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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

More entertaining propaganda from the IRAS website:

"The leading tax administration in the world
A partner of taxpayers in nation building
An eXcellent team of competent and committed people."

Why can't Singapore adopt a damn pay-as-you-earn system? Don't they know that spendthrifts like me can't be trusted with our own hard-earned cash or we'll squander it recklessly on debauchery and credit card payments? We can't be trusted with our own base impulses! Fortunately, I have about 5 more months (approx) to build up a nest-egg which will be reaped by the Gahmen (sic) to go towards paying NSF salaries and building more MRT lines. I feel like such an integral stakeholder in this nation's infrastructure development.

I swear I'm going to march into my boss' office and ask for a salary increase to keep up with the inflation of cigarette prices. CIGARETTE SMOKERS HAVE DAMN LOW PRICE ELASTICITY BUT IT STILL HURTS IN THE LONG RUN.

Have finally reached the end of my tether wrt to my damn TV. Currently am using an old 17" provided by my landlord (who, in typical skinflint slumlord style refuses to pay for re-upholstering the crap sofas he provided) and am absolutely sick and fucking tired of mono audio input.

Why? Because most DVDs have stereo output, and depending on whether the audio stream is from the left, right or mono channel, it means fiddling around with the A/V cable every time I play a new movie. The final straw came when I was reaching into the innards of the TV cabinet to and vainly plugging the right sound channel cable into as many of the DVD player's output ports as possible to find out which one contained the dialogue stream (I could hear the background soundtrack just fine..gngngngn) when the whole player somehow slipped out of the cabinet, knocked over my mug of Coke, and spilt all over the parquet and seeped into my DVD wallets (which I had laid out on the floor to clear space for my audio-cable-dicking-around)

Anger. Rage. Frustration.

Ah well - the price one pays for the privacy and independence of living alone - along with having to develop an intimate familiarity with over 30 flavours of canned soup. My father bought a massive 50" Samsung plasma TV a month after I moved out (the previous family TV had been going strong for almost 9 years); the timing is suspect, but at least I no longer have to fight over TV access rights with my Wah Lai Toi-watching mother/sister/family retainer.

"Fiberglass (pool) cues? Ptui!"

9 months and I haven't done my own laundry once. However, a constant flow of relatives, family, and friends to and from Singapore, often with me begging for the small favour of conveying a discreetly packed suitcase, have largely ensured that laundry shipments continue apace from home. As disgusting as most of my friends find that behaviour, it's hard for anyone to empathize how fucking indolent I really am, nor how it's not the washing that irritates me; it's the damn ironing.

Besides, laundry used to get shipped from San Francisco to Hawaii because of comparative advantages in labour there. So I figure the same principle applies here; and so far have managed to prove wrong the critics who claimed that hauling laundry up and down was not a feasible long-term solution.
"What's so great about the truth? Try lying for a change, it's the currency of the world."

Just watched Closer. It's a movie with exquisite conversations, and not much deeper meaning; the best kind to watch given that these days I find it difficult to look past the immediacy of instant gratification. The conversation between Clive Owen (of Privateer 2: The Darkening fame, heh) and Natalie Portman is particularly brilliant, and for the less verbally inspired, she looks great as a stripper.

"I hate retro. I don't believe in the future. So where does that leave me?"

I hope to have a similar break-up conversation to this one day:

"I'll sign [the divorce papers] on one condition. We skip this, we go to my sleek new surgery, and we christen the patient's bed with our final fuck. I know you don't want it, and I know you think I'm sick for asking, but that's what I'm asking. For old times' sake. Because I'm obsessed with you. Because I can't get over you unless - Because I think on some small level you owe me something for deceiving me so exquisitely. For all these reasons, I am begging you to give me your body. You be my whore, and in return I will pay you with your liberty. You do this, I swear I will not contact you again.

I'm going to the bar. I assume you still drink vodka tonic?"

"I'm doing this because I feel guilty, and because I pity you. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes."

"Feel good about yourself?"

"No. But I know you love a guilty fuck."

I like conversations. Snappy, witty dialogue, perfect, back-and-forth lines, that glimmer of shared understanding, an intimate verbal sympatico, the perfect moment when a line is delivered that makes absolute sense only to the people talking. A pity that real life isn't so exquisitely scripted; but in some ways it enhances the value of a good conversation when you get it - it was brought forth, spontaneously, crystallizing from context and circumstance (catalysed by alcohol, more often than not), like the first self-replicating macromolecule that rose from the primordial porridge.

Those few moments that work are almost enough to compensate for all the faux pas, the solecisms (solecisii? solecissa? what the fuck IS the plural of solecism), the uncomfortable silences, the embarrassing gaffes, the stammering, the breathing and the grasping for words that never quite fall into place until the conversation's over and you're walking away with your ears burning.

Almost.

"Depressives don't [want to be happy]. They want to be unhappy to confirm they're depressed. If they were happy they couldn't be depressed anymore. They'd have to go out into the world and live. Which can be depressing. "

It's always fun to see someone take pride in their work.

To wit re Gabriel's sentiments on institutional commentary as opposed to genuine cathartic diarizing: Why am I being taxed 20% - sans permissible deductions - just because I worked more than 3 but less than 6 months in Singapore in 2004? I'd have to be earning at least $160k to be hit with that kind of rate. Damn it, haven't I contributed sufficiently to the local GDP over the last year?

Well, at least in the entertainment sector; even Geylang whores pay taxes & draw CPF. The legal ones, that is. I'm told they get a special type of employment pass, a yellow card. And apparently this pass is only extended to ASEAN migrants, not PRCs. I suppose this is in line with the government's policy in enhancing cross-regional trade to fight off a flood of cheap Chinese imports. Furthermore, for males to work as pimps, apparently there's a plethora of requirements to do with age, education (probably the only job where you have to prove your formal education is insufficient before they take you on), and absence of alternate means to support your family. Or so I hear, of course.

My team at work comprises of an Ecuadorean, a Belgian, a South African, several Singaporeans, two Malaysians, several Indians^2 (ie. India Indians), a Canadian, a Lebanese and we have a Scottish boss. When I first joined, I was told: "We're like the UN, only with the unimportant countries."

Ironically, I speak more Mandarin in the office now than I ever did my whole working life; the Singaporeans like to assert their cultural identity I guess. The other Malaysian barely speaks Cantonese.

After a few years of working in the industry of lubricating Mammon's hind tit; of helping the obscenely rich get obscenely richer; of contributing to a system that is dedicated to the relentless accrual of meaningless increments of fabulous wealth, it occurs to me that I enjoy my work not in spite of its absence of redeeming moral value, but because of it.

However, you would think that, working in an international financial institution, I'd be surrounded by right-wing, conservative workaholics on eternal power trips and high living and a disdain for the working class. Not so - most of my colleagues despise Bush, we've had lots of frank conversations about how the system we work for essentially helps MNCs set up sweat shops in cheap labour countries, circumvent taxation regimes, obfuscate regulators and reduce human lives to units of productive labour; lines in a balance sheet, all in the pursuit of enhanced shareholder value. But no one really lets the moral qualms get in the way of a bonus; philanthropy is a luxury. Whereas alcohol is a necessity.

"At the end of the day, I think I do more good than harm. What other measure have I got?"

A couple of us actually went to Eritrea with Habitat For Humanity to build prefab housing. Bankers doing virtue.

So it's a Saturday morning, and my damn IRAS PIN doesn't work, so I'm collating my disjointed thoughts into a bunch of random paragraphs and whiffling. Scribbled thoughts:

-What's so great about moving on? I've got all the cigarettes I need, a decent place to stay, and hopefully I'll be able to upgrade this PC soon.

-Darwinia: retro gaming at its finest

-Is it worth paying $80 for a meal at Garibaldi's when $5.50 buys you the same level of sustenance at Maxwell Food Court?

-Had scattered my mail all over the living room in small piles. Realised that it has grown into a huge stack. Thanks to the auspices of GIRO however I don't really need to read any of the ones pertaining to household affairs like bills; and I don't get snail mail anyway. But I suppose I should at least see if there are eviction notices or the like

-I miss you.

