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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Quote of the Post: "Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true." - Bertrand Russell

Random Playlist Song: Beethoven - Symphony No 1 - 3. Menuetto. Allegro molto e vivace


Ooh. Singapore Idol's Episode 1 and 2 are on Suprnova. Hehe.

Well actually Episode 1 is not available in its entirety - only some extracts are available. And the encoding for both episodes is horrendously bad. In fact, the second episode was encoded so badly as to be unwatchable (at least, not without a good deal of tenacity and perseverance). Singaporeans simply cannot make it.

I like how the Malay boy kao peh-ed. Very funny :) And the juxtaposing of 6 people singing "Killing me softly with his song" was a stroke of genius. But how come there were 2 deaf people (one seemingly totally deaf, since she needed someone to sign the judges' comments to her) and 1 guy with a speech defect?! I'm sure they must be feeling very proud of themselves, but this is a singing contest, not a ground for self-esteem building (or media whoring, for that matter).

This Gamersquare post reveals that the judges only judged contestants who'd made it through a first round of screening by "MediaCorp TV Channel 5 executives and music professionals". Which begs the question of how *some* people got through. Maybe they were so bad that the executives and music professionals let them through just so the real judges could skewer them for entertainment.


My computer is BSOD-ing and freezing ever more frequently. Recently chkdsk, running on startup after a crash, itself froze, and on rebooting, I was faced with a beige screen of death in place of the WinXP logon screen (beat that).

Whatever happens, I'm not going back to the shop which, for one reason or another, gave me more and more hardware problems each time I sent my computer there for servicing.


All 3 of the articles featured in this week's Straight Dope newsletter are very amusing.

1) Did Mahatma Gandhi sleep with virgins?

In his book The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress: Secrets of the Female Taoist Masters, Hsi Lai writes that Mahatma Gandhi "periodically slept between two twelve-year-old female virgins. He didn't do this for the purpose of actual sexual contact, but as an ancient practice of rejuvenating his male energy. . . . Taoists called this method 'using the ultimate yin to replenish the yang.'"

Gandhi believed that sex for pleasure was sinful (for that matter, he felt eating chocolate was sinful), that sexual attraction between men and women was unnatural, and that husband and wife should live together as brother and sister, having sex only for purposes of procreation.... He swore off sex at age 36, required a similar vow of his disciples, and publicly freaked when he had a nocturnal emission in 1936 at age 67.

2) Why is a modern folktale called an urban legend?

"Modern myth" has a long history (it dates back to 1911 at least), but it and "urban myth" suffer from the shortcoming that these stories aren't myths in the sense that folklorists use the term. A myth is an orally transmitted story about the supernatural, believed by its traditional tellers, generally set in the distant past, and accounting for the origin of something. For example, the outlandish notion that the world is erected on the back of a turtle floating in water was actually believed by some primitive peoples long ago. Now of course we know that he swims through the interstellar gulf, not anything so prosaic as water. And there are elephants involved somehow.

3) Is it true Coca-Cola once contained cocaine?

In the 1890s, however, public sentiment began to turn against cocaine, which among other things was believed to be a cause of racial violence by drug-crazed blacks. In 1903 the New York Tribune published an article linking cocaine with black crime and calling for legal action against Coca-Cola. Shortly thereafter Coke quietly switched from fresh to "spent" coca leaves (i.e., what's left over after the cocaine has been removed). It also stopped advertising Coke as a cure for what ails you and instead promoted it simply as a refreshing beverage.

Does the substitution of denatured coca for The Real Thing constitute a change in the magic Coke formula? Not according to Coke. The true source of Coke's unique flavor, the company contends, lies not in the coca/cola combination but in the special mix of oils and flavorings added thereto, including the mysterious ingredient known as Merchandise 7X...

Still, whatever may be said about the formula, Coke's taste has certainly altered over the years. The most radical (and to serious Coke aficionados, most upsetting) change came in 1980, when Coke, in an effort to control costs, permitted its bottlers to substitute high-fructose corn sweetener for the beet and cane sugar once used in the product. The result was that Coke's previously crisp and bracing taste was sadly blunted. For that reason I didn't share the feelings of the fanatics who stocked up on "old" Coke when the new version was first introduced. The regrettable fact is that Coke hasn't been It for many years.... For what it's worth, you can still get Coke made with sugar in parts of Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, and Europe.

I should be overjoyed that in Singapore we get "dry and astringent" Coke sweetened with Sugar, so I don't need to go to Israel and look for Kosher-for-Passover Coke, or follow more leads. Does HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) sweetened Coke really taste that different?


