Gig #122 Urbanscapes 2019: The Spotlight, and Some Ramblings

See my name on the poster?

This year, the opportunity to perform at Urbanscapes arose and I seized it immediately. There was no audition or filtering – just put your name down on the time you wanted. Sweet! I always had the impression these big gigs were usually by invitation. So for those of you who are wondering if I suddenly became some bigshot, the answer is no.

I can’t remember the last time I performed at a large scale event. It might have been a youth festival with Jason back when Doppelganger and The Wishing was a thing. I know Facebook shows me photos from that even every year. Good times. Maybe I’ll get to play in a band again next time.

Anyway, if you’re interested in watching the show (there are going to be tons of acts besides me) I’ll be performing on 23rd November 2019 at Medan Pasar [Map] at 1 pm. Facebook Page. Drop by for some cool tunes on a weekend.

Sometimes I think to myself, why the fuck do you have so many hobbies? Why are you interested in so many things? Why not just focus on one thing and maybe get good at it? Beats me. I like variety in my life. Maybe that’s why I have multiple keyboards I can switch between.

I mean, can you imagine wearing the same clothes for the rest of your life? I’m not sure if that’s an accurate analogy, but hey.

It’s my life and I get to do whatever I want with it. Like this month, I’ve been participating in Inktober. Sure, I’m not using real ink but I’m still doing drawings (almost daily anyway – had to do multiple per day to catch up). I’m hoping that by doing all these drawings, I build some momentum with my art and finally get around to pushing out my now almost-delayed-by-a-year comic – Animal Bus.

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inktober day 5. build #inktober #inktober2019

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In addition to that, I’ve been meaning to read a lot of books I have purchased over the past few years (thanks Big Bad Wolf). I think that the lack of reading in my life has been hampering my writing ability. Which makes sense because you should be surrounding yourself with what you want to do.

Back when I was writing a lot of music, I was always listening to music, playing the guitar and singing daily. These days it’s more like an occasion if I pick it up. And it’s usually to practice for an upcoming gig. So why bother performing in the first place? Because I enjoy it, duh.

Anyway, this is more of a ramble than anything. I felt like writing something today.

The Power of Prayer

Why do people even bother praying? Whenever something bad happens to someone, people say send your prayers to X or keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Does it even matter if you do?

I keep hearing all the time that something is ‘God’s plan‘ so why even bother trying to ask for otherwise? If something is going to happen because it’s destined or predetermined, then what are you praying for?

Isn’t trying to change an outcome going against your god’s plan? Why are you not going along with it? Are you saying he/she/it is wrong? Can god be wrong?

Why would god listen to the words from your lips? Unless you’re saying you’re so powerful that god listens to you. If that’s the case, then why can’t you pray for everything you want in life and get it? People say you can’t pray for selfish things – isn’t praying for someone’s health selfish in a way? You want someone to survive so you can spend more time with them. If you didn’t intend on ever seeing that person again, you wouldn’t have bothered.

What if someone else was praying for the same person’s death? Who does god listen to then? Does god even listen? How does god decide who to listen to?

If god doesn’t listen, then why pray? Why aren’t we questioning god’s ‘shitty’ decisions in the first place?

“Oops, I accidentally gave your grandma cancer. Deal with it.”

Does an almighty and powerful god need to listen to people to know what to do? Does god even give a shit?

Pray if it makes you feel better, or if you want to. Just don’t pray and expect anything to happen. If anything does happen, know that it’s because you worked to achieve it, or it was a coincidence. It wasn’t because you prayed for it.

Change things you know you can instead of trying to invoke some mysterious force in the sky. It’s much more effective.

Here’s a wonderful bit by a comedian I came across a few months ago on Netflix:

Check out Daniel Sloss on Netflix

Too Many Choices

Thanks to the advent of fast internet connections, I’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to things I want to waste my time on when I’m in front of the computer. Previously, I was limited by the amount of space I had in my hard drive. Terrabytes weren’t a thing yet, so I couldn’t store all my favorite MP3s and movies. Then came CD-ROM burners, which helped, but not as much as external hard drives. Those used to cost way more for less storage than you get now, and beyond the occasional thumb drive (to replace the lost ones I got for free from events) I haven’t purchased one in ages.

my local MP3 collection

Now I don’t even back up most of my files on physical media anymore. Thanks to Google Drive and Photos, there isn’t a need. Not to mention, Google does a great job of automatically sorting and tagging your photos (I know people care about their privacy, but I enjoy the convenience of typing noodles in the search bar to remember where I’ve been). Machines have come a long way thanks to all the captchas we’ve been doing.

