Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Retrospect - 2011

Long ago, I once told an old friend of mine that tradition is an inconvenience. At that time we were talking about the chronology of a Tamil wedding, which I believe inconveniences the bride big time. Right now, I'm beginning to feel that this tradition of recapping the end of the year before the year ends is a big inconvenience, because part of me is just too lazy too do it, and yet another part of me insists that I should do it, just for the sake of making sure that 2012 is all fresh and new. Weird? Yeah.

2011 must have been one of the shortest years ever - if that's even possible. On the very first day of the year, I sat down and wrote a story called "The Torch of Time" which describes how the years sprint and how they do that on purpose to make us feel as though our lives just fly past us without a pause. I wrote and edited the 800 words under 4 hours and duly submitted it. One and a half months later, the editor of the paper e-mailed me and told me that the story had been published. First cool thing of the year, I got a story published in a local paper. 

Other personal things that happened in 2011 worth mentioning:

1. The first ever family trip out of the country to Sri Lanka (will be blogged about - soon, I hope)
2. I fractured a bone (the very first bone in the history of my existence)
3. Had a two week long vacation (without much objection from the bosses, oh wow) to New Zealand and Australia (also needs to be blogged about - at least I took notes here)
4. Had the worst haircut ever 
5. This blog (with the old url) got discovered by people that shouldn't have any business discovering it, leading to panic and I almost deleted it.
6.  One grey hair - safely removed now, so all is good.
7.  Didn't have any disastrous incidents of falling sick (thanks to hand sanitizers, no doubt)
8. The laptop is probably dying, but instead of getting a new laptop, I got myself a tablet. The laptop can wait. Meanwhile, I'm transferring my stuff to an external hard drive.
9. Made friends with my sisters friends (3 of them who are all 5 years younger than me)
10. Did one 'bucket list' must dos
11. Got my second story published in the same paper. Either they like what I write or there aren't enough contributors (Personally, I'd like to say the former, but I believe by the time the second story got published, it was due to the latter)
12. Still book crazy. 
13. Some deaths of people I know

(Not too bad if judged by the list, but I guess, just like every year, we have the highs and lows. I know for a fact that I have been overworked since September, with a brief return of the dreaded insomnia, and I know I disliked July, but all these were work related)

The World
On the whole, while my list above does seem to indicate that 2011 has been a rather nice year to me, it wasn't so for the world in general. The world, as we see it has been shocked by earthquakes, tsunamis and storms, and floods, and somehow, it seems even worse this year, although most people still remember the horrors of the boxing day tsunami of 2006. 

This was also a shocking year for the economy and politics. We had countries declared bankrupt, and even in the local front, the country's debt is significant enough to make us worried of a similar fate. America, the country *we all secretly admired for their solidness in any given situation seems to be not as solid as we thought they were. The Arab spring happened, old, famous leaders were ousted and went into hiding and got killed. Osama Laden (the reason behind a war I personally find pointless) died.

On the local front
In July, some Malaysians took to the streets to demand fair and free elections and were met with water cannons and tear gas canisters instead. One man died in this. A solitary elderly lady (known as Annie) marched on her own, in her water cannoned wet t-shirt, and was looked upon as an exemplary citizen who knew when  it was time to stand for their rights. Corruption type scandals were all over the news, contributing to a few creative headlines.

The country also probably faced one of the most 'race and religious intolerant' years ever, what with the newspapers giving face to a certain man named **IbraahimmAlliTheFrog who spews the biggest amount of racist rubbish a man ever can. It's entertaining, nevertheless. Then there was the issue with the Malay Language Bible, the raid during a dinner because there were rumours of proselytisation, etc. 

We also saw a massive heatwave in July, followed by crazy rains, flash floods and non-flash floods involving people to be put in flood relief centres. 

So, that's it, a short review of the year that was -2011. In terms of personal stuff, it seems like a pretty good year, and for personal reasons, I'd give the year a 7/10.
* Just a personal opinion.
**Name purposely disguised to prevent people who stupidly search for him ending up on this blog

Monday, December 26, 2011

Spreading the Word

I was browsing through John Ling's blog just now and found out that his publishing company is helping out a girl suffering from neurofibromatosis, a disease currently without a cure.

