Todo lo demás


I just want to report that there are days when I feel so glad to be alive.

Especially these days. This morning I woke up feeling vaguely optimistic that it would be a good day. No reason, no rhyme. Had the usual set lunch at the usual cafe, finished some work, made some drawings. Right now we’re stuck in the cafe because it’s raining cats and dogs out there. By all accounts this has been “just another day”.

Just another happy day.


Happy like puppies

It feels like my soul has finally eaten a good meal and she’s spread out on a grassy meadow, staring at the sky, just watching the clouds float by. The blue of the sky is the perfect tint of brilliant blue that goes with everything. The breeze is firm but gentle. The smile on her face feels like it belongs there.

Could it be the nourishing creativity that I’ve been exposing myself to? The hours of losing myself in drawing just for the sake of drawing? The long conversations with K, my art teacher, which meander down long and winding paths to nowhere, paths that I had always wanted to venture down but never did because I didn’t know how to? The flashing eyes of my Japanese teacher, Another K, who empathetically said that she agrees fully with the Japanese essays that I write (the content, not the grammar)?

Could it be the routine everyday that I had craved so badly last year when I was living out of a suitcase, skipping from hotel room to hotel room, wondering what I was doing with my life? The servers at the neighbourhood chicken rice place and the cafe we go to every week know our usual orders by now. Ukulele class on Wednesdays, yoga class on Thursdays, Japanese class on Fridays, art class on Sundays. Even Spot peeing on my house slippers isn’t so bad, since Leo cleans them up. Bless him, bless the cats, bless everything routine in my life.


Spot sleeping peacefully, as if he did not pee on my slippers

Could it be that things make sense in this country again? Every day I open Malaysiakini with eagerness. So far it’s been two weeks since we’ve changed governments, and the novelty has not worn off. Every day something extraordinary happens, something completely inconceivable a month ago, as I shake my head with wonder. I agree with many of the policy decisions and stances that have been made (not all though). The simpering pink face of greed and cowardice is finally facing the music. His counterpart, the bloated and stiff face of horror as well. Our national debt is through the ceiling, but the very fact that I actually know this, gives me hope.

Could it be that I’m doing work that I like again? I’ve just accepted a part time lecturing position in a university, and I’m tweaking and redesigning the course that I’m going to teach. It’s a different ball game from a research project and is actually, dare I say it, fun. And every other day I get some random potential project. People ring me up and engage me in all sorts of small projects, sometimes it goes through and sometimes it does not. Lots of times it’s a promise of something that might happen, and I’m forever waiting. I’m still in the red, but I’m optimistic about staying afloat.


Frog says no to paparazzi

It’s just this feeling of being at peace, building stuff, laughing at small things, again. Some of that old naiveté is back. Believing that good things will happen. Having faith that even if bad things happen, there is enough strength to withstand them.

It’s been years since I’ve felt like that. The hitch hiker’s thumb. The mischievous smile. The surge of confidence in the “definitely, yes”.


High on life

I made all the drawings. Regular updates at @juneysketches.


I’m now writing a blog post in Japanese every week from now on. It’s part of my (self-imposed) homework for a tutor that I got through italki. Every week I meet Kimie-san on Skype and she corrects my essays and we talk for about an hour. So far I’ve done one proper lesson (and a trial lesson before that), and she has exceeded my expectations in being a responsive and caring tutor who takes down my questions during class and sends me extensive answers through Skype afterwards even when it’s not on paid time.

When the teacher is good I get super motivated to work harder, and that seems to motivate them to teach better as well – so it’s a virtuous cycle right there. Anyways here is my first (corrected) Japanese blog post and a translation of it beneath.






My thoughts about drawing

Recently, I have been into drawing. It is probably because I found a good art teacher, which has encouraged me to work harder. I used to love drawing when I was a child, but after I grew up I didn’t do it much anymore. Why is that? Maybe I lost my confidence, maybe I didn’t have time anymore… I suppose there are many reasons.

After a long hiatus, it feels good to be holding a pencil, and drawing a line on paper. Art is a language, said my teacher. Lines are the words. If you do not use words well, you will not be able to communicate what you want to say. Therefore, it is very important to master the use of lines. After that, it is the observation of colours. Where does the light come from? Where do the shadows end? Are the colours cool or warm? Through expressing these well, the artist’s feelings can be transmitted to the hearts of the viewers.