Google Photos

If you want to watch a movie these days, just load up Netflix, or your favorite streaming site, type in a movie name and click watch. It’s that convenient. If you want to listen to music, just load up Spotify or YouTube, type in a song name and there you go! No more waiting for songs to download to your PC and launching them in a media player to listen to them. I still do the latter for music, but streaming services are great to check out new artists I have not listened to before.

But like with all things, there are good and bad sides to them. While people might see it as a ‘first world problem’, it’s a problem nonetheless – having too many choices makes it difficult to decide what you want to consume. Yes, that’s right. You ever sit down in front of your TV, and browse Netflix endlessly looking for something to watch? I know I’m guilty. I see a show I think I might be interested in but I don’t watch it immediately. I add it to ‘My (neverending) List’, and look for something else that I might want to watch. Repeat this for maybe half an hour and decide that I’d rather do something else instead of watching a show. Come back to Netflix a week later and repeat the same process. It’s the same with Spotify. I have playlists of countless unwatched shows and unlistened music.

my Netflix playlist

While it’s not an issue having large playlists of unconsumed content, it could be a problem one day – when record companies or movie distributors lose the rights to the material, leaving empty spots in your playlists. And then you kick yourself for not checking them out earlier. Fortunately, there’s always the alternative coughpiratebaycough but most of the time you’ll look for something, download it and end up forgetting about it (at least that’s what I do).

I guess it’s more of my consumption habit than a problem of too many choices. I should learn to pick and choose and stick with it. Which is why I’ve been choosing not to finish some games in my Steam library. When I feel a game is more trouble than it’s worth to complete, I uninstall and move on.

my Steam library

I’ve been doing the same thing with music and shows too. If I don’t absolutely enjoy something, I turn it off and jump to the next in line. I don’t have that much time in my life, shouldn’t I spend it on something else that I like instead? This philosophy has helped me to clean up my playlist (it’s still long but I’m getting there) and it is also why I play so much Dota 2.

Also, interesting video about choices:

Gig #121

A bit last minute but hey – drop by if you’re available! I’ll be performing at a new venue tonight, details below:

Lenggai Open Mic featuring Hameer Zawawi [Facebook Page]
Time: 9-11pm
Location: PODs The Backpacker Home & Cafe [map]

An award-winning singer, songwriter from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Hameer Zawawi writes and performs Indie Theatrical Folk songs. Follow his Instagram @hameerzawawi

Within 4 years in Kuala Lumpur, Hameer has managed to perform for numerous Malaysian-based festivals including Penang Island Jazz Festival [2013], Urbanscapes [2013, 2014], DiverseCity KL [2015], Mercedes’ Urban Hunting Art & Music Festival [2016], Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival [2016], and
was one of the headlining acts
for Johor Bahru Arts Festival

He will be performing for the first time at PODs The Backpackers Home & Cafe this coming Friday at 9pm. Ticket is only RM15 with FREE PODs bubble tea!

There is a cover charge of RM15 – I know, it’s been a while since I’ve played at a show that charged 😂 but I hope to see some familiar places in this new location!

Double Parking

The other day, someone decided to do a double park, blocking my car from exiting. I had to turn on my lights and beep the horn a few times. Fortunately, that person happened to be in a store nearby, so he ashamedly ran out to move his car. Also, I wasn’t in a rush, so it was no big deal but he did waste a couple of minutes of my time.

Now imagine, if I had to get somewhere urgently, and that person was out of earshot? What if I had an important job interview? Or had to say farewell to someone who was on their deathbed? What if I drove faster because I was late (due to the double-parker) and ended up in a car accident myself? I know I’m being overdramatic, but hear me out.

This scene always comes to mind when I think of what ifs

Unless it is a matter of life and death (which isn’t the case 99% of the time), there never is a reason for anybody to double park their vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you’re seated right outside so you can see when the car you’re blocking needs to leave; would it kill you to just find less inconvenient parking so you don’t have to inconvenience anybody else? Sometimes those 2 minutes you cost somebody could make a big difference in their lives.

Besides the vehicle you block, double parking also causes issues for other vehicles: you turn two-lane roads into one-lane roads. This makes it so that people have to drive around your vehicle to move forward, which can create jams. People trying to reverse their car will also have no vision of oncoming traffic thanks to your car blocking the road. People having issues reversing can also create more traffic jams.