-What is it with the private banking paradigm? I may be wrong on this, but on the one time I saw them in action, it was essentially one big fucker in a suit and brilliantined hair, and several exquisite Norns/Graces/Furies/Erinyes behind him managing his wardrobe, powerpoint presentation, and handing him documents. Magician's assistant, only without the sequins.

-Girls will almost always beat boys in the retail banking industry. There's a unit trust sales girl at Citibank whom I am told averages over a $0.5m sales a week purely by phone. Apparently she has the ideal phone sex voice. It's the same principle why the top mortgage and credit card contractors are almost always women - you're more prone to tell a guy to fuck off when he cold calls to suggest refinancing your housing loan (and, let's face facts, even in our modern society, these decisions are still predominantly made by men, although that is thankfully changing), but you'll at least give a girl the polite time of the day, particularly if she approaches you in person, with that starched power suit and wafting of Chanel. (okay, there's the horrible bank polo t-shirts they wear at roadshows in apartment showrooms and shopping center concourses)

-was told at a bar in Tanjong Pagar by a semi-drunk waitress/PR-type personage that wearing Y-front underwear inhibits penile growth. And that the large dicks of white guys are overrated because they go flaccid faster.

-should I be drunk at 1:30 in the afternoon? why do the effects of alcohol on the psyche seem to vary so greatly depending on whether sunlight is present?

-the MPH at Citylink Mall sucks. they have one tiny pitiful shelf for fantasy/sci-fi, and half of it is goddamned franchise crap from Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. unfortunately it's the only bookstore on the way home from work, and it's a measure of my indolence that . these days it's hard to start relationships with books, so I stick to Terry Pratchett for easy reading. Unfortunately i'm running out of Terry Pratchett books to buy

-it's even harder to start with computer games. That's why I'm not going to play KOTOR 2 until I'm ready to enter into a meaningful relationship, to devote the time and care it merits. World of Warcraft taught me the dangers of jumping headlong into a passionate fling that dies out into emptiness after a while - it just wasn't the same after I got my horse.

-the Hooters at Clarke Quay is a joke. What's the point of a Hooters when the waitresses barely have hooters? Jalan Kayu roti prata is overrated. The owner at Thasevi's tried to pull a Soup Nazi when I asked for sup kambing - "NO SOUP!"

-menthol cigarettes don't kill sperm!!! Proven conclusively! My friend's friend who smokes a pack of Texas 5 menthols is expecting his first child. At least, I was able to use the phrase: "May your first child be a masculine one." in conversation

-why am i writing again? at this rate i'll end up posing - I mean posting - on the Young Republic list if I'm not careful

-surprising level of welfare at work. Boss has been ordering us to go home at 7pm. Whenever he walks out of his room in the evening and sees us slogging away there, he tells us: "stop. Go home." or "this is a marathon, not a sprint." hahahahaa. Not the attitude I expected from an investment banking environment!

-if they ban smoking from clubs, going to Zouk becomes fucking surreal. I can't imagine it without the perennial haze. and banning it from coffeeshops is as good as passing a death sentence on the hordes of ah peks who sit there with a bottle of ABC stout watching Stephanie Sun on the rack-mounted televisions

-cosplay is scary shit

-Someone was asking me why I seem to have so many Singaporean uni friends (well, it's not a large absolute number, but it makes up a large relative proportion of my tiny coterie of friends) Shouldn't I be developing peer groups who are working professionals? Networking and all that? Ease of conversation? Facilitated understanding? If nothing else, it makes me pretty lonely around exam time.

In memorial Wall 'O Quotes. Too difficult to maintain, too lazy to print out, nowhere to paste it on the wall without driving the paterfamilias into a cacophany of nagging.

Along with the last stanza from Tennyson's Ulysses, the only quote I have kept in my cubicle:

"The dignity of work comes less from its ideal promise than from the way we show, through it, a determination to endure what is difficult for the sake of discharging our responsibilities and contributing to society."
-Russell Muirhead
"A psychiatrist is a fellow who asks you a lot of expensive questions your wife asks for nothing." - Joey Adams

***

Some may be wondering at the meaning of what He Who Must Not Be Named said I warned him about, namely, the paragraph of badly organised, barely flowing and most importantly hardly intelligible thoughts that I lavished upon him in a prior organisation. Why he did that, apart from a desire to get back at me for the perceived offence of analysing in public his not-so-pithy quote about attaining ultimate happiness the way which well-nigh everyone in the world would, except for him and other adherents of the uniquely warped and ultimately self-destructive "all or nothing" philosophy, I do not know.

At any rate, such was an excerpt from my hurried scribbled notes on "Thoughts on honesty in blogging" that I shared with him, which his partial disclosure of has impelled me to publish in full, and in full, coherent sentences:


One reason for the popularity of some blogs is their refreshing honesty. The internet offers the promise of anonymity, yet honesty in blogging leads, especially with a sizeable readership, to 2 threats to this erstwhile anonymity: the exposure of the blogger's inner self, and the exposure of the blogger's Real Life identity. Real and Online Life can then collide, often with unpleasant consequences. (There is also the case where one grows to write for an audience, but this issue is beyond the scope of this rant, and will not be dealt with forthwith, if at all.)

Some manage to ameliorate either or both of these problems, yet this cannot occur without a corresponding decrease in the quality of their writing, and its becoming less compelling, due to the inevitable omission of certain details. Once in a while you might feel like sharing private thoughts or details with the world, either for catharsis or for the exhibitionistic thrill, but doing so repeatedly will inexorably catch up with you.

I have never been all that public a person, so the problem of blog privacy does not affect me that much, since even if hadn't gotten 952 hits yesterday, due to the cumulative effect of divers plugs by various kind people, and even if at least one of my family members did not regularly visit for unspecified reasons, the content published here would not be so different from what you see today. Further, I have few qualms than most about causing offence or insult if necessary, as I try to retain my intellectual honesty even with people I know and refrain from self-censorship.

Of course, this candour has frequently landed me in hot soup, most famously on the occasion when I was threatened with court martial. Thus, general rules I now follow are to criticise institutions rather than people, to assume that anyone and everyone is going to read what is written here and to anonymise people other than yourself as much as possible.

So the question might be asked: how self-conscious is Agagooga, and how much has Balderdash been affected by its popularity? A comparison of today's content with the 2001 archives might be instructive. Apart from a much less polished writing style, much more frivolity and the presence of many erstwhile contributors *vague glare*, the differences are not immediately obvious. But then there's a reason why this place was christened "Balderdash". The archives dating from my time as a Slave Soldier (Dec 2001 - June 2004) are more angsty, personal and disjointed, but then I had few qualms about treating blogging as a form of catharsis and attempting to purge my nightmares from my soul.

Slavery aside, the thoughts I pen (or keyboard, rather) are usually either public enough for private consumption, in which case I don't mind placing them here, or so private that I would not even want friends to read it, in which case I would not place them here, even if this blog got the traffic that Gabriel's Homepage does (~25 hits a day). Little falls in between.

***

The March 2002 archives have been restored. 4 months down, 9 months to go.

Some gems:

"There were 3 charged personnel who came for the Staff Parade during Guard Duty. One of them was charged for the sin of, lets wait for it, EATING CUP NOODLES. Gasp. The morning after field camp, they were supposed to consume field rations, but he had cup noodles and was charged for that."

"There was some talk of supernatural stuff during the first night, when our [uber nice] OC talked to us... As would be expected, much of the talk was about sex. I'm wondering if it's too explicit to publish here. Also, there's the matter of privacy :) Ah, this is a family blog, so I'll just let most of it lie in my notebook." [Ed: I'm not sure if I still have the notebook.]

"They were very evil. It's their last chance to torture us before they hand us over to the tender ministrations of the Regimental Sergeant Major and then we pass out. They had a turnout at about 11, after a suspiciously early lights off at 9:15. We rode away in the store tonner to scenes of torture that would not be out of place in a medieval prison. Pushups, crunches, alternate leg thrusts and the lot. It was much worse than the first field camp. Emmanual was lazy to join the Attn B / excused personnel in our doing of "sai gang", so he, with an official excuse, was punished along with everyone."