What they are doing is selling her e-book (I'm Not Sick, Just A Bit Unwell) on Amazon, and the proceeds (all of them) go to her surgery, and this being their first release and all. The book is free for download until boxing day (yes, this post is out a bit late) I actually figured I'd purchase it but just my luck that Kindle and Malaysia do not have a good relationship with each other.

Her website is here: http://www.yvonnefoong.com/

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh, Festivals!

It's been a long, long week at work. Insane is the only way I can describe December (and the number of posts in December, and how delayed I am in commenting and answering comments on the blog can attest to that). What made it all worse is people mentioning long breaks, and about how December is a pretty easy going month and all while it was the complete opposite for those of us who work in my place.  

But then, it's Saturday now, and all the effort we put in during the last two weeks means that at least Sunday and Monday should be relatively easy going and peaceful. Fingers crossed. 

With that, I figured I should join in the bandwagon and wish everyone a happy (insert name of appropriate festival here)

List of festivals:
i. *Festivus (Dec 23)
ii. Hanukkah (Dec 20 - 28)
iii. Christmas (Dec 25)
iv. New Year (Jan 1)
v. Anything I missed out

*Remembered this from a gchat conversation with a friend last year

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Optimist (Not)

Note: A possibly pointless post ahead. 

There was a time when I used to be an optimist. These days, whatever optimism I have seems to be laced with a certain degree of cynicism. I do not know how (or even when) this happened.

About two months ago, I met up with someone I knew from university. I haven't spoken to him since 2000 (I think), so we had a lot to catch up on, mostly working our way from the last time we spoke to what we're doing now, and in the few hours we hung out that day, there was one very obvious thing about him that stood above all others. His optimism/positivity.

This made me realise that I was a bit too cynical for my own good, and it was even worse when I started paying attention to his status updates on Facebook. The optimism just oozed out and made a grab for you with invisible fingers. 

So, about two weeks ago, I decided to inject a bit of optimism (have positive thoughts) to my life instead. I didn't know how to make such a big change at first, so I figured that I'd just stop complaining about things that I usually complain about. Was I on my way to being a better, less cynical person?

My 'optimism' lasted for a week and a half before I succumbed to whatever it is I had succumbed to that Thursday. I was so angry that I wanted to write "Arghhh" as a status update on FB, instead, in an attempt to make it a bit more positive, I wrote:

"The world is just awesome. Arghhh."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Bud is Back Meme

Courtesy of Sunday Stealing

The Bud is Back Meme

Every now and then, the narcissist in the blogger decides to surface and tell all and sundry about themselves. While yours truly is not really willing to divulge everything about herself (real name for one), she happens to like talking about her blog. A lot. She saw this meme, liked it and decided to honour it by stealing it. After all, that is what Sunday Stealing is all about!

1. Why did you sign up for writing your blog?
It happened on a whim - I had stories to tell, and the blog kind of took them in without telling me that I'm crazy.

2. Why did you choose your blog's name? What does it mean?
You know how sometimes when you convince yourself enough about something, it may just come true? The same goes for the name of this blog. According to the free dictionary, raconteur means : One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit. Someday, I hope that the blog will live up to it's name :)

3. Do you ever had another blog?
(Have you ever had another blog? Did you ever have another blog?)
Yes. Quite a few actually.
a) The old one that got deleted by the host :(
b) A rather sluggish fitness blog
c) Another old deleted blog a few of us wrote in (this was cool because the authors were from three different continents - Africa, Europe and Asia)
d) A hidden blog in which part of a novel I was working on sits quietly. 

4. What do you do online when you're not on your blog?
Click links on wikipedia, stalk friends on Facebook, send e-mails, chat with some friends, read news, play some random point and click games...

5. How about when you're not on the computer?

Then it means I'm reading something

6. What do you wish people who read your blog knew about you?
I think the posts speak for themselves. I can't even write a proper 'about me' section, so I guess there's really nothing much tell anyway. I wouldn't mind anyone asking me any question that they'd want to know about, though :D

7. What is your favorite community in the blogosphere?

Err... are there communities?

