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Saturday, February 26, 2005

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." - Sir Winston Churchill


And so, after my grand adventure the other day, I got home and installed KOTOR II on my laptop. And then found out that it didn't work: it kept dumping me back to the desktop when the game engine fired up after the introductory movie, and that no patch was available (though one is on the way).

Research revealed that the system requirements for KOTOR and KOTOR II are the same (which was why I assumed that the latter would work on my laptop), and both do not support the ATI RADEON 7500 chipset, since it only has drivers up to the OpenGL 1.3.4650 standard, when KOTOR II requires OpenGL 1.4. And so, while waiting for a patch, I attempted to install and play it on the desktop.

Amazingly, it only took 2 installation attempts (punctuated, of course, by a sponteneous reboot) to install the game, even though it's spread across 4 CDs. Playing it was a different matter. Although the hardware detection utility passed the desktop, the game kept Crashing To Desktop (CTD) either during startup and before the opening screen, at the beginning of the opening movie (I see the words "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away..." fading in, and then the game hangs) or after character creation and the opening movie (ie The same place as the laptop, except that the laptop at least shows me the opening frame before dumping me back to Windows while the desktop shows some mysterious blue-tinged shapes - perhaps they are the Sith Lords alluded to in the game's title).

A search on the net reveals that I'm not the only one with a Radeon 7500 who has problems (DriverHeaven.net - Severe Kotor II problems, Obsidian Forums), so hopefully they'll release a patch to solve our problems, especially since the Radeon 7500, though old, is still owned by quite a few people.

Incidentally, the game cannot be returned or exchanged for another, since "the hardware requirements are already printed on the box". Ah, the joys and rewards of buying original software; many (most?) pirated CD shop uncles would have let you exchange your CDs if the game didn't work.

So now I may choose from a wide variety of unsavoury options:

i) Give up
ii) Try to sell off the game to recoup my losses
iii) Write a vehement editorial condemning the evils and immorality of money-grubbing capitalism
iv) Wait (, probably) in vain for a patch (since particle effects are the only part of KOTOR II that needs OpenGL 1.4, providing an option to disable them should solve the problem)
v) Fix my desktop
vi) Get a new computer sans monitor and peripherals assembled
vii) Go somewhere else to play the game
viii) Wail, gnash my teeth, beat my breast, rip my shirt while smearing ashes on myself and shake a fist at the heavens
ix) Retreat into asceticism and ponder the meaning of life
x) Wait for The Associate aka He Who Must Not be Named aka mindgame aka nw.t. to dig up some beta drivers for my graphics card for me

All of which are testaments to my sad, sad life. Moral of the story: Buying original games isn't necessarily good.

Add to this the fact He Who Must Not Be Named's pulling of a Harry Potter on me last weekend. I swear, the next time he does that, I shall soundly thwack him or lace his ice with cockroach dung. Or even splash his name and picture all over the seedy highways of the internet.

"Agagooga's desktop computer is totally screwed and so crashes unpredictibly, estimated at the (conservative) rate of 10 times an hour with intensive use (eg Number crunching with Excel, opening a browser window with 30 tabs, burning a CD-R or copying 200MB files to an external hard disk).

Assume that the number of crashes per hour follows the Poisson distribution.


i) The mean and variance for the number of crashes in a 3 hour session of Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (KOTOR II) (ie How many times he will have to restart his game in a 3 hour session and the variance of this result)

ii) The probability that he will be able to play KOTOR II for a whole hour without the game crashing

iii) The probability that, with his rash of bad luck, he will get a crash every minute"

Of course, since I can't even get into the stupid game, these questions are moot.

Someone: you know, if you were a lecturer in nus... i can imagine how my midterm tests and tutorials and probably exams will be
we'll be learning little bits of your life throughout the sem

you've got the mentality of a porno star
in a weird way hahahahahah
exhibitionist hahahahahaha


A friend of mine has been written into a fanfic. Maybe I need to become more active in PR forums, then maybe someone will write me into one too!


Crimethink on life in mono:

"Yet nobody ventures even a mention of why there is such a climate of fear in the first place. There is no mention of the famed “OB markers” which keep many away from being vocal about an opinion, especially a dissenting (some say disparaging) one. Or about the automatic deference expected of our culture, that demands “respect” for elders and for leaders, such that the point of debate over the issuing of an opinion is no longer about the arguments or their context, but shock awe and horror at the utterance of the “D” word (despot) – surely an act of incivility? How does anybody, literally, afford to be vocal about your dissent, in a place like this? This is not a full time job many have the stomach or pockets to take on."