***

The following will likely be lost on those who are not plagued with forwarded emails and/or motivational platitudes:


People are like teabags - you should use them only once, then they become useless and you should throw them away.


A daughter complained to her father about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

The daughter sucked her teeth and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her he asked: "Darling, what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft.

He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee.

She smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. She humbly asked: "What does it mean Father?"

He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in raw, bitter, hard, and uncooked. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became delicious, sweet and nutritious.

The egg had also been inedible. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became cooked, and the yolk could be separated from the white too, delighting health-conscious folk everywhere.

The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water, their essence had been absorbed by the water and they were now tasteless and useless.

"Which are you," he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean? "

How about you? Are you the carrot that starts out useless, but with pain and adversity do you soft and become delicious and edible?

Are you the egg, which also starts off useless? Were you a runny spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a divorce, or a layoff have you become bouncy and tasty? Your shell looks the same, but does it now conceal a delicious and tender interior?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean starts out ripe and flavourful, but is changed by the hot water, the thing that is bringing the pain, till it reaches its nadir when the water reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water gets the hottest, the bean loses whatever flavour it had left and becomes fit only to throw away; its essence has been absorbed by the hot water, totally draining and destroying it, leaving it a shell of its former self. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get destroyed and become useless.

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

***

Someone: got an A [for his essay]
thank God
(what's he going to say now)

Me: what's he going to say about what?

Someone: thank God. but you didn't say anything. ok, don't say anything.

Me: yes don't say anything :)
you don't want me to say anything, nosiree.

(Also see: Christianity and its Discontents, Section 14 - Self-justifying nature of faith)

***

Someone: did u know that apparnetly singnet regulates the amt of bandwidth u get.. haha
like if u use p2p they direct all the traffic to u
so ur download speed slows down or something
so unethical leh

check put p-cube
they are using that
for starhub and singnet
unethical leh, since they actually promised us a certain amt of bandiwdth and never state what we have to use it for

Chee says he only needs to throttle P2P during the peak usage hours. During peak hours, P2P traffic is generally throttled to one-fifth normal speed. "We want to maintain 512 Kbps all the way to the desktop." (Controlling the Network in a DMCA World)

i say, BOLLOCKS

i was wondering how come my bittorrent downloads suddenly so slow
1000s of seeds
then still downloading at 3kbps
last time was 50+

***

The top overseas destination for Singaporean investment in 2002 was the Virgin Islands, with $18,581 million invested in stock there. This is followed closely by Bermuda at number 3, with $13,586 million. Hmm.

***

My mother strangely threw away the old toilet bowl scrubs, so where there used to be one in each toilet, there was now only one in the whole house. The logic behind this (as with much else she does, including the recent renovations) was beyond me and my sister, so I went to buy 2 more toilet scrubs.

I have long given up in the fight against my yeast infection. Nothing I try works - not even specialist products Selsun, Apple Cider Vinegar or Cetrimide wash. My sister, naturally, blames this intractability on our "insulin resistance", but then she is less bothered by the problem than I am. Luckily, it tends to be more acute than chronic, being manageable unless I am suffering from an attack - maybe Slavery was to blame for the preponderance of outbreaks I had then. Perhaps the next time I go to the doctor I shall enquire if oral antibiotics can be used, as for the more well known types of yeast infection.

***

For my lens analysis essay draft, I looked at the case of Agnes, a transsexual, through a commentary by John Heritage on a study by Harold Garfinkel - through the eyes of Wesley Collins in Power Rangers Time Force.

"More importantly, as Power Rangers they exist outside the pre-existing institutional realities of class, a state best illustrated when they 'morph', gaining superhuman powers and thus placing themselves outside the existing class structure."

I hope I don't get slaughtered.

Meanwhile Tim compared a vodka bottle to a phallic object and got an A for his last essay. We love close reading.


We were given a feedback form on our writing module to fill out. Besides the gripes about close reading which have been published many times here, I also mused that surely one very important skill in writing is to be clear, and that the texts we get are hardly paragons of clarity, and that even if one is cognizant with the vocabulary they use, to get at what they are saying requires many readings and much thinking - surely this is not what we are aiming for in our writing?

I'd actually scribbled some down points about the writing module, but did not have the text file with me on Friday, so I suppose I shall have to submit them during the currently ongoing module feedback exercise.
"In heaven all the interesting people are missing." - Friedrich Nietzsche

***

Another focus group! Too bad I'm not eligible again.


We're looking for working individuals aged 25-45 to take part in a 2-hour survey on Technology. Participants will be awarded S$50-S$80.

This focus group will take place on Mon, 18 April '05 and Tue, 19 April '05, at either 4pm or 6:30pm, and will last approximately two hours. Light meals will be provided.

If you're eligible, simply click on the respective link below to answer a pre-selection questionnaire, by Sun, 17 April '05, 10am. This questionnaire may close earlier once we have enough participants.

Only short-listed members will be contacted.

Requirements:

• YourSay member (signup)
• Working full time
• Own a mobile phone
• Singapore Citizen/Permanent Resident
• Proficient in English and articulate

***

I've found someone who uses 3 M$N Messenger accounts. As well as one each from ICQ, AIM and Yahoo (on Adium, and not the official clients, of course). Fwah.


Someone was actually deluded enough to write this in my guestbook:

Email: dontwantyoutofindout@hotmail.com

Message: "I think that you, and your ideas and info are crap. MSN is so much better than icq. In fact icq normally destroys the registry on most comps, accordingly msn does not have any of the faults that you claim and your anti-msn is more of a pro icq and in fact quite a joke. Another anti microsoft idiot trying to twist a good program with "what if's" and "this happened to me" without any proof!!!"


Ah, a Wo-hen fan!

"Dear Gabriel,

I had to write to you...I can't remember laughing so hard...tears!
At first it was really creepy.. :P
then you 'get it'!
Then you get to laugh at everyone elses reactions!

It was great.
Priceless.

thanks for the laughs!"

***

Someone: did I tell you about one of them [a PRC girl] who had a crush on me?
she tried to hug me, then cried because I hit her on the head and called her a 'fucking cunt'

That is so wrong, yet so funny.


A Malay friend on racism and "Canadian" Pizza:

"canadian pizza deliverymen keep gettin into traffic accidents.. the pay is low.. terrible hours.. most wd rather not work there, but they got no choice
that's what i feel aniwae, from the many pple i noe working in canadian

aniwae its a well-known fact lah, dat canadian staff are mostly malays.. tink i made the joke u made before too.. abt renaming it

in fact, the running joke in ntu abt MPE, mechanical & production engineering, is that it stands for Melayu Punya Engineering (malays' engineering), cos most malays end up der... and these are jokes by malay friends

i mean, if we can't laugh at ourselves, then someone else would aniwae right, so might as well be happy abt it

i used to know a singh in the army who'd crack singh jokes all the time

but it could be these [people who can laugh at their own race] are the exception rather than the norm

these are the very people eradicating rascim here man

for he [who] can laugh at himself, will never cease to be amused"

***

Prayer of the Fear-Filled Fundamentalist

"A fundamentalist Christian once came to my house and I offered him some food. “I hope you don’t mind,” he declined, saying, “I’d like to go home and pray about it first.”

Huh?

I too, grew up a Christian. I too, pray and give thanks before my meals. But this man was talking about a different sort of prayer. He needed to pray for guidance and discernment before he decided whether it was okay to eat the food that I had prepared.

He was afraid. He was afraid my food might be “unclean” because I might have been an agent of the devil...

She related how, if her son were to buy a house, he had to make sure that his neighbours were not Buddhists, Taoists or Hindus. He also had to make sure that, along the way from his home to the office, he would not have to pass by any Chinese or Indian temples.

Well, what if his neighbour decides to sell the house to a Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu? What if his company relocates? What if some non-Christian group decides to build a temple midway between his home and office?"

This sounds more like Saudi Arabia than Singapore.

***

Program Details for Singapore Rebel Teaser

"Teaser created to introduce Singaporeans to the hopefully forthcoming documentary looking at the Singapore Rebel. The Singapore Rebel was removed from the Singapore Film Festival after the director was informed that legal action my occur as a result of its screening...

Well there goes the promotion of Singapore as a centre of Asian arts. And all despite the recent call for a Singaporean Michael Moore by youth and media conference.

