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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

I was getting off the bus at Tiong Bahru Plaza just now when I saw that a flag day was in progress. The moment my foot touched the ground, I was accosted by a CHIJ girl seeking donations. However, I deftly avoided her, both to allow me to assess the situation first and to get a spring roll (I hadn't eaten since waking up).

I saw several flag day-ers, all from the same school as before, swarming near the entrance to the MRT station, no doubt getting ready to ambush unwary passers-by. As I made my way to the MRT station's entrance, I was charged by 2 of them, each trying to push the other aside in their eagerness to suck my money from me. Eager as they were, they had no inkling of the horror which was about to follow.

First, I administered the usual test that I give to flag day minions; I asked them what charity this was for. This question is a no-brainer, the name of the charity is usually emblazoned on the stickers and collection cans. The two eagerly replied that it was the "Family Life Society". Now, though this is a test, it is not enough to get any donations from me - it is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

So next I asked what the "Family Life Society" did. Their glib response was that it was to help the poor. Right. Probably every charity in the world helps the poor, it just depends on which type of poor they help and how. Having failed this test, I ascertained that they were not worthy of receiving 10 cents. Of course, the fact that they looked like they were in Secondary One might have something to do with it.

So I popped the bonus question, levelling my "buck for a tug" proposition ('I'll give you a dollar if you let me tug your ponytail'). They first stared at me in incomprehension, so I had to repeat myself once or twice. They then laughed and pronounced me "神经病" (shen2 jing1 bing4 - possessed of a mental disorder or neuropathy) and left me.

Foiled on my first attempt. Damn. At least it was a good way of getting rid of unworthy flag day-ers. And I found a $10 note and a $5 note at Raffles Place MRT, so that was a consolation.

I am advised not to end up in a police station, but tugging hair doesn't fall under even under Bill Clinton's definition of sex, let alone asking for the tugging thereof, so. Someone suggests I have a "tug gabriel's hair 4 good luck thing". Given that people already like to touch my body so much, god knows it might work.


He Who Must Not Be Named and Darth Iulius aka the Dwarven Porter would like to have it on record that they're annoyed at my making them wait while I transcribe this sad, sad story.

The latter would also like to add that the Family Life Society is "a good society which, like, helps poor families... and that it really sucks to collect donations, especially if they have to face bastards like you, especially since I was once a tin can collector [HWMNBN watching Alias: Shut up!]", and that I shouldn't mess with their minions for the day.

Friday, June 24, 2005

"Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings." - Ed Gardner

***

For the clueless, my beloved understudy explains:

"Correct me if I'm wrong: 'Hor lan' is army lingo for feeling hopelessly lost. I believe it was derived from the root word 'Holland'. Usage: Even though he was furnished with a map with adequate directions, he still managed to 'hor lan'."

***

Seen in a Suntec City toilet:

"Fancy watching your next movie with a new female friend? Group date available! Register now! www.gomoviedate.com"

I wonder if the female toilets ask if patrons fancy watching their next movie with a new male friend.

Website main page:

"Experience the thrill, anxiety and suspense of meeting a new friend in a dark & cozy cinema! You know absolutely nothing about your date.... your heart is pounding in excitement, your palms sweaty with anxiety, your head spinning in a whirlwind of motions.... you're waiting minute after anxious minute for the movie to end so you can turn to introduce yourself and finally see your date face to face

Sounds fun? That's what gomoviedate.com is all about! Sign up now and join in the fun, thrill and excitement of the dating game. Get ready for the most thrilling experience of a lifetime. Let's get going!"

Uhh.

Unfortunately they're sexist:

"Bear in mind - guys always pay for the moviedate! This includes the cost of movie tickets and an administrative charge. That's why FEMALE MEMBERS GET A LIFETIME OF FREE MOVIES! Be a sport guys."

Whoever said it was bad to be born a woman? These companies all have their business models right. Where there're women, men will come. It works for bars and clubs' Ladies' nights and ladies-only chatlines, so it should work for this site.

The date tips page is also a hoot: "Avoid repetitive issues like talking about your EX-Girlfriends, footballs or your army days!"