All because so you could get some roti canai a couple of minutes earlier?

it’s very easy to just park further from your destination and walk a bit. Sure, the weather sucks, but your body will thank you and you don’t inconvenience anyone but yourself. Don’t be a dick. Don’t double park.

Elevator Silence

Ever been in this situation? You and your friend are busy chatting in an elevator when the doors open and some strangers enter. Suddenly, all conversations halt and the floor number display is the most interesting object in the container (room?) second to your own shoes. I’ve always found that to be quite interesting – the fact that the lift becomes quieter the more people it holds. However, this rule doesn’t apply when there are more people who know each other than strangers.

It’s not like the conversation was about anything offensive – people just feel compelled to stay quiet in the presence of strangers. Kinda reminded me of the no phone calls in trains in Japan ‘rule’ I’ve read about.

I thought I had more to say about the subject but I didn’t so I googled the topic and found this really interesting article on elevator spaces. Elevators are basically small rooms, and that’s just how people seem to behave in confined places. This bit was hilarious:

 We would be – we would really distress people, though, if we stepped into an elevator and kept staring at the back wall, would we not? I mean, everybody else would get a little bit uncomfortable.

Turns out there’s a lot of material you can read up on about elevators. From the article I linked, I also learned about a magazine called Elevator World. Also, unrelated but related to elevators:

We definitely need some of these shaming elevators here

These Old Bones

After leaving my last job, I kinda figured I was done with working 12+ hours/day events. Turns out, life has a funny way of catching up on you. For the past four days, I’ve been helping out at a company event (a children’s concert), and it really threw me back to my Big Bad Wolf days. Coming home just to shower and crash my aching body into bed, just to wake up the next morning to repeat the cycle. I honestly felt like my bones were sighing with relief every time I laid myself down.

Although it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m nowhere near in shape, it brought to mind the things that I took for granted as a child. I think all the damage I brought unto myself is finally showing itself. Back then, I would read in bed, play games on my GameBoy under covers, fall asleep in funny positions, and I’d be okay (I guess you could say I ruined my eyes). These days, all I have to do is sleep on my side and wake up with neck aches for the rest of the day. It’s crazy.

Which reminds me of this meme I saw a while ago:

While it’s funny to laugh at such images (thanks to whoever created it), I can totally relate. I haven’t stopped using the stuff mentioned for earlier stages of life; yes, baby powder is great – especially for dealing with groin sweat, I never realized it was a thing until not too long ago when it started happening to me; deodorant and cologne is still part of my life.

Look at what’s on my desk at this very moment:

I didn’t plant them there for the sake of this post

Also, I remember people telling me that Poy Sian inhalers were something old people used. I guess I was just ahead of my time.

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my favorite travel companion

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Now that I’m done typing this, I just realized it was a long-winded post to tell the world that I’m an old bag of bones (with loads of belly fat).

August Check-In

Eight months have passed since the beginning of the year. It’s insane how time flies when you’re not keeping track. Also, me noticing that every year doesn’t seem to have an effect on how I’m spending my time (hint: I still waste it).

I have been slipping on my blog updates, but that’s okay. I’ve been writing at least once a month. I’ve resumed some work on Animal Bus and started making electronic music at home (which isn’t great but it’s better than nothing). Other than that, I’ve been keeping busy with work. Thinking of new ideas for a new show gets tiring, but it is hella fun!

I have also been watching a lot of shows recently – I think it actually helps my creative juices flow. Recently started watching the final season of How I Met Your Mother (about time I finish it, also – I was reminded of how glorified New York was in that show), Twelve Forever (totally a reskinned Adventure Time, but I love it), Infinity Train (it has come a long way since the pilot, can’t wait to finish the whole thing!), The Naked Director (not sure how factually accurate it is, but it is super entertaining), and Money Heist (I’m not very far into the first season, but I’m digging it).

The International also begins in two days, so that’s something to look forward to! It’s been so long since the last Tier 1 LAN, I’m really excited to see all the top teams gathered in the same place again. Here’s to hoping Virtus Pro, Na’vi, or Alliance snatching the aegis, I believe in them!

On the keyboard front, I’ve run out of new projects – but I think my bank account appreciates it. I do have some keycaps on the way and some group buys I’m looking to join though. I’m probably going to sell off some of my least used keyboards. I think I have way more than necessary. Admitting the problem is the first step right?

