"The happiest place on earth"

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Conservatives are seriously deluded

Obediance to Authority - "Milgram's classic experiment pitted the subject's moral beliefs against the demands of authority... Around this time (early 1960's) research was being conducted into the authoritarian traits of Germans in an attempt to explain how the attrocities of World War II could have taken place. Milgram's study demonstrated that these traits were not confined to Germans and were not confined to certain types of situations (eg war). This was a profound and extremely thought provoking discovery."
This reminds me of how slave foremen in NS have meta-preferences imposed on them, regardless of their pre-existing moral beliefs.

ANTI-CAPITALISM: Modern Theory and Historical Origins - "The ancient Spartans were anti-capitalists. They banned all forms of money, precious metals, and gemstones. Overnight, crime disappeared. The quality of life and all things in Sparta became the highest in all of Greece. Instead of focusing on the accumulation of wealth the people developed other ideals for living. Health, athletics, dance, music, social activities, artisanship, and of course, dominating other countries... Since no-one in Sparta worked like the devil to sell shoddy, decadent consumer goods for quick cash, they found themselves awash in free time. They spent many hours a day participating in athletics, watching ahtletics, playing music and dancing. Teens were allowed one hour of privacy each evening with their lovers. So abundant was the free time of the Spartans that they were virtually all musicians, with free communally owned instruments. Decadence and extravagance were eliminated as ideals while health and happiness became paramount. Without the icon of profit driving society today we'd approach the same ideal."
As can be told from the extract, the author is seriously deluded. He's evidently forgotten about the Helots, who let the Spartans focus on WAR (not culture), and the Spartans were dour people. Happiness was hardly paramount, and health was important only to drive the war machine. Basic economics and a knowledge of the human flaws which make his alternative economic system untenable evidently are too much for him to comprehend.

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms that have been tried."

The corollary: "Capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the other systems that have been tried."

Cold Turkey -- In These Times - Entertaining ramblings by Kurt Vonnegut about nothing in particular

Shoujo Attack - "Your job: guide little "shoujo" ("girls" in Japanese) from the entrance to the exit in each level... instead of digger lemmings, here you use Demon shoujos to blast holes beneath her... Another funny touch is that instead of bomb (which splatters all the lemmings in Psygnosis' game), you have tentacles as a way to give up ;) "

(click on thumbnail)

Is there a resemblance? The critics reply!

Critic #1:

Critic 1: not...relaly...
if u count that teddy bears all look similar, then yes

but if u look close enough, no

arms - two are up, one's down
face - two are wider, one's slimmer
colour - two have white/grey paws, the last has pink

and honestly, the first two look chinese, the last looks like he got his nose pulled
first two have mouth, last doesn

Me: how can a bear look chinese?

Critic 1: flat face
slit eyes

Critic 2:


astute powers of observations, I do not possess

Critic 3:

Critic 3: no
there's no mouth the colour of the eyes and nose is wrong
and the hand pads are the wrong colour

well i guess the shape is there and so's the colour
of the fur
but that's about all it has going for it
i't's a generic teddy

all of them

Me: what's a non-generic teddy?

Critic 3: one with specs.
or a hat.
or something
or maybe psychedelically coloured
like those ty tiie-dye ones

Me: the radioactive ones?

Critic 3: mm

The verdict is in. The critics are unanimous!
Exercise Minotaur - A Journal (Part 3/3)

General Comments

It occurs to me that it seems almost all statues of Greek males have been castrated. Maybe they're the Greek equivalent of the Chinese Tigers' Penises.

All Greek restaurants have cover charges. It's irritating, but beats higher prices built into the menu, I guess. The menu prices also include taxes, which makes bill calculation and payment much simpler.

Our guide was good. She made only a few minor errors (fewer than those I'd have made), and my own memory was rusty, so I didn't correct her. It seems that only "specially licensed guides" are allowed to guide in the archaeological sites. Stinks of a cartel to me.

All around Greece, there were French/German youths going around in beach wear. Wth.

Olympic merchandise has saturated Greece. Everywhere you go, no matter which street you walk down, you will see a shop selling merchandise with the deformed Olympic mascot's image emlazoned on it. Worse still - you can get gigantic dolls of him/her/it to use to perform unspeakable acts. Olympic merchandise aside, it seems that there is a factory in Greece which churns out tourist souvenirs, and ships it to every corner of Greece. At least the Saronic Gulf islands were mostly spared.

It seems the Orthodox icon makers are more fond than Catholic icon makers of using gold and silver in their icons. With the amount of precious metals embossed on some of the icons, it's a wonder they can last a year without collapsing under their weight - let alone a century.

They pump classical music into the Athens metro. Beats the irritating announcements we have here.

McDonalds in Greece is hardcore - they have beer.

Day 6 - May 6th - Olympia-Mycenae-Corinth-Athens

Thursday morning saw us trooping down to Olympia's museum the first thing in the morning, both to avoid the later hordes and to get an early start on our drive to Mycenae. The museum was pleasant, with such gems as the sculpture of Zeus abducting Ganymede, the helmet Miltiades dedicated after Marathon, the Hermes of Praxiteles and the sculpture from the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus (the Battle between Lapiths and Centaurs).

For lunch, we stopped at the Kolizeras Restaurant, where I had schnitzel. Not too bad, but Paulaner Brauhaus does better. Anyway what was interesting about the restaurant was that it had been visited by many Republicans from the USA, among them Jesse Holms and Trent Lott. There was also a picture of someone (presumably the restaurant's owner) with Dan Quayle, and of George HW Bush with a flag behind him (what that meant, I do not know. I, for one, could frame up a photograph of Che Guevara and put it in my restaurant too). Also framed up was an invitation from the Republican National Committee to join the "Five Hundred Club" (whatever that is). Perhaps the owner raises lots of funds for Dubya. (Aside: It seems there is a picture of Bill Clinton in Tom Mazarakis Flokati shop in Athens.)

At Mycenae, we first visited the museum, where we saw replicas of items from Mycenae that have since been spirited away to the National Archaeological Museum, including the Mask of Agamemnon. At the site itself, we were walked past the Lion's Gate and also saw Grave Circle A, the sole Circle excavated by Schliemann. After that, we left, which incensed me, for I was looking forward to explore the site of Mycenae, or at least climbing to the remains of the Palace.

We were then bused to a large shop with an extensive collection of souvenirs - more than could be found elsewhere. I mention this only because we saw a humongous dalmation there, I think the largest dog I saw in Greece. It was so big that standing, it reached the waist level of a Chinese woman. Later, we had a brief look at the Corinth Canal and then returned to Athens.

In Athens we were introduced to Hotel Balasca. Since, in its name, the word "Hotel" came first, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be a sucky hotel. Indeed it wasn't, and it was located in a slum. Normally that wouldn't warrant comment (not even its lack of toilets outside the guest rooms), but for one thing - the system to enable power to the rooms. Now, as we all know, some hotels, in order to save power lost when inconsiderate guests do not turn off the power before leaving their rooms, have a slot by the door to put your key into when you are in the room to start the power supply. In Hotel Balasca, not only was there no courteous delay between the removing of the key and the cutting of the power (in case you accidentally take it out or something), but my usual trick of folding a card to insert into the slot to keep the power flowing (I was charging batteries) did not work! The gross incongruity of the lousiness of the hotel and the high tech power-cut system was most infuriating and insulting.

