A stolen moment.

We hadn’t seen each other in a while. The dogs played amongst themselves, while we talked. Of everything, yet seemingly nothing. She looked like the weight of the world was on her shoulders.

“You look like you need a hug. Come on.”

I stepped close to her. “A hug.” I repeated.

Sitting down, without a further word, I embraced her.

After a little while, she hesitantly put her arms around me as well, and lay her head on my left shoulder, melting into the warmth of the moment. We stayed like that for a while, blissfully uninterrupted. It felt good. more importantly, it felt right.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got up, with more than a tinge of unwillingness.

“It feels like my life is finally free of regrets,” she looked at me with a smile.

Me too, Sy. Me too.

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One and not the same.

It has been a long time since I won anything, much less something like this – a collectible figure of my choice. Staring at the available prizes on display, I thought hard about the best one to get. The free ones weren’t all that good (read: big), being kinda small and unappealing. How about those bigger, detailed and sweet looking figurines instead? Kamen Rider Stronger looked really cool. Optimus Prime in black, a little ridiculous because he had a small torso with massive arms and legs, and I wasn’t about to get a Decepticon. (Although Devastator was one of the better looking bots.)

“Can I get that one if I pay extra?”

“Which one would you like instead?”

The young lady smiled prettily, and stepped a little closer to see which figure I was after. Feeling her warmth by my side, looking at us in the reflection, I was reminded of her. The same quality, the same air, they could almost be twins. Yet, not quite the same. It was as if I’d stepped off a time machine and returned to the past, to a youthful, innocent her.

“Yes, that one is no problem if you top up $140 extra.”

Really? Wasn’t a real bargain, but I didn’t mind.


The scene changed, time passed. She was now holding on to my arm, and we were going somewhere. I wasn’t sure where; not that I cared either.

I caught a glimpse of her handwriting on the notebook. The one and same handwriting, even. If this wasn’t time travel, it would be cloning. Or perhaps, an alternate timeline. Would I be happier here? I chose to ignore the lingering mental question.

One catches one’s moments of happiness wherever it happens, questioning an impossibility is but a waste of time.


我真的很想让我和你
回到过去重新再来再爱一次
我会在乎我们的故事
改写我们的历史
为你轻轻擦去眼角的泪珠

真的很想让我和你
回到过去重新再来再爱一次
我会珍惜我们的最初
不想看你为我哭
让你陪孤独说不尽心事

Literary: The Perfect Loss (in progress) – Chapter 2

Note: read Chapter One here.

Chapter 2

“A trifle overdone, wasn’t it Rex?”

The hooded figure turned to his companion, a slight and unassuming male. Possessing classically sculpted features, he was handsome by human standards. In fact, he was devilishly good looking, if one took into account the horns protruding from his forehead, and the way his eyes seemed to smoulder like the embers of a dying fire.

Rex gave a nonchalant shrug.

“Car accidents happen all the time, Haedt. Good as any other.”

Moonlight shone softly on Haedt’s gleaming scythe. Emaciated, almost painfully skeletal hands grasped the tool of death, his figure obscured by the dark, almost formless robes.

“As you say. Shall we get to work then?”

Haedt approached the unmoving figure with a purposeful stride, each step seemingly flowing into the next. The scythe almost seemed to glow in hunger. The same hunger that Rex’s inhuman eyes burned with, and the cruel way his lips twisted in a predatory smile.


Comments welcome as always, this is still a story very much in its infancy.

A rich and varied plate.

If you’d told me a year ago I would be juggling so many little things simultaneously, I would have found it a little hard to believe.

The decision to head into SAHD-hood has obviously turned my life on its head and spun it in circles, so here’s a look at the various things that matter now.

Topping the list: the mundane concern of moolah – the cessation of regular income, seeing as I was no longer employed full-time. A tough decision, one that I have not regretted. I won’t deny the fact that it is hard (if not impossible) to eliminate expenditure altogether, but stemming the flow helps oodles. That being said, I’m still feeling the pinch.

Up next: the game changer itself of course! Being a full-time parent has taught me a lot of things, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and have a small taste of how my mum must have felt like when she was raising us.