I’ve got a holiday coming up in a month – that should be fun. Other than that, it’s just life as usual. I’m happy that Snuggles has been doing well in Austin. All my worries about her acclimating to a new environment have vanished. She’s doing fine over there (thanks for the photos and videos Beth, don’t stop!).

My nephew recently turned six. He’s going to school next year! Can’t wait to hear what he thinks about it. He’s a bright kid who shouldn’t have any problems. At least I hope not. If not, his uncle will be making an appearance to set things right. Look at me, talking about beating up little people. What have I become? His school hasn’t even started yet and I’m thinking things might go wrong. I don’t even know what schools are like these days. I wonder if kids are all nice and tolerant now.

Sometimes I wonder why I type these things, then I remember – it’s fun to stroll down the memory lane of my blog, and many years in the future, I’ll probably look back at this post and think to myself – “hey! I was feeling like that at this point in time!”. I wonder if Animal Bus or EP2 will be completed by then?

Also, no announcements for any upcoming gigs yet but I’ll try to lock some dates down in the coming months. How’s your year been so far?

Soldering Isn’t as Hard as It Seems – Things I’ve Learned

Over the past two weekends, I took the next step in my mechanical keyboards journey – I started soldering my own keyboards. It was something that I was initially hesitant on picking up because of my lack of experience, but after spending over a year in the hobby I decided that it was the correct thing to do.

While this post isn’t going to be useful for anyone who’s already experienced in soldering, I thought I’d share some pointers I picked up firsthand and hopefully help some beginners out there.

Building a keyboard isn’t difficult, and soldering switches is probably the easiest part of building a keyboard. The fact that I, a 33-year old man with no experience or DIY skills, could follow instructions to put a kit together is a testament to how easy it is.

The most beginner-friendly way to begin is to pick up something like a simple numpad kit that has all the onboard components already soldered in. This way, you can get a taste of what it’s like to put a keyboard together by just soldering the switches in, which was what I did.

I picked up this numpad kit from AliExpress and managed to build it in under half an hour. It was that straightforward.

This technique mentioned in the Soldering is Easy comic is correct. You place the component between the iron and the solder – this way, you’ll ensure that the solder will stick to the component because it will only melt the solder if the component is hard enough. This site has some pictures of what a good solder joint should look like.

I might be wrong on the theory here, but what I’ve discovered is that solder will only stick to parts if they are hot enough (or coated with flux?). This is something I did not know at the start. If solder isn’t sticking to your iron instead of your components or the PCB, that means it hasn’t been heated long enough. I know that flux is involved here as well, but I haven’t figured out how that works yet. I know that if solder isn’t sticking to a joint, I continue heating it until it does.

Initially, I did not know why my solder wasn’t melting despite me holding the iron against the component for quite a long time. This resulted in me sticking the solder directly onto the iron to melt it to form a connection – which was the wrong move. This could result in cold joints where the solder is only formed around the joint and PCB, but not creating a connection.

It might seem obvious, but use as much of the soldering iron tip as possible to heat your components. When I first started soldering, I was wondering why sometimes solder would melt instantly vs other times when they wouldn’t melt at all. It was by accident I realized the whole tip of the soldering iron could be used to transfer heat to the components. That was a game-changer for me. Once I learned this, the task became so much easier to do.

Speaking of tips, I found it easier to work with a cone-shaped tip than the fat square tip that came with my soldering iron (TS80). Even though the fat tip was much faster when it came to heating up components, it felt so unwieldy in my inexperienced hands. From what I’ve heard, it can be the better choice in some cases, but I guess I’ll find out in the future. Having a small and precise head to work with turned out to be the right choice for me. If you’re struggling with a square tip, maybe changing to a smaller cone might make the difference.

Fortunately, the fine folks over at The Board Podcast Slack gave me loads of good advice before I started soldering, and one of the best tips was to pick up a solder sucker. I’m very glad I listened because if I didn’t have one with me, I doubt I would have managed to finish any of my keyboard kits. These things are invaluable. Because unless you’re perfect and know how to use the right amount of solder each time, and never make bad joints, they will come useful in the future when you’re desoldering switches. I think there are much more advanced tools you can use for the job, but this SS-02 Solder Sucker has served me well so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll get a lot of use out of it in the future.