When we look at a masterpiece, we should carefully observe the painting’s composition, its use of colours, and the master’s brush strokes. After that, we try out on paper what we have learnt, and practise it over and over again. If you do this, your techniques and artistic sense will get better over time.


I drew the featured image based on a photo from NatGeo. See more at @juneysketches.

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I found out something curious today.

I was cleaning up my LinkedIn profile and relooking into my Instagram account – basically doing some social media housekeeping that I had not had time nor motivation to do, for years – when I realised that in my six years of absence from Instagram, someone had been using my account as a phantom follower to other Instagram accounts! *jeng jeng jeng*

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I’m going to be peppering this post with completely unrelated pictures from my old Instagram account. We were watching some cows humping in this picture.

Let’s establish some basic background. I started using Instagram around 2010, for about two years, mainly for its filter functions, which resulted in a lot of random photos in my profile which I applied the filters on. Earlier on I had already set the profile up as private because of how I was using it (i.e. as a quick photo editing tool and not a sharing platform). Around 2012, around when I was finishing up my PhD, I stopped using the app. Possibly because Facebook had acquired Instagram, or maybe I got tired of it, I don’t remember.

Today I revisited my profile and reset the password because I had forgotten it. I started looking through the pictures, of which I had 270 – a number which I was genuinely surprised by, as I thought I had twenty pictures tops. But then I noticed something funny. I had the grand total of one follower, but over 300 profiles that I was following. My feed was full of unfamiliar profiles, some of them in Arabic, some in Russian, some in Spanish.

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This was taken in some French town. The busker had left for lunch, or skipped town – we will never find out.

And then it dawned on me that quite possibly my account had somehow been taken over – hacked? – and all these profiles that I was following probably bought their likes. And that I now have a list of over 300 profiles which are like-buyers and fraudster influencers.

I clicked randomly through the list, and these are what I found:

  • Lots of legitimately cute chicks. There’s even a really beautiful female body builder in there with an intimidating silhouette. A Korean singer/song-writer. Many different personalities – Chinese, Japanese, Spanish-speaking, tudung-wearing, globe-trotting… but ultimately quite boring profiles. If you’ve seen one selfie, you’ve seen them all.
  • There are also guys of course. There’s a guy in there who collects expensive branded bags. An Italian actor/producer who has 1.5mil likes. An old dude who seems to be living the life, photographed with many expensive cars and at many travel destinations. A young dude who has many artistic shots of himself (probably can’t afford cars and trips). Some American guy who has a PhD, is a producer, a pilot, and works in law enforcement – if he didn’t buy my like I might have trusted his long list of achievements a little more.
  • Businesses, as well. Someone who sells Legos in Indonesia. A slimming/wellness service provider from the Philippines which was apparently founded by a former beauty queen (I arrived at their website and dug deeper). An Australian shopping centre showing pictures of all their vendors. A bank from India. An art gallery from somewhere that speaks Arabic, which actually looks like a profile that I wouldn’t mind following – one of its pictures are of a group of women with headscarves sitting together, drawing.
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Drinking from some random stream somewhere. There’s probably a healthy colony of parasites in my gut now.

  • Most of these accounts have an upwards of 10,000 likes. The highest that I’ve seen so far is 3.9 million likes, and the lowest at 1600+ likes. Wonder how much of that is actually real.
  • There are profiles which seem to have quite a lot of actual engagement, like comments. But of course many are not very engaging, so they look quite obviously fake, with the disproportionate like/comment ratio. A small number (let’s say 10%) of these profiles are verified accounts.
  • These people put real effort into their content (of course they do), resulting in a really long list of insta stories that I do not have the time nor energy to go through. However I saw at least one profile which has only 31 posts, basically a collection of some random videos and pictures that he finds funny, with no perceivable profit motive or “influencer ego” that I can see… yet he has 14k likes and obviously cared enough about likes to buy mine. I am confused.
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Drunken crayoning reveals angst. I don’t think I was in a relationship at that time though.

For some reason Instagram doesn’t let me open too many profiles/tabs at the same time (gives me errors) and I found myself having to refresh some pages repeatedly to get through. So I got tired of doing that and stopped my profile surfing.