For dinner, my father and I walked to Omonia square, and had dinner at a nice cafe - Neon. I had a generous serving of pork gyros, which was full-flavoured. When I asked them to pack the leftovers, they cheerfully did so in a nice container, and otherwise the service was also good. My father wanted to leave a tip of <10%, but I protested and in the end we left a combined tip of >20%. On our way back, I saw a cute white dog in a car and took a picture of him, but he barked at me just before I pressed the button on the camera, so the picture came out blurry.

Day 7 - May 7th - Poros-Hydra-Aegina

On our last full day in Greece, 9 of our 13 went for a short cruise to 3 islands in the Saronic Gulf - Poros, Hydra and Aegina (in the order we visited them). The ship was well-furnished, but the atmosphere was very campy - there was guys playing muzak, and one idiot dressed as an FBI agent brandishing a wanted poster (where the villian looked like a moron). They also had some activities during the cruise, one being lessons in Greek dancing, so we were treated to the spectacle of old Korean women strutting their stuff on the small stage of the ship.

As we set out to sea, I went up on deck, not only to counter my slight sea-sickness, but also to look at the view and feel the sea spray on my skin. I happened to wander outside the bridge, and the captain invited me and some others in to have a look and use their binoculars.

Hydra is famous for donkeys, and while I was there I got to ride on one. An interesting experience, but not particularly exciting. The donkey keeper led the donkeys down alleyways, and there were metal bars and poles sticking out of the houses near my head level, so I had to duck every now and then.

At one point, we saw dolphins leaping into the air near the ship! This was especially exciting, because I don't think I've seen them before. Furthermore, I didn't know they lived in Greek waters, though the tales of Apollo and the Dolphins should have tipped me off. Sadly, by the time I got my camera out there were quite far away and indistinct.

At Aegina's Temple of Aphaia, my father commented that after a while, all the sanctuaries were the same. My sister commented the same about castles during last years road trip, asking if I wasn't "Castled out". I seem to be more immune than most, apparently!

On the way back from Aegina to Athens, I asked the captain where the isle of Salamis was. He not only told me where it was and pointed it out to me, but even brought me to a compartment at the back of his cabin to point the isle out on a navigational map. What a nice chap :)

Seagulls followed the ship at various points during the cruise, but after Aegina, there must have been at least 50 trailing in the ship's wake. Neither words nor photos nor even video clips can describe the wonder of seeing so many seagulls soaring in the wind above and behind the stern of the boat, darting every now and then to snatch a choice morsel in the ship's wake.

By the time we returned to our hotel, it was very late - past 8, if I recall correctly. Acting on a tip-off from someone, my father and I turned a corner and headed in a direction which we hadn't gone before, ending up in a residential area with several restaurants, the most popular of which was "Whetapia Taverna". Not only was the food good and cheap (some of the items - the pitas, especially, were cheaper than they'd be in Singapore), but the joint also served the only good french fries in Greece outside of McDonalds - all the other restaurants we'd been to served chunky but soggy fries (Neon's fries were crispy, but overcooked and they didn't give me many with my Gyros). We were so impressed that we (and some others) returned the next day for lunch.

My souvlaki was especially tasty, with huge and succulent chunks of meat. I'd actually ordered souvlaki at a cafe in Plaka on the second day, but had gotten only a few miserable shreds of limp meat. The souvlaki from Whetapia was what souvlaki should be! The only complaint about the place was their speed, or lack thereof - their definition of "one minute" seemed to be variable, as with a Swatch minute.

Day 8 - May 8th - Athens-Larnaca-Dubai-Singapore

We had the morning of the last day free, so I decided to visit a museum or two. The first was the Byzantine museum, but its galleries were closed (surprise, surprise) while their collections were being moved to the new extension. Gah. I bought a book on Byzantine fortifications and left huffily. Undaunted, I proceeded to the Benaki museum.

Though the facade of the museum was being renovated, it was thankfully open. My father saw the entrance fee and balked, so he loitered outside while I examined the collections. Sadly, the museum did not allow even non-flash photography so the images of neolithic tripods will forever be trapped in my mind, unable to find expression as bits and bytes on my hard disk.

A disturbingly large amount of pottery throughout Greece (and especially at the Benaki museum) had been "restored" or "reconstructed". Looking at the restored pottery, I saw that they constituted of shards of the original pot embedded in a large mass of modern material. How, then, do they retrieve the original shards if they need to - for example, if someone wants to study it, or they improve their restorative techniques? Somehow it seems sacrilegious to me to blatantly mix original and new material in a seemingly irreversible way.

Moving on, I saw Neolithic and Minoan figurines, and their crude forms made me feel much better about my abysmal art and craft skills. In another room were examples of Greek pottery, which made me realise that I still have not decided whether I prefer the red on black style of pottery or the black on red style. And in one item's description, Hades was called Pluto, while in another talked of the "form of Eros or Bacchus". How unseemly!

Being the narrow-minded philistine dilettante that I am, once the exhibits dated past the fall of Constantinople, I lost interest and just skimmed through them. My lack of interest was naturally encouraged by the fact that much of the post-Byzantine material consisted of Greek traditional costumes! Meanwhile, overtly Turkish items were conspicuous by their absence - a measure of the residual historical antagonism between the two peoples.

At the very end of the exhibition was a painting - "Spyros Papalouleas - the Sea in Paros", a study in what's wrong with modern art. It consisted of (going from the bottom of the canvas): a green band, a blue band, a green band, a blue band, a very thin green line and a wide light blue band (the sky) with some white daubs (clouds), and looked nothing at all like what I'd thought the sea in Paros looked like.

At a supermarket later, I picked up a packet of "V6 white + advanced whitening formula sugafree dental chewing gum" which purported to polish teeth, protect them from discolouration and neutralise acids causing caries. Other packs advertised their "calcium formula" and that they were fo "fresh breath control". This is the sort of good stuff that we Singaporeans are unable to consume, due to our paranoid, unjustified and simply ridiculous chewing gum ban.

At the airport's duty-free shop, I bought some sweets for people in camp (though they weren't very well received). I would have bought more and used up more of my remaining Euros, but my father rushed me through the gate prematurely.


Assorted Observations
- The video that Emirates screens to boast about their in-flight entertainment systems is very irritating, especially as it's inflicted on passengers in both Arabic and English.
- Their in-flight entertainment interface is very buggy, and both mine and others' crashed more than a few times.
- Emirates was too cheapskate to license existing video games for its flights, so it got some company to program clones of existing games like chess. The only problem is that the games look horrible, with a blocky interface and rudimentary graphics, as if they'd been made with Visual Basic.
- The censorship of Scary Movie 3 (which I watched over someone's shoulder, sans sound, on the way to Dubai) was draconian. The show is already as tame as a pussy compared to Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2, but the overly-sensitive censors had to cut the KKK, priest pedophilia and Simon Cowell shooting scenes (and probably more that I didn't notice). Bah.
- When the announcement "please fasten your seatbelts" is made in arabic, the gurgling sound makes it sound like the announcer is being throttled by someone
- The stops in Cyprus were almost intolerable, as an already long flight was made even more draggy. I pity the people who flew from Athens to Adelaide
- Emirates' implementation of seat to seat calls is superior to those of other airlines. Instead of you having to opt-in to receive calls from another seat, you receive calls by default, but can easily bar all future calls. Seeing as some people have problems even figuring out how to use the handset, this practice is most welcome
- Dubai-Singapore must have been the coldest flight I'd ever been on. Hell, it was colder than than it was in Greece (sans the wind, of course). I wonder how the air stewardesses stood it

I caught "Peter Pan" on the Larnaca-Dubai leg of the journey. Because I was making unconscious comparisons with the Disney cartoon, the sanitised version that we are all raised with, I was uncomfortable with many aspects of the movie. Further research though, reveals that the movie was actually quite faithful to James Matthew Barrie's original. Except for the part about Peter Pan and Wendy Darling falling in love. And the telekinetic explosion that Peter caused around him after Wendy kissed him, flinging all the pirates down to the deck. *loud cough* And I suspect that having one actor play both Hook and Mr Darling was meant as some post-modernistic commentary on Father Figures and Villains.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The only results one gets searching for "Lady Vesuvius" are thankfully harmless:

"Sorrento is a small village on the west coast of Italy, north to the ruins of Pompeii, south to the dark, rat-infested alleys of Naples, just balancing on the seams of Lady Vesuvius luscious green skirt."

