actuality.log


All entries tagged 'spotlight'

Tuesday, April the 27th, 2010

“Do you like me as a girl?”

“What?” I muttered back in surprise to meet her tired, green eyes staring softly at me. As I continued to gawk mutely, she gracefully knelt beside me on the couch to elaborate on her question. “Well, it’s clear you really like me as a friend. Do you like me as a girl?”

Of course I did! Did she think I’d have invited her home so quickly after getting introduced, and stayed up all night talking about anything and everything if I didn’t?

I am not entirely sure how it all began.

A close friend of a close friend, it was inevitable that I’d stumble upon her at one gathering or another and we’d get to talking. I think it was the evening we’d all been out to the neighbouring comedy club. The comedienne was mediocre, and my mind had begun to wander. I was drawn to the softness of her eyes and the genuineness of her smile from the instant I noticed her. Her dirty blonde hair, parted and held in place with a cute, purple clip—much like a young girl would have worn it—was framing her face and exposing her expressive eyes behind her chic glasses. The way her nose crinkled every time she tried to adjust them without touching them was adorable!

Everything about her screamed a serenity and a positivity that fascinated me, and I soon braved myself to approach her. Before long, we’d retreated from the group to walk along the pier close by, so that we could focus just on each other.

I remember the smell of the cold ocean breeze hitting my face. I don’t recall anything I said, but I can’t forget how easy it was saying it. That’s been one of the most wonderful things about being with her. Her ability to let you know she genuinely cares about what you have to say: listening, empathising, sharing; without judging. The words escaping her moist, pink lips are ever cheerful, soothing and supportive. You know those people who’re born with innate abilities that make their career choices almost beyond question? I don’t think it will surprise anyone who talks to her for a few minutes to hear that she’s a psychologist.

Parting that evening felt incomplete, but I didn’t think she felt the same way. I was wrong. The next morning, I woke to an e-mail fondly reminiscing the things we’d shared, and sharing some more. How she’d felt challenged by me, and how that was a very good thing. It was clear we had so much more to say to each other, and we decided to meet again as soon as we could. After a few days apart, where annoying life responsibilities—like that lecture I needed to prepare for—got in the way, we found ourselves together at a park. No other friends this time to overwhelm me, just us.

What began at that park in the late afternoon transitioned to my humble abode around midnight. It was early in the morning when she asked me the question; her tired eyes beckoning me for a response.

I wanted to scream out the obvious answer: “Of course! Of course I really, really like you.” But I didn’t. My mind wasn’t prepared for the candidness of her question and it stalled, suddenly nervous, needing to think it through. After a brief, awkward pause, I composed myself and answered it in a strange manner. An honest answer, but still very strange. I don’t know where it all came from—all those probabilities and percentages and all that talk about not being able to open up so much to her if she were a boy instead. I went on an on, talking in circles for what seemed like an eternity until I finally felt I’d blown it and asked, “That wasn’t the right answer, was it?”

“There isn’t a right answer or a wrong one,” she tried to reassure me. “I wanted to know what was going through your mind, and I felt comfortable enough to just come out and ask you. I knew you’d be brave enough to give me a thoughtful answer.”

I’d told her earlier my pantry was bare, and she now suggested we leave to go find breakfast. Quite certain now that I’d blown it, I started to tremble; I spent minutes tying my laces which normally take me seconds. As I was kneeling on the floor fumbling with my shoes, I remarked, “I am not going to turn the question around on you. But I am going to ask you why you asked me.”

“Because I didn’t want to do something indecent,” she sighed softly as she stepped closer beside me. “Indecent? Whatever do you mean?” I egged her on, half-smiling now as I slowly rose. She met my smile with her own. “Like this,” she cooed as she raised herself on her tippy toes and kissed me.

Sunday, November the 15th, 2009

There’s a sweater which, whenever I wear it, never fails to get people fawning over me. It’s this chic, patterned item that works well on its own, but yesterday I had it on as part of a more formal ensemble that aimed for something of a “preppy British schoolboy” look.

The sweater struck again last night.

At a quarter-past-three, as the party was finally winding down, she was huddled close to me baring her every insecurity. She was too drunk to make her own way home, and I only wanted to watch over her to make sure she could safely hail a cab. But she had other plans.

Pressed up against me for support, here she was—one of the prettiest, most confident and capable people I’ve known—telling me how insignificant and uncertain of herself she felt. Her low-cut dress was doing little to hide her ample chest, but I hadn’t the urge to gawk. I held her supportively and listened to what she had to say, trying my best to calm her insecurities with my calm voice. Telling her how I honestly felt about her and her accomplishments; reminding her that she was still young, and had plenty of time ahead of her to explore anything she felt passionate about.