What are the takeaways from this experience? On the digital security front, it is fortunate that my privacy settings are still set as private. That had not changed even though the hackers would have had ample opportunity to change it, or to hijack my account completely. I have also not observed any evidence of myself doing much else besides following profiles that I don’t know. I’m guessing (and hoping) that with my changing of the password, all this hanky panky will stop. I’m still maintaining this private account because I don’t want to lose the pictures inside, but I have built an active one linked to a new email account to post my sketches and drawings (it’s @juneysketches). I’ve also been using KeePass for managing my passwords nowadays, so the new passwords will be much harder to crack.

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Eva radiating joy in her Same Same (But Different) t-shirt, accompanied by our Wall of Awesome. Those were good days!

The other thought that I have is a little harder to pin down. I am fascinated, if a little repulsed, by the idea of being so desperate for likes that one has to buy them. This brings me back to a book that I read last year, I think it was the one by Douglas Rushkoff that talks about how all the value has been extracted out of the economy and people turn to virtual currency such as “likes”, which can then be converted back to real money through their influencer status. I suppose money begets money? If you invest real money in virtual likes, you may get the returns in real money as well. But then, these are the people who actually understand the rules of the game and are playing to win.

What about those who are actually relying on likes as a status symbol? Competing with their peers on virtual popularity, at the same time knowing that their own follower base is actually hollow and meaningless? How many layers of sad is that? So many layers. :(((

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My house mate had bought a twenty kilo jackfruit. We had jackfruit for a LONG time and I think the fridge never got over the smell.

In any case, I’m constantly reviewing my stance on social media. From being pretty careless about it to completely adverse, I have traversed the entire spectrum and am currently trying to strike a balance on having some sort of presence but curating and sharing mindfully. I think that the Indieweb concept is pretty good – basically you have all your content on your own website and syndicate them out to the platforms, so that you always own your content, and interactions on the SNSs come back to your website so that you don’t lose anything. The implementation is in the pipeline but I need to wait till Leo helps me to revamp this website to be compatible with Indieweb.

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Here’s a piece I was doing, drawing Leo’s mate with its metal straw (and look at the two stick figures perched on top, so cheesy hahah)

For the time being, it seems to be a matter of getting used to connecting with people online again, and enjoying the process of writing and drawing without being distracted by social media. A battle against the attention economy at large. Maybe it’s a muscle that one has to flex. Better start earlier than later.

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For some reason I made a filter of this screenshot of a chat I was having with XC, circa 2012. I still find it hilarious HAHAHA

Unrelated, one day later, when I pressed publish: Just found out that GE is now set on 9th May. Wednesday. ARGH fuck this shit.

I have finally finished the proposal for NGO workers! You can download it here. It explains the importance of the research and also how I plan to collect data and conduct the study. It’s not set in stone – I intend to incorporate any useful feedback that I get – but so far I’m happy with it.

I am reaching out to my networks to see if anyone might know of anyone who might want to fund it. It’s a long shot, but it was an issue that I had to get out of my system anyway. So let’s see what might happen. Feel free to send it around, let me know if you have any feedback/questions on the content of the proposal, or if you have any inkling of who I should talk to.

In general I’m looking for research-related jobs and work. While I have enough of reserves to keep me going for some time yet, I can feel the weight of my entire bloodline of Chinese forefathers nagging at me for not having a retirement plan (nor a stable income). The Tans do not sit around and wait for things to happen, they sigh disapprovingly, when I attempt to do so.

So, what to do. Find work loh. ^^ Preferably on an issue that I care about, but let’s see.

Lately I’ve been writing research proposals to propose studies on issues that I care about. One of the research areas that I’ve listed down is the one in the title: working conditions within the NGO sector in Southeast Asia.

