Tim's Blog

30 October

No more pictures
I've been terribly upset over the past week that Fotki.com, the service I'm relying on for my photo storage has seen fit to charge for their storage space. All my links from all the pictures on the blog will remain unbroken since I paid $30 for a year's storage. But they'll not be linked in one year's time.

I am now slowly investigating other avenues for photo storage including Sony's Imagestation and Kodak's Ofoto which offer unlimited photo storage space and makes their money from print orders and personalised gifts. Neither of which I expect make much money, but at least they have very strong and liquid backers.
08:17:11 AM - timyang - No comments

22 October

The fall of Melaka
The one question that remained at the top of my mind during my visit to Melaka was "What happened here?". Until the Portuguese conquerers arrived, Melaka was said to be a thriving enrepot port, being in the strategic geographic position between the Indonesian islands, China and India. Silks, spices, pearls and foods were traded here by captains from all over Asia. And yet within the span of a hundred years, Melaka fell into disrepair, having lost its reputation and dignity to other entrepot ports in the region such as Batavia and Singapore.

I write from a cafe called Harpers on Hang Jebat Street, bordered on one side by the Melaka River. It's the kind of cafe favoured by everyone except scruffs and backpackers. The river flows inland, bringing with it salt, silt and I suspect bad luck. I notice a three-foot long brackish monitor lizard in the muddy banks. It's a version of komodo dragon that's sometimes prized for its medicinal properties by the aging Chinese population. It spies a fish and ducks into a storm drain in pursuit.

Monitor lizards have quite a long life-span. But not quite as long as the Straits-born Chinese, or Peranakans. The Peranakans as a culture began when the Chinese traders began settling down along the Straits of Melaka, taking on locals as wives or requesting them from eligible families back in China. By definition, the entire population of Melaka are Peranakan. But Peranakans, nicknamed Baba-Nyonyas by the local Malays, were more defined by their wealth as much as their practices which were a fluid amalgamation of local and Chinese customs. A couple hundred years ago, they were as culturally distinct as the Beverley Hills set were from suburbanite LA.

One Peranakan family, the Chans, decided to open a small museum, a preservation of their ancestral home with all the heirlooms their grand-mothers and great-grandmothers collected over the years. And it is to the Peranakan museum that I turned to seek a response to my question.

12:21:57 PM - timyang - No comments

19 October

History of Melaka
I booked a trip to the town of Melaka, a few hours out of Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. If you're into the hey-days of western colonialism in South East Asia, then it's a must-see. Here's a bit of history of the place.

As it's oldest city, the founding of Melaka is tied closely with that of the beginnings of Malaysia. Or Malaya as it was known in the days before Independence from the British colonialists. It's strategic position in the centre of the Malaya Straits, between Indo-China and India made it a perfect stopover for traders. It was to South East Asia what Venice was to 12th century Europe -- the centre of commerce and culture.

Melaka was a small village when the exiled Hindu prince from Sumatra (an island on the Indonesian archipelago) Parameswara found it about 1400 AD. According to KH Leo, legend has it that during his flight, Parameswara saw a mouse-deer fight off his hunting dogs and so impressed was he by the mouse-deers bravery, he founded his city on that spot and called it Melaka after the tree he was sitting under. (Presumably 'Mouse-Deer City' wasn't too princely a name.)

Soon after, says Zabri Zain of Sejarah Melayu: A History of the Malay Peninsula, it became the largest marketplace in the world for goods from India and the West, China and the Spice islands. In 1409, Chinese settlers arrived in Melaka with the explorer Admiral Cheng Lock. They established a sea-borne silk route. The Indian traders brought spices and Islam. The West made its appearance with the Portuguese settlers in the early sixteenth century when they conquered the port with cannonfire. They built forts, churches and customs houses, much of which are still standing.

In succession, the Dutch took over in the middle of the 17th century then the British came in the 19th century. But after the arrival of the Europeans, Melaka did not maintain its position as leading port of the region, adds Mohamad et al (Information Malaysia 1995 Handbook; Berita Publishing; p585). The Portuguese did not establish a rapport with the pirates and the Dutch made Melaka subordinate to their east asian capital in Batavia.

Today, Melaka is a sleepy town steeped in history that does a strapping trade in antiques and in the production of gullible tourists.
04:05:18 PM - timyang - No comments

18 October

Uncertainty in blog reading
These are uncertain times. And they are reflected in the way people read blogs.

