Monthly Archive for December, 2006

Where’s Penny?

Singapore Day 3

Before 2006 comes to a close, I’ve a confession to make. This is for the times I get asked “Where’s Penny?” and when they tell me how she’s going to be so happy now that I’m home. Well, I’m sharing the sad news that it’s game over for both Penny and I.

Since I probably won’t finish my doctoral program till at least a year more, we’ve decided to call it quits. She’s endured the long distance for a portion of our six year relationship, and it’s one more year too long as we reach our 30s. I’m beyond depressed at this stage, but I wish her all the best for the new year with our new separate lives.

Upon reflection, every relationship is literally a new life. Each time we go through a breakup, we die spiritually, but we are soon reborn (respawned) and given a chance to start over. Looking back at the myriad of “lives” I’ve had the fortune of living, I feel blessed. Every life has taught me something new, and hopefully enough to make me a better man.

Before I go, a stranger once dropped me an email asking how I met Penny. Her reason for asking: “You 2 guys don’t seem much alike, though she seems like a really nice girl”. To answer, I met Penny at work in Singapore. We’re different, but it’s enjoyably humbling in that way.

A message to myself: Kevin, don’t look back and you’ll be fine.

Photos: So how do I find Singapore so far?

Having spent most of my recent six year in Buffalo, I return to Singapore to teach for a few months, as well as to change my pace of life. Here’s a little monologue of my transition so far…

Before leaving for the Buffalo airport, I took some pictures of my Triads apartment as a way of documenting where everything is. This is just in case I require a friend to send me anything I might have left behind. If needed, I’d simply annotate one of the photos and email it to my housemate, Aaron.

Always trying to save on flights, I ended up with numerous connections and thus never had good experience flying back home. Flight delays, lost baggages and sleeping at the airports were commonplace. This time it was different though, as I managed to grab a non-stop 18hr flight from Newark to Singapore. Singapore Airlines flight SQ 21 cut me through all the chase for as little as US$1700+. From this series of photos, you’ll see the 2-3-2 seat configuration in the executive economy class (there’s no economy on this flight!), gourmet dinner, nice leather seats with flexible leg and head rests, just under a hundred movies on demand, and the snack bar at the back of the plane. Incidentally, I started a subversive multiplayer game of Pong in their gaming system but no one joined in… see what I called it.

After landing in Singapore, the next few days consisted of me doing my usual walkabout and trying to reacquaint myself with my new environment. I’d spend most of my time with my mum, following her as she shopped and learning how private sales are all the rage today. Judging from the hungry mobs at Isetan, I didn’t think the sale was that private really… more like an “exclusive” ruse. You’ll see modern society at it’s worse; it’s everyone for themselves as if there weren’t enough luxuries to go around.

The never ending cycle of materialism, with Singapore’s ridiculous abundance of high-end fodder and massive emporiums to keep even the rabid of minds at bay. Perhaps these guys were trying to tell us something: Axel Rose had albums which went like Use Your Illusion, while Neil Postman had a book entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death. The more you buy, the more you save… or is it? Such short term goals will likely lead to the long term destruction of the society. Perhaps it’s time for the good to take back this land. If only there’s a way to get enough of us to pledge our allegiance to civility, and to serve as a good measure for others to follow. Bah humbug!

Other points of interest during my walkabout:
• A corner shop at Lucky Plaza was selling the Go Motorboard which I received for a review earlier. I wonder if permits are required to ride this locally, otherwise I would have brought mine back as an environmentally friendly means of transportation. I don’t think people know enough about this to want one. My mum wondered why it’s so expensive and I said it wasn’t a toy… at first glance, you won’t even realize that there are decent motors hidden under the board. It’s that slick.

Crocs took a while to be hip in Singapore, but eventually made it and has stuck with locals ever since. Since it’s cast-molded, it’s easy to mass produce, yet at S$50+, it’s definitely a brand name people are buying into.

• I was wondering if I could fashion this for use in Second Life, when an idiotic salesman nearly took my eye out flying this in the toy department…

Got on the free islandwide wifi called “Wireless @ SG” and loved it. It’s not as widespread as I thought so you’ll still need to find a decent spot to plonk yourself down. Still, free is good.

• Since I last returned to Singapore, there’s been a real surge in the number of portable gaming devices kids carry nowadays. Everywhere I go, I’d see 4 out of 5 kids (and some working ladies) with a Sony PSP, while Nintendo DSes (and even Gameboys) trailing closely behind. At a gaming shop in Funan IT center, I saw an equal number of purchases made between the competing portable consoles. Most buyers opted for the package where the sales person would apply a screen protector for them. With all the mobile devices Singaporeans carry nowadays (e.g. cellphones, pdas), protective accessory makers are really making a killing.

