Friday, July 29, 2005


Have an exam on Monday 1st August. Will be back after that!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

So You Wanna Be a Game Designer?

Gamespot is running an article on how to become a game designer. It's not easy.

Then again, many things in life worth doing are not easy.

A Defence of and from Xiaxue

Anonymous writes in comment to my previous post:

"When I saw the pic, instantly I was repulsed. A girl who exposing herself in public because she's "bored" clearly has psychological issues. I mean, is this a normal response to boredom?"

To which I responded:

"Nudity is treated differently in different countries, in different contexts. I personally think what SPG has done is artistic, and displays an aesthetic beauty in the female form. The fact that its -her- female form that she posted is something that I respect even more."

Xiaxue writes a passionate article on why her position is the opposite of mine, perhaps directed at this post, perhaps not. However, I have reason to believe she has at least read some of the commentary, because she writes:

"Nude photos can PASSABLY be called art. But flashing... That's where I draw my line. I think it is crude, tasteless, and not to mention a cheap stab at getting attention."

Let me get some facts straight. There are two photos in issue here. One is the original black-and-white photo that caused the whole Straits Times controversy. The other is the photo Kenny Sia put up. I think there's an injustice done to link or compare the two.

The first can tolerably be called art, depending on your opinion - it certainly is in my opinion. The second is more dicey. I have not commented at all about the act SPG's exposure - an issue I wish to address here.

Xiaxue's next comment:

"Nice try, but not bombastic enough: Why not spread your legs, hold them up tightly behind your ears, and let everyone have a clear look at your genitals? If they want, they also can insert foreign objects inside. And feel free to blog about it!"

Xiaxue, the reverse is also true. Would you like to be punished for removing your veil in front of anyone but your husband? That's an unfortunate reality in several fundamentalist Muslim states. If there is a line drawn somewhere, I'd like to know where it is. Certainly, the heart of the controversy here is WHERE the line is drawn, if indeed there is one drawn at all. I think the variance in attitudes towards the whole incident can be demonstrated by the whole spectrum of views available.

What I've written in my article about Kenny applies equally to you, Xiaxue - I don't necessarily like what you write, or the personal attacks you occassionally mount, but I don't condone people trying to jeer you away. -IF- one has something to say about your posts, say it, and say it civilly - or just ignore it. I will not condone the act of hacking into someone's blog. That's an act of cowardice, slightly below the bombing on someone's house.

There is, however, another aspect to this that I did not take into account, and probably should have. For that I apologise.

I think there's a lot -I- can learn about friendship from three bloggers - minishorts, Xiaxue and Kenny. Whatever your argument or methods for or against the whole incident, you probably did so out of friendship to Kenny. That is something I admire greatly.

Moreso, it takes a certain kind of stubborn courage to write what you write and still not be affected by hatemail, and that is the most honest kind of journalistic integrity there is. It's easy to write dispassionately (as I do) - and still continue writing. The pressure to self-censor isn't as great.

I'm not your friend or Kenny Sia's or Claire Wong's friend - I've never had the opportunity to meet you or them. In so far as my post hurt you or your friendship in any way - I apologise unreservedly. Words cannot be unsaid unfortunately.

I do not have to agree with you. You don't have to agree with me. I ask that you try to understand that I wrote what I wrote because I don't think the commentators in Kenny's post should have expressed their disapproval quite so harshly - a sentiment I am fairly sure you can understand. I'm glad the three of you mended your friendship.

There are always circumstances beyond what we know, and a culture of tolerance in the blogosphere is something I've always advocated and strived for.

Or, perhaps I'm losing it, reading too much into a post I should not have. Please feel free to ignore a small readership blog with a bombastic writing style then.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

OMG...They Killed Kenny!

-deep sigh-

Kenny Sia, Malaysia's Number 1 blogger, appears to have fallen on hard times, due to a picture he took of Sarong Party Girl, sans top. He has since taken down said pictures due to some rather strong response from his readers - minishorts in particular.