My counter determines new visitors as unique visits from computers which haven't the requisite cookie deposited in it. Returning visitors are those which have the counter cookie. It usually counts those computers which don't allow cookies as new visits.

I noticed last night on my counter that the ratio between new visitors over returning visitors had closed the gap over the past few weeks. In early September, it was something like 4:1 with the returning visitors around 15-20 per day. The number of returning visitors hasn't changed significantly. But now the ratio is more like 2:1. We can discount the explanation of more users without cookies enabled are visiting my site because the vast majority of computers are configured by default to allow cookies.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but in uncertain times, trials of new blogs tend to decrease while reading old favourites remains the same or perhaps increases.

I expect that around the same time when people trust airplanes to get them to their destination safely once again, blog reading will be back in full swing.
09:59:47 AM - timyang - No comments

16 October

See your name in print
I think this is a brilliant idea for authors to make a bit of publicity and some money too. Authors like Terry Prachett and Margaret Atwood are taking on bids from the public to have their names used as characters in their next books. Bids go from GBP6,200 to GBP25,000.

If any of them are writing trashy porno books, I'm definitely bidding. I'll be the guy who always "accidently" sees people screwing in bathtubs and pools filled with fuzzy stuffed elephants...
11:17:01 AM - timyang - No comments

15 October

Bloody Blogger!
Ate my archives for the entire of September. Luckily it didn't erase the file. So you can still access the September archive. But I've lost my ability to edit September and conveniently access exact dates in that month from Blogger. All other months are still intact.

(It later came back... but that was a terrible scare.)
11:55:09 PM - timyang - No comments

Travelling to Taj Mahal
Indiamart a tourism site describes the Taj Mahal as a "peerless monument portraying the beauty of eternal love". It was erected by the legendary Shahjahan as a memorial for his beloved wife, Taj Mahal. Which is why one of my clients decided to give away a trip to the Taj Mahal as the prize of a Bridal Pageant. But they canceled it at the last minute because they thought the region was too dangerous.

Granted, Agra, the city nearest to the Taj Mahal is just a few hundred miles from the infamous Kashmiri border that India shares with Pakistan where Lonely Planet reports the occasional trading of bullets. So I asked Saurahb an Indian art director whether all that fuss is really worth it.

He said Delhi is pretty safe. This is true, he adds, even for Westerners. (Indiamart explains that you have to pass through Delhi to get to Agra because Delhi has the only nearby international airport.) The Indians don't share the passions the Pakistanis have over the bombing of Afghanistan. For one thing India is by and large Hindu-dominated with a less than 15% Muslim minority, confirms Yahoo! India (which incidently uses Lonely Planet for all its "Facts at a Glance" data). And some people there are still cheering the expulsion of the Muslims from India in the 1960s.

Saurahb says you just have to avoid certain cities such as Lukhnow, Hydrabad and Bhopal in Central India and some parts of Bombay, I assume because there are some strong Muslim connections there.

So if you're planning trips to the region, no need to pack away that passport. It's safe. Take Saurahb's word for it. His name means "Fragrant One" in Sanskrit. (I have no idea how that is reasuring, but I thought I'd share that fact with you so we can share a snigger at his expense.)
08:44:39 PM - timyang - No comments

Blog advertising
Adnan has been the first blogger to take up the inexpensive advertising rate offered on Blogspot. He wrote me a really relevant reply to my query on his advertising success. So I'd like to share it with all of you who are also interested in advertising on blogs.

He says,
I put down $200 for 400,000 and it's at 15,000 impressions per day, so it'll run out in 26 days. So far I've been getting around an average of 100 clicks per day which is pretty low considering the amount of impressions, but its more than adequate and besides thats the average click thru rate in the industry.

I thought, wow. 100 clicks per day. That's about 0.7% clickthru rate. The industry average is around that. But those are for commercial and service-relevant sites like Ebay and Yahoo!. But then again Adnan's message was rather provocative and did borrow interest from current affairs. He said "I'm Kashmiri/Pakistani. Come shoot my ass off." Ok, it wasn't anything like that. But at least one person did take offence at it and he's written the incident up on his blog.