"In attendance was Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam some speakers referred 'to how wacky political websites and show business figures such as film-maker Michael Moore led the way in encouraging turnout among young voters during last year's US presidential elections.'""

***

Shamath's Riddle
by Jonathan Blake

In the course of the adventure in The Legacy of Vashna, a demoness named Shamath poses a riddle that is truly mind-altering if you stare at the details too closely and too long. In this article we are looking for a way to arrive at the correct solution.

If you have yet to encounter this infernal being with a penchant for puzzles and don't want to spoil any of the fun, please read no further. You have been warned.

"In addition to the loyal servants, there are two Dwellers of the Abyss."

We're about to get algebraic: if we say that n is the number of loyal servants, then for the total number of diabolic beings we have:

n + 2 (1)

"When the loyal servants and the Dwellers of the Abyss were counted together, their total number was doubled when my Lieutenants of Night arrived."

We're basically doubling the number of bodies:

2(n + 2) (2)

"But when my Lieutenants of Night arrived, the Dwellers of the Abyss had to leave."

>From that number, two are removed leaving a mixture of loyal servants and Lieutenants of Night:

2(n + 2) - 2 (3)

"Exactly half of the remaining number also departed, for they were beholden to the Dwellers."

We may astutely ask who among the loyal servants and the Lieutenants of Night leave. For reasons that we'll see at the end, we are almost forced to assume that it was purely Lieutenants of Night who were "beholden to the Dwellers". Dividing in half:

[2(n + 2) - 2] / 2 (4)

"From the remainder I picked the loyal servants to guard my throne of power. I chose them all, except for one who was known to me as a traitor. I executed the traitor before I set my loyal servants to guard my throne."

Remove the traitor:

[[2(n + 2) - 2] / 2] - 1 (5)

"While I am here to do Naar's bidding, how many loyal servants guard my throne of power?"

With that, Shamath leaves us puny mortals to answer her challenge.

Now for some algebraic reduction:

[(2n + 2) / 2] - 1 (6)

(n + 1) - 1 (7)

n (8)

So all that our algebraic skills reveal to us is that the number of loyal servants is n, the number we started with.

There aren't even any helpful contradictions when dividing the number of servants in half in step 4 because the number in the numerator is guaranteed to be even (although I don't imagine Shamath would really have any qualms about dividing one of her servants in half . . .).

Also, if we reduce the expression in step 4, we are left with n + 1. It must have been one lone Lieutenant of Night who remained behind and was executed as the traitor in step 5.

One hope would be to know how many Lieutenants of Night there were. This would reduce the problem down to a simple algebraic equation where l is the number of Lieutenants:

n + 2 = l

Alas, to date we have found no plausible clues to the number of Lieutenants of Night.

So perhaps the algebraic route was intended to be a one of those infamous red herrings. Is there something in the language of the riddle that is the real clue? If there is, I cannot see it.

Perhaps there's been an omission. It's impossible to tell what it may be.

So to summarize, although I know the correct answer to Shamath's riddle, I don't know how to correctly arrive at that answer. I don't know anyone who does. If you were looking for that solution, I am sorry but you've come to the wrong person.

If you were looking for the section number of the answer to Shamath's riddle, I'm not telling. Better luck next time.

However, if you know how to arrive at the correct solution, please contact the Project Aon volunteers. You'll be helping us sleep better at night.

http://www.projectaon.org/contact.htm

***

Woman finds freedom laws mean no free man - "When the government introduced its new freedom of information laws, Angela Wright seized on them as a chance to find an unattached man in uniform. Wright sent an email to her local police force asking about "eligible bachelors within Hampshire constabulary between the ages of 35 and 49 and details of their email addresses, salary details and pension values", the Guardian reported on Saturday."

Thursday, April 07, 2005



Marathon ironing session, here I come.

(Yes, it still beats doing essays, term papers and studying)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why."
-James Thurber

Word of the day: "dithyramb"

It was 11:44pm, SST.

I sat in the lambent glare of my twin monitors; the lights in adjacent cubicles having being turned off to reduce costs and hence increase shareholder value. My sleeves, long since rolled up (at 4:30pm, to facilitate wolfing a hasty snack of potato salad) , rasped irritatingly against the chair as I leaned back as far I could, pushing its torsial tolerances to the limit.

On the screen, I could see numbers exploding before me, a cascade of values and candlecharts and trendlines whirling at the click of a macro, exploding into a series of notional values that writhed their way across columns and cells, living their brief, spasmatic lives of information, until a new flood of data washed in, coerced into channels by VB code as compelling as scripture, watching as a notional fortune beyond the dreams of avarice was born, and lived, and died.

I was wearing a headset, one of those with a thin fiber optic mike, the sort you see harrassed yet fixatedly-smiling travel agents wear while they spend interminable minutes keying in an elaborate itinerary of the worst possible hotels and crappiest sights you can spend your money on. Clicking blindly on buttons, control panels, occasionally keying in a correction; or alt-Breaking to modify a line of code; I occasionally feel, at my work, that I am not driving the data; that the data is driving me; I watch its ebbs and flurries like a Genoan rabbi mouthing the words of the Torah - only for me it is like a prayer wheel; a phsyical manifestation in phosphor dots and figured text and stratified lines serving as a paltry physical representation; sad metaphor of an impossibly telluric current - an endlessly profane temurah of, not something so crude as mere money, but of finance, of vol skews and dispersion trades; spread calls and podiums, delta and gamma, sensitivity and duration, ad majoram Dei gloriam.

In my ear, like the antithesis of a guardian angel, I heard the cultured, faintly sardonic voice of the Black. The Black, it is whispered in our corridors and amidst fearful huddles around the pantry cofee machine, earns more gelt in a year than some small South Pacific nations' GDP, of which a small portion is spent financing a massive yearly Bacchanal in a Cornish castle where he watches exquisite 15-year old Shan prostitutes who have been kidnapped and trained in all the arts of profane pleasure since infancy by the descendants of the keepers of the Abbasid caliphs' seraglios. He is said to sit on a throne carved exclusively from the left tibias of analysts who have displeased him (even the most fervid and vaporously perverse disposition shies from imagining to what uses the other 205 bones of an analyst can be put to use); and he drinks deep from a golden chalice rumoured to have been part of the Last Supper's dinner service filled with a mead brewed from the fermented blood of terminated contractors.

As I carried out the instructions of that dispassionate voice, blending a tapestry of figures and values and risk and return and profit and loss; I was no better than a Mammonite golem, responding only to shibboleth jargon, an extension of will carried across telephony and finding execution in my volitionless form. Occasionally, in a dead voice, I would rasp back a number, a figure, and once in a while, when my synapses could manage it, an entire sentence of near-objection or suggestion.

And yet, despite the brilliance of the Black and my own feeble attempts to condense his nuances into a meaningful set of numbers, we soon came to an impasse. Disaster. Nearing midnight, Singapore time; nearing 4:00pm, London. Trading hours would close soon; and the Elect of Hiddukel, those modern-day alchemists who have mastered the aescultation of Value from Nothing (ah, the wonders of leverage and off-balance sheet instruments!); they awaited word from the Black to complete the Great Work of the Day (and it is, as always, a daily miracle made casual, the endless cycle of creation from chaos; and an irony that it is the vicissistudes of chaos - or, in the word of the truly initiated, Volatility, that makes such measuredly inspired creation possible) . And the Black awaited the result I had rashly promised him earlier; with only dire consequence to follow in the wake of failure.

I was faced with numbers that I , barely an adept, a journeyman in the dark arts, could scarce comprehend; a conundum as beyond my grasp as literacy is to today's youth. Hoarsely, desperately, I whispered, "I can't do this. It doesn't make sense."

Cold tones: "Double the vol; use the old reference time-series."

I did as instructed. "I still can't get a figure. It's hashing out. Maybe we should call - "

"No time. I need to get this mail out to the Butcher. His minions (yes, he used the word "minions") need to know how much they can put on without busting - "

Attempted voice of reason. A half-remembered lesson from one of the online courses we are required to take, as part of the Bank's policy of self-improvement. "Handling Difficult Interactions."