As for maintaining your solder sucker, it’s not too difficult – make sure it isn’t clogged up with solder – use some tweezers to get rid of solder stuck in the head every few uses.

Another good tip I’ve picked up is to reflow your joints after you’ve finished them. It might be troublesome, but sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. Sometimes joints may look good or functional even if they’re not. After you’re done soldering, it’s a good idea to use your iron to reheat the components and the solder again to reform a connection. If you don’t have a multimeter to test your connections, reflowing solder can help reduce the number of bad connections on your board.

Other tools that I’ve found useful: flush cutters (for trimming stab legs, pro mico headers and switch-legs for shorter cases), tweezers (to hold small components like SMD LEDs or wires in place, and to bridge connections if you ever need to test something), and a screwdriver set with multiple head types (you never know what kind of screws you’ll be getting with your keyboard). A multimeter is also a useful tool for you to test if you have any faulty components, or to test if a switch has been soldered in properly – very useful when you’re building a keyboard that can’t be powered on without a controller.

Lastly, I’d recommend a good place to work while you put your keyboard together. Besides having adequate ventilation and bright lights, you want a table that’s high enough so you don’t get neck strain (like I did) while spending hours soldering components to a PCB. Clamps with adjustable hands would also help for certain components (I’m definitely going to pick up one of these in the future) because trust me when I say it’s no fun trying to solder wires to headers without one of these. It feels like you need three hands just to do the job.

On a side note, desoldering a pro micro has got to be one of the most challenging things to do. I haven’t been able to do it properly yet, but it’s one of the skills I’ll need to pick up in the future. I’ll update this post when I get that down!

Some answers to questions I’ve seen floating around the internet:

What kind of solder do you use?

Cheap solder

I use some cheap solder (photo above) available at my local Ace Hardware which is 60/40. It probably isn’t as good as some other well-known brands but it works for me. I’m no expert but I think most leaded solder with rosin core will do (you need rosin core so it can work for electronics).

What temperatures do you work with?

I initially started at 300° Celsius, but I found that the solder I used melted way faster at 350° Celsius, so I’ve been working at that temperature. It really depends on what you have, so experiment to find out what works for you. If you’re fast and more experienced, you can go even higher to reduce the wait time for your components to heat up. Also, don’t be too afraid of damaging your PCB/components. Unless you’re heating at a super high temperature (something I wouldn’t recommend if you’re new), you shouldn’t be too worried about causing any damage, especially if you’re only doing through-hole components.

Basically, that’s all I have to say on the topic for now. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to drop a comment below. I’d be more than happy to hear tips from those with more experience than me.

This post was written on my Fourier and Tanuki – the two keyboards I put together over the past two weekends.


So, I have this recurring dream. It’s the same scenario played out in different ways each time. It’s kinda terrifying, but at this point, I’ve had it so many times that I know it’s a dream while I’m dreaming. But I can never get out of it until I wake up.

Here’s my dream last night: I’m at home, in my old house in Happy Garden. The doorbell rings, I open the door to see who’s outside. It’s a man with a gun. Now the right play would be to quickly shut the door and hide behind a wall – bullets don’t go through walls right? I never do that. Dude outside threatens to shoot me if I don’t let him in. I refuse. More people from his gang show up. They all have weapons. Soon, my front porch is overrun with men with weapons. By this time, I shut the door and try to exit my house through the back door. But these guys somehow surround my house and are waiting for me there too. So I’m stuck in my house, with nowhere to go, panicking, worried about my life. When one of them manages to enter my house and is about to attack me, I wake up.

This dream (nightmare?) has occurred many times in the past. It’s always me, in my Happy Garden home, and the men are trying to get into my home to attack me. The other bits change. It could be day or night time, sometimes they have knives or parangs, the men look different. But I always wake up when one of them enter the house and is about to kill me.

It feels pretty terrifying at times (I wonder if I yell out in my sleep), but I don’t do anything different. I’m not sure if I even have the option to. It’s like a movie that repeats itself now and then. I’ve become accustomed to having it, and have stopped looking for any meaning. But if there is a point to it, I wonder what it could be?

On another note – why do you wake up just before you are attacked or killed in a dream? Is it a coincidence? Do you happen to dream right before you wake up? Does your body know that you’re going to wake up? Or do you only remember bits of the dreams before you wake up? Does dream time work like in Inception (where hours in the dream world could mean only seconds in real life)? What is my mind trying to say?