"Eighth, I give and bequeathe to Lady Vesuvius a sunbonnet, a palace of clouds and the heart she once hurled up to me."

Extract from Shi Ming's LJ: "If there are no men existing in the world, then there wouldn't be any wars.

Which is so true.

Think about it. Take Troy for example. Menelaus sought the help of Agammemnon when his wife was stolen from him. A thousand ships were launched, effectively, to salvage a man's pride. Agammemnon, on the other hand, agreed to help his brother with his pride issue only so that he could conquer Troy and add it to the collection of nation-states under his almighty rule. The Trojan War thus also took place because of another man's desire for glory. Similarly, Archilles chose to lead a short but glorious life so that he would be remembered and revered for a thousand years.

And both pride and glory come under one main heading. Ego.

Tsk tsk. So this is how dangerous a man's ego can be."

Of course, I couldn't take this lying down. My repartee:

"Actually the Trojan war was the fault of women. If Eris had not started everything by tossing her golden Apple of Discord at Peleus and Thetis' wedding banquet, nothing would have happened. Spite

If Aphrodite, Hera and Athena had not fought over the apple, desiring to be proclaimed as the fairest, they wouldn't have had to offer their various gifts in an attempt to bribe Paris. Vanity

And if Helen had not left Sparta with Paris, there would have been no Trojan War. Fickleness

Spite, vanity and fickleness are all some of women's many gender defects.

So there you have it - women and their myriad flaws caused the Trojan war. Tsk tsk."

Tong on my fantasy of, when I grow long hair, jerking my head and hitting the people around me:

"at this length, the only person u hit when u jerk ur head is urself. usually in the eye"


luvacguys is classified under the "hardcore porn stumbleupon category. Heheh.

Blame it on the rom-coms - Romantic movies ruin your love life, warns year 12 student Steven Schubert - "The fact is, these films are stopping decent, normal, hardworking Aussie blokes from ever impressing any girl. Most females won't even look at a bloke unless he's willing to undergo severe public humiliation in the usual romantic comedy style. Unless a bloke is willing to run around a grandstand while singing a suitably romantic love song and evading arrest, it seems that girls just aren't interested."

Godchecker - Your Guide To The Gods. Mythology with a twist
Devilish digits - Marc Abrahams reveals mathematical proof that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist - "the Antichrist is Mikhail Gorbachev, with odds of 710,609,175,188,282,000 to 1."

"Recently another good and great mathematical problem was knocked off. Stephen D Unwin wrote a book called The Probability of God. It is much celebrated... The calculated result: that there is almost exactly a 67% probability that God exists. The book reveals all the technicalities, and includes a handy spreadsheet for those anxious to try the calculations for themselves. And like all good statistical reports, it points out the possibility that something is off. There is, Unwin carefully warns us, a 5% chance that his calculation is wrong."

I love Mats!

"If absolute power corrupts absolutely, where does that leave God?"

--- George Daacon


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Word of the day: "sematic" (not semantic, dis donc)

My recent congressus cum diaboli has had an interesting coda (mayhaps an antistrophe?) - I received a phone call from Merril Lynch HR people proffering me more job details. Now, the conversation that followed was the most fucked up career-search dialogue I've ever had, managing to edge out even the hypocritical GIC interview in 2002 for top spot.

Was interviewed by two people (as evinced by the jagged bursts of white noise every few seconds) - a nasal-voiced woman who just *sounds* like she has Vicks Vaporub all over her nostrils (some kinaesthesia effect of the speakerphone?) and a snooty, but tired-sounding man.

Towards the end of the conversation, I could not resist and made a sudden lunge across the table (tearing some pelvic muscle in the process) to get a notepad and pencil to capture for posterity some of the corncucopia of Human Resource gems flowing from these two people.


Female: "Currently there's no set career path progression for client support officers within merrilll lynch although we hope to have one soon."

Female: "You will be rotated among a pool of front line financial consultants - some of them may be willing to mentor you and help you progress but most prefer a more hands off approach where you stick to the administrative and operational work."

Female: "Usually it takes up to 4-6 years before we can consider transferring you to other divisions."

Male: "There will be times when you have to sit in on behalf of the financial consultants at sales talks and market briefings to take notes while they're overseas talking to their clients. Don't worry, you're not expected to understand it."

Male: "You can probably pick up everything about this job within 1 year."

Female: "Not a lot of analytical thought is required; it's mostly processing and administrative support."

Female: "We're not trying to dissuade you from taking up a position with us."

Male: "Your current job sounds far more interesting than what we're offering."

And finally, the crème de la crème. The pièce de résistance:

Female: "You may have to run personal errands on behalf of the manager you're assigned to."

Me: "Like helping them photocopy documents or send mail?"

Female: "More like collecting laundry."

Long pause followed, as I struggled to maintain the principles of inner balance and the Ni To Ichi Way of Strategy which held me back from screaming over the phone, "YOU NEARLY CAUSED ME TO CRASH INTO FIERY AUTOMOTIVE DEATH DUE TO DRIVING AT BREAKNECK SPEED (again) BY TO GET HOME EARLY AND PREPARE FOR THIS BECAUSE YOU SCHEDULED A PHONE INTERVIEW AT THIS FUCKED UP HOUR AND YOU COME HERE AND SPEW THIS SHIT TO ME????"

Male (interjecting helpfully): "Not all the managers will expect you to do things like this, of course."

*fatalistically* At the end I ramped up my "expected pay" quotation to SGD$3800 and asked for a relocation allowance. They politely responded that they had some other candidates to consider and they would get back to me on that.

At least I can tell people that I told m. lynch to go fuck itself.

In light of my recent attempt at an unholy pact with the Adversary in exchange for a job, I've come up with several possible theological implications, all unpleasant.

a) Satan/Lucifer/Belial/Asmodeus/Shaitan/Old Nick/Sammael ("The Bad Guy") isn't as powerful as YHWH, the He who is called I Am, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord of Hosts ("The Man"), who has righteously struck down my job search with His mighty hand. Fuck. This might be a prelude to more smiting ahead.

b) The Bad Guy has withdrawn his offer because I haven't stumped up enough on my end; maybe I have to explicitly sign some kind of legal documentation promising my eternal soul - but despite all the DIY instructions from Saint Cyprian's book or the Key of Solomon and wasting lot of paint and (other people's) bodily fluids, I haven't been able to contact Him directly or any of His authorised agents to finalise the details.

Alternately He might require a few more goats, souls, or old Transformers figurines; but I can't afford goats, no one will lend me souls, and I'm NOT parting with my Optimus Prime. Immortal soul, yes. First-edition Red Optimus Prime, no.

c) The Bad Guy is as unwilling as The Man when it comes to providing any form of earthly gratification; probably because the former knows that what passes for my immortal soul is already a done deal, so why pay for what's already yours?