Update: The post is gone. Kenny has taken the whole post down. In its place he's put up a parody of a parody.

I confess to enjoying some of Kenny's older gags - in particular, the Xiaxue Proposal and the recent parody of Sarong Party Girl's nude photo. Here's the question - what has changed about this new gag that provoked mob-lynching?

Some of the comments I've managed to glean from Kenny's post:

"This post is offensive. Why would a so called decent guy like you think this is funny?

Could you give me ten good reasons why your girl friend would be okay with this? No decent girl out there would think this is okay. I never posted a comment before, and I have enjoyed reading your decent posts in the past. Even the one about your dad made me all teary. But this is utter nonsense."

- by aka

I lost my respect for you Kenny. And I pity your gf. How do you think she feels when she sees that pic? Maybe you're saying that 'hey, it's just in the name of fun', but this is already over the limit. At least respect your gf by not posting up a pic of you and another girl - half naked - for the world to see.

Totally tasteless.

- by bleh

It seems to come down to (i) Kenny has a girlfriend (ii) Kenny should not be posing half-nude with Sarong Party Girl and (iii) Kenny should not have post these pictures. My question here is - what is the limit? Did Kenny step over some invisible line of morality?

Let me come right out and say it - I can't find it in me to condemn either of them, or both of them collectively.

To the facts - from what I gathered, I doubt Kenny anticipated SPG's easy acquiesance to his request to disrobe. At MOST Kenny was culpable for making a request he did not anticipate will be followed through, supported by his version of events that he didn't even realise that SPG had disrobed. Yes, I know this is his version of events - I was not there, but I am willing to take Kenny's version at face value given the glowing reports minishorts wrote of Kenny's character. Since the bulk of the comments seem centered around his perceived lack of faith with his girlfriend, my question here is - Is Kenny culpable for something that he did not intend?

Hence, it comes down to Kenny's decision to post the photo on his blog and make the breasts jiggle - about the only intentional act he may be culpable for. There was a perceived "tastelessness" to the post. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't, but this doesn't seem to be the real issue, does it? Was the post -in isolation- tasteless? Or was the post -in combination- with his perceived lack of faith that made the post tasteless? I get the impression it's the latter, not the former.

Let's face it - in this particular case, when aka and bleh said that Kenny has crossed a line of morality, what they are really saying is that they have crossed their line of morality. Yet, nudity is highly subjective. Depending on context it can be moving, funny, distasteful, obscene, or titillating. The very FACT that there is so much controversy over this picture supports the diversity of views that Kenny's post inadvertently caused.

All I ask Kenny readers to do is to take a deep breath, consider the diversity of views available, then make your decision. More importantly, I ask you to consider things from Kenny's perspective. He obviously found it funny. A few of you did not. Is that really grounds to be disappointed in him?

For the record, I am not sexist - I believe the fact that I am willing to remove myself from my lucrative legal career in Singapore for the uncertainty of living (and possibly not finding work) in California to facillitate my wife's desired career in academia speaks more than I can ever write in this blog. I fully support SPG's right to nudity, and more than admire her guts to be unashamed of her body and sex. I fully support Kenny's right to post whatever rocks his world and feels is true to himself.

-IF- there is one thing I find objectionable about the whole thing, it is the fact that Kenny took down the pictures. I do not think he has done anything wrong, and his pictures, while distasteful to some, obviously provided amusement to others. To support some readers at the expense of others seems to smack of a compromise of what Kenny had set out to do in that post.

For that, Kenny, I mourn your passing. May it be temporary.

Temper, Temper

I have a temper.

No suprises there - I had just yesterday vented it on some hapless Straits Times Reporter whose name I will not deign to repeat. I do not regret it, considering the "buay hiao bai" behaviour he roguishly displayed to Linda.

That is not to say I do not regret displays of temper. In fact, this is one of the rare occassions I do not regret losing my temper.

Hence, when Huichieh describes my writing style as being "ever measured", I feel it is my obligation to let my readers know that I am not, in fact, even-tempered. Far from it. I've just learnt over the years to keep my temper on a short leash.

