Work & Passion

Went to JB for a farewell dinner for Iceman’s sister as she’s going to KL for her pre-uni studies this week.  We went to this Italian restaurant owned by a German chef.  The chef looked like he was in his late 50s but he was still doing the cooking at the stove the whole day.  We were the last customers that night and he sure looked weary.  Iceman’s dad commented that the thing that keeps people like that chef going is his passion for his work. 

I think that’s very true.  If you’re passionate about what you do, even if the hours are long and the work is exhausting, you will still press on and do your best. 

Recently, a colleague of mine has been "playing truant" at work quite a bit.  When we started looking back into all the times she was absent for work, we realised that all the "MCs" she took were never filed.  To take the occasional time off to run some personal errands is one thing.  But when you’ve been on supposed "medical leave" for 12 days (or more) in 6 months and not be able to produce an MC… I think that’s going way overboard.

The latest MC drama this colleague was embroiled in happened last week – she did a Thurs + Fri, Mon + Tue + Wed morning "medical leave".  To date, she has not been able to produce an MC. 

In addition to taking all these doubtful "medical leave", this colleague has also been taking frequent "urgent morning off" without filing for half a day leave when she’s back.  Sometimes I wonder if we’re being mean by (now) keeping track of her absenteeism.  But when I think about how the company is still giving her her salary and the good bonus her boss gave her in April, I actually feel that this nonsense should be clamped down.

Some of us tried to talk to her about it but the conversation didn’t quite get to the crux of the matter.  I wonder if someone should tell her straight in the face that she’s on the watch list at work and our HR dept may be issuing her a warning letter anytime soon.

It is difficult to be diplomatic and brutally honest at the same time.  I hope she reads my blog.  Sigh!

To Blog or Not to Blog

Very few things are secret nowadays.  Found out from a friend today that she chanced upon my blog while searching for some holiday stuff in HK.  Not that I mind her knowing ‘cos I think I did tell her about my blog about 2 years ago… but it’s a good reminder that I need to be mindful about what I post on the blog.

So I mentally went over the stuff that I’ve written and/or typically write… and concluded the most damning thing about my blog are my stories on Kid’s Meal and Smarties.  That said, those stories are real incidents so… while I suppose it might be a little unkind to publish such examples of grave ignorance on my blog… technically speaking, they can’t fault me for it?  😛

I suppose what I would be most concerned about is that I don’t publish anything that would have a material adverse impact on my job/career.  Thank God I like my colleagues (99% of them) and I get along well with my bosses.  *Phew*.  So I haven’t had the need to cuss at them virtually via this blog.  Hehe.  (Nonetheless, should you read something here that you think is inappropriate, please please do drop me a note so I can reflect and amend if necessary!)

010809 and 020809

I think Iceman and I will very likely to be going with Hyatt for our wedding dinner in Singapore.  Actually we’ve pretty much decided on it.  Our new coordinator, Ah Man, is working on the draft contract and will email it to us by end of the week (I told her she could take till early next week if necessary).  We’ll then review, make any amendments if needed and then pay the deposit and sign the original contract next week.

As recommended by Zounds, Iceman and I have both signed up for the Standard Chartered Manhattan card so that we can get the credit rebate for bulk payments of wedding stuff (banquet, bridal package, etc).  Hopefully, the card will be ready by next week so we can use it to pay for our deposit.  Heh.

Anyway, we’ll be looking at having the JB dinner on 1 Aug 2009 and the Singaopre dinner on 2 Aug 2009.  Coincidentally, the gal whom I’m the replacement headcount for at work, is also having her wedding on 2 Aug 2009!  Freaky coincidence man.  (She’s the reason why Grand Copthorne isn’t available :P).

To sum it up, once we ink the contract with Hyatt, that would be 1 big load off our minds.

Next step – need to settle the JB dinner venue.

Sure hope we break even from the two dinners!

Teeth Paranoia @ Work

ARGH!  I’m going nuts!  This is really bugging me!  Was wondering why my teeth hurt soooo much when I wore my new retainers last Thurs, Fri & Sat.  (I’ve completed the entire series of aligners for the teeth so was supposed to switch to wearing retainers at night to maintain the straightness). 

The teeth stopped hurting yesterday but I was still curious.  I also noticed that my teeth seemed a little more crooked than usual.  So last night, I compared my last set of aligners with my retainers and it seems that my upper retainer is more crooked than my last upper aligner!!!!  ARGH!  No wonder my teeth hurt!  I was forcing them into a crooked position again! 