In Carrefour, I saw a boxed off area with this sign: "Restricted for age above 18 years old". My first reaction was to go: "What the hell?! Since when were Adult Movies legal here?" On further examination, I noticed that the area was marked "R Movies". On going inside, although I found many NC16 and M18 movies - including uncut versions of movies butchered for local PG/NC16 cinematic release (good for them!), I saw no R21 ones. So much for "R Movies".

***

Any ideas on what exactly French Vanilla is? Is it even a vanilla at all?

"French Vanilla, as in ice cream, refers to technique, not an actual product.
French Vanilla ice cream is a cooked ice cream, while good old fashioned "regular" vanilla is not cooked. In French Vanilla Ice Cream, egg yolks and sugar and vanilla are cooked to create a custard, which is then combined with milk or cream, then churned and frozen until solid.

Any ice cream with a custard as a base is in the "French" style. It takes an extra
step, but you can most certainly tell the difference in taste, texture, and most notably in color. French Vanilla Ice Cream has a yellow hue, a result of using egg yolks. If you buy a carton of "French Vanilla" and a carton of "Vanilla" [like Breyer's] you will see and taste the difference."

***

Former ex-gay outraged that ex-gay group refuses to remove his picture from website

"Exodus International, a worldwide umbrella group for the ex-gay ministries, was accused today by former member Shawn O'Donnell of misrepresentation for continuing to post his picture on the front page of its web-site, even though he is now an out and proud gay man... O'Donnell is included in a group photo at the top of their web site www.exodus-international.org - a photo that has also been used in the group's ads to show that that homosexuality can be cured.

"I can honestly say that in five years, I did not meet one person that I believe had truly changed," said O'Donnell. "What Exodus is doing is damaging lives. They give false hope and when people fail to change they consider killing themselves, as I once did. The harmful work of Exodus almost killed me and I don't want others to suffer.""

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." - G. K. Chesterton

***

I don't know people in China, but if you do:


"All;
I'm trying to gather info on the extent of the typepad shutdown in China. If you have any friends or readers here, please ask them to check whether they can access Asiapundit.com, Glutter.org, bbb.typepad.com/billsdue and simonworld.mu.nu .

Reports on location and result of access attempts would be appreciated. Pls respond to asiapundit@gmail.com

best;
Chris"

***

The NUS Political Association's appreciation dinner is going to be on the same day as Bloggers.SG (the Singaporean blogging convention). Pity.

"This year, the AD will be held at KENT RIDGE GUILD HOUSE, EVANS ROOM 1 & 2 (in NUS, next to business faculty), on 16 July 2005, Sat from 7 to 11 pm. The theme of the night will be Casino Royale, and thus all are encouraged to dressed to theme. There will be exciting programs put up for the night, including the crowning of MR and MISS
PA from the PA camp this year, interesting games and great lucky draw prizes to be won!"

***

Someone: as a friend in the police force said... "once you fully understand and comprehend the women's charter... you won't want to get married"
maybe that's what's causing our marriage rates to drop? more educated males?

at the end of the day.. i feel that probably the most contentious issue is just NS.. esp in a singapore context
and women are more vocal about voicing out perceived discrimination

Me: huh

Someone: subservient males from NS... well.. haha.. we've been conditioned to accept shitty conditions right? so we don't complain... scared scared wait people think we ah guah man

women's charter.. hmmmm. its partly built on the assumption that girls mature slower than guys... but usually in practical society.. the reverse is true
the legal age of consent for both boys and girls under the penal code is 14 but the women charter ups this age to 16.. that's why you hear "I'm legal" shouted by girls on their 16 birthdays
and these men caught for having underaged sex.. they are not prosecuted under criminal procedure code.. more under woman's charter.. which has more severe penalties

Me: so the women's charter overrides the penal code?

Someone: yes.. it superseeds and overrides in certain provisions

***

The ultimate postmodern spectacle

"Michael Jackson and his trial hold a mirror to modern western civilisation and its blurring of fact and fiction

Like Jackson's cosmetic surgeons, postmodernism believes in the infinite plasticity of the material world. Reality, like Jackson's over-chiselled nose, is just meaningless matter for you to carve as you choose. Just as Jackson has bleached his skin, so postmodernism bleaches the world of inherent meaning. This means that there is nothing to stop you creating whatever you fancy; but for the same reason your creations are bound to be drained of value. For what is the point of imposing your will on a meaningless reality? The individual is now a self-fashioning creature, whose supreme achievement is to treat himself as a work of art.