Within the past few years of working and volunteering with NGOs (in Malaysia and regionally), I have had recurring observations of sub-par labour/working conditions that NGO workers are exposed to. While one would assume that we operate with values and principles that are compatible with decent work, it is not uncommon to observe workplaces in the field that fall short of what ILO lists as the criteria for decent work: “work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”

My observations are mainly anecdotal. Here are some stories that I remember from conversations with fellow activists and NGO workers:

  • Friend A has been working in his human rights organisation based on some sort of imaginary contract, since months ago. The original, legitimate contract had come to a natural end and there was no move from the organisation to arrange a new one. This puts him in a precarious situation, since they could kick him out without notice and pay, and he would have no legal recourse.
  • Friend B reflected that top management within his NGO implied that younger employees should harden up and not demand for work-life balance, since there was no such thing when they fought for the revolution. Attempts to improve working conditions were repeatedly ridiculed, and he got extremely demoralised in the process.
  • Friend C was close to a burnout because of the mental demands of his NGO work (he works with high risk populations and is constantly exposed to second degree trauma). On top of that, his work pays him so little that he holds a second job, leaving him no time to rest and recover. There is very little access to mental healthcare within the field, even if it is recognised that workers are vulnerable to psychological and emotional damage. Low pay is also not uncommon.
  • Friend D drifts from one informal job to another, as a short term contractor for NGOs within her field. There is no income certainty, and no long term career prospects. While she gets reimbursed for work-related travel, often she is not paid for her time working for various events and workshops. Organisations that she works with have also cheekily asked her to contribute free work because there is no budget item for her role. Constantly working for free has led her to question the value of her work and herself.

These are not isolated incidents. I’ve seen and heard different versions of the same stories over and over again. In general, it is quite regular for NGO workers to receive work-related text messages on personal phones at all hours of the day, weekends, and even vacation time. Oftentimes, workload does not reflect a 40-hour work week, and it is rare to hear of overtime pay. Indeed, a lot of work is offloaded to unpaid interns and lowly paid short term contractors to cut cost. I know of some NGOs that do not cover work-related accidents, and do not provide social security (for example employee provident fund contributions), citing the lack of funding.

Through looking for literature and similar experiences in other parts of the world (since I’ve not found much at the Southeast Asian level), I found this article describing the Lebanese situation: “NGOs in Lebanon: Abusing Their Workers in the Name of Human Rights”. The title expresses the outrage clearly, and this quote from within exemplifies the irony of the situation: “How did we have the nerve to work for women’s social security at a time when the organization consisted mostly of women who lacked social security?”

The Lebanese report interviews NGO workers and mentions many of the labour rights violations that I listed above, leading me to believe that our experiences in the NGO sector have large overlaps. It’s a long read, but worthwhile. What I would like to focus on here are the analyses that it puts forth, which I think are useful in the Southeast Asian context.

Firstly, there is an unclear line between volunteering and work within the NGO sector, which legitimises many violations at work, including low pay, long hours with no compensation, and even dodgy manoeuvres around legal contracts where the employee is paid a lower amount than what is stated to subsidise the organisation’s operational expenses. As explained by an interviewee in the article, “One cannot ask for a raise or adhere to certain working hours or calculate overtime… because one’s work is divided between the job and volunteering.” In other words, the worker’s goodwill and sense of righteousness are exploited to yield more work and fewer benefits than was promised, in the name of working for a higher purpose.

Secondly, the precarious working conditions stem from the structure of the triangular employment relationship that is commonly seen within NGOs. There is the employee, the management, and the funder. While the funder is often absent from the picture, there are a number of things that they do/do not do that lead to exploitative work conditions. Often, they pay based on tasks performed, not the hours of work. Funders often include tasks, duration of contract and salary in model contracts for employees, while other elements such as hours of work, social security, end of service indemnity and mechanisms for complaints are not included. The management of the NGO competes for funding with other NGOs for its own survival, and forgoes its responsibility to ensure good working conditions for the employees – the first thing to be pruned off in cost-cutting measures. In short,

“If exploitation of workers in the private sector involves reducing their share of added value for the benefit of increasing the corporation’s capital and the investors’ profits, exploitation in civil society organizations consists of reducing labour costs (wages and social security) to invest in projects and activities in order to compete with other organizations and attract more funding.”

Thirdly, there is the NGO culture that reinforces the rights violations, since the mindset of self-sacrificing for the cause perpetrates the message horizontally (worker to worker, as opposed to management to worker), that the higher purpose trumps the individual rights of NGO workers. Organising for worker’s rights within the sector is therefore uncommon.

It is dispiriting to be in a disempowered position where the only way to work for the cause that you care about is to sacrifice your own well-being. There has been a lot of talk surrounding “self-care” to avoid burnouts in the sector. I believe in the importance of that. However, more important is the idea that change needs to happen at the organisational level, without putting the burden of caring for oneself solely on the individual. For where is the room for self-care, when the working conditions themselves do not permit rest and recovery? Where decent work seems to be theoretical at best, and mythical at worst?