Sigh.  Now I’m very bothered by it now.  Not wearing any aligner/retainer at work now but there’s this incessant naggy feeling that my teeth are getting more and more crooked.  ARGH.  Going to switch back to the last upper aligner tonight (the lower retainer is ok).  Hope my teeth straightens again…

Logically speaking, if the teeth can be moved from crooked to straight, it can always be moved from the now-slightly-crooked back to straight.  But that doesn’t make me feel any less paranoid.  ARGH!!!!

Ever Thine, Ever Mine, Ever Ours

Finally caught Sex & the City over the weekend.  I’ve never seen the TV series before but I definitely like the movie a lot.  Does anyone have the VCD/DVD of the series to lend?

In the movie, Carrie reads a book about great love letters and she reads a letter from Beethoven to his "immortal beloved".  I did a little search on it and here are the 3 letters by Beethoven.

The First Letter

July 6, in the morning
My angel, my all, my very self – Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours) – Not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon – what a useless waste of time – Why this deep sorrow when necessity speaks – can our love endure except through sacrifices, through not demanding everything from one another; can you change the fact that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine – Oh God, look out into the beauties of nature and comfort your heart with that which must be – Love demands everything and that very justly – thus it is to me with you, and to your with me. But you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I – My journey was a fearful one; I did not reach here until 4 o’clock yesterday morning. Lacking horses the post-coach chose another route, but what an awful one; at the stage before the last I was warned not to travel at night; I was made fearful of a forest, but that only made me the more eager – and I was wrong. The coach must needs break down on the wretched road, a bottomless mud road. Without such postilions as I had with me I should have remained stuck in the road. Esterhazy, traveling the usual road here, had the same fate with eight horses that I had with four – Yet I got some pleasure out of it, as I always do when I successfully overcome difficulties – Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life – If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these. My heart is full of so many things to say to you – ah – there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all – Cheer up – remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be –
Your faithful LUDWIG.

The Second Letter

Evening, Monday, July 6
You are suffering, my dearest creature – only now have I learned that letters must be posted very early in the morning on Mondays to Thursdays – the only days on which the mail-coach goes from here to K. – You are suffering – Ah, wherever I am, there you are also – I will arrange it with you and me that I can live with you. What a life!!! thus!!! without you – pursued by the goodness of mankind hither and thither – which I as little want to deserve as I deserve it – Humility of man towards man – it pains me – and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what am I and what is He – whom we call the greatest – and yet – herein lies the divine in man – I weep when I reflect that you will probably not receive the first report from me until Saturday – Much as you love me – I love you more – But do not ever conceal yourself from me – good night – As I am taking the baths I must go to bed – Oh God – so near! so far! Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

The Third Letter (this is the one quoted by Carrie in SATC)

Good morning, on July 7
Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us – I can live only wholly with you or not at all – Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits – Yes, unhappily it must be so – You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never – Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life – Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men – At my age I need a steady, quiet life – can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day – therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once – Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
ever thine
ever mine
ever ours

Background
After Beethoven’s death in March 1827 two documents were discovered in his desk. These were the Heiligenstadt Testament and the love letters shown above. The passionate feelings manifested in these letters where addressed to a person unknown. Many have speculated over whom might be the recipient, made more difficult by the fact that there is no year or place given on the letters. But Solomon, following Beethoven’s date on the letters, his movement during the period (1812) and studying the persons close to Beethoven, has come to the solution that Antoine Brentano must be the answer, now generally accepted as being correct.

Antonie Brentano
Antonie von Birkenstock was born in Vienna on May 28, 1780, thus 10 years younger than Beethoven. She underwent eduction with the Ursuline order in Pressburg.
On July 23, 1798 she married the Frankfurt merchant Franz Brentano, 15 years her senior. Her first child was born in 1799 but died a year later. She then had four surviving children. Solomon states that her marriage was unhappy.
In June 1809, Antonie’s father was seriously ill in Vienna and she went there with her children in early October. Her husband followed a short time later and set up a branch of his firm in Vienna. In May 1810, Antonie’s sister-in-law Bettina Brentano introduced her to Beethoven for the first time.
The Brentano’s remained in Vienna until late in 1812 – she didn’t like Frankfurt much and was ill most of the time. During her illnesses Beethoven would often play the piano for her. The Immortal Beloved letters were written at a time when it was evident that she would be leaving Vienna. After her departure at the end of 1812 she and Beethoven never met again.
Antonie Brentano died in 1869 at the age of 89.

Secret Key

Ok… so I’m a WordPress + Php functions idiot.  I have no idea how all these codes work.  All I know is how to play about with the features as provided for in my yahoo domain server and get the blog to post the stuff I write.