The comments thread is also worth a look.

life in mono is current down, due to bandwith overload.

Against Nature: Why Nature Should Have No Say on Human Sexuality - "The homophobe who relies on ‘nature’ to defend his bigotry against gay parenting, for example, in all likelihood will have no problem at all consuming food containing preservatives, artificial colouring, artificial flavouring, and sweeteners, shaving his naturally present facial hair, keeping his naturally long hair short, using deodorant to control naturally occurring perspiration, using a car or train to get to work (rather than the ‘natural’ method - walking), sitting in air conditioned buildings, and wearing clothes made from humanmade fibres. He will moan about the ‘bad weather’ (rain, and so on), despite this weather being perfectly natural, and rush to the chemist when he catches a cold (which he will also moan about, despite the germs being natural). Nature = good is clearly a false equation. In reality, we find some elements of the natural world ‘good’ (and we use these to define ‘nature’), but most of it ‘bad’ (which we tend to conveniently ignore)."

Some Economists Say the President of Harvard Talks Just Like Them

"He prefaced his discussion by saying he would "adopt an entirely positive, rather than normative approach," looking at how the world is, rather than how it ought to be. He ended with a call for "marshaling of evidence to contradict what I have said."

Despite his caveats, some women's advocates were outraged that Dr. Summers entertained, let alone endorsed the hypotheses that family arrangements or innate abilities might have anything to do with the success of women in science. Nancy H. Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has campaigned for more hiring and promotion of female professors, walked out on his remarks and later told reporters, "I felt I was going to be sick."

In lambasting his nonjudgmental, empirical approach to the question, opponents are not merely challenging Dr. Summers's brash manner or his evaluation of the data. They are attacking the very method economists use to address social policy questions. And, not surprisingly, some of his most outspoken supporters are fellow economists."


Existential Angst

"I’ve finally come to a very real and very critical place in my development. This world is full of more horrors than joys, more pain than beauty. It has always been this way and no matter what we may tell school children we cannot change the world. The world will not markedly improve, even if it manages to survive the abuses humanity showers upon it. If there is any God or a force greater than humanity I feel more like a science project than a beloved child, more like a freak show than praise-able subject. If there is a God I don’t think he/she/it is showing up anytime soon, and my gut instinct would say there is no such force. So what then? If there is no potential for bettering humanity, and no Higher Power to dance for, then what is the point of contributing, of being good, of existing at all? And where do I possibly go from here?

See, it’s a slippery slope all this existential theory.

So I’m at the library, seeking the philosopher or guru who can clarify the meaning of no-meaning. Sartre said meaning was in individuals, individual moralities and ideals and behaviors. Sartre managed to fight for the greater good against Nazi Germany and continually shit all over Simone who loved him more than anyone in the world. Jean-Paul Sartre was definitely a man. Karl Marx came up with a lovely, lyrical portrait of utopia, and fully admitted it was impossible for humans to achieve. This indisputable fact is one which millions have chosen to over look. Jesus said, “Love one another”, a gift his followers seem only able to give to those who are just like themselves. Scientists say the answer is in nature, technology, progress. They seem to expect me to see life while they autopsy atoms and grin. New Agers look into crystals, and ancient rituals, and spiritual energies and find a form of religion that is soft, benign and utterly incoherent. Whatever form it takes religious thought is a comforting way to quickly answer, and therefore deny, the real world...

I’ve grown tired of seeking in these rows of books. There is much wisdom and foolishness here but no one work which answers all." [Ed: Emphasis mine - on why reading is overrated.]


http://www.rafflesian.com/event/attach/Rafflesians'_Card.pdf (if the link doesn't work, try this or this and scroll to "Mon, 28 Feb 2005 ORA EGM")

There's an ORA UOB Visa Credit Card. Wth?!

Friday, February 25, 2005

"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." – John F. Kennedy

[As someone points out: not a bad quote for the guy who started Vietnam... not bad at all...]