"Maybe if you told me how you calc- can I get the spread off Bloomberg? Or Reuters? I tried the OAS but I couldn't get a quote -"

Harsh snarl cut me off. "And I know you couldn't find anything. There's nothing there. Not for these guys. You're not going to find shit there. Fuck. Christ. What a fucking palaver. (The first time in my life I have heard the word "palaver" in speech. One of the most aesthetically satisfying wonders of what I do is that I am surrounded by people who use words and figures of speech I have only read in books, like the Irish "begorrah" and, in Scottish brogue, "his days are noom-bered.") Alright. What do you think it should be?"

"Erm. Aren't you supposed to tell me that so I can pump it into KOBOLD and get the var? (codename for one of the myriad many systems we have. All of which are have outlandish names that reveal nothing their function, like ODE, ETRUSCAN, PULSAR, VERITY, FRAMELIGHT and MEE POK(locally developed platform))"

I heard muttered imprecations, like a dire curse. I knew then that the fate of my employment hung uneasily in the balance. For although he was not my direct master in the hierarchy (a hierarchy of immense convolution; of parallel and functional and regional accountabilities, a massive chart in which me and my coterie of colleagues in Singapore don't even occupy a box, being merely a footnote in an appendix on Section III-47b. Our immediate boss has his name underlined a few pages before that. His boss occupies an octagon with several others), I knew he had patrons and dimly-glimpsed connections which, (although as invisible amidst the aether of corporate politics as gravitation across parsecs, was just as effacious), coupled with his own finely honed malice, could end my employment in an instant if he so wished.

I have grown very attached to my apartment. Packing would be unbelievably sian.

"Jesus. Fuck. C'mon. Give me a number, man. We didn't hire you for nothing."

Sweat. Tension. Fear. I tore a ligament twisting in my seat across to the Bloomberg terminal; I called up a candlechart, a GPC, strings of historical vols; all of which would have woven a tale of meaning and contrived extrapolation to an experienced analyst; all of which meant confusion, sound and fury (sound coming from the insistent beep of my voice mail) , signifying nothing. I babbled. I made justifications that sounded lamer than the excuses a four-year-old-child gives to his mother to explain the trail of cookie crumbs leading from the kitchen to his bedroom. And I still couldn't give an Answer. The Black sounded more and more irate with every passing moment; harshly pointing out inconsistencies, errors, and flaws with my desperate, flailing guesses. Finally, on the verge, I blurted: "How would *you* do it? Factor analysis? Historical spreads? Run a Monte Carlo calc off PENDULUM? I need time to do that!"

Expecting a torrent of invective, or, worse, a cold statement that would end with me miserably spending the rest of the night updating my curriculum vitae and my jobsdb.com.sg profile, I did not expect an almost affable silence, as he appeared to consider what I was saying. Rashly emboldened, I threw more facts, problems, parameters, circumstances at him, explaining exactly why I, in my limited experience, even more limited remaining mental energy and an even more parlous pittance of expertise (which I had managed to conceal with the most profound mummery born of desperation during my job interview) , was unable to derive the number we required to complete the tapestry of figures he intended to present as a supplication to the Synarchs.

He considered everything I said, and I could hear the Black's rage in the void between continents. When I concluded with the words required of all who have been defeated by life - "So how?" - the silence grew, and blossomed.

I stole a glance at the clock tuned to London time. 4:34pm.

I awaited the words that would save, or damn me.

Then he said: "Use the Force."

Now, the Black's erudition is as legendary as his megalomania. He is said to, like Odin, know two-nine charms, who bartered an eye with Mimir for wisdom, who knows how to cut, read, stain, prove, evoke, score and send the runes. He can call forth torrents of value; he can oneiromance profit from disaster (in the wake of the Pope's death, his strategy was "long Kleenex, short Durex.").

In less pretentious terms; here is a man with a Master's degree from Berkeley, who knows more quant than I will ever in my lifetime; who has worked in the industry for 12 years (he once candidly told us that he had had an offer from Enron before joining us which he had intended to take, but *his* boss, a luminary driving an Aston Martin Vanquish in NY, had persuaded him over a caesar salad to come join us), who earns more money than I will in my lifetime barring a lottery win, and meanwhile there are pissed off Big Swinging Dick traders waiting for his word so that they can have the parameters to execute a 200x200 arb trade of potentially up to 80vols profit (Addendum: someone urged me to mention the monetary value involved in this transaction to lend context to the reader. Although she started hitting me on the head when I launched into a disquisition into the differences between notional, book and market value, the final number is approx 175m USD, which is actually a fairly paltry sum. Another of the reasons why my work affords so much sadistic entertainment - rounding errors of up to a few million USD are considered OK) ; which if I have miscalculated can lead to a catastrophe akin to the sinking of Atlantis (ie. reduced profit and hence reduced shareholder value, to be rectified by the cost reduction and sadistic utils accrued through the scourging of incompetent employees, namely myself) or, even worse, cause them to withhold from making a trade, the opportunity cost of which will be exacted through their baying howls for blood (most certainly mine - for as Tony Soprano put it: "Money flows up, shit flows down.")

And the Black is telling me to use the fucking Force!

(normally I would not profane the Jedi way, but this was a trying time)

So I closed my eyes, and I meditated on the litany. Knowing that my feelings of anger would lead me to hate, and hate would lead me to the Dark Side, I sought to find that feeling of inner peace and oneness with that which connects all living things, that would unerringly guide me to my answer.

And as the scales fell from my eyes, I moved a pivot table; called up another spreadsheet, entered a few formulae - and I grasped an answer, like a revelation; my chemical wedding with the Ineffable, a moment that is, was and will always be.

I repeated the answer to the Black; an answer that was paltry compared to the revelation that had preceded it.

I could hear the grinding of mental gears as The Black ran my poor invocation through his grotesquely convoluted mind; and I held my breath as he said, grudgingly, like a miser parceling out guineas, in words of highest praise. "Good guess. I'll run with it. See you tomorrow." And the phone went dead.

"I hate those who see my life as an illusion of passion."

It's been about 9 months now since I moved down here, and longer than that since I blogged on Balderdash. Much water under the bridge, as the saying goes.

Gabriel himself has warned me:

"paradox of popularity - people read because you're honest, but as your readership grows you've to become less honest as real life and online life collide, with real world consequences. never very public a person. not much diff. few qualms offend/insult if necessary, try to retain intellectual honesty even with people I know. fewer qualms than most, but almost court martial of course. safe: criticise institutions, not people. assume everyone gonna read. self conscious, write for audience? 02 archives. Many read, members fam. the stuff I write is either too private for even friends to read (and this v rare now that slavery is ended) or public enough for everyone to read. very little in between. once in a while you feel like being exhibitionistic and share private stuff with the world. catharsis sometimes. other times the thrill."

I think about that; and I think about why I stopped blogging. Mainly it was due to an absence of anything meaningful or original to add to the blogosphere - the gamut of blogdom these days encompasses the entire spectrum from the degenerate, to the banal, to the profoundly intellectual, to the pretentious, to the heart-rending, to the sadistic, to the juvenile - the prime disadvantage of a geometrically progressive increase in hyperlinks is that it raises the probability that someone reading what I've written has seen it all before, and done better. Also, it was partly out of a niggling fear of unintended chains of consequence (small, incestuous, net-linked world), and partly because I detest monologues to a profane audience, although those of you who know me in person might claim otherwise:)

But in the end, Gabriel had provoked me by his bald misrepresentation of one of my more cherished opinions to come back on.

Dom: "you should start blogging again. you could probably get a loyal following yourself (like gabriel)"

me: "probably, but it's also partly the same reason why i stopped trawling irc for one night stands. it's too much effort for virtually no payoff. the needle vs haystack factor is kind of daunting."

Unlike Gabriel who prefers quotations, links, articles, political opinions, and intellectual essays, I have a penchant for wholesale ranting about the effluvium of my daily experiences, meta-blog feelings, mise en scenes.

In any event, onto a careful dissection of his facetiousness.

>"I find, though, that the author's premise of "one and only one chance, otherwise the >ignificance of all is nullied" is fallacious."