There -are- still a couple of things that can set it off - most of them to do with my upbringing. One of the things that -will- set me off are bullies. Growing up a geeky, overweight teenager in an all-boys school priding itself for producing jocks has left it's mark on me.

What does this have to do with poor hapless Mr. Au Yong? Simply that I have a very short temper for perceived injustices, especially when said injustices are perpetuated from half-truths or misleading "common wisdom" - the meat and drink of bullies to exert social power. -ESPECIALLY- when someone should know better.

For someone who prides himself on his self-control, coolness of mind and ability to rationalise argument, it is with some shame that I look back on my writings yesterday. Not that Mr. Au Yong didn't deserve my harshest language, but because I did what I did for improper motives - and received much positive feedback from it.

No one should have to deal with ungentlemanly behaviour because of someone else's hangup. No one.

This is not an apology to Mr. Au Yong. This is a statement to the Singapore Blogging Community - you guys did great. Don't let the ravings of one biased ignorant reporter and one foaming-mad writer ever take that from you.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Perpetuating a Stereotype

I've been avoiding commentary about Singapore events - I feel that as a Singaporean that has left Singapore, the news that I get about Singapore may not accurately reflect the actual sentiment of Singaporeans.

However, it is with a great deal of annoyance that I read the recent Straits Times report on The article annoyed me enough to spur me into commentary - and probably in the strongest language I've used on this blog.

My biggest gripe about this article is that it is built on false assumptions and perpetuates two negative stereotypes about bloggers (i) that blogging is primarily about "provocative pictures, biting commentaries and wit", and (ii) that bloggers are unjustifably uncomfortable with commentary when their public identities are known.

Mr. Au Yong, before you continue to spread such lies, I strongly urge you to examine your own prejudices before infecting the local media with them. As a journalist, I would expect no less from you, though I'm willing to give a small discount on journalistic standards simply because I understand the system you're working in.

The Purpose of Blogging

Mr Au Yong, reading the totality of the first two paragraphs of the article, I am forced to ask - What were your expectations of a Bloggers' Conferfence? It seems to me that you've relied on two common but erroneous stereotype of blogging (i) that blogging is about readership and (ii) bloggers do what they can to -attract- readership.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I write of my life in California, and the trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows I've faced here. If nothing else, my readership has gone -down- since my post about my move to San Francisco. Yet, I continue to write about it, simply because I feel it is a good source of information for me -and- my friends to look back on.

I can name any number of bloggers that write solely in their chosen areas of interest. Huichieh on singaporeangle writes excellent analysis on current affairs - but in a manner that would almost certainly exclude many casual readers because the depth of his analysis can get intimidating. InfernoXV writes primarily about his interest in Catholicism, the Classics and ancient music - again, subjects that will not interest the casual reader. Ivan writes about his work in the library. Shianux writes about legal developments and very occassionally, Singapore politics.

I write about what I do because of something Mr Miyagi wrote to me a long time ago. The Story Tells Itself. I believe in this strongly enough that I write - and if I get readership so much the better. I believe that many others in the Singapore Blogosphere write because they want to - and in the areas that they are interested in. If they -happen- to be interested in controversial issues, nude pictures, scolding taxi heisters or austitic children, more power to them.

More importantly, they do so because they are filling an information void created by mainstream media.

In short, Mr. Au Yong, you've got the entire phenomenon a** head backwards. Some of us write for readership. Others just write - readership follows.

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Are bloggers uncomfortable without their online personas? Perhaps.

Or perhaps there's this thing in Singapore called the Public Entertainment License SPECIFICALLY curtailing the very things that you seem to expect from a blogging conference? You know - controversial pictures? Dirty jokes?

Do we bloggers honestly expect protection with our online personas? Explain to me how acidflask got sued seven ways to Sunday by Phillip Yeo then. Explain to me how our beloved PSC scholar started a media frenzy over his racist comments - a media frenzy whipped up by you, the Straits Times no less.