I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." - John Kenneth Galbraith


This is for my No. 1 fan blah blah: Yah 有性格


My cell phone rang in the church and everyone looked at me.
I answered it and someone told me to turn it off.
I told them it was god and he was furiously angered at them, and he would smite them with his holy fist.
I proceeded to scream "Repent!" at the top of my voice.
long story short, I dont have to go to church anymore

[Editor's note in response to a query: No, I did not actually do this.]


Oikono and friends were bored enough to engage in some Cosplay.

Luckily, unlike the sort that Singaporeans are so fond of, this did not come off as grotesque (maybe the sepia-toned photos have something to do with that).


Florence Foster Jenkins

"Florence Foster Jenkins (1868–26 November 1944) was an American soprano who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability...

From her recordings, it is apparent that Jenkins had little sense of pitch and rhythm, quite a limited range, and was barely capable of sustaining a note. Her accompanist can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes. Nonetheless, she became tremendously popular in her unconventional way. Her audiences apparently loved her for the amusement she provided rather than her musical ability. Critics often described her work in a backhanded way that may have served to pique public curiosity.

Despite her patent lack of ability, Jenkins was firmly convinced of her greatness. She compared herself favourably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and dismissed the laughter which often came from the audience during her performances as coming from her rivals consumed by "professional jealousy". She was aware of her critics, however, saying "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing.""

Available on Amazon.com: The Glory (????) of the Human Voice

It has rave reviews: "One day, when I entered my second semester of theory at the University of Pennsylvania, our instructor was playing a CD. This was not out of character, for he always greeted our entrance with some sort of music to accompany our "settling in" conversations. However, this time, instead of people chattering, we were actually paying attention. Spellbound, we heard the absolutely marvelous vocal massacre that was being perpetrated, and reveled in its glorious awful highs and lows.

When I finally managed to buy the CD for myself and put it on a party I attended, the same thing happened, followed by a massive explosion of laughter."


Unintelligent Design

"Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety...

The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. Consider how humans and other animals are intermittently tortured by pain throughout their lives, especially near the end. Our pain mechanism may have been designed to serve as a warning signal to protect our bodies from damage, but in the majority of diseases -- cancer, for instance, or coronary thrombosis -- the signal comes too late to do much good, and the horrible suffering that ensues is completely useless.

And why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception. Souls bearing the stain of original sin, we are told, do not merit salvation. That is why, according to traditional theology, unbaptized babies have to languish in limbo for all eternity. Owing to faulty reproductive design, it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined."


Singapore girls - a challenge to love: STAR

"This has prompted a newspaper reader to urge her well-educated peers to revisit some the traditional feminine traits.

Her letter followed reports that more Singaporeans, including young professional males, were turning abroad for brides.

She said she had worked in Vietnam and found the girls there feminine, their speech melodious.

“They work hard without complaining, carrying loads of cloth and vegetables in the market stalls and food places. Simple, gentle and hardworking, it's hard not to fall in love with them,” she added.

As for the Malaysian ladies, she finds them “neither loud nor argumentative, (but) pander to the boys' needs. Not as doormats, but as cheerful assistants, who see it as their obligation to help their men without expecting anything in return.

“Not that they are stupid - oh, no, the Malaysian girls I know are smart and hardworking, with careers of their own.

“But when it comes to matters of the heart, they play the docile, giggly girlfriend with as much aplomb as their Vietnamese counterparts. Again, it's easy to see where their attraction lies.”"

How disgusting.


On the placing of Out Of Print (OOP) gamebooks on the web (ala Home of the Underdogs, which interestingly enough is run by a female. A female into both computer games and gamebooks - that's something you almost never see!):

RE: Re: The Underdogs. The truth about copyright.

A: Dear xxx,

Your bashing on the underdogs site is being mostly unnecessary, and, despite legalist quotations, inaccurate:

1. Piracy implicates an intention to deceive so as to illegally distribute (in any imaginable format). The Underdogs site is public and notorious, it is not in a p2p network or in a private ftp server, it is announced as what it is, a portal which provides people with information, materials and (in some cases only) stuff which qualifies as "abandonware". Gamebooks fall quite close to the sphere of 8-bit and pre-Pentium era computer games.

2. Related to 1., the administrator is quite easy to reach and has no qualms about retiring any download with the holders of either intellectual property rights or distribution copyright (you forgot to note in your well documented mail that they are not the same thing. As a professional writer myself I have great respect for intellectual property, but I know distribution and editorial copyright for what it is, piracy with a letter of marque). He also links to sites where the original games can be bought, either in their original form or in those "compilations" which came into fashion a few years ago.