If I was going to advertise like Adnan (and I am sorely tempted to), I'd have to make a banner ad with an equally compelling message like "I'm from Malaysia and Osama bin Laden has a bungalow right here in Damansara Heights at 43 Jalan Damansara Kecil. Haha! Come get him!"

(It later occured to me. Maybe all those people who stopped visiting other people's blogs -- see the post below -- all spent their time at Adnan's blog instead.)
01:25:28 PM - timyang - No comments

Is reading blogs losing relevance?
A few bloggers and I have noticed that in the post 9-11 world, reading blogs seems to have lost its relevance. We've all noticed that starting in the week after 9-11, once the dust had somewhat settled, visits to our blogs have dropped by about half. It might be because we suddenly all became bad writers. Haha!

Other than that we're at a loss to explain it. And disconcertingly, I don't know how long this trend might last because I haven't really figured out what's causing it.

Cyberatlas hasn't reported a downturn in internet use. But I don't expect that. If anything, news-gathering is the one dependable function of the internet and people have been going more news-crazy. One indication is at bbc.co.uk where they've cut down on code and graphics on the front page after 9-11 to increase loading time. And I've observed dramatically increased participation at Metafilter, a news aggregation service, over the past three weeks. One of the most plausible reasons is as Jess, a two-year blogger, has suggested: reading blogs is a less dependable way of gathering hard news which is what people are seeking on the "war on terrorism". Blogs are more suited toward soft news like "what's going on in my life".

Another possible reason appears when you examine the role of blogs in their socialising capacity. Perhaps the downturn in blog reading is because people are losing their appetite for socialising in a climate of general social mistrust and paranoia.

So do you have any ideas? Is reading blogs losing its relevance as an activity, whether for news-gathering or socialising?
01:07:46 PM - timyang - No comments

14 October

Protest all you want, fellas. When bin Laden puts that anthrax up your butt, like he said he would, let's see how much longer you'll be protesting. Yeah, you bet I believe him.

Or what if it isn't him and it's some American psycho like Tim McVeigh sending the anthrax to people to capitalise on the terror? I have a strange feeling that it isn't really the M.O. of muslim radicals to be any subtler than sending two planes into the World Trade Center.
08:34:00 AM - timyang - No comments

13 October

Malaysian copy watches
I've had watches on the brain since I got my new stainless steel Timex Expedition on Monday. I've always had simple conservative tastes in watch design. I think Swatches, Baby-Gs and other digital watches are just too fancy for me. Although I do own an aviator Swatch (the only decent Swatch design besides the classic black). It has a round white face with numbers large enough to read at a glance while doing a round-wing spin at 14000 feet.

I just got a new copy watch from Petaling Street for RM35 (USD 10). It's a stainless steel rectangular-shaped white face analog Dunhill with strokes instead of number except for 12 and 6. Almost too simplistic, but very tastefully done.

There was a time not so long ago when the Malaysian copy watch makers purposely added an obvious flaw to the watches to avoid too much attention from the authorities. It's like the way Arabian carpet makers manufacture a flaw in their creations to avoid insulting Allah who is the only being who can make anything perfect. Nowadays the copies are virtually authentic. I reckon only a Dunhill salesman or enthusiast could spot the difference between mine and the genuine article.

The logo is an exact replica. There are probably minor detail differences due to the manufacturer's preference for efficient production scales. For instance I saw several of the watch designs today bearing the same cheap-ass blue bevel, marking them out as done by a manufacturer who prefers profit over aesthetics.

I rather like mine. The leather is pretty stiff. It has a distinct Dunhill logo embossed on the back of the strap (which I suspect the original might not). And if I look closely enough I can spot the stitching on the strap where it might unravel in a few months. But I like it a lot.

Anybody want one? Name any brand. Petaling Street has loads. And the quality is excellent.
01:08:19 AM - timyang - No comments

12 October

I hate getting spam. And these guys send me spam every day. I hate them. Except... their spam includes jokes. And their jokes are funny. Now I can't block their spam without reading the jokes first. I hate them even more.
06:12:55 PM - timyang - No comments

Bert is evil
Yeah I know I am going to be the millionth blogger to post this link. I've been following this meme in Metafilter since 9 Oct and I've been the telling everyone in the office about it. Thanks to timely news from the people at Metafilter, I get more attention from my colleagues. Hah!