... If courtrooms are quintessentially postmodern, it is because they lay bare the relations between truth and power, which for postmodernism come to much the same thing. Truth for them, as for the ancient Sophists, is really a question of who can practise the most persuasive rhetoric. In front of a jury, he with the smoothest tongue is likely to triumph. On this view, all truth is partisan: the judge's summing up is simply an interpretation of interpretations. What determines what is true for you is your interests, which in turn are determined by gender, class, ethnicity and the like. The Simpson trial gave a new twist to the claim that truth is black and white: whether you thought the defendant guilty or innocent depended to a large extent on your skin colour. But the other interests in question are financial ones. Just as the scientist with the fattest research grant is most likely to produce results, so truth in the Simpson and Jackson trials is a commodity to be knocked down to whoever has the deepest pockets. In this sense, a good deal of postmodern theory can be illustrated by a single time-worn phrase: get yourself a good lawyer."

***

User Friendly on estimating the amount of software on an average machine, multiplying it by the number of terminals and subtracting sales to get alleged losses from piracy (ie Ignoring the fact that some terminals may use freeware/open source software):

Industry representative: You shouldn't make light of this! Software piracy is a real problem. The cost to the industry is in the billions. If not trillions!

Industry representative: Any software on your machine that you didn't pay for, especially free software, hurts the industry and is IMMORAL if not illegal! EVERY TIME you download a piece of software that doesn't cost you anything, it costs US!

Guy: Isn't that kind of like saying if I don't give you everything in my wallet I'm costing you everything in my wallet?

Industry representative: See. Now you're getting it.

***

Why do women athletes tend to be flat-chested?

"A number of reasons for this have been suggested. According to a report by Dr. Christine Haycock, a trauma surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the New Jersey College of Medicine, "a trainer who has worked more than 10 years with track-and-field athletes noted that he has seen only one or two girls with large breasts in sports, and this tends to confirm that the discomfort of running without adequate breast support has kept many potential athletes from competing." As it happens, Cecil has a well-endowed woman friend who ran in a marathon, and pursuant thereto did training runs of as much as 14 miles a day. These often left her with a ghastly collection of abrasions where her bra rubbed. It seems safe to say, therefore, that the low incidence of big-breastedness among runners is to some extent a matter of self-selection.

We might further speculate that since the female breast, whatever may be said for it from an aesthetic standpoint, can do nothing for an athlete except slow her down, competitive pressures would tend to favor small-breasted women. Unfortunately, little research seems to have been done on this topic."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 11 - Westpoint-New York


Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover
Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont
Day 8 - New Hampshire-Bretton Woods-Portland Head
Day 9 - Portland-Kennebunkport
Day 10 - Marblehead-Salem-Boston

We left Tewksbury reasonably early to try to catch the first tour of the day at Westpoint. Unfortunately, I was then unable to get hold of the amusing pamphlet about Applebees previously mentioned.

For breakfast, we stopped at a McDonalds where curiously, though 11 breakfast meals were offered, there was no Big Breakfast. There was also a picture of the head manager, who looked like a pedophile. Whether the two facts are connected will be left for the reader to decide. Apart from the usual muffins, there were bagels, biscuits and McGriddles (which I later found out were mini-hotcakes with sweet chunks embedded in them). Be that as it may, they were all variations on the same thing (XXX with egg, Sausage XXX, Bacon, egg and cheese XXX etc). However, the sheer burst of flavour that the real pork bacon provided more than made up for the limited choice. Their dollar menu was interesting, with the Double Cheeseburger being on it (a normal one was also $1, oddly) together with 2 Apple Pies, the McChicken, the Chicken fajita and the parfait. Also, they had 4 McFlurry topping holders but only 2 were in use. Sigh.

On the New York State Highway, this amusing sign was sighted: "Headlights required when using wipers". Err.

