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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Me: my lips were cracking a few days ago
now they're ok but my cheecks hurt (feels rough there)

Someone: dry lah
humidifier is a good investment

Me: humidifier?
like the machines in watsons ah

so how to humidify the air
so I pour water on the ground lah

Someone: it's a machine, you pour water into it and pplug it in and it'll spew out vapour

Me: aiyah
pour onto a tray and leave out lah

Someone: wth

Me: works also

ok poured it out
it's beside the window and radiator haha

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My humidifier


Someone else: your dorm looks quite grim.

Me: After SMM Ulu Pandan, nothing fazes me anymore.

***

Identifont - "Welcome to Identifont®, the unique font identifier that enables you to identify a font from a sample by answering a series of simple questions. It is ideal if you want to match an existing typeface, or identify a typeface you have seen in a publication."

We are all Danes now - "Hindus consider it sacrilegious to eat meat from cows, so when a Danish supermarket ran a sale on beef and veal last fall, Hindus everywhere reacted with outrage. India recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen, and Danish flags were burned in Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi. A Hindu mob in Sri Lanka severely beat two employees of a Danish-owned firm, and demonstrators in Nepal chanted: ''War on Denmark! Death to Denmark!"In many places, shops selling Dansk china or Lego toys were attacked by rioters, and two Danish embassies were firebombed."

Friday, February 10, 2006

I saw a scoop shop where I could get my BJ fix, and at only €2 for a small scoop, making it slightly cheaper than back home. Applying the principle of Purchasing Power Parity, I thus conclude that having a BJ in Singapore is ridiculously expensive. I didn't see my Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch, though. [Someone: okayyyyyyy....when your message first popped up, i thought BJ meant blowjob. and i was like BJ for 2 euros! wow! that;s like cheaper than Ben and Jerrys]


We have among other streets Padualaan, Herculeslaan, Archimedeslaan, Pythagoraslaan, Yalelaan and Cambridgelaan. I'm sure some university bureaucrat came up with those names.

As a map of my University will show, we do not have one campus, but instead one sprawled scross several buildings (all not originally built for University use - for example the Arts Library used to be a palace built for Louis Napoleon) in the town centre, one in the south and one in the south east (in another bus zone). This makes life interesting, but then there is also a curse which goes that way.

One reason why bus fares here might be higher than they otherwise would be is that the super bendy buses (these have 2 extensions - 1 more than the TIBS ones) can be boarded from the back doors (when the bus stops you can press a button on the exterior to open the doors). At least some people must cheat on their fares.

My housing costs me €385 a month. This is much more than what the Dutch students pay (I think the poster at the housing office advertised €180-280, but I can't remember if it included power/water). Anticipating an outcry, they gave us an FAQ to justify the surcharge, citing reasons such as cleaning, paying for when rooms are vacant and such. Of course, the main reason is that they're fleecing us because our demand is very inelastic.

To print (at least at the Economics, Law and Governance computer lab), I first have to transfer credit to the network from my chipknip (smart card), then use another terminal to release my print job. Bloody hell. I bet the only reason why they won't let you pay and release the print job at the same time is they're betting on people graduating with credit left in the network.

One of the reasons why I don't like to go to my apartment's kitchen (apart from the facts that I don't cook [yet] and don't watch TV) is that people smoke in there, so it stinks.

Opening a bank account will cost me €17.50, maintaining it €3 / 3 months and the card €1.50 / 3 months. And I can't use Internet Banking. Gah - it sucks to be from outside the EEA.

I used to wonder why ang mohs liked to wear shoes indoors. After walking barefoot on cold linoleum, I no longer wonder.

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Achter de Dom ('Behind the Dom' [the cathedral]), a street along which one of my lecture venues is located)


Me: and people think they don't speak english here
most people go for US, UK, Australia, NZ

Someone: dun speak eng then speak wat??

Me: err. dutch? hello?

Someone else (on the above): who knows maybe tamil... hahaahah!


Quotes: (You knew it was only a matter of time)

life repairer (repair man - this was a translation of 'life monteur')

I have a more personal, practical announcement. 15 minutes before this seminar, I lost *sticks foot up, revealing a missing heel*... If you think 'why is she nervous?'... It is very uncomfortable.

[On De Uithof] You may have already seen the buildings from the 60s and 70s... When concrete was the building material, when big and dull and functional was good.

[On the disadvantages of adapting houses for university use] I am in the building TRNS. I never bother explaining where my room is, because... people start going 'oh my god'.