3. Check the gamebooks listed. Your apocalyptic comment on how e-distribution destroys hopes of publishing houses taking interest in a relaunch does not take into account things like: ICE's Middle-Earth Quest gamebooks. As you may know, ICE lost Tolkien Entreprises' license to publish Middle Earth gaming materials. Part of that license loss came out apparently for the fact of them having published gamebooks (TE does not accept the publishing of new Middle Earth fiction, and a gamebook to them was more book than game). So ICE's books are actually "abandonware". Same for stuff like "Crystal Maze". Can you give me the name of a publisher which would ever consider relaunching a gamebook based on a tv quiz show from the 80s??? You can apply the same stuff to Knightmare.

4. For the other stuff, well, most of the books were issued by publishing houses which dwindled, disappeared, merged, etc. Also by authors who have moved to greener pastures (out of necessity or choice). Like you, they can ask their materials to be removed, if they consider that their IP is being jeopardized.

5. You don't curb yourself for a second to see if there's nothing to be said about the fact that it is standard policy now to make most non-best-seller and non-classic books OOP as fast as possible. Gamebooks are a minority affair. You cannot go to most national libraries or documentalist centers and ask for a whole collection of Lone Wolf 1-28. That somebody takes the time and effort to make available at least an e-copy guarantees that the work is not lost in the midst of time. Fine, gamebooks are not the Epic of Gilgamesh or a Shakespeare sonnet, but the idea of books, any kind of books, being lost in the mists of time in the 21st century is still appalling.

6. On that respect, I do not see publishing houses taking steps and measures to keep their back inventories, even if it's just a pre-publishing draft, an archive copy or a .pdf. Excepting in a few companies of the gaming world and of academic writing, "print on demand services" or at least e-book services for "oldies" are a rarity. Some good exceptions are ICE, which provides .pdfs for old Rolemaster, the Time Machine gamebooks, available as an e-book purchase, and the D&D ElectronicSoftwareDownloads. But that would not be the case with defunct companies, or even with reckless ones. I had a small degreen of involvement with WotC's ESD project (to make the whole of pre 3e D&D stuff available as pdf) and it was dreadful how they had to call for collectors and fans to contribute their copies of old stuff, because TSR and subsequently WotC did not manage to keep a whole archive of their publications.

7. That means that a company can hold the rights of a book which is not even in their archives, files or possession anymore, only on contractual documents. That is tantamount with speculating with real estate by buying buildings, make no investment and let them collapse. Speculation and irresponsibility with one's property when it affects the common interest (like a publisher sitting idle on OOP books) is basically a crime.

8. Back to 3. That a book is available in electronic format does not imply that somebody continues interested in getting a copy. I have been enjoying project aon, plus some stuff from underdogs, but that has not prevented me from investing quite a bit over a thousand dollars in OOP gamebooks. Even after getting access to LW 13-15 (and prospectively many more titles), Greystar, the whole Blood Sword, Falcon, Golden Dragon and Dragon Warriors RPG, I have purchased copies of those books through ebay, antiquarian bookstores or online OOP book services. I like having copies of 80s gamebooks and RPG supplements, and no amount of .pdfs is going to change me. Another thing is if I cannot access a single book of a series, just because it is clearly overpriced in OOP (within reason, some old gamebooks are expensive, but some dealers are just insane) or just unavailable at any price for months of years. I see a good service to be able to download a copy, continue the storyline or use RPG info even if my collection stays incomplete.

9. Without sites like underdogs I would not have a clear picture of some series. If I am going to spend over $50 in a paperback book, I want to know if I really like it. You cannot flip through pages of Bloodsword or Fabled Lands in a bookstore, you cannot risk putting just $6 in a book you may not like, as it is hard to find most titles for cover price. So, for the OOP, to have an e-copy accessible is quite a necessity. collectors will always want to buy. They also want to see what they're buying.