And as for the latter, what can you expect from Someone who created a whole species of flawed beings, regularly ships them to an eternity of suffering in fire for falling prey to the myriad natural flaws He built into them, and, to top it off, allowed them to literally nail His only begotten Son's ass to the wall?

(Angst intermezzo: My only actual conversation with God (whether literal, hallucinated, paraphrased, or otherwise, you decide for yourself.

As the Lord said to me once: "In you the seed of Adam is doubly shamed. And all the laws
of life defiled. Yet even such a soul as yours may yet be saved by true repentance. Foreswear your sins and return to My fold. And all will be as new again, all sins forgiven, all wrongs undone. This is your final path to forgiveness."

To Him I said, "I am what You have made me. So be it."

And I refused to kneel.)

d) The Bad Guy is as impotent as The Man when it comes to providing any form of earthly gratification - either by virtue of non-existence (Dammit! The atheists were right! So much for "friendly agnosticism"...) or some unfathomable restraints on their miracle-dispensing ("rules of the game") - and that my fate is totally in my own dysfunctional, incompetent hands - ie. I'm screwed.

e) It's all part of some subtle, morally inscrutable, ineffable (that lovely word which Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett use to great effect in Good Omens, one of the greatest pieces of eschatological writing extant) plan by either The Man or The Bad Guy (at this tessellated level of causation it doesn't really matter Who's responsible) and anything I do or say is simply a manifestation of being a pawn slid across a giant gameboard - and the whole pact concept is moot; pawns aren't in a position to negotiate.


And, yes, Gabriel, if you could get me a new job we could work out a reasonable veneration-for-employment-assistance deal of sorts. However, an acceptable job would have to be *way* superior to the pretty low benchmark (mondo understatement) the above has set.
Word of the day: "velleity"

Was having a conversation with religious friend: "I've been praying like fuck for a new job." (Lots of bizarrre conversations lately. Must be the influence of all the movies -
I've watched Van Helsing, House of Sand & Fog, Starsky & Hutch, Secret Window, Jiang Hu, Doraemon: The Movie and Kill Bill Vol 2 in the space of 2 weeks)

Religious friend: "Yes, but who've you been praying TO?"

Me: "Anyone who'll get me a new job."

That conversation got me thinking.

So I stole 2 metal "6"s and a "9" from the 16th and 19th floor lift lobbies of my office and, on my cubicle wall, have put up a 666 in front of a picture of the X-(Wo)man Phoenix in flames (her flame wreathed face looks out through the circle in the middle 6). This was to pledge my allegiance to the Lord of Darkness, the Adversary, the Prince of Lies, etc etc. if he will get me a new job.

As I told my friend when semi-legally manipulating profits for the bank last quarter: "Morality doesn't matter when you're already in Hell."

*disingenuous shrug*

Well, one thing i'm certain of, it's not Heaven.

Had a phone interview with Merill Lynch about a week after the 666.

And this new babe joined my department recently. She's hot, and it's ironic that she's the most bimbotic and sexual of the new recruits, but also the smartest and the most hard-working.

While showing me her tattoo, I asked her "do you spit or swallow?" (the question came about naturally in the course of conversation - as I said, I have weird conversations)

She answered: "I only swallow for those guys I like, and I don't like you that much. Yet."

Is that a good sign? Do I have to break out canine/goat/human sacrifice to get the Infernal One to stump up more largesse?

But basically all of this potentially demonstrates that I've been looking to the wrong deity/pantheon/alignment for support all this while.

In any event:

a) Absolutely nothing to lose (immortal soul? HAH!)

b) If I'd known consorting with Ye Powers of Darknesse could have such a demonstrably positive effect on my life, I'd have done so ages ago.

c) Besides, God might make a counter-offer. Hopefully it'll be a meaningful one that doesn't involve renunciation, penance, suffering, or post-mortem salvation. I want the goods NOW!
Since Gabriel is still in semi-Achaean mode - well, I was talking to a friend about the Odyssey.

I commented: "Fucking odysseus gets to wander the mediterranean for years fucking Callisto (Later realised it was Calypso, not Callisto. Callisto was one of Zeus' dryad bitches) and Circe, while Penelope has to sit in her room and weave just to keep the chee hong bastards out of her bed."

Friend: "WHAT?? Odysseus slept around?"

Me: "Didn't you read the book?"

He showed me the book he had read - it was a sanitised, Penguin-for-children's book.


My friend (staunch Christian) took it very personally. In fact he sms-ed me yesterday: "let's go watch troy and see that bastard odysseus.
Interesting conversation of the day:

My colleague reza came up to me and asked me: "how old were you when you stopped buying toys?"

me: "erm. last year i bought some lego. does that count?"

reza: "was it duplo?"

me (giving frosty stare): "if you must know, it was technics. i was trying the programming module thing with a friend. anyway, why do you ask?"

reza: "you know the Anduril?"

me: "yeah, aragorn's sword. narsil reforged."

reza: "anyway, when LoTR first came out, i saw an anduril for sale at toys' r us. it makes clanging sounds when you press one button and swishing sounds when you press another. when i first saw it, i wanted to buy it, but i hesitated. then the next time i went back there, it was gone."

me: "riiight"

reza: "anyway, my wife saw one for sale the other day and.."

me: "your wife knows you want to buy a toy sword?"

reza: "my wife supports my lunacy, yes."

me: "well it's your money."

reza: "so anyway, i bought the sword, and i brought it back and was playing with hakim (his 2 year old son). hakim can really grab, and he was brandishing the sword and clicking the buttons."

me: "and what did your wife say?"

reza: "well, she played with the sword too"

me: "... there are so many bad inneundos i can make about your wife playing with your sword. and pressing the buttons to make your sword go swoosh and clang."

reza: "yeah man. Who's your Elessar, huh? Who's your Elessar!!!"

me: "you just spoiled my masturbation session for the day."

reza: "anyway, i was thinking of buying stinger for hakim.."

me: (doing bazooka motions with hand)

reza: "no lah! the sword the hobbit uses!"

me: "OH. Sting! well, that's a good idea. you can spar with your kid. teach him the Jedi code."

reza: "it's not a lightsaber"

me: "semantics. anyway, you get the point, teach your kids to fight evil, show them that sometimes one must take the sword to fight, not out of sadism, but out of sad necessity. and that sometimes some problems can only be solved by steadfastly chopping off someone's head."

reza: "yeah.. that way when he hits kindergarden instead of bothering me with: "da, someone bully me" it'll be, "da, can i borrow your sword?". That's upbringing, man. and i can teach him and his sister (three years old) to fight evil together as siblings!"

me: "Anyway, i just want you to know i wholeheartedly support you still buying a toy for youself as this age. *pauses* aren't you glad you came to me for affirmation instead of someone normal?"

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Riddle of the Self by Feliks Mikhailov - "The book you are now coming to the end of has been entirely devoted to how the problem of the human soul, of consciousness has been posed throughout the history of man's knowledge of himself. We have seen that the essence of the problem does not lie in whether the human brain is capable or incapable of reacting to external influences. The essence of it is why and how a human being can know the essence of things that exist outside him... quite simply, the problem of creativity."

For a long life, choose prose not poetry- "On average, poets lived 62 years, playwrights 63 years, novelists 66 years, and non-fiction writers lived 68 years... Female poets were much more likely to suffer from mental illness (eg, be hospitalised, commit suicide, attempt suicide) than any other kind of writer, and more likely than other eminent women... I've dubbed this the 'Sylvia Plath effect'."