The policy here is no smoking in the building. No ashtrays. No secret corners, no cellars or attics.

We're not big on titles... I introduced myself as ***. I even showed you my broken shoe... We stand out smoking with you, we ride on bikes, we get wet in the rain... We don't use titles. We don't say 'Professor' ***. It's very flattering to me, but I get uncomfortable... You don't need to address me 'Dr' or whatever.

[On the library and computer centre closing at 10/1030pm] You're not supposed to study during the night, apparently. Somebody has decided.

[On a course on Dutch present-day society] Who are they? Why do they eat cheese sandwiches for lunch? Why do they take coffee breaks?

You'll see the answers during the tutorial. Even better: you'll get to discuss the answers... the questions are [not the sort with one right answer]... they're kind of philosophical

Writing down the slides is good exercise. Really, you can [just] download them.

[On calculating real GDP per capita from 0 to 2000 AD] If you take chained price indices from the year 2000 to the year 0, it is possible, but it is also very boring. Fortunately, someone else has already done the work for us.

They way this works is that today I give al the statistics and interesting stories to try to convince you that studying this is worthy of your time. I give you all the boring stuff later, all the theory. That's the setup. That's how it always works.

[On an account of Commodore Perry's expedition in Harper's New Monthly Magazine] Here's a picture of a Loo-Choan male... You can imagine all the American housewives going 'ooh' and 'aah' at the savages.

Dr Livingstone... He's mostly famous today because he got lost and they had to send someone to go find him. 'Dr Livingstone, I presume'.

[On "The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else"] This is Robert Lucas, who would later win a Nobel prize for his theory. He's also a great poet, as you can see.

[On technological progress from the OHP to his laptop] 10 years ago I would've come in with a bunch of slides and placed them on this machine, and you would've seen pretty much the same thing.
A Padre in Partibus (notes and impressions of a brief holiday tour through Java, the Eastern Archipelago and Siam) by Rev George M Reith (presb), Reprinted from SFP. Kelly and Walsh, Singapore, 1897:

"...Dutch has... the reputation of being the harshest of modern languages. As spoken in Netherlands-India, it seems to me harsher than any known tongue, with the possible exception of Chinese, and as its unmusical guttural, rasping, hissing, spluttering sounds assailed my ears, I felt that I now knew the reason why Holland alone, of all the nations in Europe, has not produced a musician of the first magnitude. No human ear, I thought, could retain its musical sense after being accustomed to the Dutch language." (pp. 173-4)

"Voltaire used to say that English was only French badly pronounced, and one might say that Dutch is only Scotch badly spelled, with equal truth." (pp. 177)

***

Someone: "superstitious people believe that if u dream someone dies, it means smthg good is gonna happen to that person"

***

First-grader suspended for sexual harassment - "The first-grader was suspended for three days for sexual harassment after he put two fingers inside a classmate's waistband, school officials told his mother, Berthena Dorinvil. The boy told her he only touched the girl's shirt after the girl touched him."

Funeral Protests: Implementing time, place restrictions necessary - "Constitutionally and historically, U.S. law has protected all speech, no matter how irrational, disrespectful or controversial it is... a fundamentalist Kansas church whose members have made a name for themselves protesting the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers and gays since the 1990s. Politicians are especially paying attention now because the group -- which holds signs proclaiming "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "America is Doomed" -- is showing up at the funerals of soldiers killed in action in Iraq."

Absolute Idiocy, or The Benefits of the Singaporean Education System - "Today I accompanied my brother to collect his O-level results. At the foyer of his alma mater, Bowen Secondary School, a crowd was gathered... the crowd consisted of students who had been prevented from entering school premises, for unsalubrious reasons such as 'inappropriate dress (e.g. spaghetti straps and short skirts)', having 'dyed or punkish hair', or (get behind me Satan!) wearing slippers... Imagine the prospect of, after almost three months, returning to your old school, wanting to enjoy a small chat with your teacher, celebrate the achievements of the school with your classmates, mourn your losses - only to be stopped rudely at the foyer and be denied entry. Imagine now that 60 or 70 of your peers are also denied entry: in a class of 400, that's about 15%."

The OED on "marketing"

OED on marketing, n.:

1. a. The action of buying or selling, esp. in a market; an instance of this. Now also (U.S.): shopping, esp. for groceries. Also fig. or in figurative context.

1561 T. NORTON tr. J. Calvin Instit. IV. xviii. f. 147v, How filthy markettinges they vse, how vnhonest gaines they make wt their massinges.