There were a few things about my behaviour last evening that leads me to believe I just might be growing up. First, the thought of taking advantage of her drunkenness didn’t cross my mind. Instead, I felt strangely protective of her. Second, I didn’t fall head over heels for her simply because of her closeness, slinky dress or soft scent. I was looking to be a supportive friend; truly wanting to reassure her that her self-doubts were unfounded, and make sure she got home safe. And finally, it was through reassuring her that I realised how secure I am about fundamental aspects of my self. I might not have figured out where in the world I will be next year, or what I will be doing with my life, but I have no underlying fears about how much I know or what my capabilities are. This awareness of self made me feel rather special, and allowed me to be calm and reassuring without thrusting any of my own neuroses to the fore.

The fact that I was able to serenely pull off all of this—with my actions not being motivated by anything ulterior—makes me feel so much more of an adult. An emotionally-mature adult capable of healthy, sincere relationships with the people I care about.

In other words, I’m beginning to think that maybe it wasn’t the sweater people were fawning over. Maybe it was me.

Sunday, September the 13th, 2009

“Hope for everyone”? “A loving home for every child”? “Home is where the…”?

I was staring at the clichéd words on the sheet of paper before me when I first sensed her. I had promised to help Crayola with the branding and publicity campaign she’d embarked on for Shelter, a small home caring for orphaned children infected with H.I.V. And on a sheet of paper colourful options for logos sketched upon it, I was doodling potentials for a suitable tag line; hoping to come up with something that was relevant, heart-warming and not hackneyed.

I think it was her sweet-smelling perfume as she approached that I picked up on first. I casually glanced upwards with a curious smile only to have her beam back at me with her wide grin and big, lively eyes. As I returned to my doodling, I unconsciously hoped that she would make her way through the crowd to the vacant seat beside me.

“What about, ‘A home for hope’?,” asked a lovely voice interrupting my thought. I had been too engrossed in my scribbling—I really thought I was getting somewhere—to notice her make her way through and sit down beside me. She’d glanced over and gathered what I was doing; and now she was trying to help.

Soon, we were giggling and going through one cheesy phrase after another. When it was obvious we were actively playing with hackneyed phrases just for gag value, we gave up. I folded the heavily-scribbled piece of paper and the lively conversation turned to other things—who we were, what we wanted out of our lives, where we were along those journeys… It was fascinating, and most unexpected. Here I was, talking to someone I’d just met and baring some of my deepest thoughts and opinions. The fact that she had an interesting point of view on just about everything made the affair heavenly.

The minutes spent in the rush-hour traffic had whizzed by, and we’d reached her stop. She grabbed that piece of paper from me and somehow found enough room on it to jot down her phone number—telling me she didn’t want this to end and would love for it to continue. By now, the bus driver was becoming impatient waiting for her to get off. When she hurriedly returned the sheet to me, I didn’t bother looking through it for space to put down my own number. I just got off the bus with her, hand-in-hand. I didn’t intend on letting her go anywhere.

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Wednesday, August the 19th, 2009

It’d been nearly a week and that queasy feeling in Jack’s tummy wasn’t going away. He’d pondered the events of these past days over and over, and it wasn’t clear to him what bothered him more—what had happened, or the way in which she was handling it.

They’d enjoyed a wonderful evening in the park together. She’d lovingly stuffed their picnic basket with a number of delicious goodies, including his favourite snack: praline ice-cream sandwiches. The children playing football in the background, the noisy party-goers at their barbecue grill, the nature-lover meticulously cataloguing different kinds of birds—all the activity around—was lost to them. They were in their own little world. The hours had flown by as they cuddled and conversed, and it was nauseatingly-cute the way she kept insisting on feeding him.

It wasn’t conscious at first, but even through her smiles, Jack could sense the discomfort brewing in her eyes. It didn’t come as a surprise to him when she abruptly told him she’d like to end the evening and go home. By now the agony was apparent in her eyes, and Jack helped her up and cleaned up a bit before they left. Though he had a hunch as to what the problem was, it was clear that she wasn’t in any frame of mind to talk. And so he didn’t ask. She’d always had the most painful periods of any of the women he’d known, and he instinctively gazed at her cute derrière, not to gawk at her as he so often did, but to examine her clothes for spotting. What he saw—the growing blotches of deep red—didn’t leave any doubt in his mind. Unaware of the seriousness of the situation, he wrapped an arm around her and helped her home.

Her blue jeans were a shade of purple by the time they reached.