Brahms the Freethinker - "He wrote the popular Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem, 1867), but was careful to select only those biblical lyrics that relate to this life and to those who grieve. The Requiem starts with 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,' and avoids talk of eternal salvation... With the title A German Requiem he intended to convey that this is not the liturgical requiem mass in Latin, nor a German translation of it, but a personal testament, a requiem. Brahms avoided dogma in the piece for the same reason . . . even if the words come from the Bible, this was his response to death as a secular, skeptical, modern man."

Heartless Bitches International

The Heartless Manifesto

Do really sappy, insipid, "always and forever" love poems make you want to puke? (and that goes for Bon Jovi lyrics too!)

Do you find typical "Women's Magazines" to be either stomach turning or pathetically laughable?

Are you tired of the walking wounded moping around expecting that the world owes them something because they are victims?

Do you find the likes of Michael Bolton and Kenny G. revolting?

Does the sight of an incredibly handsome man turn you off, cause so many of them have room-temperature IQ's, and obnoxious or non-existent personalities?

Are you sick of lazy women who use emotional and sexual manipulation to get what they want instead of using their own brains and muscles?

Are you fed up with women who feel they HAVE to be in a "Relationship" in order to be whole, and will sacrifice their self-esteem and personal growth in order to avoid being on their own?

Are you tired of men and women who are emotional children, and won't accept responsibility for their actions or behavior?

Do you want to SMACK women who play "helpless" just to gain male attention and stroke male egos?

Have you run out of sympathy for your Female friends who continually whine about how awful MEN ARE, but then they keep dating the same kind of ASSHOLES, over and OVER, AND OVER AGAIN!?

Are you fed up with your Male friends who are looking to date a woman with the appearance of a supermodel, and yet they continually whine about how "women don't like nice guys - they only want good-looking assholes"???

Do the words "If you REALLY loved me...." turn your heart to ice??!!!

Do you retch in response to "The Rules", and laugh uproariously at "The Code"?

Have you HAD IT with people telling you that you are TOO LOUD, TOO ASSERTIVE, or TOO OPINIONATED?

Do you wish you had a button that said: "Thank you for sharing, now SHUT UP and quit Whining!" ????

Do you ever get tired of those whiners and their online "journals"? Or the guys who hit on you and you politely decline, and they keep pestering you and pestering you, and pestering you like some obnoxious, festering, pus-filled sore, until you finally have to WHAP them over the head with a VERY LARGE CLUE-BY-FOUR (tm)....?

Do you feel like you might as well "get hung for a sheep as a lamb", because no matter how POLITELY you try to turn down some guy's advances, you invariably get called a "Bitch"?

If you answered YES to all of the above, then Heartless Bitches International wants YOU. Heartless Bitches is now recruiting! Join up and be proud to use phrases like:

"Keep it in your pants, asshole"
"Oh why don't you just masturbate and get over it!?"
"No, you can't watch."
"Wah, fuckin', Wah."

Search referrals:

sports bra raffles girls - They're not very interesting since they're limited to 3 colours.

sexiest RJC girls

+"zao geng" +rape - When you're raped you don't zaogeng. It's not in the definition.

islamic sheer stockings - ???

+"nanyang girls" +sleeveless - Are there any other sort?

free calls from starhub prepaid hack

lyrics "you touch my tralala" - I am the top result for this. Haha

Sar-vivor Rap legal download - I don't think Gurmit Singh bothers collecting royalties. It's a "community" project after all.

sexy rgs girl - Some would say that is an oxymoron.

scgs cramps uniform - It gives cramps? Too tight, maybe?

iraq heart & minds picturs - Picturs (sic) of people's hearts and minds?

"licking method" sex

r@ygold internet codes explained - They have codes for that?

thoughtless breakups sex pictures

revealing acjc photos

" Quoting Liberals " - Beats quoting conservatives.

power rangers 1991 morphers - MMPR started in 1993!

SCGS uniform
SCGS bitch - I'm the top result for both of these search queries. Why am I so disturbed?

Pictures of HDB Rubbish Bin - People look for weird things.

nus-girls - Hahaha.
Exercise Minotaur - A Journal (Part 2)

General Comments

The good thing about Europe is that you have Fanta. It is too strong to drink on a daily basis, but taken once in a while, it is quite refreshing. Europe also has Nutella, though Root Beer is sadly unknown.

Unlike the NZ lamb we get in Singapore, Greek lamb doesn't smell much. Maybe it's their diet.

Many of the dinners that were pre-paid for weren't very good, but the meals we paid for ourselves - even if it was at restaurants chosen beforehand by the guide - were delicious. Moral of the story: Don't go on tours which provide all of your meals.

A rule I came up with in Plaak (Prague) - hotels with names starting with "Hotel" are lousier than those which place the "Hotel" word at the end. Eg "Hotel Artis". The reason for this is that placing the word "Hotel" at the front gives it an air of class that they cannot otherwise aspire to, and need more desperately than better hotels. This rule seemed to apply for Greece, and seems to apply for Singapore too (Hotel 81)!

Greece is a very mountainous country, and you can only appreciate that when travelling through it by land. Even then, airconditioned buses hardly give you an idea of the experiences of the poor travellers of Pericles' time, but at least you can see why city states arose and persisted.

I was (un)fortunate enough to witness the symptoms of compulsive photo-taking disorder during the trip - all 3 females in their 20s were fond of taking pictures of all sorts of things: flowers, fruits, pine cones and worst of all - each and every one of their meals (okay maybe 1 of them didn't record *all* her meals for posterity, but the other 2 seemed to).

Aircons in Greek hotels all suck. The only aircon which could produce cold air during the trip was in Art Pythia Hotel, Delphi, because there was no central airconditioning, each room being equipped with its own individual unit, with a normal remote like those found in homes. Perhaps the managements disabled the compressors to save on electricity bills, or to prevent hapless guests freezing themselves outside the summer months.

I was thinking of getting some icons for 2 religious friends of mine (Tim and Ger), then I remembered that they were Roman Catholics, and getting them Greek Orthodox icons would be a blasphemy sufficient to get them excommunicated. Pity :)

At many places in Greece, they sold calenders with "beautiful women of Greece" (half nude, going by the cover). One place had a calender with erotic scenes from Greek pottery. Even more popular were playing cards with erotic scenes from Greek pottery, labelled "the best souvenir from Greece". A few places had cards with scenes of hardcore pornography on them, but those didn't have the same charm as the pottery ones. Besides, you wouldn't be able to concentrate on your poker game. But then maybe they're used for strip poker.

A group of 6 - 3 pairs - of 20+ year olds were incredibly close, even though they didn't know each other before the trip, even linking tables during meal times. It must be a generation thing.

Day 3 - May 3rd - Thermopylae-Kalambaka-Meteora

On the third day, we started on our Land Tour of Greece. This day had the longest drive - some 6 hours in total, for we travelled to Kalambaka in Northern Greece. On the way there, we stopped at Thermopylae, where a monument to Leonidas and the Spartans stood (the guide told us that it was a Greek soldier that betrayed them to the Persians, but I remembered that it was a shepherd. I did some research later and some sources mention a shepherd, while others just call him a Greek traitor.). I was holding out a faint hope that the memorial would be the ancient one that read: "Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell/That here, obeying her behests, we fell.", but instead it was a modern monument raised in 1955. There was also another monument at the same site - one to the Boetians, the guide said, but no one bothered about that one (and I can't find out anything about it either). Later, I found out that there was also a monument at the spot where the Greeks made their last stand. Oh well.

After lunch in Kalambaka, we went to see the rocks and monasteries of Meteora. In one of the rocks, there was a cave (the Cave of Dulhiani, or something) hung with many coloured cloths. We were told that in summer, young men and boys from the villages will try to ascend to it, and the one who reaches there first and takes a cloth will be accorded some special status for the rest of the year.