1636 P. HEYLYN Hist. Sabbath I. v. 108 All other marketting was unlawfull on the Sabbath dayes.

1674 in J. F. Marsh Papers Affairs Milton & his Family (1851) App. 43 All his said children did combine together and counsel his maid servant to cheat him the deceased in her markettings.

1833 E. BULWER-LYTTON Eng. & English (ed. 2) I. 124 A notorious characteristic of English society is the universal marketing of our unmarried women.

1885 M. COLLINS Prettiest Woman in Warsaw ix, He did certain necessary marketings, and returned for her.

1914 J. JOYCE Dubliners 44 Then she had to rush out as quickly as she could and do her marketing, holding her black leather purse tightly in her hand.

1943 H. KURATH et al. Linguistic Atlas New Eng. III. Map 554 Marketing differs from the other terms [sc. shopping, purchasing] in that it usually refers specifically to the purchasing of food.

1972 Straits Times 26 Sept. 15/3 Her husband never gave her household expenses and she had to use her earnings as a clothes-vendor for marketing.


Avast!

They must be wrong or sloppy in not providing the word in its correct contexts, which doubtless would indicate that the original quotes were referring to marketing as a business strategy!!!

All educated people know that the only way the word "marketing" could have been used was to refer to the current business practice! The other possibility must be precluded!


"I was fully convinced (the sense of reality, in spite of all my romanticism!) that they would all simply split their sides with laughter" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground (1864)


""Medora is incorrigibly romantic. It has made up to her for so many things!"

Archer hesitated again, and again took his risk. "Is your aunt's romanticism always consistent with accuracy?"

"You mean: does she speak the truth?" Her niece considered. "Well, I'll tell you: in almost everything she says, there's something true and something untrue. But why do you ask? What has she been telling you?"" - Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)


"He shook his head sadly. "I glanced over it," said he. "Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid."" - Arthur Conan Doyle, Sign of the Four (1890)

"Von Sternberg was the Moltke of this War in the Air, but it was the curious hard romanticism of Prince Karl Albert that won over the hesitating Emperor to the scheme." - H.G. Wells, The War in the Air (1908)

(Readers who do not have a tutorial on Economic Growth to do are invited to give their opinions on whether "romanticism" in the above contexts refer to, and only refer to, Romanticism as an artistic and intellectual movement.)


Distinguished panel of arbitration:

A: romantic got very different meanings in the past and now

i think words have evolved since the olden times yes..
romanticism can refer to being romantic.. but not in the flowers and chocolate sense as we understand it today

it's not just an artistic or intellectual movement
it's a way of looking at life
a lens to view the world in
romantic as we understand it now is very different

it's just arguing both ends of an evolution of a word from A to B without realizing it can be both lah.

B: i don't think here it refers to the intellectual/artistic movement
here it refers to the quality of something being 'romantic' in the sense of lyrical, adventurous, almost epic

sort of as in 'the romance of the life of an itinerant knight'
i think all 4 quotes refer to the meaning i have

it's part of the movement, but the aspect of romanticism isn't limited to the Romantic movement or period
homer, for example, is bloody romantic in that sense

C: if he won't believe the OED
why would i be any help?

now why would anyone need the second definition if Romanticism were the only meaning?

the Merriam-Webster dictionary specifically makes a distinction for the capital-R romantic
and then has a definition that doesn't refer to caps

D: when was the term romanticism coined? maybe that will help answer yr question

when the movement originated and when ppl started calling it romanticism are often different
often ppl don't refer to an intellectual/artistic movement by its current name until it is over, or close to being over

[Addendum: It turns out that "romance" was actually used in the modern sense by Pepys as far back as 1666.]
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Microsoft Exchange is so smart.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

4 years.
"I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." - Jerome K. Jerome

***

My No 1 fan is truly dedicated!

***

Me giving the same response to various candidates in the Tomorrow.sg moderation queue: Self-indulgent emotional masturbation in a vacuum.

Daryl: Wait, Gabe, are we still talking about the posts or is that what you're doing while you're typing?]

Someone: as a famous commenter once said: fwap fwap fwap fwap fwap!


Someone: Christianity's reality to me is in the way it has changed my life so profoundly, given my friends who came from the most abusive of homes a new lease of life and the power to forgive, and freed people from the ways of the world, and from themselves. This to me is the best way of judging a bdoctrine/practice. (Which explains why I don't really bother with apologetics anymore because I believe that Christianity is not an intellectual enterprise but a life changing reality)

Me: Yoga can change your life too. Or indeed insulin, or valium.

