Friday, May 30, 2008

First Nuffnang Cheque

First Nuffnang Cheque. Took me a year to earn enough to cash out. Tells you about my relatively low readership.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vuestar - Patent Troll?

Background: Vuestar, a Singapore-held company, has sent out letters of demand to Singapore-based companies, claiming that any image-linking is technology that violates their patents. Unsurprisingly, the blogosphere is up in arms about this, claiming that this is ludicrous.


I'm going to set down some thoughts about this matter. However, I need to set out the following disclaimer.

Yes, I'm a lawyer, but no this is not legal advice or opinion of any sort. Do not rely on this information. If you get a letter of demand, find a patents lawyer and discuss this with him. Please do not ask me for legal help.


Here are my thoughts, in no particular order of importance.

  1. The Vuestar patent (Full text here. HT Ars Technica for the excellent news report.) appears to cover any sort of image-searching and linking. I'm surprised that a patent this wide was granted in Singapore. I am especially surprised because I would have thought this would be obvious, and obviousness kills patents, at least in the US.
  2. Vuestar's website doesn't disclose any business model apart from licensing their IP rights. I'd have thought that there would be some kind of consultancy, software code to license, etc etc, but no, it's just an IP licensing system. This leads me to think that Vuestar is probably a patent troll. (EDIT: They make mention of some products like Trademark Searches and the such, though it's listed under "Products and Emerging Products". Still rather suspicious. I'm not convinced they actually -have- those products for use, or even if they do, that they are commercially exploitable. Smells like a mask for their real intentions.)
  3. Thing is, patent trolling isn't a new problem. This might be the first time that Singapore has experience it on such a large scale but it's fairly common in the US. What happens is that patent trolls use widely-worded, probably-invalid patents to extract license fees. They are generally successful because companies don't want to fight a lawsuit and the cost of the licensing is probably less than the cost of a court challenge. What is even more annoying is that most patent systems rely on challengers to take down invalid patents.
  4. One more complication aiding the success of patent trolls is that commercial contracts often require relevant intellectual property to remain unchallenged and valid. A challenge of any sort generally triggers a mad scramble to settle these disputes out of court rather than risk a lucrative commercial relationship from going sour.
  5. As I understand it, there are reforms going on in US patent law to stop this kind of behaviour. I'm not quite sure how successful they have been.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fragrant Prince

For background, click here.

The arrest of Fragrant Prince leaves me with a vague sense of unease. Yes, he is wrong for posting racist comments. Yes, his writing is shallow and self-absorbed. Yes, his ideas are poisonous, and have no place in a civilised society.

Yet, I am still incredibly uncomfortable with the circumstances of his arrest. From what I've read of the comments on and Cowboy Caleb's blog, it's not really his racism that got him in trouble, but his arrogance.

Fragrant Prince didn't help his own case - his apology smacks of the same semantics as DPM Wong Kan Seng's apology for the Mas Selamat affair. "I am sincerely apologetic for the recent events that happen" isn't an apology. Rephrased, it might as well have been "I'm sorry I got caught".

Yes, Fragrant Prince's racist comments was probably criminal. On the other hand, had he been less arrogant and more popular, I think the blogging community would have been more inclined to "give chance" and not report him to the police.

I am not comfortable with this. It is bad enough that the blogosphere goes on the occasional witch-hunt against high-profile targets like Dawn Yang. A police arrest takes this phenomenon to a whole different dimension.

I think that given the circumstances, reporting the arrest was the right thing to do. I am also not defending Fragrant Prince. What I am uncomfortable with are the implications - that popularity might be a pre-screening criteria for justice. That is the inherent flaw of mob justice, and something that I'll write against, be it for Fragrant Prince, Dawn Yang or anyone else.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Most Powerful Force

I am a dire wolf, prey-stalking, lethal prowler.

I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf-stabbing.

I am a horsefly, horse-stinging, hunter-throwing.

I am a spider, fly-consuming, eight legged.

I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed.

I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy-footed.

I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm-life destroying.

I am a world, space-floating, life-nurturing.

I am a nova, all-exploding… planet-cremating.

I am the Universe—all things encompassing, all life embracing.

I am anti-life, the beast of judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds… of everything. Sss. And what will you be then dreamlord?

I am hope.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Funny I should mention superheroes.

This looks like a darned tootin movie to watch.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Singapore's Superhero

This advert from Nuffnang caught my attention. Write a post about what a Singapore superhero should be, embody, what powers he should have, etc. This contest is sponsored by the Singapore Movie Fiesta.

Word of warning: This post will not be campy or snarky. It will also probably not win the competition for those reasons. Nevertheless, I believe that campy makes character unbelievable and believability is the heart of a superhero. Spiderman wouldn't be interesting if his superhero-life/non-superhero life didn't screw him over every so often. Batman won't be interesting without his obsessions.

Second thing is, I much prefer superheroes in the form of the TV series like "Heroes" and "Smallville" rather than the costumed superheroes in the 1970's.

That, and I don't particularly like the format of a biography - I much prefer narrative.

Anyways, having stated my preferences, and probably described all the reasons my superhero character won't win the competition, here's my 0.02.


There is a gaping wound over Singapore.

Few can see the the raw gash of glowing red hanging above the sky, but all can feel it. It turns the hope of a better tomorrow to a paranoid insecurity. It transforms honest work ethic into an overwhelming lust for consumption. It turns noble protectors into deluded oppressors. It turns virtue to vice, tolerance to ignorance, best intentions into Faustian bargains. It fuels the tiny bits of evil in every Singaporean and turns them into monsters.