We viewed all 6 of the monasteries and nunneries from afar, but visited only one - the Monastery of Great Meteoron. Prior to 1929 (?), the only means of ascent was by clambering onto a rope thrown from above (the rope was supposedly replaced only when it broke - "God's will"), but there is now a staircase. Inside were such interesting things as a charnel house, housing the skulls of deceased monks, and a church with Byzantine and Byzantine-style icons and frescos.

Before we could buy anything from the monastery, we were quickly shuffled to a shop in the plains below which gave the various tour guides some commission and offered us Ouzo (a Greek alcoholic drink made from grape resin, about 40% alcohol by volume) for free. I was intending to sample some, in my quest to prove to myself that all alcohol tastes Vile, but the smell alone made me feel like puking, so I witheld myself. We were then checked into our hotel in Kalambaka. Having already walked through the town after lunch, my father and I decided to rest before dinner, and take our walk later.

After dinner, I bought a Meteora T-shirt at a shop for 7 Euros, but a whitish dandruff-like film seems to be peeling from it as I type this, so maybe I got conned. After that, we returned to our hotel room, which had been transformed to a furnace. It seems that the helpful management had switched the central airconditioning to heater mode from aircon mode around dinner time. Like typical Singaporeans, we had left the aircon on on "high". The rest was history, and we ended up opening both the doors to the corridor outside and the balcony to air the room, and commiserating with the other members of our tour group, who were having similar experiences.

Day 4 - May 4th - Delphi

In the morning, somewhat later than the previous day, we left for Delphi. Lunch was at a restaurant near Delphi, where as an appetizer, I had cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat (not bad, but a touch too salty and too meaty). My main course was swordfish fillet - huge and very fresh, though it was too bouncy and heavy (not in a filling sense) for me. My father claimed the cooking wasn't too good, but it was fine by me. For dessert I had baklava. Greek baklava isn't as sweet as Arabic baklava, but it is too dry. It is also served in the shape of slices of cake rather than the arabic round tarts.

In the shop of the restaurant was a gorgeous golden-brown coloured Cocker Spaniel. He was friendly till I took my camera out to try to get a shot of him, whereupon he started running away from me, eventually hiding behind a chair. The staff explained that he was afraid of cameras. Oh well.

After lunch, we visited the museum at Delphi. This one wasn't closed. Not totally, at least, but most of the collection was not on display due to only one room being open for viewing. At least the Bronze Charioteer was there.

We proceeded, then, to the archaeological site. At its entrance was displayed a list of queer rules. Apparently in Greece, some actions are forbidden on archaeological sites. They include: taking "improper" pictures, singing, making loud noises, "to introduce food" (whatever that means - the image I have is of releasing Killer Tomatoes to devour the Temple of Apollo) and entering the site in a bathing suit. This reminded me of the list of SAF Contraband for servicemen returning from overseas.

After our guide Marisa had given us a tour of the main ruins at Delphi, she gave us 30 minutes to explore the site - possibly going up to the theater - and to take photos, cautioning us not to go to the Stadium as it would take too long and we'd visit Olympia the next day, which had a better stadium anyway. Naturally, I wanted to see what the stadium looked like, and ended up nearly dying on the long treak up (Yet again. It's something I tend to do when overseas).

After leaving the site, we had a look at what remained of the (now dry) purification spring and the less-crowded Sanctuary of Athena, then returned to Delphi for dinner, during which there was a man playing piano in a mediocre fashion (but it was better than nothing).

The aircon in the room worked (finally) but the bath tub was tiny - my knees were curled to my chest when I got in. They'd have been better off constructing a shower instead.

Day 5 - May 5th - Patras-Olympia

On Wednesday, we drove out of Delphi to its port of Nafpaktos (aka Lepanto). The suspension bridge bridging the Gulf of Corinth wasn't ready yet, so we took a ferry. The winds buffeting us during our short ~20min mini-cruise were a bit chilly, but I did not deign to put on my jacket. To questions of, "Aren't you cold?", I replied with my usual answer: "I find the cold invigorating", but after a while even I couldn't take it anymore and went inside.

On arrival at the opposite shore, we drove to Patras and had a short stop, visiting the Cathedral of St. Andreas (St Andrew). It's a 20th century construction, and as I recall, some parts still haven't been decorated, but it was glorious to behold anyhow. The cathedral contained the relics of St Andrew as well as some pieces of the Double Cross on which he was crucified, but I have my doubts about their veracity - after all, during the Middle Ages, enough pieces of "the True Cross" were floating around to reconstruct more than one, and with the number of finger bones at various holy places, some saints apparently had 2 left hands.

We then continued on our journey to Olympia. It was amusing to learn that the Olympic flame is actually lit on an altar in front of the temple of Hera in a re-enactment of a pagan ceremony If the fundies find Pokemon satanic, I wonder what they'll think of this!

After that we proceeded to the Temple of Zeus. I was heartbroken to see the pitiful remains of what once housed one of the canonical Wonders of the Ancient World. (*insert optional rant about the transience of man, and how our modern wonders will likewise disintegrate, and how we all suck and should treasure life. Add angst to taste*)

I have now seen 1 Wonder of the Ancient World (or what remains of it, anyway). 1 down, 6 to go. The Colossus is gone, hauled off on the backs of 900 camels. Herostratus burned down the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Some people doubt the existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and I doubt Iraq will be safe for many years to come. The Pharos lies in the sea off Alexandria and I can't dive. But the Pyramids (or more specifically, the Great Pyramid of Khufu/Cheops) are still there, albeit missing their crowning limestone glory. And I've seen the partial reconstruction of the Mausoleum in the British Museum, so that's a half-count.

After our visit, we were bused to Europa hotel - the best hotel we stayed in during our trip. Suffice to say that it was highly recommended by the Frommers guidebook. We had some time before dinner, but my father didn't want to walk to the town of Olympia, so I went alone.

Europa hotel, though good, was far from the town of Olympia, so much so that the reception provided a map for guests. On the map, it didn't look too bad, but when I took the route, I found that it was down a hill. Along the way, my foot crashed into the lid of a rubbish cart that was lying on its side, causing me no end of pain. Also, dogs in houses adjoining the road kept barking at me (they were the unfriendliest dogs in Greece).

I spent a short time spent walking around Olympia town and buying 2 souvenirs/gifts. There was an interesting bookshop selling CDs of Byzantine music and a book on the mysteries of Rhea and Orphism. Another had Barbie-style dolls of Aphrodite, Artemis, Poseidon and others whose names I couldn't make out from the Greek letters. Eeks!

After that, I returned to the hotel. It was hell. The inclines were probably the steepest I'd ever seen, and I had to stop for breath more than once. By the time I reached my room, I was so drained I collapsed on the bed.

At dinner, there was a group of Koreans at the table beside us. Besides bringing their own seaweed to the meal, they also had a guy giving out green chilis. Wth?!

After dinner, I loitered around the lobby for a while, seeing if anyone was going down to the town, so I could share a cab up with them. Seemingly, everyone was deterred by the slope, so in the end I ended up talking to someone else on the tour, with whom I later discovered that we shared a mutual friend, and who has read my blog before. My infamy precedes me. For all I know, one day I'm going to run into the Brazillians who used to ask me for cyber-BDSM on ICQ.