Mr. Au Yong, if you -had- done your homework, you would know that there -is- no protection with an online persona - a fact that most Singaporean bloggers are becoming uncomfortably aware of, and a fact that the paper you work for exploits from time to time.

Hence, I strongly resent the overtones of cowardice or hiding behind your online persona that seems to be prevalent in your article.

A Whole Load of Hooey

I'm willing to wager, though I've not spoken to any of the organisers of, that the whole point of the Blogger Conference was to =have= a Blogger Conference, nothing more. There would be no discussion of specific =topics= to blog on simply because the interests on =what= to blog are just too diverse.

We blog. That's good enough for Blogger Conference. That's good enough for me.

Apparently, that's not good enough for you, Mr. Au Yong. You are entitled to your erroneous opinion. I am entitled to rip it to shreds.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt that your article was written without careful consideration, and that you did not set out maliciously to do an NKF on Singapore bloggers - in spite of the fact that mainstream news reporting has very legimitate reasons to fear this phenomenon called blogging.

That being said, Mr Au Yong, I find your article as offensive as stereotyping Chinese as slanty-eyed money-faced gamblers, or stereotyping Australians as underachieving beer-guzzling former convicts. Your article is inaccurate and misleading, Mr Au Yong. I sincerely hope that an apology would be printed, even though I know the chances of that happening are smaller than the chances of winning TOTO - without buying a ticket.

If you take away -anything- from this, Mr. Au Yong, take away the solemn reminder never to let your stereotyping infect your work.


All bolded text below is my emphasis.

HEADLINE: 1st bloggers' conference is one big YAWN;
Mostly in their 20s, they seem guarded; Internet Relay Chat livens things

BYLINE: Jeremy Au Yong Shawn Woo

"THEIR personal websites are all about attitude - keeping readers riveted with provocative pictures, biting commentaries and wit.

Yet, when 200 of these bloggers got together at DXO CLUB at the Esplanade yesterday, the result was neither riveting nor provocative.

Many of the mostly 20-somethings seemed guarded, as if uncomfortable without the protection of their online personas. They listened politely to the talks given, spoke in turn, clapped at the right times and largely kept to PG-13 topics.

It was Singapore's first bloggers conference, but at times it could have been mistaken for a chess club board meeting.

In fact, despite baring their heart and soul online, many bloggers that The Sunday Times approached were shy and did not want to reveal their real names.

All the brightest moments came from the 'backchannel' - a large screen displaying a live Internet Relay Chat between members in the room.

There, in their native environment, the bloggers were themselves again - poking fun at the speakers, swinging insults and cracking crude jokes. The speakers were interrupted numerous times by the audience laughing at a remark made on the screen.

Among the speakers were lawyers who spoke about legal considerations for bloggers. A panel of tech-savvy Netizens also gave a presentation on how to use technology to improve blogs.

Those that went there to meet popular bloggers, however, were not disappointed. The who's who of homegrown bloggers - Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi and Xiaxue - were out in force and posed for photographs with the fans.

One of the organisers, Mr Lee Kin Mun, 35, an Internet consultant who goes by the name of Mr Brown, noticed that some people were not paying attention to the talks, but he said that was in the spirit of things. 'We always wanted a casual thing, not everyone sitting down listening to one blogger telling them what to do. I could tell at one stage many were mingling at the back, but that's fine.'"

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, July 15, 2005

How Cool is That?

Lots of good things happening.

- My private international law professor, Prof Jiminez, was kind enough to give some of us tickets to this week's baseball game between Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers! I don't follow baseball, but it'd be great to actually go to a ball game!

- Sadeel, our Jordanian import, was kind enough to treat us all to a meal of delicious Tajim Ajeeb, which Sadeel humourously calls Lebanese fast food. It's a flat pastry folded over, with minced beef, onions and kebab spice. It's excellent!

- My criminal law and procedure professor, Gerald Uelman, was lead counsel on the OJ case! I'll be seeing him next week.

Yeap. Life is great.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Book Meme

Extracting revenge for tagging him with the Movie meme, Edward has now tagged me with the Book Meme.