***

Help for World Travelers - "Planning an international trip? Welcome to one of the Web's most comprehensive listings of worldwide electrical and telephone information."

Centaurs appeared after copulation between humans and animals - "They have had the first in history detailed study of the strange drawings. The study covered about 5,000 rock paintings of our ancestors; the researchers systematized the frequency and the types of depicted teriantrops and determined their ages. They arrived at a conclusion that animal men actually existed in the remote past. They believe that primitives could hardly draw what they never saw. "
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Yet another rant on studying Chinese in Singapore - "There are people I know who got an A for the subject and can barely speak the language... the Chinese system is structured such that memorization is essential for doing well in the exams. When PRC scholars complain that they have to resort to memorizing those vocabulary handbooks in order to do well in the exams, you know something is very wrong... And the material covered in class is bloody boring! Those passages in those crappy textbooks we use basically cover two topics: "Be a good student, this is how you should follow our Chinese traditions, don't question the teacher, don't disobey authority, you'll fare better being a sheep, maaaaaa..." and traditional stories, ancient folklore, watered down versions of the literature, etc. Now, the second is somewhat interesting, if not for the moralizing that goes behind almost every one of the stories."

WorkPace - "WorkPace® is a breaks and exercise software tool proven to help prevent, and aid recovery from, Repetitive Strain Injury (also known as RSI, OOS and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)."
My university actually licenses this to us for free download.

PistolWimp - Toei Japanese Spideman - OMG. I'd heard of but never seen this.
I did a cost-benefit analysis for the monthly bus pass (maandabonnement). A 15 strip strippenkarten (the thing that has the strips on them) costs €6.70 (the 45 strip one is €19.50), and the monthly bus pass for travelling through 2 zones costs €59.55. If I got the monthly 2-zone bus pass (I toyed with the 1-zone pass since it costs only €35.10, but after the experience in the previous post, having developed a small blister on a toe and my heel starting to hurt, I decided it was too far to walk on a regular basis), I would need to use 4.4 strips a day to equal my opportunity cost. On a weekly basis, this would boil down to 33 strips a week, or 5.5 trips in or out of De Uithof. So in the end I bought it (I'll be happy rather than indifferent even if I only break even, since I save on transaction costs). Veblen would be proud.

I spent €93 on 2 textbooks. That's roughly equal to what I would pay in Singapore - only in Euros. Since the term is so short here (I'm here for 2 terms, one of which ends early April) I figured waiting for the books to come would take too long, so I'll just order the cheaper versions for next term. Anyhow I bought them from the students' society, so they were slightly cheaper than if I'd bought them off the shelf.


There are no seats in Hoog Catharijne, the big shopping centre next to the train station, so I've to walk all the way to the station to sit down. I am pissed off, naturally. Maybe this is for the same reason why a certain someone's friend speculates they play elevator music at night - to deter the homeless people from sleeping there (they have to leave it open at night because it's a thoroughfare to the city centre from the station), though come to think of it, I haven't seen homeless people yet, probably because I'm not often out after dark.

I don't understand how people of both genders can stand wearing a sweater or pullover indoors, in a room where the heating is on overdrive. Even if they're not as sensitive to heat as me, surely they feel hot inside? Maybe they're too lazy to remove their winter wear, or fear that removing their sweaters will ruffle their hair or the clothes underneath (if they're not already rumpled - another reason to conceal them) or cause the latter to ride up. My favourite theory, though, is that they're concealing what they wear underneath so they can wear the same top for days on end. [Someone: maybe they are from nus @science faculty] I really should get something to wear under my coat that needs to be zipped up (and thus is easy to remove and put on), but winter is ending, and I rather freeze than bake, so.

Air-conditioning still seems essentially unknown in Europe. If there's a repeat of the 2003 heat wave I'm seriously considering flying back earlier.

I see a lot of masochistic people eating ice cream. Maybe they're like the Russian ice hole swimmers. Or it's the "tuina/massage principle" - you get whacked so hard, you forget the original pain and then think you're cured.

I don't know why most Singaporeans are so beholden to Singaporean food.

Some Dutch have American accents. I blame it on the media - they watch films and TV shows in their original language with Dutch subtitles. I also blame this for their level of English proficiency (too bad the same didn't happen with me and Chinese).

At least at one school location, photocopying costs €0.05 a page and printing on the laser printer €0.03 a page. The world is going crazy. Maybe I should find a scanner and scan in stuff I want to zap, then print it.


"What you need to do if RSI interferes with your study progress?