She wasn’t crying on their way home. She wasn’t crying when she told him. She had an unconcerned look on her face, and as she puffed her 93rd cigarette for the day, she casually tossed out that she’d miscarried. Though he knew that he wasn’t the father, Jack was distraught. The more he attempted to console her (thinking, hoping she needed it), the more she mocked him for his foolishness. She found it rather silly he should care so much for something not his.

He should’ve realised it when she kept up her heavy smoking and drinking even after finding out about the baby. She never wanted it.

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Monday, August the 10th, 2009

So here’s what I just realised: I’m in an unfulfilling relationship. It took me a long time to arrive at that conclusion, and, quite frankly, I’m still not certain whether I can clearly articulate what the problem is. But here’s me trying.

I’ve come to realise over the course of my existence that happiness and sadness, levels of prosperity or contentment and a host of other things are just states of being. As hard as society has tried to condition me into thinking otherwise, I firmly believe that none of these states are inherently better or worse than any of the others. They’re all little more than strokes in the rich canvas of life; some cheerful and colourful, others deep and morose. And as with any masterpiece that isn’t doused with pretty pastel shades, a life needn’t be filled with joy and contentment for it to be meaningful, moving or even beautiful.

I don’t see why more people don’t see this. Why is there a constant quest for happiness and prosperity and popularity? What’s wrong with knowing fully well who you are and what you have—and being fine with everything, including how you feel about it?

Now, I’m generally a very negative person. (But you already knew that.) I don’t see it as a problem, and I don’t want to fight to change it. And this brings us back to what I was trying to say in the first place. I’m in a relationship where I’m never allowed to be morose without incident. I can’t be bitter or sarcastic, nor can I say mean things about the world which I feel has denied me so much. I can’t peacefully sit in a corner and mope, nor can I hold conversations where I repeatedly bring up past mistakes or revisit bad memories.

But guess what, all that stuff—the queasy feeling that comes in my tummy from all that stuff—feels right to me. I don’t want to constantly talk only about positive things. I don’t want to plan for and “fix” any of these things in the future. I don’t even want to fucking smile sometimes. I just want to be who I be, and not have the conversation topic turn toward the one thing I dread the most: Women and their insecurities. How she doesn’t feel adequate. How she’s not pretty enough to satiate me anymore. How she’s not a wonderful enough aspect of my life to make me cheery.

A man can’t just be melancholic anymore and have it be nothing to do with another.

Sunday, June the 21st, 2009

It was the second, perhaps the third, time that night. I had that sinking feeling of despair wash over me as I realised how little of a man I was. As I lay over that beautiful woman—wet and ready with her legs parted in invitation—I found myself doing the unthinkable. I was desperately holding my shrinking cock in my trembling hands and stroking furiously: I needed to be hard again. I needed to feel that wonderful sensation of her pussy lips wrapped around me once more. I needed to feel like the strong man towering over that delicate flower rocking rhythmically as I caressed her chest and face with my own.

I needed to be within her.

I am shrinking some more. Panic is beginning to set in. Her annoyed breaths are turning to sadness as she’s trying to egg me on. “Please,” she sighs, “don’t stroke yourself when you’re over me. Just enter me.” I could have died at that instant. I haven’t felt as little or as inadequate as I did right then. All I wanted to do was to show her how much I loved and needed her. All I ended up doing was to struggle to stay hard and convince her there was something wrong with her form.

I don’t deserve anyone, especially not such a gentle loving creature that adores me so. I don’t know what went wrong, but I am terrified.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s not how this story ended!

However the story did end, the moral of the tale is this: Don’t use newfangled muscle-relaxing, cock-desensitising, stay-hard-for-her-longer condoms.

Thursday, March the 5th, 2009

In the midst of a heart-to-heart, Cecille’s mother broke down and sobbingly admitted to her that she’d aborted Cecille’s unborn baby sister when Cecille was still a young girl. Now a grown woman, Cecille responded in the only way she knew fit—offer her mother some solace and quietly grieve the loss of a sister she never had.

Meanwhile, her sombre and supportive façade served to mask the only thought running through her head—I wish it were me instead.

Sunday, February the 22nd, 2009

It’s not too complicated to explain really, at the heart of things it’s just that I’m a lazy bum. Almost anything of significance, be it work-related or personal, requires a fair amount of effort on one’s part to create and sustain. Effort that I am not willing to put in—hence the lovely state of my life. But that’s old news, except that it isn’t.