Praise from the critics (on Part 1 of the Exercise Minotaur journal):

"thge greece entry so far is short, sweet and full of pointed observations and dry wit that is characteristic of the gabriel seah prose.
it's one of the finest examples of your work"

[Ed: Added cyber-BDSM and Delphi bath tub comments, 12/05]

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Today I was waiting for the 855 at the same time that the Lower Secondary students at CHIJ St Theresa's were filing out from school.

The mindless shrill chatter. The endless ditzy giggles. The ah lians. The ah beng boyfriend touching his CHIJ girlfriend's stomach after she'd unfastened her belt. And none was able to redeem the actions of the others (maybe in a few years, when they become less gawkish). Oh god. Now I know why my sister, who often took the bus at the same time as them, kept complaining.

Many of them got on my 855, and their stench permeated the bus. Fee fie foe fum, I smell a mass of untreated female bodies. Luckily, later on a woman with strong perfume sat in front of me, partially masking the odour.

Jade House Computing is no more, and has not been for quite a while. On the sacred ground where it once stood now towers Mystique beauty salon.

However, not far away are 2 shops selling pirated PC games CDs at $6 a piece. This is still higher than Jade's price at its apogee, but then the days when the only things in Singapore that were becoming cheaper year after year were pirated CDs have long ended. School boys can rejoice once more.

In Bishan is a shop selling bubble tea for as low as 80 cents. Blended ices go for more, at $1.20 a cup, but you get discounts on orders of 2 or more cups. The bubble has well and truly burst.

I caught the 2:30 show of Starsky and Hutch at Junction 8. This was not a good time to go, at least on a weekday, for it seemed that Couple Hour was underway, complete with groping.

luvACguys - "Enter into the wonderful and exhilarating world of luvACguys, here you can experience the sunny, always exciting and lovely world of cute boyish tanned handsome guys. This is the realm of paradise on earth where life is always happy, carefree and fun!!!"

Some extracts: "I regret not sitting with that cute spikey hair boy instead I go and sit with ugly people :(((( because I was too shy to sit with cute guys. But Cute boyish tanned handsome guys must always stick together forever!!!!!! I must spank myself!!!! CBTH guys you must always sit with your own kind, with guys like ME!!!!!!!!!!! And I must always sit with my own kind in the future!!!!!!! I MUST NOT!!! be shy when I see cute guys anymore!!!! CANNOT!!!!!! Cute boyish tanned handsome guys must always stick together forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AC guys I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Oh I can see logically now...it's the brillant, crisp, and good-as-new chunky thick fabric of a white T-Shirt on the body of a supernatural being! It has dark blue colour in the inner collar of the T-shirt! And it came with matching dark blue steam ironed pressed baggy trousers. If I have never truly believed in God I must now say that I really really do now! Oh God this is the best thing you have ever created in this whole world! SUCH POWER!!! SUCH POWER!!! God you must have sent your angels to reclaim your people at this end time!!! Oh God take me! Take me please!!!"
Exercise Minotaur - A Journal (Part 1)

General Comments

After a traumatising experience on the East Coast of America 10 years ago, I'd sworn off conducted tours and was thus somewhat apprehensive about this one. In the end, it turned out well. Travelling with other people inevitably involves making compromises - the level of compromise depends on who you travel with.

The group I travelled with was small - 13, so they didn't even send a redundant Singapore guide, and all of them were English-understanding, even if they didn't speak it all the time. We had but one Chinese meal, though that was probably due to there being no Chinese restaurants outside Athens, and many meals were not paid for, so often we got to choose what we wanted to eat. We had sufficient time, mostly, to explore the various archaeological sites, though we were rushed through the museums; but then it was a Classical Tour, after all (though I do wonder why people went on it if they didn't know much about Greek history and mythology). There was even time given on 2 separate days to explore Athens by ourselves! The hotels weren't very good (except for Europa Hotel in Olympia), but I'm not very fussy about that, so.

My sister says that you shouldn't go on a tour with any agency located in Chinatown. I suppose that's as good a rule of thumb as any other.

Greek food is nice, and my father has rescinded his previous opinion of it being "dog food", but I can't imagine eating it 24/7. As always, Singapore is a gastronomical paradise.

There were many *huge* dogs in Greece, and most of them were placid and friendly (sleepy, rather). I didn't see as many cats, though, but those I did see were very fat.

Even though images taken by my camera look over-exposed on the LCD screen, in reality they aren't. As a result, the shots I deliberately under-exposed (quite a lot) look quite dark. !@#$%^&*() It's all Hwa's fault *mutter*

A lot of cars in Greece looked like Thera had just erupted over them. Greece may not be very rich, but surely it doesn't cost too much to wash your car weekly?

Mt Athos is a theocracy and women are banned? Wth?!

Day 1 - May 1st - Singapore-Dubia-Larnaca-Athens

The flights to and from Greece were on Emirates, on which I was flying for the first time. Somehow, I always seem to get flights on Islamic airlines - besides the all-time favourite Ma-laysia Airlines, I've also travelled on Gulfair and Royal Brunei Airlines. They've all been fine, since the crews are recruited internationally, except that they don't serve pork, and there're the bothersome announcements in a non-English language which no one listens to anyway. Oh, and Royal Brunei keeps prefacing each flight with "The Trouble Prayer", making travelling with them a most dangerous experience.

For Economy class seats on Emirates flights, the controller for the personal entertainment system is stowed under the screen in the head of the seat in front of you. This is much more sensible than other airlines' locating them in the handrest of the seat. The in-flight entertainment is similar to what's available on other airlines, but Emirates has an interesting gimmick - cameras in the front and on the bottom of the aircraft, giving you something to look at when you tire of overly-censored movies.

Emirates also has funky special lifejackets for babies in cots, which can be seen in the safety vids.

The air hostesses are very naughty. When the plane gets off the ground, they take off their already-skimpy headgear, and put on blue aprons. Tut tut.

Observations aside, the only complaint I had about the Singapore-Dubai flight was the elbow room - or lack thereof. The flight was packed so fully that there seemed to be no empty seats - or at least none in my vicinity, and my seat was in between 2 others, giving me no breathing space.

The guy to my right set the radio to Bollywood music - at the highest volume setting, no less - and promptly fell asleep. On my left, my father had fallen asleep, and I didn't wish to wake him. Both of them had put their arms on the armrests - leaving me without a free armrest to put mine.

After a while, I got arm cramps, despite constantly adjusting my position from sitting down normally, to folding my arms on the head of my seat to stretching my arms onto the seat in front of me, to placing my arms on the seat in front of me and leaning forward. A headache accompanied the cramps, exacerbated, no doubt, by my prior ailments; cunningly cranking down the Bollywood music to a minimum volume by nudging the guy's touch-screen didn't help, for it remained audible. I was so agitated that I couldn't sleep on the flight at all.

A notice in the hotel we lodged in in Athens (Olympic Palace Hotel) informed us that the National Archaeological Museum (with the Mask of Agamemnon!!!) was closed till further notice. Many other museums throughout Greece were either closed till the Olympics for renovations or had only part of their collections on show (for the same reason). Oh well. That's what I get for not doing my research and for going before the Olympics. And museum closures is the reason it's good to have visited a museum with loot plundered from all over the world (the Louvre, British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art etc)

I called home on arriving in the hotel room: the obligatory "we're safe and sound" call, but couldn't get through. A call to my brother in law's handphone revealed that he was using the line to talk to my sister. He then proceeded to tell my sister that I'd called, and repeated to her what I'd told him, despite my protestations; in disgust at his blatant wastage of money on IDD charges (for we do not all enjoy corporate subsidies on mobile phone bills), I hung up on him.

