Will you friend me?

Long before Facebook and Twitter and other social networks appeared, the term “friend me” or “friend you” was already in use. In Singapore, the word “friend” can be used as a verb in the bastardised version of English called Singlish. When I was young, and person A did something that person B didn’t like, person B might say something like “If you don’t give me back my eraser, then I don’t friend you already.”

I don’t have many close friends. Heck, I don’t have a lot of friends. I think it started at a young age for me.

I did a Wolverine thing

I remember when I was maybe 9 years old, I was playing Police and Thief with a bunch of kids at school. I was one of the Police, and I had to catch the Thieves while hopping on one leg (that was the rule to balance the game play for Police). Since I couldn’t move very fast nor fluidly on one leg, I had to stretch out my arms to maximise capture area.

The game area was rectangular, nicely marked out by stone slabs. The general strategy was to start in the centre, and try to corner the Thief or Thieves. With my left leg hooked, and my arms held wide at my side, I looked like the Karate Kid, but with less flair. I hopped along and swung my arms around to catch hold of a sleeve or arm.

And I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t trim my nails. I dug deep enough into the other boy’s arm to draw blood. I apologised profusely, since I didn’t know what else to do. At that moment, the bell rang to signal the end of the recess period. I went back to class. Minutes later, another teacher entered my classroom, with that boy in tow. After the two teachers spoke for a while, my teacher called me up to the front of the class. I sweat, my heart beat faster, and “What am I going to do?”

My teacher asked me if I injured that boy. “Did you do that intentionally or unintentionally?”

I mean, what? Here I was, a 9 year old boy, frightened to death about being punished by the teacher, my parents, his parents. And the teacher asked me a question that had big words in it. I don’t know if your English at 9 years old was exceptional, but I certainly didn’t know what “intentional” meant, let alone “unintentional”.

I remember standing in front of the class, an ungainly 9 year old, being asked a question that I didn’t understand fully, and had to come up with an answer that was satisfactory within the next couple of seconds. Talk about being under pressure.

It was like flipping a coin. I didn’t know what either option meant. So I stuttered, “Unintentionally”. Fortunately, I chose the right answer. From then on, I kept my nails short. I also never played any games with anybody ever again. The less social and much scared 9 year old me started pouring energy into books, coincidentally reinforcing my command of the English language. Imagine being put on the guillotine, and being asked “Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” and you don’t understand what the word “guilty” means…

Rejecting the gifted program

In another incident, there was this math test or something. I caught the attention of the math teacher because I could visualise 3 dimensional objects in my mind. The math teacher asked my mom if I could be enrolled into the special gifted program. My mom said no. The reasoning was, my mom wanted me to be with other “normal” children of my age.

It was a good thing she did that. I’m grateful that I’m not placed apart from other children. I’ve got enough social issues already. Plus the fact that my mom wanted me to top the math in my “normal” class, instead of struggling in the “gifted” class. My mom’s a smart woman.

The remark that lost me my best friend

When I was 10 years old, my family moved to another part of Singapore. No, it’s not because I scratched that fellow’s arms, and my family was too ashamed to stay in the same neighbourhood… I was in another school, and I made new friends. I had the Nintendo Famicom console and the Sega Saturn, and my neighbour and my best friend frequently came to my house to play (more here).

Somewhere when I was 12 years old, I made a remark and offended my best friend. It was apparently offensive enough that it broke our friendship. I think the remark was something about money. *sigh* I apologised, and even sought a mutual friend to mediate. But the damage was so great that I lost that best friend. Anyway, we didn’t contact each other till nearly 2 decades later. We aren’t hostile to each other, but we don’t have that camaraderie anymore. Don’t be like me ok? Treasure your family and friends.

That fouled up my childhood further, and I retreated into myself more. Oh I still make friends, but I don’t hang out with them often, and I don’t have any close friends.

My parents also broke apart, and I had to grow up really fast. I breezed through my teenage and adolescent years without holding on to any deep friendships. I withdrew into myself more, with books and stories and music to accompany me.

From Introvert to Extrovert(ish)

After I finished serving national service (compulsory for all Singapore males of eligible age), I decided enough was enough. When I started university, I would try to open up more and make friends. The army can do that sometimes.

But I still had weird interests, compared to the “cool” interests other people had. I mean, math and C programming and stories and books and instrumental music? Girls approached me for help and not the top math or programming student, because I was friendlier and not because I was the best.

I started working, and nobody understood me. I mean, no one talks about programming unless it’s about work. It drove me nuts trying to find anyone interested in stuff. Anyone who has a passing interest and curiosity in the new and unfamiliar. Anyone who has an interest in interesting stuff.

So I started a blog. The prevailing advice is to blog about something niche, to corner that market, to find not just dog lovers, but to find female dog lovers in their mid-thirties who are lawyers, who jogs regularly and who dresses their dogs up. I fly defiantly in the face of that advice. That’s why I find it so hard to categorise my articles (thank goodness for tagging!). I write about (hopefully) interesting stuff for interesting readers. That’s you.

I have a favour to ask. Will you friend me?

Where do you hang out online (offline works too)? Which forums do you visit? Whose blogs do you read? What magazines (online and offline) do you read (are you reading mine)? What social networks do you participate in (I’m on Twitter and Facebook)?

I want to get to know you better. You obviously know a lot about me than I do about you. And if you’re new here, welcome! Thanks for reading all that self-pitying above to get to here. Now tell me about yourself.

Would you want a forum here (because all the forums out there are rubbish, and you’d rather to talk with other people with similar yet diverse interests here)? Would a Facebook page be suitable for you? I want to not just hang out with you, but also make sure you get to hang out with other people (with similar yet diverse interests). I can be an awesome wallflower when required. Listening to cool people exchange ideas is interesting. Let me know in a comment. Thanks.

Random Quote – Program X not social networking site

Today, my users got into a tangle. All of them got into a database deadlock.

Now my users have this habit of opening multiple windows so as to “appear busy”. Granted, my application wasn’t designed and programmed with many concurrent users in mind. Still, if more than 2 of them happen to access the same table, or heaven forbid, performing an update or delete operation on that table, the database throws up its hands in defeat and promptly denies further access. This includes other users accessing other tables.

So I did an sp_who (it’s a Sybase database) and found out the perpetrators. Then I wrote an email telling those who were doing non-critical tasks (and not still performing database transactions) to get the heck out of my database and log out of the application. And not return until half an hour later. Nicely coached in diplomatic language of course.

One of them asked if another colleague could continue, since that person was still performing a transaction. I said “Of course.” I also added something in the email that I thought was interesting (on hindsight):

Program X is not a social networking site. Log in, do your thing and log out.

Yes, I was a bit peeved and slightly mischievous at the time.