Certain stretches (usually 2 miles) of American highway are adopted by organisations as a subtle form of advertising. On the 9W to Westpoint, I saw that the Cornwall Lions Club was being cheapskate, sponsoring only 1.4 miles of highway instead of the 2 that almost everyone else does. Later though, I saw that there was a 1.3 mile stretch sponsored by "Teens *something* by/for Christ" (I didn't get to read the sign properly).

Reaching Westpoint, we went on the tour. Westpoint is actually an accredited college: in addition to Army training, trainees also get a real college degree from there. The place has 500 instructors, but only 4000 cadets - I think few colleges would be able to match this ratio.

We were taken to the new chapel, built in "Military Gothic" style (sans gargoyles supposedly because the Army suffices to protect them) and with the world's largest church organ. Until 1972, cadets were required to attend religious ceremonies every week until the Supreme Court rule it unconstitutional. How dreadful it must have been.

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Organ console

Even members of the US military band have Masters degrees. Hmm.

There was a Civil War monument with "the largest piece of quarried marble in the Western Hemisphere". Bah. So what's the largest piece of quarried marble in the Eastern Hemisphere (or rather the world?) Then again, at least it wasn't "the largest piece of red-green hand-quarried marble in the Northeastern USA".

The list of ex-Superintendents of Westpoint includes such distinguished names as Robert E. Lee and Douglas MacArthur. In contrast, COs of SAF training schools are usually condemned officers. This might explain something about the quality of the people they churn out.

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Great view of the Hudson

Only 2 cadets in the history of Westpoint have never accumulated any demerit points: the two mentioned in the previous paragraph. In contrast, Eisenhower was sentenced to more than 100 hours walking the parade grounds as punishment (for crimes such as not polishing his boots and not arranging the books on his shelves in order of height) because he didn't saw military "discipline" for the pointless rubbish it was. Yet he still managed to become a General and a President! I guess "discipline" isn't all it's made out to be.

Cadets only have to eat dinner at the mess hall once a week. This probably explains why there are so many restaurants near the academy, as well as a McDonalds.

There's a "flirtation walk" at Westpoint for cadets and their dates, where the dates must supposedly agree to requests for kisses. I wonder how it works for female cadets with male dates.

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Mess hall

Cadets get to study bond-free for the first two years. Hmm.

Leaving West Point, we drove back to Fort Lee, NJ, just beside New York, for our live lobster at Sally Ling's. Unlike the other Chinese restaurants we'd seen, this one didn't look cheapskate, and it was open through the afternoon, having no lunch break. Here, we came as close to fine dining as we would during the trip. My brother in law commented that he felt that we were in a bad Woody Allen movie - a nice restaurant, an old clientele, semi-refined music playing and a subdued atmosphere. Portions were smaller than in normal American joints, but then I don't think normal Americans go for fine dining, so.

The chef at Sally Ling's was very modest, with the menu including such delights as "No. 1 dish in the world - jumbo shrimps, scallops, filet of fish and lobster meat served with selected vegetables in a chef's special sauce. Served on a sizzling platter". Intrigued by the dish's name, we ordered it. It turned out to be underwhelming in the extreme. My brother in law suggested that it was named so because it was the first (No. 1) dish they learned to cook in the world.

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No. 1 dish in the world

The appetiser they served us was much better than the usual nuts or preserved vegetables you usually get, it was large pieces of kok kok (fried wanton skin), served with a red fruity sauce and a horseradish sauce.

Even the fortune cookies we got were special, having a semi-sweet chocolate flavour.

Due to traffic and half-expected hor lan-ing, 3:25pm saw me barely into New York, sitting in the 175th street subway station. Planning my schedule for the rest of the day, I decided to visit the Museum of Sex first. Luckily, my sister and brother in law were not with me, or they would have been sure to have made their usual annoying remarks like "are you old enough for this?" This is especially irritating given that being rocking US college undergrads, they were probably doing more at a younger age, and that sometimes when they are with their friends, they will pronounce conditions for admission which have steadily been going up over the years from "O levels" to "A levels" to "a University degree". Extrapolating, I project that in a few years the minimum requirements for admission will be to have participated in a pot-suffused multi-racial orgy conducted on tarpaulin while outdoors on a warm New England afternoon during winter, being shaded from the harsh light of the sun by an ongoing solar eclipse.