Having more time at home has allowed me to focus on writing, the one passion that I’m determined to work on from this year on. Writings is a fairly large platter by itself. There’s the usual rambling on various topics (technology, life, personal) that I do, plus the NBA-related content I do on US Sports Down Under and my little site, Celtics Down Under. Writing can be likened to running – the more you go at it, the better you get. There’s a flow and rhythm to things that makes writing so enjoyable sometimes. When the juices are flowing and the fingers are tapping, a really good piece comes out from time to time. I love getting feedback, and am very thankful at the positive comments that come from people who understand and appreciate my writing.

If you had told me a year ago that I would have an opportunity to actually meet members of the Celtics team in person, I would have laughed. Really hard. And then ignored you. I however, have often believed that things happen for a reason. One surprising trickle-down from writing has given me an opportunity to participate as a member of the media for a Celtics game next year. Seriously, how awesome is that? It’s probably every NBA fan’s dream to meet the players up close, and to get a stab at accomplishing this once-in-a-lifetime item on the bucket list is just nothing short of amazing.

Running Celtics Down Under is another fun process in itself. Growing a community from scratch and getting people to engage is just nothing short of magical at times. A key ingredient in life lies in communication, and to be able to facilitate discussion among like-minded people is just, satisfying. I’m hoping to get the community bigger, but I also understand patience is the key to everything, and it’s never about the numbers (quantity), it’s more about the quality of the community.

Surprisingly, part-time work has come about in the most gratifying way possible: through word of mouth. I got a very positive recommendation from a work contact, which resulted in a new project that I will likely be working on for the rest of the year. I’m a straightforward kind of person, and to know that my work ethic is recognised by a peer in the industry is very humbling and at the same time, an affirmation that I am doing the right thing. Hopefully this is the start of something good, with prospects for the long term.

My experiments with WordPress has surprisingly garnered two little projects as well, so never underestimate the power of yakking about random topics. It could well prove to be the beginning of another sideline, but for now I read it at face value, and treat it what it is: opportunities to help people who want nothing more to focus on their businesses and have a little spot to showcase their wares.

People do not want to waste their time learning random skills for a once-off project, they would much rather focus on doing their business.

This is a simple little fact, but it’s stupefying how long I took to get it. By focusing my efforts on helping people to save time and get on with doing what they really want to do, it’s honestly a win-win situation no matter how you look at it. They will be pleased if I do a good job, I get the feel-good buzz of having done a good deed and earn myself a few more bucks to stay afloat.

Not to mention the possibilities of more referrals – aye, the power of word of mouth marketing is unparalleled at times, but this is just another sword that cuts both ways. Good things are talked about, bad things are bitched about at the speed of light. If I do a crap job, expect the reputation to go rapidly downhill.

So many wonderful and exciting things to work on, so little time. But I’m thankful for this phase in my life, and keen to see what else is down the track of this long and winding road.

Online book shopping: Booko’s what you need

Gone are the days of countless (and mostly fruitless) hours spent in dusty little bookshops feverishly bookhunting. The internet is rapidly becoming a cornucopia of riches for us mad bibliophiles (read: book addicts). With a few strokes of the keyboard and the click of a mouse, the world’s literary riches are available to us in all their glory – books, books everywhere!

However, with such a wide variety, the shrewd online shopper persona kicks in – we do want the best deal out there, don’t we?

Thus begins the exhausting process of comparing books. Pretty soon, nightmarish deal comparison spreadsheets appear, with figures filling every column, the result of hours upon hours of browsing. Needless to say, this scenario is completely unacceptable – we want the internet to do our work for us!

This is where Booko (booko.com.au) comes in. Booko (booko.com.au) is a splendid little book search engine, and what a wonderful thing it is. It lets you search for a particular book, and displays the results in an easy-to-read manner, with an option to view the various editions available.

Clicking on “editions” displays a list of the editions (with cover art), the current prices available for used copies, and the price range for new copies. As soon as you have clicked on the edition you prefer, Booko displays a list of websites that have the book in stock, along with the price, delivery charge and condition.