Bumper crop of contributions to How Girls Waste Time:

Your hit the nail right on the head. In addition, the ladies will;

101: Plotting tactics for winning arguments with men. But wait a minute. Men never do the talking in the arguments anyway, nor do they start them.

102: Watching taped episodes of reality TV shows, sometimes pausing the scenes to "capture the essence".

103: Buying and listening to "music" made by the latest popstar on MTV, BET, VH1, Disney, or other mind-rotting TV channel.

104: Arguing with people over their taste in music, because the other party listens to a music genre they don't like.

105: Buying expensive or exotic food that they will not eat, and arguing with anyone who finally eats the food because they "planned on eating it later".

106: Spending in excess of 100 dollars on soaps, lotions, and bathroom ornaments that can be easily bought at a local dollar store.

107: Signing up for credit cards, using them all up on fashion and other useless junk, and crying about having no money to pay back the loan sharks who call her regularly. They'll still blow their income on said fashion and useless junk.

108: Reading tabloids and/or watching celebrity shows, making lengthy discussions about them as though they were breakthroughs in science.

109: Talking on the cellphone. Especially while DRIVING or WATCHING A MOVIE AT THE THEATER.

110: Write extensive rants about lists they were offended by, such as this one, nitpicking each and every sentence with spelling/grammar-error filled rebuttals such as "omg ur teh fagit cos u hate womyn", and "men ar like soooooooooooooooo dum". Often, the rants end up being much longer than the list itself.


Public Service Announcement:

Dear all,
My cousin, a lovely young girl who is only 14 years old, has been diagnosed to be in the critical stages of leukemia(blood cancer). Her situation has taken a turn for the worse and she has been down with fever ever since last wednesday, due to a severly weakened immune system which is unable to cope with any viruses or illness.

Previously we had managed to find asuitable donor. However the donor, who is stationed overseas at this present moment, has repeatedly turned down the pleas to return. Hence i would like to appealto all of you to save a young life. Chances of finding a suitable bone marrow donor is very slim but we are not taking any chances.

Its not a lot of hassle really; we just need donors to undergo a simple blood test at NUH or SGH.

Interested donors do contact me at 90120203or reply to my email. Time is really running short. To my friends and others, do help me to spread this mail around as soon as possible. Thanks and i really really appreciate it!



Singapore must drop 'out-of-bounds' censorship

"Defamation laws and anti-racial vilification laws can deal with libel and racial vilification in the media, but Singapore maintains a system whereby practically every media outlet ultimately is controlled by the Government, is licensed annually and is subject to unwritten and vague "out-of-bounds" (OB) markers - topics that the Government doesn't like canvassed in the media. And in the event these OB topics are discussed in the media, the Government promises retribution.

Last year, I fell foul of these mysterious markers. Information Minister Lee Boon Yang said in a speech that I had "crossed the line" and sought to intervene in Singapore's domestic politics. I'd written a column on media regulation in Singapore, published in the local, Government-linked Today newspaper.

Dr Lee's definition of what constitutes politics seems unique. Not that he's defined it, of course.

Earlier this year, another of my columns was published in the Today newspaper. It was about the high salaries awarded to Singapore Government ministers. I wrote that I felt those high salaries were justified. The piece received the relevant OKs from the information ministry and was published. This made clear something else about Singapore's OB markers. You only actually cross one if what you say differs from the Government line. From that, I deduced that it's not me that's political, it's the OB markers...

OB markers encourage people to think only inside the box, to avoid being courageous and daring - the very attributes that we associate with Lee Kuan Yew, particularly in the early years. Singapore needs more people with the courage and the daring of a young Lee Kuan Yew, not just in politics, but in business and in all aspects of life. But what has happened to those attributes? There is far too much cowering in Singapore, particularly by its journalists.

But the greatest threat posed by the Government's OB markers is to the rule of law.

Singapore has become as rich as it is because it has a strong rule of law. The rule of law requires that laws be written down, that they are precise and that they are gazetted.

But the Singapore Government's OB markers are nebulous. They are not written down. They are not transparent. And they are applied in a discretionary manner. They are absolutely contrary to the rule of law. They offer a sample of the sort of legal chaos that reigns in China and Indonesia.

The views of foreigners particularly are targeted by the Singapore Government for censorship. But surely foreigners have a right to comment on Singapore, in Singapore. They have a right to be part of the national debate. Why? Because foreigners have invested billions of dollars in Singapore. Those billions might not buy the right to vote, but they buy the right to express an opinion. Taking foreigners' money but not allowing them a voice betrays a lack of self-confidence on the part of the Government.