Surely it is in our best interest to protect those who are protecting the world, so that they can sustain their good work for the long term. I would say that it is a priority of the highest order to respect and dignify our NGO workers with proper working conditions, so that the sector can lead by example when it is championing for rights of any kind. Anything less would be tantamount to hypocrisy.

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I’m adopting Leo’s 8 year old Macbook Air from circa 2010, and its sluggishness provided the perfect excuse to tinker with Linux again. The hardware is still solid, and the specs are acceptable. The old boy has a few years more to go yet.

So from a few days ago I had been reading up on different distributions and then getting my hands dirty on the actual installation and customisations. After a few days of cracking my head on various seemingly trivial problems, I am finally at the stage where I am comfortable with my “new” computer, so I thought that I would jot down some notes for posterior’s sake.

Choice of distribution

There are many. There is Ubuntu, which I tried several years ago and had a good experience with (but don’t remember too much of), but I was afraid that it may be too bloated for the old machine. And then there are LXLE, Elementary OS, and Linux Mint that I had heard about that seemed to be viable alternatives.Ubuntu required 2 GB of RAM, Elementary OS 1GB, and LXLE only 500MB.

Eventually I decided to try out Elementary OS first. Elementary OS looked sleek and elegant at first glance, but soon started to get on my nerves. The language keyboard did not work, and keyboard hot keys did not make sense (I couldn’t figure out how to switch between windows when an Alt-Tab or CMD-Tab should do the job). The localisation was very messy – when I tried to use the Chinese version to see if the language input worked, some items on the country menu were translated, some were not. Also, on top of that, there was something annoying about the interface being so simplistic, I felt that it was bordering on patronising. And that it called itself elementary in lower case just felt pretentious.

So I decided to try LXLE on Virtual Box. Somehow I took to it quite immediately – the desktop gave you everything that you needed on dropdown menus, neatly organised into applications and files. There was even a button that when you pressed it, it gave you a random wallpaper, which tickled me to no end. As if it was so efficient in its interface that it even found the space to give you that trivial functionality. The OS also came pre-installed with numerous applications, such as Libre Office, Mozilla SeaMonkey (first time I’d ever used it), and other nifty stuff.

I never made it to Mint. I decided to ditch Elementary, and go with LXLE.

LXLE: Installation problems

This was where my problems started with LXLE. I created a live USB, and LXLE worked fine when I booted from it. However when I tried to install it it would always break down at the very last bit, saying that “the ‘grub-efi-amd64-signed’ package failed into install into /target/”, and that without the “GRUB boot loader” the installed system would not boot. The gibberish level of this one is just too high. I tried reinstalling it, same error message. I created the installer medium again, it didn’t work. I tried installing an earlier, beta version of the .iso file, nope. I suspected that something was amiss with UEFI (now I know what it is, it’s like BIOS but superior) but nope my system does support it, and the partitioning was done correctly.

Eventually through some hours of research I found an application called Boot Repair and I ran it on the system – it said something about lacking a 64-bit something (bear with my non-techie specificity), and so I tried to make another installer which was 64bit (previously I had used the 32-bit version), and this time it worked. That took about five hours of banging my head against the wall, and I finally made it at 2am.

Leo agreed that my stubbornness is useful sometimes.

Chinese/Japanese Input

So I went to bed, and this morning upon waking up I went straight to the computer and started working again. I must say that I quite like the LXLE interface, things are placed where they should be, and that gives me pleasure. The language input methods did seem to work at first glance, but I quickly realised that Pinyin was not available and I  don’t know how to use the other ones. I tried ibus, I tried Fcitx. Neither gave me Pinyin. The organisation of LXLE on its language settings is also a little strange, as it was a little fragmented, spread over “Languages”, “Ibus Preferences”, “Fcitx Configuration”, “Input methods”… and sometimes you have to restart after making some changes so that the input method options would show up. Patient trial and error was my friend.

Eventually I installed ibus-pinyin through Terminal (sudo does make me feel powerful) but for some reason it gave me Sun-Pinyin instead, which only had Simplified Chinese, while I prefer using Traditional Chinese. I poked around some more, and finally after restarting the computer I found Pinyin. I installed Japanese-Anthy through Terminal as well. I am now using Mozc as the Japanese input method. For the time being I am sorted, language-wise.