It is important that you first and foremost contact your general practitioner... what measures can be taken. Examples can be:

- Better spacing of exams
- Oral exams in place of written ones
- Alternatives for papers and the like"

Wah. I wonder whether NUS will accept this (the above is subject to approval by a board, though, of course).


Booklet on getting a job:

"Chapter3 What happens when you have worked?

Of course you are going to get paid, 'cause that's the main reason you will be working"

Gah.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Malaysia: Truly Asia - Quelle horreur !

Following up on a past search referral, I tried to search for the "Malaysia: Truly Asia" MP3. What I found was more horrific than anything I'd imagined.

I'd heard the short 5 second "Malaysia: Truly Asia" jingle before, but on that site they had 3 versions of the "Malaysia: Truly Asia" song, each 5 minutes long and ending in the familiar jingle (2 of which I have extracted. The third might've been instrumental - I forget). 5 seconds, as in the ads, is still tolerable, even if it has overenthusiastic crooning which sounds like bathroom singing, but 5 minutes is intolerable.

Malaysia - Truly Asia (Version 1 - female soloist and ensemble) (YouSendIt), (MegaUpload)
Malaysia - Truly Asia (Version 2 - ensemble) (YouSendIt, MegaUpload)


Addendum: Here is a video which someone uploaded to YouTube


(indignant Malaysians would do well to listen to the song before dissing my very faithful transcription)


MALAYSIA TRULY ASIA
-------------------

You'll love Malaysia now and forever
Different races everywhere
The soul of Asia is surely here
This beautiful Malaysia

You'll love thecolours of Malaysia
Where the sun loves to shine
On sandy bitches and clear waters
With smiles of friendly races

(chorus)
Diss land so beautiful
It stills your heart away
Diss land is paradise
Only a smile away

The soul of Asia
The essence of Asia
In thisland where dreams come true
Malaysia

Malaysia is truly Asia
People smiling everywhere
Showing you how much they care
Welcome to Malaysia

(repeat chorus and last verse twice)

The soul of Asia
The essence of Asia
It's truly Asia
Malaysia truly Asia
... Malaysia


The lyrics speak for themselves. Nonetheless, I have to comment.

The music is horribly synthesised, the singing so full of enthusiasm and soul it hurts, the pronunciation is bad and it is such a hard sell that it hits you with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The most tragic bit is that it's not bad enough to be good (a la William Hung), but just mediocre.

My brother in law points out that this is the sort of phase Singapore went through in the 70s.
Sunday:

Wandering around some more, I came across an Indonesia food place which had an interesting sign.

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Babby Snacks - Halal (Babi = Pig in Bahasa Indonesia)

Piqued by the juxtaposition, I went in to have a look and the owners started chatting to me. The woman had studied for an English degree in Singapore for 3 years a decade and a half ago.

I was feeling a bit melancholic, and the sleepy Sunday didn't help, but I hooked up with 5 other guys (4 Americans, 1 Australian) at the hostel and we went to buy pasta to cook for dinner. The difference in price (compared to what we would have to pay at a restaurant) was amazing - €16.05 for 2 zucchinis, a box of cherry tomatoes, tagliatelli, carbonara sauce, a length of ciabatta and bacon pieces, compared to maybe 5 times that at a cafe I saw earlier.

Monday:

When I awoke I found that the breakfast - a tomato and cheese bun which I'd bought from a supermarket for €1.50 - was gone. I was quite pissed off because the reason why I'd bought it was that I refused to pay €5.00 for a vegan breakfast at Strowis (I suspect it wasn't vegan really since I saw slices of cheese, and soya cheese would probably make the breakfast cost even more. There were also one or two eggs lying around, but they weren't for sale and I think they were for decorative purposes). In the end I had a chocolate croissant from a bakery in a supermarket.

After moving into my room and getting a huge load of my shoulders (lit), and being briefed by the exchange co-ordinators, the melancholy faded. Having a grilled bacon and cheese sandwich in my hand (albeit a €2.95 one) no doubt helped too. I also got a proper adaptor for my plugs from ANWB - I should ask my parents to bring over the battery charger that works in Europe; I don't know what I was thinking bringing the 3 pin GP one (albeit more advanced than the other one) over. They should just have standardised power plug shapes throughout the world, gah.

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My Cambridgelaan housing by day

At night, I met up with someone who a certain someone had kindly called down to meet me, and he was quite helpful. While waiting for him, I got the chance to use what must be the most expensive public toilet in the world at €0.50 a pop (I hope I'm not proved wrong).