• Getting my watches fixed here is so much better than in the States. For S$6, the local watch repairman not only knows how to disassemble an unfamiliar watch, but gives you a better battery to boot. I’ve had watches mangled by dumb American watch shop owners, simply because they don’t know how to open them, but think they do.

• In Singapore, it’s “green tea” added to everything… including Pretzels!

• There was one in Toronto, and now a copycat in Singapore? I’m talking about the Cosplay Cafe I spotted at Chimes. It’s funny, but if you think about it, it’s the Asian equivalent of America’s Hooters. Sex, even fetish ones, still sells.

• Missing my stop as I fell asleep on bus No. 7 turned out to be the most serendipitous thing I’ve done in a while. I ended up at some less traveled part of Clementi and while heading in the general direction of home, I discovered the Clementi Community Center (CC) buried between high-rised flats. As I sipped my “Teh-C Peng” (concentrated iced milk tea), I watched senior folks do their Tai-Chi, while younger ones getting their belts at Tae Kwan Do. You can also learn to cook all kinds of traditional dishes, and picked up new computer skills here. These CCs are so integral to creating active citizenry; perhaps they’ll come in useful in my line of research.

• By 10pm, I was really sleepy, probably due to residual jetlag. The walk home was lonely, yet calm and relaxing.

If you’re interested, check out the entire flickr photoset complete with captions.

Someone knew I was coming… Singapore’s Internet broke!

First Meal in Singapore: Lontong breakfast @ Sixth Ave

One 18hr non-stop flight later, I was back on solid (and very wet) ground. My mum picked me up from Changi Airport and wisked me away for a quick but tasty Lontong breakfast at Sixth Ave. Along the way she updated me on the ongoings of our friends and neighbors, which was great since I’m so in touch with online social networks, that I’ve nearly forgotten about my offline connections.

Speaking of connections, I reached home only to find that the wireless network I had setup already crapped out. My parents’ household has a really old cable modem, a wired Netgear router and my recently installed Belkin 54g wifi router. Since everything was already in place when I brought in the wifi router, I turn it into a wireless access point instead. Now it’s simply not working, so I thought to myself about simplifying the whole setup by just using the wifi router to replace the wired one. Along the way, everything failed… from AIM to Skype, to checking emails and web pages… nothing worked. I spent the next few zombified hours trying to figure out what was wrong… from forwarding network ports to physically checking ethernet cables, but to no avail. It was only when I started scanning the wifi channels in my neighborhood that I happen to glance at an RSS feed which explained it all. It was then that I realized how I wasn’t the only one facing this problem. The entire country’s internet connectivity has gone down, thanks to a powerful earthquake in Taiwan.

As seen on and Bloomberg: “The Taiwan earthquake has affected several submarine cable systems in Asia, causing cable cuts near Taiwan late last night,” Singapore Telecom spokesman Chia Boon Chong said by telephone today. “Some customers might experience a slowdown in data or Internet access. Traffic diversion and restoration works are currently in progress”.

According to Reuters, the main quake was measured by Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau at magnitude 6.7 and at magnitude 7.1 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake struck off Taiwan’s southern coast at 1226 GMT on Tuesday. So far, two people were killed. Voice circuits had been reduced to 40 per cent of capacity to the United States, 11 per cent to Japan, 10 per cent to mainland China and just 2 per cent to most parts of Southeast Asia.

This experience isn’t like going on a 56kbps analogue modem…
think more like tranferring data over two plastic cups and a string.

Currently connecting via Newark International Airport

godiva mocha and wired

Had your Christmas dinner? Well, this is mine… At the airport lounge with a bottle of Godiva Mocha and the latest issue of Wired. Eighteen hours of flying ahead of me, but I hear this SQ21 flight is really something (e.g. nice leather seats, a snack bar, etc). Stay tuned for in-flight photos where permissable.

About this distance record breaking flight, Peter told me how these non-stop flights travel via the Earth’s hemisphere. This is where there is less of an atmosphere to protect us, which means three things: 1) I might get to see Santa at the North Pole, 2) This is as close to outer space I think I’ll ever get, 3) Medically speaking, we can only take this route a few times a year, since we’re risking chances of cancer by cosmic radiation.

Don’t believe me? Go google it.. I’m writing this from my T-mobile Sidekick so I can’t go link-happy today.

Oh yeah, Merry Christmas y’all!

Video: Leaving Buffalo on Christmas to teach in Singapore…

If you don’t already know, the countdown timer on my blog sidebar has now reached zero. In a few hours, I’ll be taking a plane to Singapore and I can’t wait to meet up with family and friends back home.