Of late, I’ve seriously been contemplating one grand scheme after the next to stop working within a year (or so). I’ve “been working” now for what—six months?—since I completed my schooling and I’ve come to the conclusion that another year or so ought to do it for me. Really, I’m done with the whole “being a professional” scene and it’s about time I got back to what’s important: Lounging on a hammock somewhere sipping something.

It’s within this context that I wrote to my father hoping to rope him into my plans (or at least, inform my parents of my intentions).

Appa,

I have a basic question: Realistically, how much money should I save if I want to live (let’s assume in India, since it is cheaper to do so) for the rest of my life without working?

I don’t care about living fancily, I just want to live without responsibility. I want to be able to spend all my time doing whatever I want.

Me

Usually, my parents always get back to me instantly—like they’re perpetually waiting to talk to me. But it’s been a couple of weeks since I sent this, and I haven’t heard back from them. I’m sure my folks are sitting somewhere aghast, unable to fathom why their son is “throwing his life away on a whim.”

The truth is, I’ve been drifting away from them ever since I left home to pursue my studies. Even though I talk to them once every ten days or so, I almost do it perfunctorily. And it’s always they who initiate the conversation, never I. It’s like the more independent I’ve become over the years, the less I’ve deemed their utility. I know it’s a mean thing to say, but I’ve been self-reliant for so long, I don’t see the point in talking to them any more. I do respect and appreciate what they’ve done for me (while lamenting about how ineffectual their contributions often are); it’s just that over time, our lives have diverged.

In fact, I don’t even know why I wrote to my dad about my plans. I didn’t write to him for his advice on what I needed to do to achieve a life of doing nothing, I wrote to him for approval. Come to think of it, do I even care anymore?

Saturday, February the 7th, 2009
Tagged: , ,

and so was she. For she’s a real life pastry chef you see—the cutest one there ever be. Perky, vibrant and giggling with glee, it’s not surprising everyone was her arrestee. Why then did she gaze into me—melancholic, morose and moody me?

I don’t think I’ll ever know, nor do I care if I do, but I am glad that she did. It was a magical couple of weeks and I wish she didn’t have to return to the States.

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Monday, February the 2nd, 2009

(Can you taste the delicious irony?)

From flamewars defending one’s favourite publishing platform, to worrying too much about specific versions of obscure software plug-ins, to constantly tweaking the appearance of blogs, there’s an unfortunate tendency in the blogosphere to focus incessantly on the technical aspects of blogging to the detriment of everything else. In an attempt to buck the trend a little and bring into focus what’s really important—high-quality content—here are ten quick tips to improve your writing on-line:

  1. Focus on the things you know, enjoy and are passionate about.
  2. Never publish your first draft. Nor your second.
  3. Read your entries out loud. It’s amazing how many errors missed when silently scanning words get caught when you hear them out loud.
  4. Find a writing and publishing schedule that works for you. And stick to it.
  5. Recognise that this is not publishing on paper; things can be perpetually improved. Continue to evolve your entries even after they’ve made it to your web site.
  6. Learn to use a thesaurus and a dictionary to make your writing more apt (and stylish!).
  7. Know and engage your audience.
  8. While your writing environment (different blogging software, word processors, text editors, paper and pencil, …) is not of central concern, make sure you choose one that doesn’t get in the way.
  9. Don’t be reluctant to experiment with different writing styles until you figure out one that works for you.

I know I said I’d share ten blogging tips but only ended up presenting nine. Would you like to help me complete the list above?

Sunday, December the 7th, 2008

I could’ve sworn I had some money in Euro lying around the house. I seem to remember exchanging a lot more currency than I ended up needing during my last trip to Germany, but perhaps I’m just misremembering things. Either that, or I’ve lost a bunch of bank notes during the move to my new apartment. Anyway, it’s not like they don’t have ATMs in Paris, which is where I’m spending this week. I reckon it’s going to be interesting—my mom sent me a long list of her favourite places there which she insists I not miss—but more on that later as events warrant it. We now have bigger fish to fry.

As I run around my home tossing things into my trusty campers’ backpack a few hours before my flight, my mind keeps returning to the events of last night. There she was, pressed up to me whispering in my ear even though the obnoxiously loud music in the club had long since given way to much softer and more relaxed background fare. Her slinky cocktail dress which exquisitely accentuated her delicate form did little to sheath the warmth of her body. I remember being transfixed by the way her tongue-piercing glistened under the subdued lights as her mouth moved, and struggling to string coherent sentences together as I drowned in her intoxicating perfume; but her frequent giggles and pouty smiles seemed to suggest I was doing something right.