It feeds as it is fed.

It grows every time a Singaporean is corrupted. Every time a maid is beaten, a friend is cheated, a half-truth is told on the national paper, the throbbing sky-wound gets just a little larger, a little brighter, a little more alive.

Singapore needs a hero. It has one.

Jimmy Lee wears no spandex. He wears his favourite wash-worn demin, along with a 10-dollar Giordano T-Shirt. He has no underground cave liar in Xiao Gui Lin - property prices in Singapore are insane enough without having to take out a second mortgage. He is no billionaire dilettante - he works at a tuition agency, trying to put his NIE Degree in Education to use. He has no Kansas-Farmboy good looks, nor dashing Creole accent, nor muscle-bound body - his face is too rough to be handsome, and his build too gangly to inspire schoolgirl dreams.

How can such an unlikely person be a superhero? That is what Jimmy asked himself too when his Eye appeared.

Like all other Singaporeans, Jimmy never expected to be taken in by a "magic stone" salesman. He expected to be smarter than that, with his cosmopolitan outlook and street smarts. He also never expected to develop a blood clot in the brain at the tender age of 27.

Too many blows to the head, the doctor said. Jimmy disagreed. While he professed a love for sports, and occasionally indulged in Tae Kwon Do sparring, he never sparred without safety gear. The blood clot was a mystery, but one that was slowly robbing his health. He had completely lost feeling in the tips of his fingers, and the vision in his left eye by the time he meet the snake-oil salesman.

To this day, Jimmy had no idea what possessed him to boil the stone, and consume the three 1.5 liter bottles of bright green stone distillate. What he does remember is waking up and seeing that his left eye had turned glowing green, and that the sky had a terrible wounding that bled red light.

He had recovered that day, of course. The doctor gave him a squeaky clean bill of health, and expressed surprise that even old tissue damage seems to have disappeared. The doctor never saw the glowing green eye. No one could. Just like no one could see that awful red glow.

Jimmy knew he was going to say that. He saw it in his glowing green left eye. He also saw that the doctor was having an affair with three nurses in the hospital, and that his wife had found out. Most of all, he saw that awful red glow in the doctor, ready to harvest the bitter fruit.

He saw the futures too.

Jimmy saw the first future, where the doctor returned, hurled abuse at his wife, then leave with a pre-packed bag. The wife died in that future. Tore her veins open with a razor and bled to death.

Jimmy saw the second, fainter future, the one which would happen if he confronted the doctor with what he knew now. He saw the doctor confess to his wife, honestly and sincerely, change over a new leaf, and live twenty years of marriage.

Jimmy didn't hesitate.


Since that day, Jimmy has been pulled from event to event, person to person, fighting the awful red glow and its corruption. He has been shot, stabbed, burnt and beaten, but every single time the wounds never lasted longer than 23 minutes. He's leapt over 8 meter fences, out-wrestled three sailors at Boat Quay, and outran the 171 bus to town. Jimmy's second lease of life also granted him some remarkable physical capabilities.

Yet, Jimmy's signature ability remains the Eye that Sees All. Every so often, the Eye reveals to him a person, one special person who is at the threshold of making a decision that will change a life. The Eye reveals to Dennis the greatest power of all - the power of a second chance, like the one he was given.

Perhaps, with enough second chances, Singapore can be saved from itself.


Editor's notes: Some things don't convey well in narrative, so I'm putting them down here as notes.

My conception of Jimmy comes from what I see as two central definitions of Singapore:

  1. The idea that Singapore is a victim of the Law of Unintended Consequence; and
  2. the idea that Singapore is all about second chances.
Yes, Singapore has become very successful but for every action that it takes at success, it creates an kink for itself into the future. Think of the 2-child policy, for example.

What Singapore tends to forget, however, is that it is all about second chances. Our forefathers came to Singapore escaping political and economic persecution, for large part. Our own independence was centered around our seperation from the Malaysian Federation.

Given these two ideas, I think a uniquely Singaporean superhero would embody both these concepts. What if we could get a glimpse of what would really happen? Would it give us just that little push into making things right, doing things better, by getting that second chance?

I don't know, but through Jimmy I'd like to have the opportunity to find out.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Awesome Posts

I recently (meaning just last year) discovered the joys of the Penny Arcade forum.

Just a sample of the awesome posts found there.

Trowzilla said:

This was, of course, the exact moment my parents chose to have a long, involved talk with me about my grades. In the kitchen. With me holding a cucumber that had very recently been used for terrible, terrible purposes.

Another Trowzilla story:

I'd discovered fanfic as an endless, free source of kinky porn that I could print out and hide in my room, and while I figured a lot of it wasn't too realistic, I had no idea of how much. Anyway, so I'd found this Sailor Moon (shut up!) tentacle porn fic that really got me turned on, and while obviously I couldn't replicate tentacles, I figured I'd try out the other major element in the story: hot wax.

I agree with Scrublet's description of American Idol here:

The fact that it's so popular magnifies its shit quotient, such that even though it may not be the most vile shit, it's still the biggest. Sort of like how a massive 2-pound turd spawned from eating an entire loaf of bread would be greater, though far less objectionable, than the comparatively dainty 8-ounce calamity that results from downing an excess of Indian curry.

Have fun!