This time my stay is going to be extended though, as I will be teaching the Spring semester of UB’s Communication programme at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). Specifically, I’ll be teaching both COM125: Intro to Internet as well as COM242: Mass Media Effects and I hope the kids will be ready for me. I’ve been preparing course material with fellow instructors so it’s going to be fun!

Having bid my farewells to my Buffalo-bound friends (see video above), I’ve been looking forward to this change and some of my personal motivations for taking up this teaching position include:
1. To challenge myself by breaking routine (in Buffalo for 6 yrs already!)
2. To see if teaching is really for me.
3. To build a more diverse and professional C.V.
4. To make some money and save for my future.
5. To conduct intercultural research in Singapore and Buffalo.
6. To see whether my future lies in Singapore or the States.
7. To scope out relevant career opportunities.

My teaching stint will start from 15th Jan till 30th April. After which I plan to spend time writing my papers and return to Buffalo in July to finish up my program. I’ll be inviting guest lecturers, and since I’m bursting with ideas, I will be podcasting (sharing) as much of the class content as possible. As always, I’m inviting you to share your thoughts as well. Always looking for an edge.

Stay tuned and wish me good luck! :)

Why Time Magazine’s Person of the Year isn’t exactly “You”…

Time Magazine: Person of the Year (Remixed)
Okay, this is a spoof of the cover. Click to enlarge…

If you don’t have a copy of the latest Time Magazine, you can read about it here or catch the Time Magazine editor’s earlier call for votes on Youtube. Don’t forget to check out some of the numerous video responses by everyone. Also see flickr’s “Person of the Year” tag…

Today’s Links: WikiSummaries… for those who can’t read the real thing


For those questions Google can’t answer…

There are some questions that cannot be answered by Google

Taken off Amber Mac’s flickr feed (of the CommandN fame), this little photo ought to tickle the brainy nibblets of librarians and teachers in higher ed. Being in a pretty large university, I’ve always heard complaints about how undergrads can’t seem to write papers with good references, often relying on whatever their Google search hauls in on the first few hits.

Has advances in search technology inadvertently crippled our youth’s information literacy?

P.S.: If Google can’t answer, maybe Wikipedia can… just kidding!

My Story with The Maestro: Getting Online, Getting Discovered

Just as DJ Mix Master Mike is known for his scratch records, as Paul Gilbert is known for shredding his guitars, I present to you my friend, The Maestro, as the funniest conductor/pianist/violinist you’ll ever know…

How I got to know The Maestro…
One of the joys of working at the Educational Technology Center (ETC) is that I get to meet and help talented people transitioning through our university. Magnus “The Maestro” Martensson came by to teach at the University at Buffalo (there’s a decent music school here) and ended seeking my help to build an online presence as a musician. For starters, I guided him through the use of web ingredients such as a generous portion of, some sprinkles of Flickr and a dash of Youtubeness (MySpace coming soon too).

A little background on The Maestro…
Swedish born conductor Magnus Martensson turned into a comedian/pianist during a concert at Victor Borge Hall in New York City, in front of an enthusiastic and encouraging audience that included members of Mr. Borge’s family. Since then, Mr. Martensson has appeared in Los Angeles, New York, and Buffalo, and critics have called his act both “hilarious” and “clever.”

Mr. Martensson wrote comedy as a young laddie, combining it with music and performing at school concerts. He presented a series of private Comedy&Music concerts in Cleveland during the 1990s, but has since been busy working as a conductor, narrowing down his comedy time to Scherzo movements in symphonies. After receiving encouraging words from the daughter of late comedian/pianist Victor Borge, Mr.Martensson decided to be funny again and has since been performing his comedy routine, combining it with conducting and multi instrumental musical performances.

Mr. Martensson is currently Music Director of The Slee Sinfonietta and The Scandinavian Chamber Orchestra of New York, and guest conducts in Europe and South America. He has premiered over 70 works, and has recorded for the Mode and Mindfeel labels. An active composer, Mr. Martensson’s commissions have included orchestral and chamber music, songs, and solo works. His one act opera Before the Law , based on Kafka’s work, premiered in Buffalo in 1997, while in 2004 he conducted his Kvasir for Strings at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

What’s in store for The Maestro…
The above YouTube clip (Quicktime version here) represents one of the many acts he has been performing throughout the States and we’ve compiled all the funnier bits in a neatly packaged DVD. He has also produced a music CD which contains a selection of delectable Scandinavian piano favorites, as well as a book entitled Thoughts, Verse and Further Nonsense, which as it states, is full of it complete with illustrations.

If you’re interested in his mad musical masterpieces, run over to his blog at right now!

Today’s Links: Photos by Citizen Journalists vs. News Journalists