It took much of the night, but I was finally beginning to feel relaxed and not completely out of my element. Without the blaring music and the smoke, my system wasn’t on constant sensory overload (at least, not the kind that bothered me!) and the setting quickly became a lot more intimate. It stayed that way for a long while—until it eventually evaporated; an inevitability I was bracing myself for the entire time.

I amn’t going to discuss details, but I believe I do need to take up some form of dance lessons. Not for improving the gracefulness of my movements, but to prevent me from getting petrified and retreating into a shell (not to mention arguing to defend my pitiful chickenhood) when being pushed to.

As I sit here amidst this scattering of paper I rummaged through to look for my Euros for the trip, I can’t help but glance at their contents. Much of them are unfinished journal entries over the years, many of which are desperate pleas and pointless grousing, a sizable chunk serving to highlight the complete history of my sexual failures. I seem to be doing the same things over and over expecting dramatic changes in my life. But the events of last evening, this stack of memories strewn about, everything, points to how absurd a notion that is. If I want my situation to change, I need to change too.

First stop, manning up and signing up for dance lessons. For a while now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries.

Saturday, November the 29th, 2008

A month and three days, give or take a few months

One month and three days; that’s how much time had elapsed since I first ordered my shiny new Apple Macbook Pro (henceforth, MBP) and actually received it. As happy as I’ve been about how laid back people are here—and how much more relaxed my own life has become after moving to Oslo—it’s gratuitously long waits for just about everything (opening bank accounts, receiving my first salary, finding an apartment, getting this computer, …) that have tended to annoy me. But I think I’m going to save that rant for another time, as we seem to be veering off-topic a lot quicker than usual today.

I’d been keeping my eyes peeled for a new computer ever since I stepped out of grad school early this year. And since my existing MBP (first generation, early 2006 model) had served me well for so long (and continues to do so), it wasn’t surprising that I decided to eventually augment it with another MBP. I amn’t sure why it took so long, but only when the new crop of Apple notebooks were announced in mid-October was I both excited and intrigued enough to take the plunge.

A day after the new rigid-bodied, fully-glossy, black-keyboarded, easier-to-upgrade line was announced, I ordered myself one of the higher end MBPs. One month and three days later, I received it. It’s in this interim that my enthusiasm for the computer (and for this review in turn) seems to have waned.

But not completely extinguished.

The new machine on my desk.

Similar, yet different

When I first envisioned this piece, I imagined it to be some sort of spoof on my earlier (now nearly three year-old) review of my first Apple notebook, a first generation MBP. Retaining stylistic similarities, I wanted to faux reproduce the effusive excitement that came with my fledgling foray into the world of Apple and Mac OS X—mocking how much I associated that move to something of a noteworthy lifestyle change. I also wanted this review to stand alone, not marred in comparisons to that machine. But as usual, it appears as if this piece is going to evolve into whatever it wants to be—which is entirely comparative, and not particularly funny.

So without further ado, I present a complete list of specifications of my new machine, along with the specifications of my older machine to shed some light on where I’m coming from.

Early 2006 Model Late 2008 Model
  1. Also has an in-built NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card with 256 MB of (total) VRAM.
  2. Note that this battery has been through over 836 charge cycles spanning nearly three years.
Model Name MacBook Pro 15” Macbook Pro 15”
Model Identifier MacBookPro1,1 MacBookPro5,1
Processor Intel Core Duo (2 x 2.0 GHz) Intel Core 2 Duo (2 x 2.8 GHz)
L2 Cache 2 MB 6 MB
Memory 2 GB (2 x 1 GB) 4 GB (2 x 2 GB)
Type (Bus Speed) DDR2 SDRAM (667 MHz) DDR3 SDRAM (1.07 GHz)
PCIe Graphics Card ATI Radeon X1600 NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT1
Total VRAM 256 MB 512 MB
Display Type Matte Color LCD Glossy Color LED
Resolution (Color Depth) 1440 x 900 (32 bit) 1440 x 900 (32 bit)
Audio Card Intel High Definition Audio Intel High Definition Audio
Hard Drive Model Seagate ST910021AS Hitachi HTS723232L9SA62
Capacity 100 GiB 320 GiB
Drive Speed 7200 RPM 7200 RPM
Optical Disc Drive Matshita DVD-R UJ-857
Single Layer
Matshita DVD-R UJ-868
Dual Layer
Battery Model SMP ASMB012 SMP bq20z951
Full charge capacity 3219 mAh2 4585 mAh
Amperage / Voltage 2597 mA / 12446 mV 2168 mA / 11700 mV
Connectivity, etc. USB (x 2),
Firewire (400 MB/s),
Gigabit Ethernet,
Airport (ABG),
DVI Port,
Bluetooth,
Audio in/out,
ExpressCard/34 Slot
USB (x 2),
Firewire (800 MB/s),
Gigabit Ethernet,
Airport (ABGN),
Mini DisplayPort,
Bluetooth,
Audio in/out,
ExpressCard/34 Slot
Height x Width x Depth 1″ x 14.1″ x 9.6″ 0.95″ x 14.35″ x 9.82″
Mass 5.6 lb. 5.5 lb.