Before I start this meme, let me explain that (i) I'm primarily a Science Fiction/Fantasy reader, so expect that to be the major influence in my reading choices and (ii) I'm endlessly fascinated with the nature of heroism and the human spirit.

With that, here are my responses

Total Number of Books I'ved Owned:

Close to 1000, probably, estimating my five over full shelves, some double-stacked. Most of it is science fiction and fantasy.

Last Book I Bought:

I had just completed Robin Hobb's "The Golden Fool", second book in the "Tawny Man" saga. I like the series, but I'm not absolutely crazy about it - mainly because the protagonist is a well-fleshed character but is way too whiny for my liking.

Last Book I Read:

"Before sailing away with the sad news, their leader came to see me. He was an oaf named Procopius and the wine had not improved his appearance. 'O great and mighty Master Li, pray impart to me the Secret of Wisdom!' he bawled. A silly smile was sliding down the side of his face like a dripping water-colour, and his eyeballs resembled a pair of pink pigeon eggs that were gently bouncing in saucers of yellow won-ton soup. To my great credit I never batted an eyelash. 'Take a large bowl' I said. 'Fill it with equal measures of fact, fantasy, history, mythology, science, superstition, logic and lunacy. Darken the mixtures with bitter tears, brighten it with howls of laughter, toss in three thousand years of civilisation, bellow kai pei - which means 'dry cup' - and drink it to the dregs.' Procopious stared at me. 'And will I be wise?' he asked. 'Better,' I said. 'You will be Chinese.'

Li Kao, excerpted from Bridge of Birds written Barry Hughart

Bridge of Birds is an excellent novel about an Ancient China that never was. It never was because it was invented by Barry Hughart, a resident of Arizona. However, it is so -very- believable that it could have happened in Ancient China. The story begins with a village of children poisoned by a rare toxin, and the quest to rescue them that ties into an ancient wrong. The two protagonists, Number Ten Ox and Li Kao, are hilarious and so are the large cast of minor characters. I highly recommend this book.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me:

My first response to this would be "only five?!". Given the limitations of the meme, these are my picks.

"Legend" by David Gemell

"Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil. Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender. It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found."

---The "Iron Code" of Druss

There comes a time in our lives where we are given no quarter, and ask for none. The book is about one such situation. An old fortress, the gateway to the Drenai Nation is understaffed and is about to be overwhelmed by the world's equivalent of the Mongol hordes. The leader of the ragtag defenders is the greatest Drenai hero, Druss the Legend. Except he's aging. And he dies before the final battle.

Yes, it's stock. Yes, it's trite. But David Gemell's writing is elemental in a way that I can't explain. It's not just this book - all his books hit you in the gut in a primal way. My respect for David Gemell grew when I discovered that he started out mining coal for a living - and discovered that his years of coal mining gave him lung cancer. In many ways, "Legend" can be read as his battle with cancer.

Read it, give the plot a chance. :D

"Hunchback of Notre Dame" by Victor Hugo

Having extremely limited proficiency in French, I was unable to read in its original language what is, in my opinion, Hugo's best work. I liked Les Miserables too, but honestly, for raw power and heroism, no one beats Quasimodo - the original "beast with a good heart". I especially love the scene where Quasimodo climbs up the tower one-handed (the other bearing his lady love) and yells for sanctuary.

The question I always ask when I read and reread this masterpiece is, "What kind of mix of self-loathing and heroism would lead Quasimodo to do what he does?" The other question is of course...

"Who =hasn't= ever felt like Quasimodo?"

"Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson

Name me one other book that would name their protagonist..."Hiro Protagonist". A break from my usual taste for heroic protagonists, Hiro is anything but his namesake. What the book does in scintillating splendor, however, is explaining some truly esoteric concepts in almost-believeable manner.

What I love about Snow Crash, however, is Raven, the main antagonist.