8. What is your philosophy on your blog layout?
Clean and simple, although I have been through phases where complex layouts with lots of details and (ahem) wild colours ruled the day. Dark font, preferably MS Trebuchet on a light background is a must. Other than that, anything goes.

9. Tell me about your picture you use to represent you on your blog.
 My superhero-esque persona, Terra Shield - taken from the picture used by Blogthings when you answer the quiz:









10. Pick 3 random blogs from your blogroll and tell us about them.
       i. It's cruel to pick just three when you have so many on the blogroll AND you like all of them
       ii. I break meme rules all the time, so I'll tell the different reasons I read the blogs on the blogroll instead
           a) They're fun to read because they depict mostly ordinary lives in an interesting way
           b) They tell interesting stories about people you'd never know about
           c) You get to know about how they live in their respective countries, what they do everyday and things that interest them
           d) They deal with heavier issues I have interest in but am too lazy to blog about

11. What features do you think your blog should have that it doesn't currently?
       Probably "Pages" but I just don't have the time to revamp the whole blog or as I mentioned above, to write a decent 'about me' post

12. What do you consider the 10 most "telling" interests that we would infer from your blog persona?
      i. I love to procrastinate (I even have a label for it)
     ii. I travelled quite a bit the last year
    iii. I love bad jokes
    iv. I love to draw not so good pictures and pass them off as artwork on this blog
     v. I also write what I would call "Bad Poetry" - This is my favourite 
    vi. I complain a lot
   vii. I write the occasional review on books, movies and music, but it's not the best thing I do
   viii. Things which require you to have a twisted funny bone
    ix. OMG! My blog persona has no personality
     x. Errrr...

13. Do you have any unique interests that you have never shared before? What are they? 
Most of my interests have been mentioned throughout the years spent blogging (and I've been around for quite awhile now), so probably not. If it's something I don't mind talking about, then it will be here.

14. The best thing about blogging is all of the friends that you make, Beside from those folks, do you think your blog has fans?
I don't know... there might have been one or two or even three throughout the lifespan of the blog. The thing is, blogging is probably dying a slow death no thanks to the new media out there which people use to express themselves, so having anyone read and comment is already awesome enough. 

15. What's your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination?
Nothing at the moment. My imagination is doomed. 

16. What are you glad you did but haven't really had a chance to post about?
Earlier this year, I had one of my 'bucket list' wishes achieved. I've written about it, but haven't completed it yet.

17. How many people that first became a blog friend, have you met face to face?
Well, this person used to read my blog but didn't have a blog on their own. If this counts, then one, if not, then none 

18. What don't you talk about here, either because it's too personal or because you don't have the energy?
I stopped talking about work-related woes earlier this year. I hardly mention the truly personal aspects of my life.

19. What's a question that you'd love to answer?
I don't know...

20. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and regretted it?
People who became friends through blogging mostly ended up being friends on Facebook instead once they quit/slowed down in blogging, so the answer is no.

21. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and thought, “Was that overdue!”
Gosh, no!

Feel free to 'steal' this and post it on your own blogs if you're into stuff like this :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eclipsed by Clouds

The thing about catching snippets of news on the radio is that you usually only catch the end of the news, mostly after you've heard a word or two that catches your interest. Yesterday evening, those few words were eclipse, Malaysia and seven-ish pm. Of course there were other words such as *climate change to which I raised my eyebrows to an invisible audience as I was driving alone at that time.

As eclipses excite me as much as prom night excites a high-schooler, I thought to myself that I will be catching the eclipse - after all it was a Saturday evening, and I had no plans, and I felt a pang of regret when I remembered that I had not bought a DSLR camera as I had planned to earlier (My carefully honed procrastination skills knows no boundaries, ha ha)

How part of the eclipse might have looked from some part of the world - 'artist's' (snort) impression
Sometimes plans have plans of their own. With an overcast sky (from 3 pm right up to the time when I started this post - **9:15 pm), the moon was nowhere to be seen, and obviously that meant that the eclipse was nowhere in sight as well. Undeterred, I figured I might as well just draw my own eclipse. (see picture above)

Notes:
* "Climate change" - I'm sure she meant to say something alongside clear skies
**According to wikipedia, this eclipse can only be seen in Malaysian skies right after sunset, so the final view at 9:15 pm was actually only wishful thinking.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Claims to Spiffy Titles

Otherwise known as why you shouldn't delay posting blog posts when you think you've got a good title for it.

