have really started is so uncool, ok? Just a note to everyone else - queueing in line for 5 hours ain't no fun. Don't try it if you can help it.

02 September 2006

There's A Reason for Everything

Almost 20 years ago...
Mum told me that when I was very young, a cup fell onto my head with a dull thud. The cup didn't break nor did I bleed, which might explain why I don't remember it. According to her, I was lying on my bed near the dressing table when it happened.

About 7 years ago...
I was trying out to be a patroller (a Junior Prefect, if you will). Yes, even at such a young age I could not resist waving disapproving fingers at juveniles. We had to undergo a probation period, and during one of my duty periods I was stationed near the football field. I was looking away when suddenly a large object smacked into the back of my head. I didn't fall, but I was stunned for a moment as I waited the loud ringing in my ears to stop. Apparently a soccer ball had found its way to my skull. The players rushed over to me and quickly apologized. They disappeared before I had a chance to wave my disapproving finger. Needless to say, I quit trying and went back to being a Librarian.

I'm not sure if those two events (and other unfortunate accidents) ever made me smarter, or made me dumber. But if you ever think I'm acting wacky, at least you know what I'm going to blame it on.

Memoirs of A Boy With Memory Retention Problems Part 4

Two other things I looked forward to on the Redang trip was the night sky and the sun rise.

The beach we stayed on faces east, so it was supposed to be the perfect spot for catching the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was always cloudy. So on the second day when Jackson and I woke up at 6am, we were rewarded with a mediocre sunrise. In fact, I couldn't see the sun at all! We were too bummed out by the trip that we didn't even bother to try again the following morning.

The star gazing was markedly better. As you should probably know, there are infinite twinkling stars above us but we can't see them at night because the city lights drown them out. But, in deserted places like Redang, all the stars come out of their hiding and brighten up the night sky with their own shimmer.

At least, that was the theory.

Throughout our trip it was cloudy but never rained. This is great when we were out in the sun, but was a nuisance when it came time to star gaze. The first night was really cloudy and we could hardly spot anything. Luckily, we were treated to a clearer sky on our last night. And man - what a feeling!

Imagine if you will - you are sitting on a deck chair looking up at the vast sky. Then, you gasp with awe as you realize just how many stars there are up there. Back in the city, you can sometimes spot the "Archer" star arrangement but over here you can't see him because there are so many stars crowding the sky! Eventually, you smile to yourself as you spot that familiar sequence of three stars.

As you continue gazing up, the soft breeze from the sea washes over you. All the tensions you were feeling just vanished as the sea breeze carasses your body. At the same time, the relaxing sound of the waves breaking upon the sand fills your ear. You wonder how a sound so loud can be so calming all at once.

Suddenly, you spot a tiny streak of light in the sky. A shooting star! You quickly ask your friends, "Did you guys see that?" Everyone else did not, which made you even happier that you did. Quietly, you made a wish upon the shooting star. You close your eyes as the happiness of the moment overwhelms you.

01 September 2006

Kicking the Habit

For as long as I can remember, my official occupation has been "Student". Whether it was an official form or an online registration site, "Student" was my automatic choice. But now that I've finally gotten a job, I will have to make several mental transitions.

Case in point: As I was filling up a warranty card earlier, I almost penned down "Student" under the Occupation field, but quickly corrected myself and wrote "Engineer" instead. Times are a-changing!