How badass is Raven? He's so badass he rides around with a nuclear warhead strapped to his cycle. He's so badass he wired said warhead to a deadman's switch - ensuring that anyone who kills him is going to take out most of the city Raven's currently in. He's -so- badass that he uses knives made from the one material able to hold a monomolecular edge - glass.

"A Hymn Before Battle" by John Ringo

Military science fiction is an extremely niche area of literary fiction. In this small niche area, there exists an undisputed master - John Ringo. This author has served time in the military, and it shows in his writing. More so, he knows and is able to explain the difference between a hero and a heroic soldier. I do very much enjoy his postulations and extrapolations of fictional "what-if" scenarios.

The interesting thing about "A Hymn Before Battle" is that while it features a main protagonist, the true strength of this book is the theme of collective heroism - so important in seperating an elite fighting unit and an ordinary one.

"Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro

A departure from my usual readings, and a text from my undergrad days - my only foray into academic literature. Remains of the Day had a major influence on me - it has always represented the ideal of hope and sacrifice to me.

Indeed of all the books that I love, this one strikes me even closer now that I'm at the cusp of a new journey, and so close to having completed my old one.

The five people I tag are:

One Little Twit (sorry to victimise you again!)
Loy Huichieh (who will probably blow me away with his intelligence)
Shianux (ditto)
The Slinky Cat (because a good turn deserves another)
Ivan Chew (what does a Librarian read?)

You Know You've Been Logging Too Much When...

...the first thing you think off when you see this article is Faith, Mr Brown's 4 year-old daughter.

Perhaps there is some hope left, so long as people like Mr Brown continue to raise our awareness of autism and other learning disabilities. Mostly about how even autistic kids will be kids.

God Bless, Mr Brown.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

How Far Would You Walk.... save 2 quarters worth of parking fees?

When I head to the commercial heart of Berkeley, I usually park my car in the nearest residential area (2 hours free parking) and leg it the rest of the distance. Sometimes I even just forego the parking and walk the whole distance. That's 2.6 miles walking, there and back. All to avoid 50 cents parking and gas money.

I've had a number of struggles to overcome since I've arrived here. For the most part, I think I've done a decent job. The one thing that I haven't been dealing too well with is my new lack of income.

Make no mistake. I miss it, but I'm not going through withdrawal symptoms. However, some spending habits that I've acquired over my three years of work form a very stark contrast to my current situation. When I walk by a restaurant, I look at the menu and am acutely aware that I would have been able to afford it had I still been working. I look at the price tag of a book I want and wonder how much of a dent that would make in my extremely limited budget.

I try to do what I can to save money. Sometimes I wonder if I am going overboard, but I suppress that thought. Better safe than sorry, and I had already had to incur many costs that were not budgetted.

Interestingly enough, it has not dampened my spirits in any way. If nothing else, the whole experience has taught me to appreciate the best things in life. Long walks down Telegraph Avenue (the Bohemian district) on Saturday. Chilling out at the park. Making simple but delicious meals. Those things govern my life now.

I've never been happier.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Oh gawds.

I was awaken today with Edward babbling something about phone bills and checking if people are safe. Confused and bleary, I only just made out what happened.

Nothing I can write can describe how I feel about this. This is ghastly. I can only think of my friends who are in London when this happened - I pray that you are okay.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What You Use To Catch De-Fish With

A month ago, I had a farewell lunch to my beloved mentor and good friend. She had lost a husband earlier this year in a tragic accident. She dutifully turned up for my dinner invitation even though I knew her heart wasn't in it.

Some time during the dinner conversation, I asked her why she did not take part in competitive debating anymore. Her answer, "It's too destructive".

For a long time I couldn't think of a response.

Slowly, it dawned on me that she was right - and I had been feeling that way for years. I had tried out for competitive debating while I was in JC but I wasn't selected - leading to over 5 years of trying to "get into" the debate scene. I tried out for debates in University - and I succeeded in getting selected for a team.

It wasn't the joy I thought it would be.

I continued on to try out for mooting competitions (I failed at that too) and slowly, the passion I had when I was in JC faded away. I just...slowly distanced myself from it. The passion wasn't there.