Henceforth, I’m going to refer to my new machine (fifth generation, late 2008 model) as MBP5, and the older one (first generation, early 2006 model) as MBP1. I think this notation will save me some typing.

The two machines are quite similar in a lot of ways, yet I’ve convinced myself the differences between them are sufficient to justify this upgrade. When closed, and you stare at them from far enough away, the two notebooks appear just about the same.

Pretty similar, don't you think?

But as you get closer and you actually get to hold the newer machine, the physical differences between them become clear: MBP5’s keyboard now sports black, separated keys, the already lonely mouse button on MBP1’s trackpad is gone, the screen is now fully glossy and sports a black bezel (much like the iMacs), and most strikingly, it’s apparent how much better-built MBP5 is.

It does look and feel rather swanky.

Apple has banged-on about their new manufacturing process innovations for quite some time now, and so I’m not going to repeat any of it. Even without caring about the details, the first thing I noticed when I pulled this machine out of the box is how much more rigid (and dense) it feels. The specifications on paper claim it is slightly lighter than MBP1, but I hold them up side-by-side and I can swear MBP5 is the heavier machine. Also, MBP5 is slightly thinner than MBP1, but in order to achieve this, they’ve made it wider and longer. Either way, you won’t really notice any of this unless you press them up against each other.

Subtle differences crop up on closer examination.

Since this section of the article seems to have become preoccupied with physical differences between the two machines, I might as well point out a few more things. First, all the ports have been moved to the left side of MBP5’s chassis, while they were distributed somewhat evenly between the left and right sides on MBP1.

A mess of ports, all on one side.

This also means that the slot for the optical disc drive on MBP5 has been moved to the right side of its chassis, instead of showing up at the front as in MBP1. These changes can either hurt or help depending on your set up, but either way, the drive on MBP5 sounds so much more tranquil—and not like it’s going to die every time it’s operated!

A quieter drive where all those ports resided.

Also, even though the positioning of the keys on MBP5 feels identical to that on MBP1, some of the keys (especially the Function keys that open Dashboard, Exposé, help change the volume etc.) are mapped differently.

A birds-eye view of the new keyboard.

I’m a little thrown-off by this right now (like accidentally increasing the volume level on MBP5 by hitting F12, when intending to open Dashboard), but this is something I will adjust to soon enough and develop the appropriate muscle memory for. In more important news, that god-awfully placed Enter-key right next to the Left arrow-key on MBP1 is now gone! No more accidentally sending embarrassing typo-laden instant messages when you actually planned on moving the cursor left to an earlier point to correct your message. Thank you Apple!

Finally, unlike MBP1 which uses a physical latch to stay closed, MBP5 uses a magnet. While this is cool (it really seems to shut snug), my fingerprints will probably end up smudging the glass covering the web cam—since that’s exactly where my fingers need to be to open this magnetic “latch.” Genius.

The new magnetic latch.

Some false alarms

Once the initial excitement of actually holding the machine in my hand had passed (recall I waited over a month for it), I proceeded with the cursory visual inspection of the body and then turned it on to check its behaviour. Within the first few minutes of use, it was apparent to me that I really liked the new keyboard. MBP5’s keys were a bit stiffer and typing on it had a really solid feel. In case you are worried about the new spacing between the keys (as I was), don’t be; it’s a non-issue.

Another thing I was unsure about was how the new button-less trackpad would behave. After using it for a week, I can testify that MBP5’s trackpad feels smoother, and the process of clicking is identical to that on MBP1—even though you can’t see a button any more. However, the clicking noise MBP5 makes sounds yuck compared to MBP1 (MBP1 sounds smoother and more understated while MBP5 sounds cheap and clicky). I haven’t gotten around to using (more than two-fingered) gestures yet, but I guess they will work as advertised. Most salient from my point of view, none of my usual finger movements on the pad have been accidentally construed to be gestures; which is always a good thing.