Installing applications

I realised that I don’t actually use that many applications. What is indispensable to me is just Dropbox, and KeepassX. Seamonkey was pre-installed so I just started using it as the default browser. In the beginning I thought that I would have to do everything through Terminal, which made me nervous, but eventually I found the pre-installed Lubuntu Software Centre (a little like App Store) which made things much easier – and even for other command-line installations it was usually just short lines of code that I could copy and paste. I don’t remember how it was in Ubuntu.

The Power Button

Having gone through the previous hurdles I was starting to feel confident, and decided to tackle one more important problem. The power button on the Macbook Air triggered an immediate shut down, no questions asked, and this is very dangerous since you could lose your work if you accidentally press it when you were pressing the Delete button, or your cat could trigger it easily when it is walking on your keyboard (which is not an infrequent happening in my household).

This little endeavour proved to be much more difficult than I thought it would be. I was instructed to download and install dconf Editor, which I did, with just a faintest idea of what it was – and I started to tinker with it, but I couldn’t find this thing called gnome setting daemon. What’s gnome? What’s a daemon? Later on I found that there’s this other thing called “Mate” which seems to be a similar something as Gnome, even though nothing happened after I changed the values in the dconf Editor. I was getting a little too far out of my depth.

In the midst of all this despair I sent a distress call to Pellaeon. While waiting for his reply, Leo helped me with a hack that I found online (this one) which instructed us to modify a certain logind.conf file, which stopped the immediate shutdowns, even if I felt a little insecure about changing some code that I had no idea about, since it might cause problems later on. We left the cafe, somewhat triumphant, and I collapsed into a deep sleep when we arrived home.

When I woke up, I saw that Pellaeon had replied my messages in a superbly comprehensive manner. I copy his explanations here for future reference:

  • GNOME is the name of the “desktop environment”, it includes supporting programs for the desktop (such as drawing the windows outlines and toolbars), many basic functionalities (such as the system settings tool and text editor)
  • in the linux world, GNOME and KDE are the two major desktop environments
    they have the most development resources
  • They are also modular, so parts of them may be re-used by other projects
  • the LXDE reuses many parts of the GNOME desktop environment
  • LXDE and MATE are also desktop environments, they reuse parts from GNOME but combine them in different ways, so the interface looks different
  • “daemon” is basically a program constantly running in the background, for some service, imagine it as a shop that waits for customer 24h
  • in contrast to daemons, the applications are only opened by users while they need it and closed while they don’t, such as your browser, documents editor, etc
  • daemons and applications are both programs
  • to build a desktop environment, many daemons are needed, for example, there is a daemon handling power button, lid open/close, power plug/unplug events
  • the daemon is called “dbus”, it is the de facto desktop event handling daemon, used by both GNOME and KDE, and of course most of all the desktop environments
  • dconf stands for “dbus configuration” if i’m not mistaken, so dconf-editor is a editor to change dbus configurations
  • beside power change events, dbus also handles most of the desktop-related events , such as wifi scans, enable, disable, headphones/mic plug/unplug, device plug/unplug, keyboard layout management, printing, etc
  • it is basically a “message hub”, it receives notifications of some event (such as power button press” and rewrite/block/re-broadcast the notifications to programs that “subscribes” themselves to the event
    org.gnome.settings-daemon is the name of the configuration value that decides the behavior when you press the power button
  • the configuration values are grouped in a hierarchical fashion
  • under “org.gnome” are all settings related to GNOME, and under settings-daemon are the configurations related to the GNOME settings daemon
  • so for example, the KDE settings are likely under “org.kde”
  • the problem with these configuration knobs is that, the paths/names may change from version to version
    LXDE might simply follow the settings of “org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power” , or they might decide to use their own settings under “”
  • so for your error message, it cannot find the path org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power, there might be 2 possibilities:
    1. the org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power knob have moved to some other path in your version of GNOME (that your version of LXDE is using)
    2. LXDE simply has its own knob somewhere
    3. LXDE doesn’t allow you to customize the power settings behavior at all
    Can you try this?

So we undid the hack, and installed the XFCE Power Manager (as per the link sent by Pellaeon) which provides a GUI for all the tweaking to happen. I am very satisfied with the outcome.

