Signs I’m getting old

Ah, school uniforms. An academic in Edinburgh thinks school uniforms remind people of the Nazi youth. I remember the days when I (indeed, all students in Singapore) wore a school uniform and hated it. We were so taken by images of American students who could wear whatever they wanted. Mind you, I was in a rather strict school, where jewellery, even the simplest kinds, were not allowed, and if you had long hair, you could only use black or dark blue hair elastics. If you wore your hair short, there couldn’t be any evidence of having used a clipper (how they could tell I’ll never know, I got away with an undercut with designs razored into my scalp for a year — what a rebel).

me in my school uniform, age 7

And now that I’ve reached the wizened old age of 30 (almost 31!), I’ve got boring and am very much in favour of uniforms (although I’d definitely allow simple jewellery, but no precious stones) in school. I was very lucky that there weren’t glaring class issues in my school (it was considered an ‘elite’ school, but I don’t think I really bothered too much about who had or didn’t have, it was all about grades, grades, grades), but I can imagine the pressure kids are under to wear and/or own the ‘right’ things.

Uniforms level the playing field, so to speak. That’s not exactly rocket science. Parents don’t get hassled by their kids to buy them the trendiest clothes more often than they already do. Cliques in school aren’t exacerbated by how well or expensively you dress. There’s already enough peer pressure, and since kids are in school to get a decent education, the focus of pressure should be on educational achievement (by that I mean in extra-curricular activities as well) and not on what brand of clothing you wear.

Foodie Friday — Potato Pancakes

potato pancakes

I love potatoes. Mashed, fried, boiled, roasted, thinly sliced and fried into crisps… this very lousy GI starch is pretty much my favourite carbohydrate of them all. And these crispy potato pancakes look absolutely heavenly.

Aside: on Saturday Kitchen, a ‘celebrity’ tells us their food ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, and we’re supposed to phone in and vote for one, and James Martin will cook the viewer’s choice. I reckon if I ever became ‘worthy’ of the term ‘celebrity’ and appeared on the show, no one would cook my food hell (usually durian), because no one could stand to be in the same room as that bloody fruit.

I highly doubt I’d be able to follow the instructions on this recipe, but I’ll have you know that I made up my own that is kinda-sorta similar back in 2003, when I first moved to Xiamen and had absolutely bugger all to do. Here it is:

2 small to medium potatoes, thinly sliced or shredded (I used the slicey thing on the shredder)
1 rasher bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 or 2 tbsp Italian dressing

Heat a frying pan. Start frying the bacon pieces, then add the potato and mix the bacon around in it, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Add the Italian dressing and mix it in. Check on it and mix it around until the potato is cooked — slightly crisp is best.


I’ve never made it for anyone else, but I ate it and didn’t get sick, so it can’t be too bad.

There are motion-detecting paper towel dispensers?

This is why Scott Adams is a genius:

I’m anxiously awaiting the next innovation in restroom automation. I assume developers are already working on the last mile: A robotic arm to unzip my pants, grab my unit, then do the holding, shaking, and repackaging. I’m too busy to do that stuff for myself. Plus I was already spoiled by the time they automated the paper towel dispenser.

The Autopee device (it needs a name) would be problematic because every guy is built different. Somehow it would need to know the dimensions of what’s behind your zipper so it didn’t accidentally neuter you. I suppose the best way to do that is to have some sort of voice recognition software that asks you what kind of car you drive. If it’s a Porsche, for example, you might be compensating. If it’s a Honda minivan, you’re probably sporting an anaconda.

You’d also have to tell the Autopee how much shaking you want, ranging anywhere from two quick flicks to a happy ending.

Good luck getting that image out of your head.

The man can draw AND write. How unfair. And by the way, he didn’t mention an Autopee equivalent for the women, unless he reckons women are less lazy than men. Or because he’s a man, and didn’t even THINK of the women. Misogynist.

Things to do in 2007

This is not a resolutions list. I repeat, this is not a resolutions list. If it was, I would be a very, very sad person with no ambition.

  1. Start making rubber stamps
    I’m far too cheapskate to buy those overpriced stamps at paper craft shops and the Hobbycraft show, and I have fond memories of making stamps out of rubber erasers. There are pound shops here that sell loads of erasers. The one thing I will spend on is good quality stamp pads and a sharp knife. The goal? Creating my own postcards (as distinct from Artist Trading Cards, I’m not an artist) and notecards. Adding more oomph to the greeting cards I’ve started making.
  2. Get a routine
    Neil and I have yet to settle into a daily routine here, and I want to finally join the Scottish SPCA and do some weekend volunteering. Also, while it’s cold, to join the gym and go after dinner during the week.
  3. Exercise my tourist rights
    I’m going to explore the Real Mary King’s Close. I will see what’s left of Glasgow’s medieval past. I will go on more walks to see the country.
  4. Visit more cemeteries
    Don’t ask me why; I think it has something to do with Singapore’s relentless march of progress, with new condos and hospitals built on freshy exhumed ground. I loved the Necropolis when I visited in 2003, and I’ve been to two cemeteries since I got to Scotland this year. I would really like to visit Craigton and Kirk ‘o’ Shotts.

What are your non-resolutions?

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!