Really, how much easier could getting a good deal on a book be? From one bibliophile to another, I would suggest checking Booko out right away.

Tip: Used books are the real steals over here. If you want the best deal, get a used book – new books, like new cars, are overrated.

How social media can evolve a site into a community

Building up a site is a long journey with decidedly few shortcuts. It’s no longer about just the site itself, but also about the social reach the site has.

In the case of my latest project Celtics Down Under – I view it not just as a website, but as a brand with three integral components:

  1. the website,
  2. the Twitter handle and
  3. the Facebook page.

The main focus of everything of course, has to do with promoting Celtics Down Under as an Australian community for Boston Celtics fans, nothing else. It’s not about profit or bragging rights. I’m doing it because it’s something that’s noticeably missing, and because I’m a Celtic fan who believes in the unity of Ubuntu.


Website

The website provides the content. Content will be posted on a daily bassis for links to other Celtics content, and random timings for other categories like post-game analysis, opinion columns on players, trades and whatever else.

The site should be designed with a focus on readability, and that’s about all I ask for right now.


Twitter

Twitter is a means of propagating posts to the followers and via various hashtags, and it also serves as a means of interaction with the huge amount of Celtics fans out there. I’m having some amazing conversations with some guys out there, and needless to say they fill up my days with sorely-needed social interaction.

It’s funny how ideas are coming up, but I have got a few ideas on what I need to do on Twitter.

  • Encourage the use of a community hashtag for Australian Celtics fans: I want Aussie Celtics fans to be able to speak on the same channel (i.e. hashtag) without the veritable tweet flood the main hashtags (#Celtics especially) are streaming.

    Therefore, I will be promoting the use of #AussieCeltics in the days to come.

  • Get Australian Celtics fans to follow the Celtics Down Under account: I’m basically trying to gather fans from the main Celtics hashtags to follow the account by tweeting about it daily.

    It’s not a numbers race to forget about them soon as they follow the account, so I have a responsibility to return the follow, reach out and thank each new follower individually with a greet tweet to foster interaction. Whether they respond or not is another kettle of fish altogether, but I will be making an effort at least.

  • Creation of an Aussie Celtics user list: I’m slowly compiling this as people follow the @CelticsDownUnd account. Only people with obviously Australian locations will be added of course.

    In the long run, this should be a fairly visible list of Australian C’s fans.


Facebook

I see Facebook as a community platform for everyone, not just the Twitter users. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m quite sure there are more C’s fans on Facebook than there are on Twitter.

With the Facebook page, fans can view a steady stream of Celtics content that is integrated into their Facebook news feed, rather than having to read 140 character tweets upon tweets from a separate client. Tweets are excellent blurps of easily digested information, but there is a place for everything, and having both easy integration and a “repository” for article links, comments, photos and so on would be convenient for new fans to see that the page is indeed a thriving community.

I have a few goals for the Facebook page.

  • Fresh content: There should be new updates frequently. Not real-time, but as often as I can provide them without killing myself in the process. A one man operation can only go that far, and I’m not planning to die from overwork.
  • Promote interaction: Having fresh content will encourage fans to interact. Nothing kills interest faster than a stale site. Like I was saying earlier today: stale, old news is not news.
  • Spread site awareness: This is where things get a little strange. In Facebook, pages utilise what is commonly known as a S4S (aka Share for Share) system. You share their page on your page, and vice versa. The system however is a little mercenary, calling for equal value trades more than anything else. Value of course, refers to the fan base. There are various ways to increase the fan base, ranging from contests to word of mouth, but I’m trialling a somewhat unorthodox approach – I’m using Twitter to get people onto the Facebook page. It’s still too early to say if this will work, but I believe it should.

This is a fairly lengthy and idealistic discourse for a new site that is less than a month old with less than fifty daily site visits, but this is how I’m planning to do things. My ideas and direction will doubtless shift with time, so it will be interesting to document this journey to see how much deviation/non-deviation occurred.

To wrap this article off – it’s all about banner 18! Ubuntu today, my green-goggled brethren.