I hope some friendly nation gives the Bangladeshi photoshop artist who created the montage poster of Osama bin Laden with Bert in it instant asylum and citizenship. He's going to need it.
02:23:56 PM - timyang - No comments

Childhood closet
One of the skeletons from my childhood is that I used to play role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Aiiiiiiieeee!

Among the genres I was interested was Call of Cthulhu, a horror role-playing game based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, an early 20th century author. So I was rather pleased to see an updated version of the Call of Cthulhu game called "PokeTHULHU!". The tagline of this new Steve Jackson Games game: Gotta Catch You All!
"Ever wonder what happens when Jigglypolyp goes head to 'pod with Dagong? Armed with your very own Shining Dodecahedron and Pok�nomicon, you can quest for the Nameless City and do battle with the forces of Team Eibon! YOU become a Pok�thulhu Cultist, collecting and training a 'thulhu of your very own!"


(I came across the link while trying to research monster names so that I could create a series of villians for a television commercial I am planning to do for Sugus. They're going to be part of a TVC series tentatively-called the "Teenage Sugus Secret Heroes" which is kind of like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The series follows a group of teenagers who battle evil alien monsters called Monstras. And you think I'm not hard-working? Hah!)
01:25:34 PM - timyang - No comments

11 October

It is official. I now have a new callous on the inside of the index finger on my right hand. Guess what caused it. Go on. Take a wild guess. That's right. It was from opening too many cans of Coke.

Can you say Coke fiend?
12:47:40 PM - timyang - No comments

08 October

Can you believe my luck? The first time I take the advice of my dad and I sign up for a small little-known gym near my office, as I walk out the changing room, I surprise my boss taking gym clothes out his bag.

Well, I was as surprised he was. This is the same guy I criticised a couple of days ago as having very little people management skills. This is also the same guy who has the identical birthday as me.

I was hoping, a rather modest hope, that the gym would be my own personal space for myself away from my normal life of home and internet. A third place. But it looks like I may have to share it with my boss.

Some people would be happy at this opportunity to bond with the boss outside of the office. I have no idea how to take advantage of that situation. I have been looking for an opportunity like this, but when it presents itself, I flummox and run.
08:45:52 PM - timyang - No comments

Kursk up!
Yay! It's been over a year, but the Kursk is being raised as I write this. Finally the bodies can start to be buried and the we can begin to put this tragedy behind us. Call me a simpleton bourgeios pig (in the Marxist sense) but I can already hear the boisterous Stalinist Russian national anthem as sung by the crew of the Red October.
08:34:37 PM - timyang - No comments

Stop comparing
My shrink says I should stop comparing myself to my colleagues.

He says that's the root of my problem. He cited examples such as the time when I froze for six months when doing my dissertation because I was overwhelmed with the idea of actually doing a good dissertation like the ones that went before mine. He also cited the instance when I didn't take the job in TBWA\London because I compared myself with how on-the-ball I thought everyone was at that company.

He says I am comparing myself again when I think that I'm incompetent and immature because my only evidence is the difference in work and thinking styles between myself and my colleagues.

He says I should stop doing that and I should start by listing down all the good things about me. That's when it hits me. I'm really good at listing all the bad things, but I have never anything nice to say about me.

My shrink says "no one will praise you, you have to praise yourself". I started by buying myself a stainless steel USD80 Timex Expedition today. I reckon I must have done something good last week so this is payment in kind. :-)

I've never done the "good list" before so this will be unknown territory for me. The problem is, "good" is often observable and not necessarily intuitive. So you'll have to help tell me what should go on my list.
08:19:12 PM - timyang - No comments

07 October

Fat feet
I managed to put on another 5 pounds over the past two weeks. (Ha! "Managed". I'm as surprised as a fish with feet.) I now weigh about 140lbs. I expect to hit 150lbs by the end of November. I lost 8lbs last month when I couldn't eat properly because of the dental surgery. I put it all back and then a bit more.

The whole 5lbs has gone straight down to my feet. They're slightly swollen now. Not so much that anybody would notice except for me. It's an odd sensation when I walk. The skin feels really tight. It feels like I'm going to burst a vein with the next step. Hopefully, the next 5lbs will find themselves some room elsewhere.

I make believe like I'm still in training, but I am nowhere near the shape I was in eight months ago while I was training with Kru Sert in Boscombe.