The author's premise does not draw itself in such invalid syllogisms. The basic axiom, which context you have warped, is that there is "one and only one chance" at attaining a very specific End. (and you know what End that is). It does not intend the obviously fallacious argument that there is only one chance for everything.

>But to adopt an "all or nothing", "one time or never" approach (which he claims to favour in his >dealings and actions, despite the dictates of reality) is surely ridiculous.

I admit I favour this; I also confess that reality forces compromises on me I find distasteful and insulting but necessary and compelling. However, unlike you and your amoral cynicism, and your base deification of the lowest common denominator in all your dealings with humanity, I believe in, to facilely praraphrase Oscar Wilde: "looking at the stars, even when lying in the gutter". Whereas I find nothing but contempt for the humanity in the aggregate, it is only in the sense of the individual that we can be morally accountable and accounted for - and exalted.

Even in your atrophied emotional state, Gabriel, don't you think it's debasing to simply believe that you can keep moving on, keep looking for something better; that the Moment which you had, and cherished - and lost - can simply be replaced at the drop of a hat by the endless pursuit of meaning through replacement?

To sum up:

a) that quote was meant to represent a very specific set of circumstances and situation
b) it does not apply to all situations - for instance, if i failed to brew the elixir of immortality on my first try, it is a circumstance that demands I try again to attain a tangible success which is measured not in fruitless attempts, but in the finality of duration. i am not demeaned in anyway by trying again and again in this case until i succeed or shuffle off this mortal coil, although there might be an opportunity cost in that the time spent on research could be spent on other pursuits of entertainments.
c) however, in the very specific situation that quote refers to, it is an observable condition in human affairs that we are increasingly willing to forego - particularly in this one aspect of our lives - what we thought was meaningful in the pursuit of immediate gratification; churlishly squandering it when it is ours; and lamenting after it only it in its absence. "That which we obtain too cheaply; we esteem too lightly."
d) while I respect the rights of others to hold a contrary opinion, it does not preclude me from seeing their attempts at "moving on" and "second chances" as a futile, puerile illusion, and from expressing my scant regard of it as so

Parable on the frank and utter evil of the human race.

A few weeks ago, a Devastator (Siege Tank in or Starcraft parlance - to help organise the Byzantine power structure of my workplace, I prefer to use Dune 2/Command & Conquer units to define levels of authority) from London came to visit us, along with a Heavy Tank.

(the Black is also a Devastator; he reports to several Death's Hand/Hands of Nod, who in turn report to Ion Cannons, all the way up to the Padishah Emperor/Cain. At the other extreme, there's me - the splat that remains after a a Harvester runs over infantry units. My immediate senior is a Rocket Trooper or a Trike).

The Devastator was amazingly friendly; he gave me some spurious words of praise (which proves that the time invested in tongue-to-ass skill enhancement have paid off), and basically moved around like a Cardinal amongst the clergy (ie. ring-kissing, genuflections, fervent prayers for deliverance, many benedictions). Anyway, it came to pass that the Devastator was working on the PC next to mine; when he asked me if I could help him print out a document which he e-mailed to me (his account was misconfigured, it appears).

Now, as I printed it out, he stood over me, and ordered me to delete the document (and to show that we are truly a meritocratic environment, he displayed his technical acumen by asking me to empty my Recycle Box.) as it was highly confidential. As I adhere to the highest standards of professional and ethical behaviour, I had kept a copy, and I perused it after the Devastator had rolled off for a power lunch with several other Heavy Tanks and Carryalls.

The document pertained to a global departmental re-org - and as it was a working copy, it included a lot of personal annotations and comments by the Devastator. Most of it was pretty brutally candid denunciations of processes and personal flaws of key individuals. However, what struck me was, under the topic of "Efficiency Gains - Headcount Reduction", a highlighted footnote:

"It would be economically feasible to put some of these poor bastards out of their misery."

Now, at this point I will confess I felt suffused by a radiant awe at the frank and utter evil of the Devastator; and I find myself wondering if that footnote will remain in the final presentation to the Ion Cannon/Weather Dominator/Death's Hand council.

To add insult to injury, the entire initiative has been codenamed, "Project Baboon."

I amused myself for a moment wondering if I was one of the baboons.
"Someday I want to be rich. Some people get so rich they lose all respect for humanity. That's how rich I want to be." - Rita Rudner

***

It might just be me, but most historically informed musical performances (HIP) seem to lack body.

The recordings sound lighter and brighter (which is not altogether a bad thing, depending on where you're coming from), and don't seem to be able to display as much warmth as recordings which do not aspire to be historically informed. At first I wondered if using a different frequency for A instead of 440 Hz was responsible, but from my understanding most HIP uses a lower frequency, so that theory doesn't seem to hold much water.

The notes also sound cleaner and purer, perhaps because the sound waves have fewer overtones (forgive me if my physics is faulty). Or perhaps this is due to over-enthusiastic sound engineers.

I do appreciate, though, that the individual sections (and individual instruments, for those with more finely trained aural senses) are more easily discernable, instead of blending into an indistinct whole. Perhaps modern instruments are made to blend, or more likely, it's an effect of using smaller ensembles.

***



William Hung - 5 (?), 3 (?) Mana

Creature - American Idol Legend

When William Hung comes into play target player loses the game.

She Bangs. She Bangs.

***

Sam's Archive

"Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.

Fools.

The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore."

***

Poultry Internet

"Poultry are one of the most badly treated animals in the modern world. It has been shown that they have high levels of both cognition and feelings and as a result there has been a recent trend of promoting poultry welfare. There is also a tradition of keeping poultry as pets in some parts of the world. However in modern cities and societies it is often difficult to maintain contact with pets, particularly for office workers. We propose and describe a novel cybernetics system to use mobile and Internet technology to improve human-to-pet interaction. It can also be used for people who are allergic to touching animals and thus cannot stroke them directly. This interaction encompasses both visualization and tactile sensation of real objects. The system overview is shown in Figure 1.It consists of a Office System and a Backyard System

Figure 2 shows in the Office System, where the pet owner touches the doll, and at the same time feels the movement of the doll as driven by a positioning mechanism table. Figure 3 shows the pet (we use a rooster) with a "pet dress" worn on its body. The pet dress consists of electronics that simulates touch (or haptic) sensation. It feels it when the pet owner fondles with the doll in the Office System."

Someone at NUS has a sense of humour! I also like:

Human Pacman

"Permeation of technology into everyday life is made easier when the human experience it creates is made associable with day-to-day encounters. Human Pacman, based on the popular arcade Pacman from the 1980s, is a novel and entertaining game which seeks to bring about such association through stimulating multiple human senses and perception.It is a real-world-physical, social, and wide area mobile entertainment system that is built upon the concepts of ubiquitous computing, tangible human-computer interaction, and wide-area entertainment networks. Human Pacman is pioneering a new form of gaming that anchors on physicality, mobility, social interaction, and ubiquitous computing."

***

Reefer madness - "Lock three men in a room, make them smoke cannabis, and then try to provoke them into being hostile. Thirty years ago a team of American doctors actually conducted this daring experiment. They then described it in a report called Marijuana and Hostility in a Small-Group Setting... "Marijuana produced a small but statistically significant increase in sarcastic communications.""

Scholars to speak intelligibly - "Late in January, Ms. Grande proposed a bill in the North Dakota legislature to prod public institutions of higher education in precisely that direction. Under her bill, if a student complained in writing that his or her instructor did not "speak English clearly and with good pronunciation," that student would then be entitled to withdraw from the class with no academic or financial penalty -- and would even get a refund.... [someone else] found that undergraduates' final grades slid by 0.2 points (on a four-point scale) when they had a foreign-born instructor."
They should try that too in The Premier Institution of Social Engineering! On the same page: read AcidFlask's story in full for the first time. PSC's reply is typical skittish bureaucrat-talk

***

Champions of Natural Law theory might be interested to know that in most primates are either solitary (they don't meet, except to mate) or Group - promiscuous (they live in groups and have sex with everyone). But then, most or perhaps all of them think humans qualitatively different from primates.