Need help on buying a tablet? Read.

Five years back, no one could have imagined the rise of the tablet. Previous incarnations were frankly prehistoric, being clunky and stark. Steve Jobs’ visionary genius transformed the tablet into a sexy, hassle-free computer that you operated with your fingers alone. The iPad has since thrown the market into active competition, and accelerated the evolution of the tablet. So, what exactly makes a tablet great?

Size and weight

No one likes to lug a rock around (not unless you were looking to smash someone’s car window). For the user to operate a tablet effectively, he has to be able to hold it for sustained periods of time. You can tell weight is pretty important.

Tablets typically come in 7 inch and 9 inch models. It is best to get hold of a sample, have a feel and decide on your preferred size. Failing that, make your own sample! Have a paper cut out to the same dimensions, or find an object that is about the same weight.

Operating system (OS)

Apple’s iOS has proven to be a game winner with its seamless touch interface. The caveat however, is the minimal customisation allowed. This allows for a uniform user experience but it ends up with Apple deciding what is best for you, rather than the other way round.

Android’s latest version Jelly Bean however promises to level the performance factor with ample customisation and a silky smooth touch interface, so watch out for it.

Microsoft is moving from Windows 7 to 8, so we would wait until the dust settles. Initial Windows 8 previews however promise customisation of beautiful interfaces, just the way you like it.

You can see this is a choice between customisability over a clearly defined user experience, or vice versa.
(Tip: older folks generally prefer ease of use over customisation.)

Wi-Fi or 3G?

This is straightforward: if you use it on the road, get 3G. Otherwise, go with Wi-Fi. (3G tablets are Wi-Fi capable.) Getting a 3G tablet also means increased ongoing and upfront costs due to the mobile data consumed.

If you plan to use a fair bit of mobile data, get a post-paid contract which offers the tablet at a lower price.

Price

To many, this is the one and only factor. The old adage however holds true: you get what you pay for. That $99 tablet sounds like a good deal, but it could be using older hardware. User experience is the key, and you do not want to go el cheapo, only to scream in frustration later.

Battery life and activity pattern

Your tablet should be able to last an average of eight hours. Battery life however depends on your usage. Expect the battery to drain quickly if you watch movies, while activities like internet browsing or checking Facebook consume less power.

Apps

Popular apps are often found on the iTunes Store first, due to the huge user base the iPhone enjoys. This in turn benefits iPad users, though you should know that not all iPhone apps are iPad compatible. Android is catching up on the apps race, but there is still a marked preference for companies to launch iOS apps first over an Android (or Windows) app.

Storage

Some users prefer larger storage to watch movies with; this increases the tablet’s price tag. Others prefer SD card slots for expanded capacity, an optional feature on most tablets. Decide on what you need; this affects the price.

Recommendations

Choosing a lightweight tablet with excellent performance is not as hard as it looks. Should you already be an iPhone user, it is recommended you purchase an Apple iPad, so that the learning curve is minimised.

The New iPad is moderately light, weighing 652g (Wi-Fi model). It is supported by an excellent app store, offers an intuitive touch interface and is rated at ten hours of battery life for video and internet usage. It is a well-designed product many other tablets fall short of. The iPad however, is more expensive.

Should you prefer Android and/or have a limited budget, read on.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (Wi-Fi) weighs 581g, runs on Ice Cream Sandwich (second latest version of Android), and offers a microSD external storage option. Battery life is rated at a decent nine hours (via Engadget).

If you prefer a smaller tablet, the Google (also known as Asus) Nexus 7 might be the one for you. This 7 inch tablet weighs 340g, runs on Jelly Bean, and is benchmarked with ten hours of video playback (via Anandtech).

The 8GB Nexus 7 is currently sold at $249 on Google, a great steal and definitely my weapon of choice.

If you are looking to get a Windows tablet, it is suggested that you wait for Windows 8.

What do you think of the tablet market, and what would you recommend as your preferred tablet?

*This was originally a draft for another site which was turned down but I thought hell, why waste it? So here it is.