It all started with a conversation with my aunt - concerning the brain drain issue plaguing our country. I will not go into the details of the conversation because it's irrelevant to the topic at hand, but we somehow started talking about maids (domestic help) - don't ask me how the conversation took this path, because I can't remember. All I can remember is that when I got back home, I opened Blogger, and typed out at the title box: Maid in Malaysia (Yes, it is unoriginal - no thanks to Maid in Manhattan :p)

I never finished started the post.

A few weeks later, which is today, as I drive home from work listening to the one and only radio station I ever listen to, what do the radio deejays talk about? Maids (and the issue with Indonesia banning their women from working here due to several incidents) And what do they decide to name this particular 'episode'? You guessed it - Maid in Malaysia. With this, that post of mine is forever doomed to live in the realm of the unpublished unless I can come up with another title (and some err... content as well)

The only thing I discovered out of this issue? At least I can pass off as being as creative in coming up with titles as the producer of a radio talk show. ;)


Saturday, December 03, 2011

How To Save the World

Ahem. It's how to save your blog actually, from whatever it is that may attack it someday.

Some time ago, an old blog of mine got deleted by whoever was hosting it - and, they didn't even bother informing me. I whined about it in a post, and a comment left by Secret Agent Woman got me thinking. It was time to back up this blog too, although Blogger is currently hosted by Google - a huge company if there ever was one. But like everything else in this time and age, you just never know what is going to happen, and no one has guaranteed that your blog is going to be there forever, and what will become of the posts you slaved over the years - spelling mistakes and all?

After listening to the podcast in the link below last week, the urge to backup is now stronger than ever.


These are a few methods I use:

Save the Blog!
1. Blogger's backup system. (found via blogger buzz)

Blogger has it's very own system in which you can download and backup whatever you've written. This is the same function you can use if you intend to export your blog elsewhere. The only problem I see with this is the fact that it's an XML file, and my lack of knowledge on it makes me worry if it will be retrievable if blogs or blog hosts completely vanish from the face of the earth. However, this step is simple enough to be done as it only involves a click of "Settings" followed by "Other" and "Export Blog" They kindly inform you that this action does not delete the blog, and after you click the "Download Blog" button, all you have to do is wait for a few minutes and hey presto, the XML file is all safe and sound in your own hard drive. 

Pros: Easy one click steps, enables moving between bloghosts, full tutorial is available on Blogger Buzz
Cons: You need to export blog from time to time to update it from when you last downloaded it, it's in XML format so you can't really see it

2. E-mail (Found via google search)

Also another built in blogger feature.
Similar to export, this step also involves a few easy clicks. Go to "Settings", then "Mobile and e-mail" and in the box which says email posts to? type in the e-mail address you want your posts sent to. 

Pros: The moment you hit publish, the blog post gets sent to the e-mail address specified, with pictures, captions and formatting intact, you do not need a blog to read this.
Cons: If you post a lot, then your e-mail add will be flooded with the posts - but you can always create a folder for this, or create a specific e-mail just for your blog posts

3. Old manual backup.

I used to do this for a short while, where my posts were actually typed in notepad before I transported them to blogger. But then, after posting, I actually deleted most of the posts due to space constraints. I want to strangle myself.

Pros: Notepad format - so you don't even need to be online for this, small file size - until their quantity reaches a crazy number
Cons: Only words - no pictures saved

Secret Agent Woman's backup plan: 
Use "Blog to Book" to enable your posts to be compiled into lovely books for posterity. There are a few websites which have this service. 
Pros: You get a book in your hands- what can be better than that?
Cons: Can't think of any