It's now, after almost 12 years, that I realised it wasn't passion - it was envy. The truth is, I never had enthusiasm for being a debator. It was a means to an end - to get into law school, to get over my stutter. But never what I -wanted- to do. The sad thing is, for years, I had mistaken it for passion and pursued what was ultimately a dead end.

Now, at the beginning of a new beginning, I now see what had always held me back. I was not inclined to be destructive. I've never been. I eventually became good at it, sure. But as I grow older I realise that it is not complex seemless arguments, or the thread of argument that survives the attempts to tear it down that is ultimately true or wise. It is merely that which survives destruction.

It is simple truth.

Professor Steinman once asked the class to "prove water is wet". I go further and ask if any simple truth, by nature of being simple, will ever be proven.

I do not ask people to simply accept truths as being self-evident. Far from it. I ask people to remember that in the midst of seeking truth, one might forget that truth might simply settle on you when you're not looking.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Living in the Bay

There's one thing I simply cannot get over - the weather in the Bay Area. The air here is always dry and crisp. Bread doesn't go mouldy. Cereal doesn't turn soggy. Stuff dries up so fast.

It's a godsend for someone with ezcema. I've not had an attack since I got here (touch wood).

I also can't get over how going 40 miles south can turn a day from cool and bracing to warm and sunny. There's a big difference between the weather in San Jose and Berkeley. San Jose feels like a dessert - a pleasant desert, but a desert nonetheless. Berkeley feels cool and bracing all the time.

Another thing I can't get over is how...bright the sun here is. It's a whole different quality from the sun we get back home. Sunlight here is white. Sunlight back home has a yellowish quality to it.

Thanks to my 40 mile commute everyday, I now have one arm darker than the other. That's because I drive down south in the mornings and back north in the evenings - meaning the sun's always left relative to the direction I'm driving.

The food here feels no different from the food I get back home. That's probably because I cook a lot. Rice here is cheap enough that I can have it as a staple - and there's no difference in price between Thai Jasmine Rice and them Japanese sticky short stumpies (Rice grains! RICE GRAINS!). Soy sauce and oyster sauce are readily available.

Most of all, I'm much happier about the level of independence I have here. I do stuff for myself, and while I'm very money-conscious here since everything here is so expensive, there's a lot I can do to entertain myself for free. I now relish walking down to do groceries - about 10 blocks down, and 8 of it is beautiful suburbia, complete with lawns, gardens, flowers, fruit trees and squirrels.

In short, I feel the changes coming. It's barely been a month and I don't feel like the person that left Singapore - or more accurately, like the person in Singapore should have been.

I'm not sure if I can fit in once I return to Singapore. I'm not sure fitting in is a good thing.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Meet Sierra

Sierra is a gorgeous golden retriever belonging to my Constitutional Law professor, Edward Steinman. Professor Steinman brought her to class for both his classes. She's an absolute sweetheart, quietly napping away while we grapple with the Bill of Rights.

My LLM summer session has started. It's been all great so far. We have about 14 topics to cover and we've managed to cover 2 in our week here so far - Constitutional Law and Contract Law. We've started Intellectual Property so far. The work's intense but I finally have the chance to relax over this Independence Day weekend.

My classmates are great. We have 2 Austrians, 2 Chinese (as in from China), 1 Peruvian, 1 Jordanian, 1 French and 1 former UN Commissioner for Human Rights (what he's doing in our classes I have -no- idea). And there's me, the only common law conversant person among the whole group. We're planning parties already.

My course material has been great so far, save one - I've realised a wee bit of bias against Foreign LLM students in terms of course selection. It probably isn't intentional but it exists. We've one year here - and hence our selection is extremely limited due to prerequisites. We've no GPA so that further limits our course selection. End result - cool courses like internships, externships and writing for the Journal are barred from us.

I'm can't say I'm not disappointed - but at least the option of contributing to the Journal is open to me, and I've learnt a long time ago not to dwell on inabilities but to do the best I can.