I have no idea why my WordPress version isn’t automatically upgraded even though I set it to be auto-upgraded.  My WP is still stuck at ver 2.0.2 and based on what I’ve read so far, using a web FTP server to upload all the files, plus all the extra time I’ll need to "trial and error" my way through, it’s going to take me AGES to upgrade everything properly.

While going through the notes however, I came across this "secret key" thing that should help strengthen the blog.  Here’s what I found (and added)…

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Add the SECRET_KEY definition to wp-config.php

If there is not a SECRET_KEY define statement in your wp-config.php file, add one. Beginning with Version 2.5, a SECRET_KEY for salting (strengthening) user passwords was added to the wp-config.php file. To improve the chances your user passwords are not ‘hacked’ here’s an example of the line to add to your wp-config.php file:

define('SECRET_KEY', 'RF63k93hb9shj3klvbn37sjd9a9n"'); // Change this to a unique phrase.

It is most important to change the default SECRET_KEY value to something other than ‘put your unique phrase here’. Visit the WordPress secret key generation site to get a SECRET_KEY generated for you.

Released with Version 2.5, this new, optional entry, called SECRET_KEY, causes better encryption of information stored in the user’s cookies. The secret key is a unique phrase.

// Change SECRET_KEY to a unique phrase.  You won't have to remember it later,
// so make it long and complicated.  You can visit https://www.grc.com/passwords.htm
// to get a phrase generated for you, or just make something up.
define('SECRET_KEY', 'put your unique phrase here'); // Change this to a unique phrase.

Here’s a detailed explanation on the wp-hackers email list from Mark Jaquith in response to the question, "What is the SECRET_KEY for?"

It is a hashing salt that is not readable through the database. "And what is a salt?" A salt is something that adds randomness to a hash input and makes it much harder to crack. For example:

In these examples, consider that the password is "test", but that the cracker does not know this (indeed, this is what he’s trying to determine). And yes, I’m glossing over some stuff, but this is the simplistic explanation.

Easy to crack: md5(‘test’);

Since ‘test’ is a short dictionary word, crackers who have the output hash can easily use rainbow tables (dictionary lookup table) to crack that password in seconds, or minutes.

Harder to crack: md5(‘test’ . $known_salt);

In this case, the cracker has to generate a new rainbow table that adds the $known_salt value to their table’s hashes. This slows them down.

Even harder to crack: md5(‘test’ . $unknown_salt);

In this case, they don’t know the salt. And since a good salt is something very random, like "888a7da62429ba6ad3cb3c76a09641fc" — they can’t use rainbow tables to help them. They have to just "brute force" their way through all the possible combinations. This is a huge hurdle. Something that might take 10 minutes before could now take years.

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Really hope this stops any backdoor entry into my blog by hackers.  Sigh.  🙁

Holier Than Thou

There’s this gal, Whisperer, in office whom we (my clique) don’t really like because she can be pretty pretentious and hypocritical. What bugs me the most is that she can on one hand sing Christian songs out loud and talk extremely loudly about church stuff and yet backstab Upsize and Bigmac by complaining to our Managing Director that they use the F-word in office.

Once, a colleague jokingly called another colleague “bitch” and Whisperer turned to look at us and went , “*Gasp* Did u just use the ‘b-word’?”. I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow in disbelief. I mean, we were really obviously just joking around. U could say the word “bitch” was more like a term of endearment but it offended Whisperer’s sensitivities nonetheless.

I get really self-righteous about people like Whisperer. I get annoyed that she has this “holier than thou” attitude. I often think to myself – if she was really that holy, shouldn’t she talk to Bigmac or Upsize on a one to one basis and tell them that she’s not comfortable with them using the occasional F-word in office? Isn’t that the Christ-like way of doing things rather than go straight to our MD to lodge a complaint?

That said, whenever I get annoyed and start feeling all self-righteous, I’m also reminded that my judgmental mindset isn’t any better than Whisperer’s “pretentious” ways. Sigh. On Sunday, my conscience was pricked when just before we broke bread for the Lord’s Supper, I saw a person that I feel extremely resentful towards and there was no peace in my heart. How do I take part in the Holy Communion when I feel resentment against a sister in Christ? Even if I deem that sister to have done me great wrong before, I need to learn to forgive, just as I ask to be forgiven.

So it isn’t Whisperer that needs to get rid of her “holier than thou” attitude. It’s me who needs to get rid of my self-righteous attitude. Much easier said than done, unfortunately.