The museum was very interesting (and as a bonus, I got to use my ISIC card to save a buck). Besides the permanent collection, there were two temporary exhibitions up. The first traced the evolution of American pinup photography. According to it, the Victorians were responsible for developing erotic photography, further burnishing their credentials as a schizophrenic people.

Oddly enough, most of the visitors to the museum were women - either singly, in pairs, in groups or in couples with males. Apart from me, there was only one other single male there, and no groups of males. I asked the guy at the ticket counter, and he confirmed by observation, while having no idea as to why this is the case. Of course, we all know that this phenomenon occurs because women have great intellectual curiosity; however all men who visit the museum must be perverts looking for cheap thrills. This is just like how if girls take pictures in male toilets, or while posing at urinals, they are being fun and cheeky, but if males take pictures in female toilets, they are perverts and peeping toms. Similarly, if males make jokes about the female body, they are misogynists and male chauvinist pigs who objectify and dehumanise women, but if women do the reverse, they are speaking the truth and exposing the dominant, oppressive and male-centric social order.

"She stopped modeling after finding God on New Year's Eve in 1958" - On Bettie Page, pinup nude girl featured in cheesecake shots

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Stripper cards - Irma the Body

Basically, the exhibits in the museum just proved the old adage - plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Lesbian sex was present in vintage pornographic flicks, and oral sex was involved in 90% of business transactions in eastern US whorehouses in 1938.

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Plot devices: With only ten or twelve minutes at his disposal, the stag producer had to employ simple plot devices to kickstart his story. He had to invent a credible excuse for removing the clothes of his performers, moving them into intercourse in several positions, and concluding his narrative quickly. Outright rape, of course, would have been the most economical device, but violence would have destroyed the stags' fantasy world of constant and wholly consensual sex. Instead directors relied on formulas designed to demonstrate that male and female desire can flare anywhere. Spouses succumb to impulse, as do office workers, painters and models, doctors and nurses, but large numbers of stags deal in sex between strangers, chance encounters that are the stuff of fantasy. The best-remembered stags involve plumbers, repairmen, and salesmen--interllopers who visit when the husband is away, to eroticize the male viewer's secret anxieties.

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"Know your scumbags - this one prevents AIDS". At the bottom, the infamous 'Heather has two mummies' book.

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Condom ad: "I take one everywhere I take my penis"

There was this electronic display showcasing weird patents. US patent 4030490 (1975) was a 'female protective device' inserted into the vagina which would pierce a penetrating body with a sharp plastic point. Ouch.

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CyberSM - the world's first multisensory, full body communication system which connected Paris to Colonge (1993)

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Of course, there was the replica of a Real Doll's torso, a picture of which I used for my competition.

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A Real Doll

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These dolls are the most advanced sex-dolls ever developed and feature completely articulated skeletons which allow for anatomically correct positioning. They incorporate a blend of the most expensive silicone rubbers that have a flesh-like feel. Continued research will produce dolls that move, vibrate, change temperature, and may eventually be cyberkinetic.

All in all, the museum was most interesting - they even had an original copy of the Disneyland memorial orgy and a Choose Your Own Adventure parody: Escape from Fire Island!: A Date With Destiny Adventure (with 29 endings). The only down side was that the oldest part of the collection dated from only the late 19th century.

6:30 saw me in Central Park, witnessing a phenomenal number of people cycling, walking, jogging, skipping, bouncing, jiggling and otherwise exercising their way around and through it - and all early on a weekday evening too. Witnessing this spectacle, coupled with the park's cool, non-humid air and shady paths, I almost felt like joining them, a teething desire hastily quenched by the throbbing of my feet. Technically, in the end I did join them, albeit at a reduced pace, as I walked around the Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy reservoir, or rather hor lan-ed my way about it, wanting to go south but meandering northwest.

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People exercising

Signs in the park warned passers-by about giving priority to horses, but I saw none (except for one on top of which a policeman was riding). But then I saw a big pile of horseshit somewhere, so.