Uncodified OB markers threaten Singapore's reputation as a place that observes the rule of law. And they threaten its prosperity. The Singapore Government's needless, exquisite sensitivity on this makes the world laugh at Singapore. That is a great shame because in so many other areas the Singapore Government has done so well.

At the very least, if the Singapore Government must have OB markers, it should clearly spell out what they are and enshrine them in law. Better still, it should get rid of them. In a global world built on information and knowledge, countries, and particularly little countries, that demand that thinkers kek sai, will end up with a sai economy. "


Interesting Mozilla Bug:

"Bug 125287 - owes me some hot scandinavian blondes

In bug 50418 comment 6 promices to hook up whoever fixes that bug with some hot scandinavian blonds.

My fix for bug 17003 also fixed that bug, but now, even after repeated reminders, almost 2 months later, i have not seen any actions taket to that extent.

I do not get paied anything for working on mozilla and gave the above mentioned
bug especial attention since a reward was promiced.

This is also turning into a serious blocker for me for bug 95849."

Also interesting:

Mozilla doesn't add time to the day - "If Mozilla added more hours to the day I
wouldn't have to get up at 0600 PDT to help my gf with homework. I spend so
much time working on the Lizard with Sidebar panels, hangning out on
irc:// and irc:// that I
just don't have time to do my own work."

Overclocker Creates Rift in Space-Time Continuum - "A rift in the space-time continuum was created today when overclocker Jamie Aperman ran a 750 MHz Coppermine Pentium III at 1.6 GHz. Overclocking has long been blamed for causing global warming, but this is the first occasion that the fabric of space-time has been damaged."

Yet Another Excellent Foxtrot Strip

Condoms find new uses in India

Improbable research - "Vincent Dethier loved flies with a fervour that is rare. He distilled this love into a book called To Know a Fly. Page 53 tells what happens when Dethier severed the tiny nerve that tells a fly whether it has had enough to eat."

Singapore's philosopher-prince' - "Lee Hsien Loong is perhaps the closest the modern world has to the ancient thinker Plato's idea of a philosopher-prince. He is undoubtedly intelligent, with degrees from Cambridge and Harvard universities, and he has been groomed from an early age to lead his country."
Interesting observation

Singapore's capitalism myth - "When people talk about Japan Inc or the US military-industrial complex, they're referring to a metaphorical representation of a perceived phenomenon. But when they talk about Singapore Inc, they mean Temasek Holdings... The Heritage Foundation, a leading US conservative think-tank, touts Singapore as one of the world's two freest economies, but that's just a myth. In fact, Singapore is the world's most successful socialist state."

Gods and monsters - But how much do you really know about the country's [Greece] celebrated mythology? Take our quiz and find out. - You scored 8 out of a possible 10: Silver medal. You're up to speed on all things mythical. Your country will be proud. You can look forward to a long and prosperous career of opening supermarkets and turning on Christmas lights.


Index of /~nnguyen

This is where the pictures on the original Asian Prince site used to be hosted: a personal directory on UMass Amherst's server (this explains why the site had pictures taken in that college).

In this directory you can see pictures of people of Vietnamese descent engaging in the various sordid stunts that American fraternity boys and sorority girls get up to.

Some digging reveals that the person to whom the directory belongs to is a member of the "Pi Delta Psi Fraternity", and I am certain that this is he:

"Name: Nam Nguyen
Pledge Name: J.F.K.
Class: Eta Fall 2002
Position: Recorder, Liason, & Webmaster
Ethnicity: Vietnamese
Major: Finance
Hometown: Chelmsford, MA"

I tried to email him ( to ask him where I could get more pictures of and music by Tuan Anh, but unfortunately it bounced ("Not found in directory"). I have since realised my mistake - is the server for the UMass Office of Information Technologies - and have sent off another mail to I hope this address works!


I put "Asian Prince" on my Soulseek wishlist, and I get one result: "e:\mp3\bullshit songs\Asian Prince - 25 Years.mp3". Yay!

I was on a taxi on Saturday, and the seats had TV Mobile installed on them, though thankfully there was no sound. Worse, the show that was on at the time was about some flat-chested woman having her breasts operated on (and the Powers That Be saw fit to insert fuzzy white circles covering them, even during the operation). The profusion of TV screens everywhere really puts one in mind of the telescreens in Oceania.
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