Current Status

I’m still having to get used to Hotkeys that are a little different from what I had in Mac OS, but all in all everything works like a breeze. I like the task bar, which Mac OS didn’t have, which I didn’t know that I missed. I like the different work spaces as they’re laid out more intuitively than in Mac. There are small things that I still need to tweak, such as the volume buttons on the keyboard not working anymore, but those are not high priority.

Using LXLE now somehow brings me back to perhaps 15 years ago when I was tinkering with my first computer, when things crashed, and working with the PC had some element of learning and risk when you didn’t know what you were doing, but 硬着头皮 did it anyway. Nowadays everything works and you don’t even think about it anymore.

I think I’m going to enjoy my new old computer :)

What is the purpose of having lots of input, if there is no output?

There hasn’t been much time for introspection, but some thoughts have occupied my mind lately. There is an itch that I am longing to scratch, but every time I sit down in front of the computer I’m distracted by something. An email that I really should have written three days ago. Social media. Random YouTube videos. And I forget to scratch that itch. It grows, and eats at me.

It has become increasingly obvious. I am consuming too much, and creating too little. Interesting information flow through my brain, I am able to recall only fragments. I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that come through, but don’t have a structure that I can put them into, to digest and later search for. I imagine a filing system within my brain that doesn’t work, with papers covering every available surface, the desk, the couch, even on top of the lamp shade. I’m standing in the midst of this mess, looking longingly at the cover pages and the unfinished drafts and I’m completely paralysed with what to look at first, because THERE IS JUST TOO MUCH.

Deep breath. You can do it. First take the bunch of papers off the lamp shade, and let the light shine through.

The solution, it seems, is to allocate time for output. The past two years I have set targets for number of books to read, and although those targets were always missed I did manage to read a good number of books (46 books in 2016, and 15 books in 2017, not counting the half-read ones). That was a progression from the realisation that I was consuming too much junk material online. I was also able to write reviews for all of the ones that I read, so there was some processing involved after the reading. But, the time allocated for consumption far outweighed the the time allocated for processing or creation.

With the number of unread books that are creeping onto my bed stand, my coffee table and my book shelves, it looks like I will never have the time to finish all that, not to mention make anything out of it. This has become a source of deep-seated anxiety. I want more time. I can never get more time.

This year, call it a resolution if you will, I will focus on balancing quality consumption, and creation. Note that I didn’t put “quality creation”. That is possibly for next year. This year, let’s start with creating something, anything. We can’t refine something that hasn’t been created. This year, let’s give time to creativity, imperfection, and play. Gleeful learning and unapologetic geekiness. Making things because, why not.

So here are the plans:

There will be no more piecemeal reading of non-fiction. I will group my readings and go at them with specific questions and ideas that I have in mind. Let’s call it themed reading. I will take notes, draw mind maps, and in the end consolidate what I’ve learnt and main takeaways, and produce notes or sketches. Here are the topics that have interested me in the past few months:

  • Digital economy (gig economy, robotisation and dehumanisation, cryptocurrency)
  • Geopolitics (mainly between China and USA)
  • Brainworks (how the brain learns, the importance of sleep, effects of social media on the brain)
  • Art (the point of it, how to interpret art, art history)
  • Strategical thinking (Go, war strategies)
  • Living better (cleaning and decluttering, eating better, minimalism)

Language learning will continue, but will be output-oriented. I sometimes feel that language learning is also like pure consumption to me, even if there is more processing involved than just eating blindly. Maybe I enjoy it too much for it to seem like actual work, but there’s also this nagging feeling that I could be retaining much more if I get more serious about those grammar drills and all the unread Japanese and Spanish books on my shelves. So here are some things that may help:

  • Note-taking while reading, translations and summaries on important ideas
  • Essay-writing/short story writing
  • Systematic grammar drills followed up with reading books in target language

I was thinking of going on but perhaps two main points are enough, for the time being. Better keep it simple, and just follow the main idea: allocate more time to process and create, and less time to read and watch mindlessly. I will report back.



Just stumbled upon this video on Facebook, whose ability to read my mind continuously astounds me. Lisa Bu recommends “comparative reading”, which is a useful concept to accompany my “themed reading”. Maybe this can be applied on fiction!