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View across reservoir

Just before 7, my feet gave out and I collapsed onto a bench and watched people and their adorable, well-behaved dogs, many big, most lively, and all preferable to the average cat.

Since the Empire State Building was open till midnight (probably the only attraction open so late), I went there next. I'd been there 11 years ago, but the view at night was sure to be very different from that in the day. I found the place unexpectedly crowded for a weekday evening (8 pm), and worse, there was nowhere to sit from the time one started queueing on the second floor until one returned to the second floor from the top, so I just had to bite my clip, close my eyes, jiggle my feet a little and hope I didn't faint.

The management was very smart: to earn even more money from people, besides the normal $14 ticket, there was a $30 express ticket which would allow one to skip the queues, as well as an option for a $14 Skyride (simulator flying through New York) and a $6 audioguide. When I got to the top, I found that the queue was forced through a kitschy cardboard display of the Empire State Building and a photograph was taken ($15 for a 5 x 7" photograph, and 2 wallet sized ones). Meanwhile, the area with some small static exhibits was under renovation, supposedly to improve the future experience (and raise future prices too, no doubt).

The spire of the Empire State Building had some advanced, sophisticated and powerful radio equipment on it. Unfortunately it wasn't quite advanced, sophisticated or powerful enough to give me handphone reception, grr.

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After coming down from the top of the building, I went for the Skyride, having been foolish enough to shell out $14 for it. Since there was no one in the queue, I stepped over the rope acting as a lane divider, and got shouted at. Being too tired and too much in pain to argue, I went through the normal way.

The Skyride was narrated by Kevin Bacon (which might have been why it cost so much), who made reference to the game "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon". It wasn't too bad, but it wasn't worth $14, especially since there were too many frills (simulated technical failures, going under water and on the streets) and not enough of what I (and presumably most people) wanted to see: a panoramic view of New York by air, with narration.

Sister's food diary: "Day 11 : McDonald's breakfast with real pork bacon. Late lunch at Sally Ling's, Fort Lee NJ. Kock-kock with dips, live lobster, seafood, chicken in imperial sauce. Dinner - separately."


Barring a few exceptional places, all establishments in the US list their prices without adding taxes in. That this makes you underestimate the true price of something you're eyeing isn't my main beef, but the fact that this inevitably results in the final total being some funny, non-round number. Americans may like jangling their pennies around, but I rather not lug bags of coins everywhere I go.

I decided not to watch a show in New York for several reasons. Most of the most promising-looking shows were sold out, and the rest only had tickets costing $100 or more left. I also wasn't prepared to queue for hours to get a 30-50% discount at the half price ticket booth, especially since it might not even be for the shows I really wanted to watch. Furthermore, the train ride alone from New Brunswick station (where my motel was) to New York's Penn Station took 50 minutes, not including waiting time. Transport from the motel to New Brunswick station would take another 10-15 minutes even if my brother in law picked me up, excluding waiting time.

Late in the day, my sister dragged my brother-in-law shopping for the 6th shopping trip in 11 days (and 10 full days). Luckily, this was after I'd left for New York, so I was spared the torture.

New York city mamak stalls seem to be run by a city-wide cartel of indians, none of whom accept credit cards.

The damn New York subway refuses to provide maps, so I was reduced to squinting at the posters in stations and trains for 3 days.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof." - Ashley Montague

***

I just got a new PC, with the aid of Xephyris and nw.t, my two trusted advisors. Yay.

Unfortunately, due to that and other various things I've atypically been doing over the past week, I will not be able to hit my original target of finishing my travelogue by this weekend. Ah well. The last 3 days - and these are 3 long days indeed - will have to wait.

***

_discussion:

A: The meaning of life is 42

B: Shut the fuck up, you fucking idiot. Quit reading overrated novels that put forth no original ideas. Don't think you're special or intelligent or interesting for being the 16 millionth person to go "OMG TEH MEANING OF LIFE IS 42! LOL THAT'S SO QUIRKY AND FUNNY IT MUST BE TRUE! LOL DOUGLAS ADAMS ROX!" It's a cute book with no substance and you dumbasses need to quit pretending that it's something more than what it is: entertainment.