***

Other people seem to be ambushed by evangelists quite often, yet I remain safe. I put forward several theories for this:

- My talisman with Descartes on it protects me from evil
- My reputation has spread far and wide
- I don't look depressed - they prey on depressed-looking people
- Men with long hair are shameful


Someone suggested that NUS offer a liberal arts degree - you'd just do USP modules all the way. Interesting, but they'd probably have to charge double the school fees due to the higher faculty:student ratio for all the modules. Maybe, instead of making them do only USP modules, they could mandate some mix of USP modules, GEMs and cross-faculty modules.

I saw an old man with severe keloidosis - his whole head was filled with huge globular keloids, which meant his hair only grew in patches. Just thinking of it still makes my skin crawl.


Quotes:

real'lee'tee (reality)

spew'ryears (spurious)

Statisticians always tend to ignore the econometricians

Spear man (Spearman - this is someone's name)

A supervisor is someone you have to work with. So it has to be someone reasonably congenial.

There are some questions that you can't answer in an academic context. Where did I come from? Who am I?

I'm not a biologist but I know I'm very similar to a pig.

[On a psychological experiment] Some of them, especially the guys, were quite sad because they thought they were gonna meet a girl.

We always use American books, so we have American data. I'm trying to write a book. So maybe when your children come here to do Economics they will use my book.

fuels (fuel)

Any comments on the figures? Very exciting. You don't think so? You're all falling asleep.

How come the richer people spend less [of their income] on health? Are they healthier?

They don't have much money, you know. All around the world... Tobacco taxation is regressive... Beer and cigarettes are important sources of recreation for the lower income groups.

There are goods goods and bads goods (good, bad)

[On CPF topups and lower income groups] For them it's very important. The next day they withdraw it and it's all gone.

Hay'gern Dazs was actually a nobody. Then they changed their name to something exotic [ie 'Häagen-Dazs'] (Häagen-Dazs)

You go to Mandarin, how much is the chicken rice? $15. Whereas if you eat here [the Arts Canteen]... Here is not so good.

Even the University has a hire and fire system. So if you don't see me anymore, I got fired.

He is in search for the absolute truth (of, absolute)

Plair'toe (Plato)

We don't take things that we know are unreasonable and try to make them sound reasonable. Despite all the articles that I've given you that may make you think that, that's not what we're trying to do.

Could I possibly go out on a limb here? The terms are too broad? 'Truth'?, in an 8 page essay?

People are extraordinarily not stupid, despite evidence to the contrary.

[On an essay on robots] I'm using Nagel [which doesn't talk about robots] and that text. [Me: What does the text say about robots?]... [Professor: Good. What does this text say about robots?] The text doesn't say anything about robots.

You can laugh to your parents exponentially, where you can laugh to your boyfriend only linearly (love, while you can love)

The peak and the tr'ow (trough)

The Passion Correlation Coefficient (Pearson)

The first number is force. The second number is nice. (four, nine)

Today is our last lecture. You can celebrate after this.

Every firm in the industry is so doing. (doing so)

I don't know why it is jug'ter'pose here (juxtaposed)

impirical (empirical)

These people have no alternative use for their talent: no transfer payments... After a while Tiger Woods becomes a coach. He earns very much less, but he has already made his millions. He'll sell some clothes and all of you will buy.

See'ah'co (Seattle)

Sair'teris paribus (Ceteris)

The union can also tries (try)

[On labour unions] Singapore is a unique case. The workers are all hammered into compliance.

There are 4 short answer questions. You have no choice... Everything will be tested. *laughter from audience*

There will be 20 short answer questions (MCQs)

Make sure your calculator can do those power things. A simple calculator: plus, minus, times, divide - you will be in trouble.

Make sure that you quickly sketched it (sketch)

Do you want to switch papers? I'm writing a paper on anime, sex and pornography.

Actually you are graded on your class participation. Most of you don't talk. Now it's too late.

Viz a vihz the US dollar (Viz a viz)

When we exports goods to them (export)

There are very much details involved (many)

They let our Singapore dollar fluk'cheh'ate (fluctuate)

[After the last lecture before the final] You won't be tested on this topic [, this is how I got you to come to class and pay attention, muahaha!]

[On Singapore only controlling inflation] The whole gair'mute of things you learn in your textbook. All the monetary and fiscal policy... Singapore is a small country.

Your response paper is also due. You will get it back on the day of the exam. *cries of consternation* After the exam.

[On assignments] I know you'll stay up all night doing it. That's why my assignments are always due at midnight. It's not healthy.

[On proper replies in conversation] He could have said 'Charlemagne'. He could have juggled onions. He could have tap-danced.

Monday, April 04, 2005

One group term paper (4,889 words) economically analysing the proposed Casino down.

- One response paper on an as yet undecided topic (~1,100 words, due 11th Apr. Status: Not begun.)
- One lens analysis essay (~1,800-2700 words, Peer Review draft due tomorrow [Status: Done, for what it's worth], First Draft due 8th Apr and Final Draft due ~20th Apr [Status: Not begun, since this third essay will probably, like the first two 'first drafts', have to be rewritten.])
- And one term paper on the Evolution of Morality (~2,500 words, due 14th-15th Apr. Status: Not begun, though I've dug up some very old Closed Stack books) to go.

Gah.

At least, of my 4 exams, 2 are open book. I've 7 full days to mug for my open book statistics test, which is also my last paper, yay.

Oh, and I'll be in the Smithsonian in about a month and a half, 11 years after my last ignominous visit.
"Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian." - Lee Simonson

***

"your latest picture trods on the very fine line of sensitivity and political correctness...though of course those are the last two things i expect to see in your blog"

"my god. your lecturer was a fulbright scholar. what's he doing in NUS??"


Someone: "'The camerlengo, now Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo of Spain, must then verify the death — a process which in the past was done by striking the forehead of the pope with a silver hammer." (source)

if he wasn't dead, after the hammering, he would be!'

***

Of all the rants posted on sg_ljers, this must be one of the most misguided:

"On NS issues
Since the media is watching, hopefully this will be published and be brought up to parliament soon.

A group of us think it is very unfair that the SAF reduced the NSF service liability to 2 years and increased NSF's salary and yet does nothing to compensate NS men.

We ORDed in june 2002, one month just before SAF raised the salary of all NSFs. Our final month's corporal salary was less than what a recruit enlisted in july 2002 got. As if it's not infuriating enough, we served the full 2 1/2 years (enlisted dec 1999) while NSFs now only serve 2 years.

Talking about opportunity cost, that's wasting 6 months worth of our precious TIME and taking 6 more months of shit as compared to the chalet lifestyle that NSFs these days are enjoying. In terms of monetary figures, taking a fresh graduate's pay of $2k as a gauge, that equates to $12k loss in job revenue.

My question is: With the welfare that they are giving to NSFs, shouldn't they compensate the NSmen in some way as well, in terms of reducing/eliminating our NS liability (since 2weeks of reservist every year * 13 years = 26weeks = exactly 6months) or backpay? Either that or they should increase the NS liability to 52 weeks for those enlisted from july 2002 onwards.

By the way: They only paid about $9 for a NS corporal to go take his IPPT now. WTF?"


My response (a glorified rehash of an old post):

"So what if other people suffered and are suffering less than you? Does a reduction in other people's suffering increase yours?

This is the sort of attitude - "since I had to suffer so much, other people must also suffer, or it will have been unfair to me!" that makes the human condition so miserable.

No matter when they had implemented the indenture reduction and pay raise, people who had finished their time in the not-so-gilded cage would have complained. What, then? Continue making everyone suffer more than the Powers That Be decree that they absolutely have to?

I suppose you also recommend that contemporary Chinese women bind their feet, otherwise it would have been "unfair" to the Chinese women of ages past who had theirs bound.

If, when a policy is changed, all who had previously had to suffer under the old policy had to be compensated, I wager we'd see much less change and progress in society.

'You young women are so lucky in getting to vote! In my day, we were disenfranchised. I demand that for each election we missed, we get paid remunerations!'

Bah."

Others in the thread seem to share my sentiments.

[Addendum: I like this comment:

"The NS cycle has also been revised from 9 high keys and 4 low keys training to 5 high keys, 3 low keys and 3 Basic Individual Training.

So, does that mean that you should be drawing even lesser for your ippt stint and do more high key trainings?