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The most expensive public toilet in the world. I'd rather not pay for the tree.

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My Cambridgelaan housing by night


More than one person asked me if I would still be blogging in Utrecht. What a silly question!

I wonder how some women clean the furry boots that they wear.

I'm not taking very many photos since this place isn't very photogenic - parts of it look like what I'd imagine Eastern Germany was like a decade and a half ago (see, for example, the pictures of my housing complex).

Some computers for student use use linux. Wah.


Over here the bus fares go by zones rather than distance. You pay a basic fare of 1 strips plus the number of zones you'll be travelling through, so the minimum number of strips you use is 2. De Uithof, where I live, and where the bulk of the University is (though not most of my classes) is a zone away from the town centre, so I need 3 strips to travel in and out. I tried to walk into another zone to save on bus fare but miscalculated. Twice; the information at the bus stop was wrong, and consulting the brochure later I found that they'd seemed to have adjusted the zone boundaries.

The bus system here is finely calibrated - they have arrival times for the whole day listed on information panels in the bus stops and on the information brochures, and the intra-city buses at least arrive either on time or within 1-2 minutes of the stated time. Some of the bigger bus stops have LCD panels displaying when the next 3 buses are due to arrive. Each bus stop also has a clearly marked and distinctive name, so getting around is made easier (though to be fair, they have fewer bus stops per length of road than in Singapore; the law of averages also helps with calibrating arrival times due to the fewer number of stops). I would think the trains are similarly efficient, but I've only travelled on them once, from Schiphol to Utrecht.


Dutch students are such slackers - most take 2 courses a period. For the 2 courses that I have the information for, there's 3 1/2 hours of contact time a week per module. Compared to the 5 courses a semester in NUS, with 15 hours of contact time a week (assuming 5 modules and excluding labs and practicals), that's really slack. I wonder what they spend the rest of their time doing (of course, more preparatory work - on paper)

"Please keep in mind that full time study is 2 courses per period. It is not recommended to do three courses because of time slots and work load, but if you think you manage, then it is fine."

Uhh.


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Damn shameless
WSJ.com - Swiss Fight Against Tax Cheats Aids Singapore's Banking Quest (Link valid for about 6 more days)

"For decades, the ultrarich looking for discreet banking services gravitated to Switzerland, where account secrecy was sacrosanct. But when Swiss authorities acceded to pressure from the European Union to discourage tax evasion, the door opened for a new challenger to woo the world's wealthy: Singapore.

The tiny Asian nation has beefed up account secrecy protections, has changed trust laws and has begun allowing foreigners who meet minimum wealth requirements to purchase land and become residents.

Now private-banking money is flooding in from at least three sources: Asians who have grown rich from the booming Asia-Pacific economy, foreigners seeking to invest and do business in Asia, and Europeans moving money from Switzerland for tax purposes. Swiss banks are expanding in Singapore to get in on the action...

"Singapore is one way of getting around the withholding tax," said Raymond J. Baer, chairman of Zurich private bank Julius Baer Holding Ltd., in a September interview following the announced purchase of Banco di Lugano, a small Swiss bank with private-banking operations in Singapore. Last week, Mr. Baer said that being in multiple jurisdictions enables the bank to serve an international clientele, and that the Singapore office was a platform for growth in Asia. "Singapore also offers a tax-friendly environment," he noted.

A spokeswoman for the Monetary Authority says Singapore "does not seek to attract tax evaders.""


I wonder why this isn't in the Business Times.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sunday:

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Anti-pigeon devices: Utrecht Central Station

On Sunday after arriving in Utrecht I was exploring the streets and saw this small building with escalators running. I thought to pop in to hide from the wind and warm up, but the doors were locked. Gah. What a waste of electricity. I then looked for some vlaamse frites to warm me up, but all the frites shops (actually, probably most of the shops, period) I saw were closed! It was only when I neared the Central Station that I got my frites fix.

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Frites mascot

The cathedral in Utrecht, the Domkerk, and its tower dominates the city centre. It's the reason why there're height restrictions on buildings in the city centre (one reason why the area is less bustling than it would be). The area connecting the tower and the choir were destroyed in a hurricane, so the tower is oddly discontinuous from the rest of the building.

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Domkerk Tower from Cloisters

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Domkerk Cloisters

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Domkerk exterior

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Ooh, public nudity. Since the inscription below read "1940-45" I assume it's dedicated to those who died during the Resistance.