There is nothing to discuss about the Hitchiker's Guide, because it's a substanceless piece of shit, and that while you may be special and interesting and intelligent, the fact that you and 16 million other people have gone "LOL THE MEANING OF LIFE IS 42!" after reading the book doesn't attest to that.

The book was entertaining, sure, but it's content wasn't profound or important. If it cheers you up that's all good and fine, but there's nothing to discuss other than perhaps it's general message of "whatever, just laugh, don't sweat the big stuff" which is in and of itself pretty naive and useless.

***

Cocaine switched for talcum powder - "Police sniffer dogs in Victoria have lost their ability to trace drugs after a batch of cocaine used to train them was apparently switched for talcum powder. The switch was discovered during routine tests in the past fortnight when the dogs ignored bundles of cocaine, but showed unusual prowess in tracking baby powder."
"I make no apologies that the PAP is the Government and the Government is the PAP."
- Lee Kuan Yew, 1982, Petir (in 'Parties and Politics,' Husin Mutalib)

So we finally have something to point to when asked mockingly by Defenders of the Faith for proof of the conflation of party, state and nation.

***

Yesterday I went to Ma-laysia as part of a Young Republic Expeditionary Force (with nw.t, Kok Heng and Jiekai), for the first time since Secondary School. Well actually I've been to KLIA many times since, but that's not really counted.

Thanks to Jiekai's being more than half an hour late, we got stuck in the peak hour jam across the Causeway, and got to Malaysia only around 1 pm.

Getting off the bus at the Malaysian side, the seedy, unclean odour of Ma-laysia immediately assailed my olfactory senses. Even the sun seemed to shine stronger, probably due to a mix of more diesel fumes, dirtier and poorer-maintained Proton engines, less greenery, narrower streets and more cramped together buildings.

The Malaysian immigration was a great contrast to Singapore. It was hot, poorly ventilated and had poorly defined queues. There was air con but it wasn't working, as only a tepid air flow (not even a breeze) could be felt; the concept of maintenance hadn't seemed to occur to the authorities yet. People were jostling around - Jiekai got scolded by some auntie because he wasn't aggressive enough in moving forward, and she warned that we would never get our passports stamped with his reluctance to press forward. The worst part was that arrival cards were nowhere to be seen, so nw.t had to hunt some down for us. Truly Asia indeed.

Despite the immigration authorities' limited resources, they knew just how to deploy them: on the side of the hall where the queues for Malaysians and those with foreign passports were, the fans were on and there were many wall-mounted supplementary air cons (though I'm not sure if they were working). On the other hand, the fans on the side of the hall with the queues for Singaporeans were either off or not working, the windows were mostly closed and there were no wall-mounted air cons. Fair's fair: on the Singaporean side the Malaysian passport queue seemed to move slower than than the one for foreign passports. But then at least the air con on the Singaporean side was cold, the place was not stuffy and the lines were better defined.

Oddly enough given the decrepit surroundings, Malaysian passport technology was more advanced than Singapore's; Malaysian citizens zipped through immigration with their smart cards. JK postulated, though, that the seeming inefficiency of Singaporean passport technology was a grand plot to prevent slaves going AWOL, a ridiculous suggestion that we (or at least I) rejected out of hand.

After we'd cleared immigration we meandered around looking for our native guide. Our wanderings took us through a modern shopping centre. A presentation/show was going on on the stage when we entered, and besides being overly loud, the reverb on the amplifier had also been turned up way too much (exactly the same as I remember from my trips to Malaysia last century), making it even more annoying than the shows in Singaporean shopping centres. And at the McDonalds there, the picture they had of their Oreo McFlurry made it look like there were dirty brown particles in it, as someone had dumped dirt in.

Once we'd liaised with our native guide, we went for lunch at 'Hock Heng Pandan Beef Ball' (I had pork). The food was indeed very tasty, but almost all of it was due to the excess of oil, salt and MSG. The meat was washed better though, resulting in less of a smell and greater tenderness. And of course the outlet wasn't in a food court, so the food didn't have the commoditised and franchised feel that the food court mentality brings about in both hawkers and customers.