If one day they decided to increase to 3 years or more, do you want to compensate the difference?"]

***

Someone sent me this picture and commented that it would be a good wallpaper. Apparently he was unaware of the provenance of said picture.

My, oh my, word does spread.

***

On the appendix:

"Appendix: the appendix is part of the lymphatic system that is otherwise found in many parts of aour body (to drain liquids from tissues). Removal of the appendix usually has no effect on the performance of a person. However, lots of people have died because the blood circulation to the appendix is so poor that infections are common. If an intelligent designer wanted a larger lymphatic system this goal could easily be accomplished, but using a blind sac connected to the digestive tract with poor supply of blood vessels is probably the dumbest way I can think off. Instead, the appendix happens to be found in a part of the digestive tract where other mammals have a much larger blind sac for digestion. So, what is more likely: that the designer had a bad day or the appendix in humans is the remnant of its former glory? That's up to you to decide..."

Heh.


And a discussion on... Nipples!

A: I know im going to get a can of whoopass for this, but, man nipples = TEH SEXY? so much so they decided to put the nipples on batman armor (disclaimer: comment is NOT reflective of forumer's tastes!). That has got to count for something. Therefore nipples = sexual ornament for males?

Making this a little more fun, lets have a little poll: Are nipples on man considered sexy?

Since im not so free as o photoshop-edit out the nipples in a topless man vs the same with nipples, im using this: Attached below are the pictures of

A)NON NIPPLED-BATMAN and

B) NIPPLED BATMAN.

WHICH, IN YOUR OPINION, IS SEXIER?

Unfortunately i cant think of a control example. but still...

All ye forumers, flame me not, and cast your votes! After polls we might discover the truth to the vestigial mammary glands in males then..

B: Hmm, I would suppose so, not because of aesthetics or individual preferences, but because of the intrinsic connection between prime erogeneous zones and sexual appeal. These parts of our body contain the most nerve endings and feature prominently in sexual stimulation. Research has shown that there is also a direct connection between the response to stimulus of a particular body part and the likelihood that the subject considers this feature 'sexy' in others. For instance, if a woman gets a huge turn on from having her neck stimulated, she might consider the neck to be a sexy feature on guys. This was quite a leaky argument, I remember it being 'bombed' quite badly but it serves an uillustrative purpose here. The link to physical arousal thus leads us to characterise certain body parts as 'sexy' even though they have no absolute function during sexual reproduction.

C: nipples may be 'sexy' in the sense that *** said, that they contain a large concentration of nerve endings. but i disagree male nipples play any role in sexual selection in modern times. they're not at all visible in most social situations, yet people still get attracted to each other in spite of this. whatever meaning they have in men is probably insignificant compared to other modes of sexual selection (broad shoulders, deep voice, pecs etc.)

ps. i vote yes

D: I guess they do have their direct functions in sexual reproduction, by having many nerve endings on the nipples (just my speculation, pls correct if needed) the brain will receive the information that sex is on the way and then will order the appropriate organ to release certain hormones. Thus the feeling and calling of something such as nipples as sexy.

E: Am not too sure I find Batman--whether with or sans nipples sexy, so I'll absatin from voting. But I do think nipples on a man are sexy. And you should poll the guys--they will tell you that they are also one of the chief erogenous zones on the body (for men more so than for women). So.. you draw your own conclusions about them being redundant =)

F: how do u know nipples are more impt erogeneous zones for men than for women? cuz women have more?

G: Well i guess they put nipples on the batman armour to make it look more like a man, to make the character more realistic and less cartoonish more than to make him look sexier. However, this vestigial mammary gland of men probably had some significant use in the past? Men with nipples indeed appear sexier but don't all men have nipples? hmm..

H: Wait, wait, I'm confused now-- are you trying to say that male nipples have a purpose in that they increase the sexual attractiveness of a man?

Because, Batman aside, I've yet to see a man who doesn't have nipples, so I'm not sure if this counts as a sexual selection trait?


(But I vote for the nipples anyway.)

I: maybe nipples arent really sexual displays, as someone pointed out; if you found your date had no nipples, you wouldnt be thinking "hmm, not so sexy after all", you'd probably be thinking "FREAK." Like someone with no nose. More of defect than anything else. And so comes this question: IS the male nipple really useless after all (other than sexual stimulus)? Or, im thinking, does it serve some obscure endocrine purpose, even if diminished somewhat?

J: Nipples Nipples Nipples...I think men look better with nipples, but definitely not on the armor! So I would have to go for A cos the pic of Batman with nipples on his armor looks like a total freak..He probably uses them to distract his enemies....That's my thought.

***

The Encounter - a priest encounters some not-so-gullible townsfolk.

"Townsman 1: We had a brutal murder here a few years ago . . . a man threatened to kill his own daughter if she left the house that night. She left the house to go be with her friends, and when she came back he killed her. I would not call that a loving parent, even if the child did disobey. No all-loving creature would do that, or permit that. Never.

Priest: It's you who chooses whether or not to go to hell; God only complies with your wishes!

T1: That's the excuse the killer tried to use, believe it or not. He said that he gave his daughter a clear choice, informed her of the consequences of her actions, and simply complied with her wishes. Needless to say, the jury didn't accept it.

Townsman 2: Besides, none of us believed that this guy existed before you came, and none of us were infinitely tortured.

P: No; you go to hell after you die.

Townsman 3: After you die? How can you feel any pain after you die? Your tactile senses are physical, just like your other senses.

P: Your soul feels the pain of--

T2: But souls are immaterial, so how can they feel anything without physical sense organs?"

***

Enhanced searching with Firefox - "Now Google's faster than ever on Firefox and Mozilla browsers. When you do a search on these browsers, we instruct them to download your top search result in advance, so if you click on it, you'll get to that page even more quickly."
Finally, a major site uses pre-fetching!

Mammon was not originally a demon but simply the Syrian term for 'money' or 'riches'... By biblical exegesis and popular misunderstanding he developed a variety of corrupt names which flourished in a number of demonologies, and eventually he emerged in popular consciousness as the demon of money, riches and covetousness; or (more precisely) the demon of love of money.

Cold hands, warm heart - "A lovestruck American who tried to walk from North Dakota to Winnipeg is recovering from severe frostbite in a hospital in Manitoba... The 41-year-old self-employed mechanic has a robbery conviction that means he can't legally enter Canada."

Lawyer: Pair tried to save Mr. Kibbles - "Police reports, however, say Cortes was upset that the cat used his new pickup truck as a litter box, and that Zukerman lured Mr. Kibbles to Cortes by baiting him with a bowl of cat food and drawing him from his home in the Victoria Isles town house complex. Cortes then snatched the cat up, drove it 15 miles west on Lox Road out to the Everglades and dumped it, according to police reports."

No getting stoned in new Bible - "For centuries scholars have argued over the most delicate nuances of biblical texts, passionately debating whether key words should be tweaked to reflect cultural changes. But, despite the fervent exchange of such learned views, there has been no fretting about whether the Bible endorses dope-smoking. Until now. A 15-strong panel of eminent theologians and linguists was so concerned that young people reading the Bible today are confusing the phrase 'stoned' not with Old Testament executions but with drugs, that it has suggested a radical clarification to a forthcoming edition of the sacred text."

Malaysia car thieves steal finger - "Police in Malaysia are hunting for members of a violent gang who chopped off a car owner's finger to get round the vehicle's hi-tech security system."
The darker side of fingerprint recognition systems.

Google Gulp - "At Google our mission is to organize the world's information and make it useful and accessible to our users. But any piece of information's usefulness derives, to a depressing degree, from the cognitive ability of the user who's using it. That's why we're pleased to announce Google Gulp (BETA)™ with Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE), a line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty."

Koran scholar: US will cease to exist in 2007 - "A thorough analysis of the Koran reveals that the US will cease to exist in the year 2007, according to research published by Palestinian scholar Ziad Silwadi."

The top search result on Google for "the truth shall set you free" is an anti-religious site. Eheh.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Word of the day: "amanuensis"

"Singapore adheres to the one man one vote principle: LKY is the Man, he has the vote."

placeholder quote for want of anything meaningful to write.
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