The lowest common denominator

What worries me is not news that consumers may be ‘confused’ by rival nutrition labelling systems, but that “47% of adults lacked the numerical skills to understand what the [percentage-based] labels meant.” It’s out of a maximum of a hundred. If you can’t grasp that concept, even if you haven’t had a formal education, I worry that you may reproduce.

And, yes, I did detect the irony of using a percentage to describe the relative number of people who didn’t understand percentages.

Self-censorship or shutting up?

Reading about collaborating with the government led me to three articles about blogging during elections (1, 2, 3). I definitely agree that the legislation pertaining to the media is deliberately vague — the general public is so afraid of crossing those invisible OB markers that they’d rather not say anything at all, and the government is happy to let us focus on increasing the GDP instead*.

Personally, I prefer generally serious and occasionally humorous political discussion over overt advertising any day, but I don’t think a government should tell us what we can or can’t say**. It does say a lot when a political party that has had an effective monopoly of power for almost half a century thinks that political humour and satire makes them less credible, or that more freedom in campaigning will lead to some sort of widespread anarchy. This implies they either think average Singaporeans are complete morons, or they doubt — deep down — their real contribution to society.

* I admire Yawning Bread for going through Singaporean legislation. Laws are bloody annoying to read.
** However, with freedom comes responsibility. If you’re determined on a free for all, don’t complain when it becomes nasty.

Theming and design

Some great tips for designing your on WordPress theme. I’d like to add that The GIMP is a great image manipulator, and the price is right.

However, if you’re stuck for inspiration, or only want to tweak an existing pretty template, head on over to The majority of templates seem geared toward weblogs, and I’m not surprised.

No heat in Scotland

Loads of people in Scotland are going through a fourth day without electricity. Most unfortunately, the person they chose to interview on BBC was a fella who had an Aga-type stove (or the kind I’ve seen on those house-buying programmes, they cook your food and heat your house). Of course, he probably chose the electricity-powered option for convenience!

How to have a relatively pain-free day after the night before

A suspicious number of colleagues called in sick on the second day of the new year. No specific ailments were named and blamed, and I have a feeling they were all suffering from the same malady: The New Year Hangover Of Neverending Pain and Slow Torture™.

Hangovers are funny things. They don’t tend to afflict the more youthful drinkers among us, reinforcing the ‘young as invincible’ illusion. Life is wonderful, you can go out and party and still make it to work the next day — until one fateful morning, WHEN IT HITS YOU. And then you feel like SHIT.

The hangover announces its arrival like a man with pointy teeth in a cemetary — without warning and showing no mercy. It saps your will to live. Suddenly, doing anything hurts. Thinking hurts. Lying down hurts. I’ve heard of loads of hangover cures, and the best post-drinking regimen I’ve tried and tested is:

  1. Take a paracetamol before you go to bed. Of course, if you’re compos mentis enough to remember this, you’re not that drunk and probably won’t suffer a massive hangover anyway.
  2. If you’re pished enough that the room is spinning, DON’T LIE DOWN. You’ll have to clean up your mess in the morning. If you can’t stay awake, sleep sitting up.
  3. When you get up, if the headache has stomped all over and spat derisively on your first pre-emptive paracetamol, take another couple.
  4. Have a cup of tea and something to eat — nothing too big, roasted cheese, for example.
  5. Curl up on the couch and try to block all sensory input from the world around you. Nap. Preferably with a look of misery on your face.
  6. Drink more tea.

Macro photography tips

for point and shoots, that is. What I consider ironic is that I am very much a casual shooter of photos, it’s not even really a hobby, but I find shooting macro on my non-digital SLR (purchased back when I laboured under the delusion that I had some talent) more fun than my Cybershot (the focal length is a bit shite, I can’t get a real macro shot).

Might is Right

“We allowed Saddam Hussein to die secure in the knowledge that his view of power was correct, and that he was justified in doing all of the evil things that he did in his life.” — Mark C. Chu-Carroll, Law vs. Thuggery: The Execution of Saddam

I’ve left, so it doesn’t really matter

I’ve debated (with myself) the wisdom of writing what is printed below. I’m not annoyed because I’ve not come away with much more than bucketloads of experience, as that experience has been invaluable. I’m pissed off because not only is someone trying to pass off my work as their own, they’re doing it so poorly.

Neil showed me an e-mail from a friend in Xiamen. He’d scanned the editorial page from the last What’s On Xiamen he’s seen. In it, the assistant editor I’d picked to replace me on my departure said she was so stressed working so goddamn hard on the content to deliver the issue to her dear readers after I left suddenly and without warning.

Yes, she worked really hard writing that editorial and getting other people to do her job. I got a teeny tiny thank you at the end, with no mention that I’d done practically all the work remotely (one skim of the articles and the editorial makes it clear they were not written by the same person — I write using grammar and punctuation). She’s probably already been paid more than me because she’s salaried and I wasn’t. And she’s asked me to help her (free of charge) with taking over the website (and her first questions concerned how much profit it makes, followed by saying she has no clue how to administer a website so if I could tutor her through it she’d be very grateful).

My dear girl who spent a year studying in England but only hung out with other Chinese students and did not make one British friend, I lived in China for three years. Complimenting me then trying to scam me isn’t gonna work. If you want to do it, you’re gonna have to find help somewhere else, and I can guarantee you that your new foreign friends are expecting to profit from it, too.

This New Year’s long weekend I…

  • went to my cousin’s house (and ate loads of junk food)
  • stopped by for ‘a drink’ at the Station Hotel on the way home (and we ended up staying pretty late)
  • stayed up for ‘the bells’ in the safety of indoors (the weather was wild outside) and watched some Jools Holland then went to bed because there was nothing else good on
  • played on the computer
  • ate a lot of New Year’s dinner (at 4.30?) and more chocolate than normal (since I don’t normally eat chocolate, that means fewer than half a dozen pieces)
  • watched The Secret Life of Brian, half of Life of Brian, and What The Pythons Did Next

I’m taking the train today, too, on the first day of fare hikes

As though public transport isn’t already too expensive and inconvenient, rail fares are going up — above inflation. The Tories say it’s about forcing people off the train because planned improvements haven’t happened (I don’t know whether or not that’s true).

Train companies say the extra money is to pay for service improvements.

We do have a car now (and it’s already at the mechanic’s; nothing serious, just taking longer than needed because of the holidays), but we wouldn’t if the public transport system was better. It’s also already very expensive, and it doesn’t make sense to me that in this day and age they haven’t rolled out ticketing and fare collection systems like those in Singapore and Hong Kong (lack of political will?). In short, I don’t think there will be meaningful service improvements.

PS. First Scotrail doesn’t say if this country is affected, so I’ll see when I get on the train this evening.