After that we proceeded to another shopping centre, an older one like the sort Singapore had in the 80s, described by jk as 'Bedok New Town indoors'. The place was filled with the faint odor of cigarette smoke recycled endlessly through the ventilation system. Strangely, as with the earlier shopping centre, there were almost no Malays and Indians (even fewer than in Singaporean shopping centres, in fact).

When Kok Heng spotted a McDonalds, I realised he shared my passion for milkshakes, so we and Jiekai got one each. Unfortunately, even McDonalds was not safe from the corrupting influence of Ma-laysia. Perhaps they were running out of milkshake mix or something - our two strawberry and one chocolate milkshake were all adulterated with vanilla. Mine was the worst: 90% of my milkshake was vanilla, and it wasn't even good vanilla, having a limp, miserable flavour and without the rich and creamy base of a Real McDonalds Milkshake. Add insult to injury, I saw 4 McFlurry topping holders, but only 2 were being used (for Oreos and M&M Minis).

The audacity of the pirates was amazing: at least on the ground floor, it seemed that there was one pirated shop for every two normal ones. Furthermore, the really dodgy stuff was hardly concealed. Perhaps the police have stakes in the business, which is why the pirates are so daring.

Not content with delaying us at the start, Jiekai then decided that he wanted to look at clothes and shoes, so we spent more time wandering around. Some of the stuff was amazingly cheap, but you get what you pay for, especially with dodgy Malaysian brands, and this could be felt in the fabric of some shirts we touched.

Before leaving the complex, I made a detour to get some Seremban Siew Pao: at 1 for RM1.10, this was about half the price of the ones sold in Singapore's Chinatown, so I got 10 and ate 1 on the spot.

Making our way back to Malaysian immigration, we were daunted by the mass of vehicles and people, so we reposed at a roadside food outlet, where nw.t and Jiekai dined. Kok Heng and I ordered coconuts, but they were taking forever to come, so we had to have nw.t order them again in Malay, despite the staff's earlier enthusiastic response both to our initial orders and reminders; you need to know Malay to get anything done in this wretched country.

Seeing the jam, we decided to walk across the Causeway. However, we found ourselves in the car queue - on the wrong side of the road from immigration. Not wishing to backtrack all the way and spend another hour in a sauna, and with some quick talking (in Malay, of course) on nw.t's part, we cut in front of a car and had our passports stamped at a booth meant for cars. However, some idiot bumped into me with his hot bumper while we were having our passports stamped, annoying me greatly.

On our way across the Causeway, we were given cause to wonder about one of the great mysteries of the Universe: why is there a footpath for people to walk from Singapore to Malaysia, but none for them to walk in the reverse direction? Due to this oversight, we were forced to jostle among bumper-to-bumper traffic for a while, and then cross the road in the face of a never-ending stream of motorcycles. As a testament to the difficulty of this long march, we found only 3 people walking in our direction, in contrast to the torrent of people walking in the other direction. But at least the Singaporean authorities made it easy for us, with many signs at the side of the footpath directing us to the Bus Arrival Hall. Though it might say something that barbed-wire topped fences only appeared when we reached the Singaporean side of the Causeway.

Observing the Gurkhas on the Singapore side, we noticed that instead of nametags they had numbers. Maybe when you become a Gurkha, you give up your own identity in the pursuit of an ideal and a cause.

***

Pointy-haired boss: Our core values are service, integrity, respect, teamwork, responsibility, trust, diversity, value, honesty, fun, passion, fairness and excellence.

Wally: How should we deal with the inherent conflicts? I mean, what if I want to be irresponsible in a fun and passionate way?

Pointy-haired boss: You have to do all of them.

Wally: I notice that hygiene didn't make the list.


This reminds me of the SAF :)

***

A source: There is an article in today's FT [Ed: 16th June] about Kaisei Academy, a top high school in Japan whose graduates populate Tokyo University. Many of their graduates go on to Japan's corporates, or the civil service. But very few go to
politics. When asked why, the principal of the 134-year old school says this is because Kaisei boys are of "high intelligence".

***

Pig's latest project: Foodie Paradise

From the horse's mouth: "it'll be a blog which revolves around food, where I'll take photos of the food I've recently tried and gived my comments and ratings on it. It's some so-called "mini-project" that I feel like dabbling in this hols."
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