After working through the initial set up (for the first of three times—when I first switched-on the computer, when I formatted it and reinstalled Mac OS X to remove auxiliary crud, when I needed to reformat it and re-reinstall Mac OS X because I later found out many programs dislike a case-sensitive file-system), I did what I always do when I get my grubby-little hands on new hardware: Put it through its paces. Popping in an Ubuntu CD lying around, I fired up a memory test (imaginatively named “Memtest”) and let it run for a few hours.

Memtest chugging away.

Much to my dismay, the test failed quite spectacularly, indicating I had faulty memory. I was annoyed and disheartened not because of the failure, but because of the prolonged holdup I knew I would experience trying to get the faulty memory replaced in Norway. Thankfully, it ended up being just a silly software versioning issue, and MBP5’s memory wasn’t to blame. I guess the older version of the software just wasn’t aware of fancy Apple proprietaryisms. I’ve since run more recent versions of Memtest on the machine over several hours and there haven’t been any problems.

One thing I noticed during the test (which, apart from taxing the memory, is also a fairly processor-intensive task) is that MBP5 runs a smidge cooler than MBP1. The newer system’s cooling fans seem to be kicking-in earlier. While this is good news for you if you ever plan on having children, it makes MBP5 quite a bit louder.

Talking about noise levels, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that MBP5 is completely non-whiny! This is in stark contrast to MBP1, which has different kinds of high-pitched electronic noises emanating for certain screen brightnesses and when its processors aren’t being used.

The real alarm

In case you were concerned about the MBP5’s new glossy screen, you were right to worry; its screen sucks. I am sure it has its impressive points, but I can’t really see any of them through all the reflections. It’s reflective to a point where it’s often distracting and sometimes unusable.

Ooh, I'm shinier!

MBP5’s screen is also overtly bright. It’s so bright that I can’t really work on it with anything more than 4 (out of 16) levels of brightness without getting a headache. I think it needs to be this bright to actually manage to show you something through all the reflections. The trouble is, you’re soon dealing with both the ungodly reflections and a bright glow that’s giving you a headache, and the colours start to appear quite washed-out at higher brightness levels. Awesome!

While I am ranting about the screen, I might get these other things off my chest. The default colour cast for MBP5’s screen is a little too cold. (I believe this can be easily fixed with some calibration.) It’s interesting that the screen now opens up to a greater angle than it did on MBP1, but this is useless since the new screen has a reduced vertical viewing angle. As a sort of peace-offering for all its failings, MBP5’s screen does seem to have a greater horizontal viewing angle.

Voyeurs on the bus, rejoice!

Finally, the glass cover over MBP5’s new screen makes it quite a bit heavier than the older screen. It no longer stays up under its own weight beyond a certain closing angle, and closed on my fingers when I once quickly moved MBP5 holding onto just its keyboard.

Evaluating performance gains using Cinebench

(Ed. Note: This section was appended after the original article was published.)

Once I’d publicised this piece a little on different fora around the web, it was brought to my attention that some people were interested in learning more about the performance differences between the two machines; one of whom was nice enough to suggest a suitable benchmark program, Cinebench. I’d glossed over the performance gains earlier, casually tossing out a “MBP5 is ~ 40% faster” line; something which I’m now going to rectify.

I’ve now run Cinebench R10 (800 x 600, 8 Bit RGB) on both machines (running Mac OS X 10.5.5, 32 Bit) , and the results reported below are the best of three attempts after a (hard) restart of each machine with nothing nefarious running in the background. In order to minimise any performance-eating shenanigans arising from power management, I set both machines to their respective “High Performance” modes and connected them to power.

MBP1 MBP5 Δ
Intel Processor Core Duo (2 x 2.0 GHz) Core 2 Duo (2 x 2.8 GHz)
Memory 2 GB (2 x 1 GB) 4 GB (2 x 2 GB)
Graphics Card ATI Radeon X1600 NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT
Rendering (Single CPU) 1987 CB-CPU 3217 CB-CPU 1.62
Rendering (Multiple CPU) 3761 CB-CPU 6147 CB-CPU 1.63
Multiprocessor Speedup 1.89 1.91 1.01
Shading (OpenGL Standard) 2718 CB-GFX 6142 CB-GFX 2.26

It is heart-warming to note that MBP5 is quite a bit more nippy.

To make a long story less long

I don’t really know where I stand on MBP5. It has its good points: It’s a better spec’d machine in a lot of ways, it’s substantially faster than MBP1 (posting impressive gains in Cinebench, and ~ 40% gains on my unoptimised real-world numerical codes), it’s much better built, its battery life seems to be good (I got it to last nearly a couple of hours under heavy load, high screen brightness and WiFi turned on), the tiny, flimsy rubber dots raising the body of MBP1 have been replaced by large, sleek pads, …

I just wish I didn’t have to logout-and-in every time I wanted to go from “Conserve Power” and “Maximise Performance” battery modes (a shift I’m used to making every single time I plug and unplug the power adaptor, but one that I can no longer afford to do), that I didn’t now have to remember to carry another dongle (Mini DisplayPort to DVI) everywhere, and that I didn’t hate its screen with such a passion.