I tried following a walking tour as laid out in a brochure from Hostel Strowis, where I stayed the first night. Due to the lousy directions, though, I couldn't get past the very start of the trail, and hor lan-ed. Eventually, I wandered so far that purely by accident, I found one more part of the trail, which brought me to the remnants of the old city walls. However, I was unable to follow the trail any further due to the poor instructions.

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Last remnants of the 13th-14th Century city wall.


No Dutch public toilets are free. Gah.

Despite my disdain of jeans in Singapore, they would come in very useful now: not only for the usual reasons, but for the very one why I don't wear them in Singapore - warmth.

If a certain someone could last a year and a half in Cambridge being unable to cycle, I should survive for half a year here lacking the same skill! Though one good reason to cycle would be that my feet wouldn't hurt as they would from walking.

I find that since entering Slavery, I had been inured to feeling greatly thrilled, but once in the run-up to this trip and once or twice since I arrived I've been gradually resensitising myself.

Although one might have privacy concerns at home, when one is alone in a foreign land, seeing that CCTV cameras are present is a comforting sight.

Although next to everyone in the Netherlands speaks English fairly well (and probably everyone I've interacted with, though I'm not sure if some who grunted at me in Dutch understood me), having all the signs around you in Dutch, having people greet you in Dutch by default and hearing everyone around you talk in Dutch is unnerving. It's probably slightly better in Amsterdam (in shop opening hours - see below - as well), but doubtless more expensive.

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Utrecht Canal

After hearing horror stories from a certain someone, I was expecting the shops to be open ridiculously short times (by Singaporean standards) but the opening hours from Monday to Saturday are decent (some shops are closed Monday morning, but who wants to wake up early on a Monday anyway?) It's the Sundays that are annoying - even on the day I arrived, the first Sunday of the month, which was supposed to be Market Sunday, many shops weren't open. It's going to be a ghost town on the other Sundays in the month. I can guess at some of what people spend their Sundays doing, but I'm sure they'd like more flexibility and choice.

I haven't seen any people eating or places selling herring yet - maybe it's an Amsterdam thing.

Travelling in Europe must have been a real pain before the Euro. And travel much more bothersome before handphones and the net.
Flight to Amsterdam

For some reason there was a lot of traffic around the airport on Saturday. Maybe it was an influx of Chingay refugees, prevented from trawling Orchard Road due to the procession.

While waiting for boarding for my shuttle to KL to commence, I saw this stupid girl using the Internet in the waiting area to look at Friendster. Gah.

Sign of the times: announcements at KLIA are now made first in Malay, then in English, and finally in Mandarin. I also saw more PRCs around than in the last few times I've transited there.

I tried the free Internet at KLIA but it was hideously bad - not only was it slower than dialup, Content Advisor kept popping up when I tried to login to Hotmail, so I gave up in the end.

Despite my quip about their motto, MAS hadn't yet disappointed me. Yet, when we boarded the plane to Amsterdam, it was extremely hot, as if the air conditioning had just been turned on. A good 20 minutes or so later (Schiphol had asked us to take off later), we were still stewing in the heat. Then, someone in the cockpit started playing with the lights and power, turning them off three times (which means the air conditioning was shut down as well), and at one point we were sitting in a dark, unventilated plane for 2 whole minutes. I think they were trying to fix the air conditioning, but the least they could've done was to tell us what they were doing.

MAS served us "Morjus", which they had the cheek to bill as being "Premium Orange Juice", "made with concentrated orange juice and sugar". For me, nothing less than Florida's Natural or Tropicana (or some such) warrant the label of "premium", though in comparison to the watered-down Kordial-identical grog airlines usually serve to Economy class passengers as Orange Juice it certainly shines in comparison.
Some backlog from last week:


Some SAF officer in uniform and in a SAF car made a vaguely rude gesture at me. Ooh.

"Holland Village Homemade Soya Bean", #01-13 at the renovated food centre in Holland Village is scummy. Their pictorial menu indicates a price of 60 cents for Soya Bean and Grass Jelly (Chin Chow), but when you order a cup, they charge you 80 cents. The rationale given to me, on questioning, is that 60 cents is the price for the small cup, but they have given me the bigger cup. That would be fair enough (if still faintly unethical) if the price for the bigger cup were displayed on the menu, but it isn't. This is worse than Long John Silver's "Regular or Large?" false dichotomy (the prices on the menu for their value meals are for Small drinks, and to them a "Regular" is medium).

I saw a "grafitti wall" at Popular Bras Basah, but on closer examination it was just a wall which students from NAFA had decorated. Bah. This is like our "bartop dancing".