(I haven't trained at all actually since I left the UK. There aren't any fighter gyms anywhere in the city. The local Yellow Pages lists none. There could be one in a place called Sri Hartamas, according to a website search. But that's an area without public transport and I don't drive. The longer I stay out of training, the less I want to go back to it.)
09:28:34 PM - timyang - No comments

06 October

I find myself in a very frightening situa-tion. I have the post of senior copywriter but I don't behave like one. While I should be displaying leadership skills and preparing myself to take on the role of group head, I am still making amateur mistakes and showing an inability to manage my resources and my time.

Over the past few weeks. I have been guilty of bragging. Guilty of acting on impulse rather than experience. Guilty of holding back and not displaying enough authority even in front of clients.

I managed to get the job by exhibiting the desire and the requisite ability to think strategically. But I can't perform at an overall adequate level, except in interviews.

Now I am in such deep trouble. I am in short, incompetent. I understood my shortcomings, so I didn't take that job at TBWA\London. So why did I accept this one? I blame my blatant immaturity and I curse it. Last night I woke up yelling at myself for being so childish.
06:05:45 PM - timyang - No comments

05 October

Neo, one of the two designers at the office, is feeling bad today. She got chewed out by the boss -- the creative director -- yesterday because she had clocked in too many hours on a job that got canceled in the end.

She liked working on that job -- it was two greeting cards commissioned by a client for their customers -- so she put in a lot of time and a couple of weekends. And she filled out her timesheet honestly which reflected her passion for the job. It wasn't her fault that the client changed his mind about the production of the cards.

Part of the problem is that the client is really fussy and Neo knows that. So she decided to create the visual presentation with as much detail and care as possible. The other part is that Neo loves designing and is a bit of a perfectionist.

The third part of the problem is that the boss, while we all admire him, has got a bit of a self-centred streak. He'd been called up by the external consultant working on timesheet traffic and when he is called up, he takes it out on us. And he gets very personal. Neo really looked up to him so the experience of being bawled out was doubly devastating.

He's won several regional creative awards over the last few years and the top awards too. He's really fast with the creative solutions. But I have to criticise his people management skill. He was simply being unfair to Neo.
10:14:38 AM - timyang - No comments

04 October

"The state of education? Is that near the state of euphoria?"
I've just received the most shocking news from Kate. She tells me Americans don't have an education in geography or sociology, neither American nor international. It seems general knowledge isn't a test to get into universities.

But it hasn't gotten so bad that geography or sociology subjects aren't used in gameshows. They still have really tough questions... like "How many blocks is a ten block street?"

This news does have repurcussions for me. One of my clients is a terribly expensive and exclusive beach resort that caters to foreigners from nations with favourable exchange rates. This includes the Germans, the Brits, the Japanese but sure as hell won't include Americans from now on since they can't tell where New York is, much less Malaysia.
10:41:40 PM - timyang - No comments

I'm so tense right now, I could shit bullets. Stupid deadlines are forcing me to do things to meet approval objectives rather than marketing objectives.

That means I have to create solutions that I think my boss will approve of rather than what might be right. So I have to nod and say "Yes, you're absolutely right" so that I can get the job out of the way and move onto something more worthwhile.
01:04:34 PM - timyang - No comments

02 October

Support for bin Laden
If you're wondering why so many people in Bangladesh and Pakistan are supporting Osama bin Laden, then consider this:

The people of these states and their neighbours are so dirt poor that they actually identify with Osama bin Laden more than with Americans. They see bin Laden as the David versus the Goliath. They tend to dislike comparatively rich people because they feel infringed by them and marginalised. While bin Laden may have killed thousands overtly, they feel that the US-funded (directly or indirectly) despots, warlords and businessmen who've been making their lives miserable have killed thousands more. And they might be right.

The support is not so much because Afghanistan is a Muslim state. Muslims don't always identify with each other and students of Arabian history will be quick to point out the numerous wars between the various Muslim-run states.

In the coming weeks, it is quite likely that as news of bin Laden's fight gets publicised in these countries, more will join his cause, thus giving the US more martyrs to target.
04:16:27 PM - timyang - No comments

I just had a preview of Hell if Hell is going to be getting stuck in two hour meetings on the market overview of chewy sweets targeted at pre-teens and the entire account team is singing all the retarded jingles of competing products and acting out the antics of Captain Fruitella.
12:53:26 PM - timyang - No comments