Friday, August the 22nd, 2008

I was rudely awakened from a horrific nightmare a few minutes ago to the even more horrible sound of a terrified woman wailing. This was accompanied by the banging of doors, heavy stomping and other unabashed signs of an argument. This, however, isn’t a particularly new experience for me as my luck with neighbours follows a distinct pattern. But what was grating though was the woman’s annoying voice.

Even though her distress was obvious, I couldn’t once get myself to feel sorry for her or even have my usual (tainted) good Samaritan aspiration—where I contemplate knocking on their door to find out if all is well, despite the distinct possibility of getting beaten up (or worse), under the grand illusions of the payoffs accompanying rescuing a damsel in distress.

But her frickin’ whiny voice. Arggh! She’s causing my ears to bleed.

Oh, it’s suddenly gotten all quiet now.

And it’s been that way for a few minutes. Oh good, she must have run away or he must’ve killed her. Thank goodness. Now I can peacefully return to battling my own inner demons.

A programming note: Since the introduction of µ, a micro-journal featuring extremely small entries, my writing skills have gone further south.

Friday, August the 8th, 2008

I’m quite convinced the problem with my brain is that it’s not dead—it’s actually capable of thought.

As I lie there exhausted, my heavy eyelids slowly descending over my tired eyes, I feel her snuggle up even closer to me with a contended sigh. That’s when it happens—right when I’m on the brink of actually experiencing a moment of true happiness—my brain begins to race in a frenzied panic:

“But she’s not petite enough. Shouldn’t she be younger? She doesn’t look anything like what you’ve always longed for. Does she have to be such a tomboy all the time? I wish she were more of a girly-girl; it wouldn’t hurt for her to pay more attention to herself…”

How much I adore her, or how good we’ve been together, or how much fun I have when she’s around, or how liberating it’s been to openly share things with her… all of this, every single positive facet, quickly fades into the distant background. My brain has decreed she doesn’t look like she “ought to,” and its own voice is the only one it’s willing to hear.

The sad part is, I’m not able to convince it that it’s wrong. Superficial? Of course. Acting idiotically to our detriment? Hell yes!

But wrong?

Thursday, April the 17th, 2008

My fingers are refusing to type this; they’ve been numbed by the cold outside.

But I had to go out. I had to get away. Sitting at my desk was becoming too claustrophobic. It was as if the words on the screen before me were crawling out to smother me.

I seem to have blacked out the specific words I saw, but whatever they were, I heard them exclaim: “Leisure? You don’t have a right to leisure!”

When I formally concluded my graduate studies at the end of last year, I’d reached a crossroads in my life. So much of the past half decade of my existence had been devoted to the creation and completion of that one humongous document, I conveniently opted to ignore just about everything else. I hadn’t even contemplated the basic question of what I intended on doing thereafter, now that this chapter of my life was drawing to a close.

Thankfully, come new year’s eve, it dawned upon me that it’s better late than never, and I ought to pause now to think about things; to seriously contemplate the state of my existence, and search for where I was going with my life.

And I did. It’s what I’ve been doing for these past few months.

This period has been good for me. It hasn’t been particularly exciting or eventful, but I have a better idea of what I want: I want to be free. I want to be under the radar, not bound my society’s expectations. I don’t want commitment and I don’t want to be tied down by responsibility.

I want to read, to write, to express. I want to shoot pictures and sing in the rain. I want to spend my evenings at a smoky night-club under a Parisian cafe, reciting poetry, passionately debating the iniquity of a purely Neo-Marxist society with my beret’d friends.

It doesn’t matter if my activities can sustain me, or help me save toward a down-payment of a home, or impress a gold-digger enough for her to spend the rest of her life with me, or pay college tuition for the kids we’d likely have.

No, I just want leisure. That’s all I want—I want the time and space to pursue whatever I fancy.

And that’s why I stepped out into the cold. I had to get away.

I’d just learnt that as an international student here, it was new U.S. policy that one can’t amble along unemployed for too long after graduation; they have to do something with their lives. And since I can’t yet put my finger on what my something is, the next moment I did the only thing I know how—I returned to working at the uni; to spend even more time confined in a window-less cubicle.

Because somehow, it’s this that makes me a desired and productive member of society.

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