I saw a sugarcane stall at Tangs Basement which proudly declared: "No sugar added". !@#$%^&*(). Though on the up side $1.20 was cheap for a cup of it.

There was a guy playing an out-of-tune and off-rhythm (more than is usual for solo performances on the instrument) rendition of Limbo Rock on the harmonica. In the words of my sister (referring to the famous accordian-man in the underpass): "I'd pay him to stop".
"Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else's can shorten it." - Cullen Hightower

***

"The point here is of course, is that a system of censorship, manufactures its own consent. If you are told every day right through school that you are a conservative, immature and volatile populace, you might be inclined to believe it. This makes the practice of surveys to ascertain the views of Singapore “heartlanders” on censorship an almost self-fulfilling act"

***

My parents were saying Amsterdam is very notorious in Europe, so I should be careful. I told them "notorious" doesn't mean "dangerous".

In fact, Singapore is itself notorious in the developed world as a place where you will get caned for chewing gum.

***

The Associate on visiting Vietnam:

"Am in a temple outside ho chi minh city which worships a beholder and whose prophet claims victor hugo and sun yat sen as his first disciples"

"Am on an island where they worship coconuts i must say its an improvement over christ"

***

Someone: what do you think about valentine's day?

does it mean anything?
is it as special as it is made out to be?

Me: http://gssq.blogspot.com/2005/02/valentines-day-special-one-of-two.html

Someone: lol
interesting :)

yes, your analysis is quite accurate
insecurity

i mean, if the only day in the year that i get flowers from my BF/GF is valentine's... time to rethink the relationship
romanticism should be there all the time
not just on Feb 14

Me: nono
why do you need flowers in the first place :)

Someone: it is a metaphor, dear
small acts like that matter

Me: uhh
... women

Someone: i guess that's the difference btwn men and women
men tend to see the big things that women do for them not the small things
we notice if our partner makes the bed in the morning without being asked

Me: and women see the small things
not the big things
hehe

it's clear which is a fairer approach!

Someone: lol
well if everyone was the same...it would be rather boring, wouldnt it?

Me: there's a curse which goes: "may you lead an interesting life"

***

Puppies used as drug mules - "First there were drug mules. Now there are drug puppies. Police have arrested a Colombian gang that planned to smuggle heroin worth millions of dollars into the United States in labrador puppies."

Fear dominates Western culture in the face of militant Islam - "Which leads me to question the extreme tenderness with which so many governments and media outlets in the West treat these outbursts of outrage. It is assumed that Muslims have a common, almost always bristling, view about their faith, which must be respected. Of course it is right that people's deeply held beliefs should be treated courteously, but it is a great mistake - made out of ignorance - to assume that those who shout the loudest are the most representative."
Having been unavailable recently, I'll just post this as it brings up something new.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dear Praying Friend,

Whether he’s signing new legislation, meeting with the family of a fallen soldier or protecting our nation from terrorism, our President and Commander in Chief, George W. Bush, says your prayers sustain and guide him through the complex decisions he faces daily.

That’s why we’re inviting you to unite with millions of other believers for a special day of focused prayer during our third annual President’s Day Online Prayer Rally on Monday, February 20. Thanks to participant input and comments, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the new and improved features to help you pray for President Bush, other national leaders, our nation and our Armed forces.

The impact of your prayers, combined with those of thousands of others, will be substantial! Click here to choose a timeslot during which you’ll pray on Monday, February 20. Click here to view our inspirational video, “Ordinary People Making a Difference.”

Sincerely,

John Lind
President/CEO

P.S. Please remember to pray for our President this coming President's Day, Monday, February 20, in our President's Day Online Prayer Rally. Click here to invite your friends and family to participate in prayer as well by sending them an inspirational video along with your invitation.


!@#$%^&*()
I hate the millions of standards for power plugs - neither of the 2 power adaptors I brought worked out of the box. Even better, the laptop power plug couldn't fit into either adaptor (damn, should've checked that before I left).

Macgyver I ain't, but luckily, with the aid of 2 rubber bands, a dose of ingenuity and dollops of necessity, I managed to jury rig something with 2 rubber bands - thank god I didn't leave one seemingly useless peripheral behind.

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As of this post, I will be using Dutch time for my posts - 7 hours behind Singapore (GMT +1 - Dutch time). I tried changing the timezone of the whole blog but that affects my old posts.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

It's cold and drizzling where I am. I didn't know I'd landed in London.

The first Sunday of the month is supposedly market day, so there'll be stuff to see/do today.
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