After a suitable interval spent resting, my father and I went to walk around Plaka - the touristy district of Athens. The Library of Hadrian was closed, but I got a good view from outside the grills. I was looking for a good vantage point from which to take pictures for a PhotoStitch of the Acropolis, but there was none in the crowded squares of Plaka. What I found, instead, was a group of people dressed in what tortillas would recognise as vaguely American Indian-ish outfits, performing awful music and hawking a music CD called "American Inka".

Dinner that night was at a Chinese restaurant - our sole Chinese meal in Greece. It wasn't bad, actually - the classique egg-drop/seaweed soup, sweet and sour fish, curried chicken, fried eggplant, something else I can't remember, fried noodles, white rice. Yes: for some reason we were given both white rice and fried noodles. The fried noodles were... unique. Instead of the normal Chinese fried noodles, what we got was spaghetti fried with onions and some black sauce - cheap to make but eminently tasty.

Day 2 - May 2nd - Athens

The second day opened with a visit to the Acropolis - among other things, we saw the Propylaea, the Odeum of Herodes Atticus, the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. What frustrated me to no end was that they'd totally dismantled The Temple of Athena Nike in 2002 for restoration work, so we didn't get to see it. I was looking for the rock which Poseidon struck when he and Athena were vying to become the patron God of Athens, but didn't find it (apparently it's in the Erechtheion, but the public wasn't allowed to wander in, so).

The Acropolis museum was open, thank god, but I was shocked to discover that the Caryatids supporting the porch of the Erechtheion are actually plaster casts, and not the originals! Gasp. Horror. Shock. Anyhow I'd always wondered how they could leave the Caryatids in the open, what with the pollution eroding them. Putting them in the museum behind a glass pane sounds like as good a way as any and leaving behind plaster casts, especially since one had been carted away by Lord Elgin already.

After we left the Acropolis, I took a detour to mount the Areopagus - the hill where St Paul is said to have preached to the Athenians. Right now, the Areopagus is a small patch of treacherously slippery and uneven white marble, so I assume that there was an error in translation or miscommunication, kind of like what happened to Schliemann with Nestor's drinking cup.

After the Acropolis, we were taken to see the Olympic Flame where it resided in the Panathenian stadium, then to Syntagma Square where we witnessed the changing of the guard. We were then unleashed upon the City of Athens.

My father didn't have any place he wanted to go, having kindly gone on the trip mostly just to accompany me, so I set the agenda. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was nearby, so I trekked there. Interestingly, it was free to enter (as were all the other sites we visited on that day) as it was National Monument Day, or something like that. Only 16 of the original 104 Corinthian columns survive (and one is in pieces, lying on its side) but nonetheless it is impressive, in the Roman tradition of grandeur, though somehow typically souless (though that is probably due to the survival only of the columns). I then went looking for Hadrian's Arch, but found it with difficulty - for it was covered from head to toe in scaffolding.

After that, we walked to the Roman Agora, which contained the Tower of the Winds (Horologion of Andronicos) and a few ruins. The Ancient Agora, which we walked to later, was much more extensive and impressive, with such structures as the Hephaisteion (the only roofed temple remaining in Greece, so I was told) and the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles (restored). Naturally, the Ancient Agora's museum was under renovation for the Olympics, but at least some sculptures were left outside. While at the Ancient Agora, I was bored, so I went exploring - and ended up exhausting myself climbing to the foot of the Areopagus, while my father rested on a bench in the shade.

The last stop of the day was Kerameikos Cemetery - the official cemetery of Athens till late Roman times. I couldn't find the museum, probably as it - along with a part of the site - was cordoned off and closed, but at least I got to walk the Sacred Way of the cemetery. After that, we were done with walking the streets for a day, and trying to make our way to Monastiraki station, somehow ended up to the north, at Omonia station, and took a train back to Syntagma Square, whence we returned to the hotel. We were both tired, so I bought dinner back - a turkey ham sandwich from Everest, a sandwich shop, and a Greek Chicken Pita meal from McDonalds, which was delectable. Unlike my normal practice, though, I didn't have a McFlurry, nor did I have one in Greece.

The Athens Metro

At a flat 0.70 Euros per trip, the Metro was cheap, especially compared with prices in Greece in general. It was new, and the subway cars remind me of those in New York.

The archaeological findings from the construction works were displayed in some Metro stations. Nothing to write home about - the best bits were probably carted off to museums, but the drab amphorae and clay pipes added a nice touch to the otherwise drab stations.

Places I would like to return to Greece to visit one day:

Marathon, Plataea, Delos, Corinth, Chaeronea/Chaironeia (the stone lion!), Mount Olympus (if only to eat ambrosia, drink nectar and thus become immortal), Thessalonica, Knossus, Rhodes, Sparta, Thera

This ranks, of couse, in my priority list, at about the same level as ironing my own clothes and cleaning out my room thoroughly.

Coming at some point in the future - Part 2...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Estuans interius
ira vehementi
in amaritudine
loquor mee menti:
factus de materia,
cinis elementi
similis sum folio,
de quo ludunt venti.
Cum sit enim proprium
viro sapienti
supra petram ponere
sedem fundamenti,
stultus ego comparor
fluvio labenti,
sub eodem tramite
nunquam permanenti.

Feror ego veluti
sine nauta navis,
ut per vias aeris
vaga fertur avis;
non me tenent vincula,
non me tenet clavis,
quero mihi similes
et adiungor pravis.

Mihi cordis gravitas
res videtur gravis;
iocis est amabilis
dulciorque favis;
quicquid Venus imperat,
labor est suavis,
que nunquam in cordibus
habitat ignavis.

Via lata gradior
more iuventutis
inplicor et vitiis
immemor virtutis,
voluptatis avidus
magis quam salutis,
mortuus in anima
curam gero cutis.
I recovered by the time I reached Greece but it seems Singapore's air is making me sick again. Or maybe it's the remnants of the Doxycycline *grumble*

Anyhow, pinched the following off someone's LJ. The answers to some of the questions could possibly be quite private, so I don't know how people can leave them in public comment spaces. If anyone cares to answer the questions, you can leave them in the comments space or email them to me :)

1. Who are you?
2. Are we friends?
3. When and how did we meet?
4. How have I affected you?
5. What do you think of me?
6. What's the fondest memory you have of me?
7. How long do you think we will be friends?
8. Do you love me?
9. Do you have a crush on me?
10. Would you kiss me?
11. Would you hug me?
12. Physically, what stands out?
13. Emotionally, what stands out?
14. Do you wish I was cooler?
15. On a scale of 1-10, how hot am I?
16. Give me a nickname and explain why you picked it.
17. Am I loveable?
18. How long have you known me?
19. Describe me in one word.
20. What was your first impression?
21. Do you still think that way about me now?
22. What do you think my weakness is?
23. Do you think I'll get married?
24. What makes me happy?
25. What makes me sad?
26. What reminds you of me?
27. If you could give me anything what would it be?
28. How well do you know me?
29. When's the last time you saw me?
30. Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn't?
31. Do you think I could kill someone?
32. Are you going to put this on your LiveJournal [Ed: Or blog. Or Xanga. Or blogdrive. Blah blah blah] and see what I say about you?

Medicine and Proselytizing

A legal question - "I think that psychics, astrologers, Tarot readers, etc. have legal limitations to what they can promise (in some countries at least). Is there or should there be a limit to what religions can promise?"

Into battle with Alexander - "Oliver Stone is turning the deeds of Alexander the Great into a sword and sandals epic. Historian Robin Lane Fox agreed to advise on period detail — just as long as he could lead the cavalry"
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