10. As for reprints. I wonder if there's not a vast majority of people who have e-copies of FL, Bloodsword, LW, whatever, and, regardless, would be willing (or even longing) to buy the series from a publisher who reprinted them! The "feel" of a gamebook is something quite hard to capture in a pdf, or even in a lettersized printout! The problem comes when you start thinking if the reprints are worth it. I was quite thrilled by the news of wizardbooks reprinting FF till I saw it materialize: besides a hefty price, even for a paperback, the original covers (I don't know if for copyright issues with illustrators or for some insane marketing persuasion) were dropped and some flashy gaudy, bad taste new ones included; books which had maps in the original omitted them in the reprints, and you can buy an original in mint-near mint state for half the price of the reprint! They did not, and I don't believe they are, reprint the "rares" (think of Curse of the Mummy or Revenge of the Vampire, which can reach 3-figure prices).

11. That's what makes Mr. xxx's email a bit suspicious to my ear. Call me paranoid, but he sounds a lot like the anti-Warlock scans rants of Mr. Dave Holt some time ago. A certain desire to blur out the "old world" of gamebooks from the picture, so there's no life outside Wizard Books and the "official sites". I have on my nightstand a copy of "The Pickup Artist" by Terry Bisson, an interesting novel on a future where government destroys "old" art and books to make room for the new ones. I don't know if that's the schema of things, but given the oddjob efforts by wizardbooks, I wonder if all this copywriting rant is not covering a fear of competence, the competence that comes from just paying an educated visit to underdogs, but also to abebooks, ebay or any other marketplace and see the plethora of gamebooks of varying quality which can be acquired and enjoyed. If the fledging gamebook industry of now fears the competence of the past, probably it is just because the effort now is being half-hearted, competence in writing and art was never a bad thing.

A: A couple more notes

>Surely the main point is that if a product is available free on the
>Internet, there is no incentive for a publisher to pick up the out
>of print book and publish it.

Surely the main point is that a publisher is insulting buyer's intelligence by overcharging the product he is selling.

Let's see. The recipe to make a book:

1) get an author with an idea, or commission it, you get a manuscript. But oh, now most publishers only take computer-formatted documents. How much is that? Jon will know too. You get a small percentage of the sales. If you are an obscure author, like me, like Jon Sutherland, like most gamebook writers, normally you get an advance on that, which can go from a few hundred to a few thousand. The publisher's percentage is always quite higher than the author's (normally something like 10/90 or under). That has been like that since Egyptian papyri.

2) Get paper and ink. You know about globalization? Taking wood from the Amazon and manufacturing paper in Asia (I saw 3 paper manufacturers close in my -European- country just because of that), prices have gone down from the more expensive materials (and less abusive) 30 years ago?

3) Edit and format. You have to pay a proofreader for that. But check how many contracts force the author to self-proofread, and how many unemployed MAs and BAs get to work as proofreader for big publishing house courtesy of ultra-nice and fair temp-job agencies. See their salaries and cry.

4) Make the 1st draft. only that drafts are not drafts anymore. they are pdf documents. Maybe some people in the list have not even known those printing machines with metal letters and signs where you had to compose each page by hand. Now you need a computer and some professional book-editing software, something like Acrobat pro. OK, you need some investment in that equipment, and in those big professional printers, but then, it's a far cheaper process than traditional printing. Plus maintenance costs of a computerized printing mainframe are far lower than those of printing presses.

5) Continue with the whole print run.

6) Bookbinding. See 2. The rule of cheap plastic materials, for binding, covers and so on, lowers prices even more.

7) Distribution and marketing, you can say oil prices raise, but only recently. Wages go down. Production of commercials, ads, poster sings, etc, is cheaper now as per 4.

So, the question is, excepting for 1), which is fixed in screwing the author as much as the publisher can, everything seems to have dropped:


No, they raise every year, just wonder, do they pay the author better? No friends, I can assure you. Do they use better quality materials?? As cheap as you can go, a paperback now crumbles as good as it did in the 70s. Well, law is, prices never drop, they always raise. And the cash flows into the publishers' pockets. Publishers which, in turn, are fewer and fewer, as small companies tend to be absorbed by larger editorial and media holdings, which makes production even cheaper.

So, what happens if you don't buy a book because you have a bootleg?

Authors and workers don't get less money. They already almost verge on minimum salary levels, and slavery is illegal excepting in certain countries where maybe they make paper and covers for a few big media companies. Companies won't stop publishing, and they won't stop not taking risks. If somebody does not resuscitate an OOP, it is not because it circulates the internet. You could also say that they don't publish it because you can buy it for one buck at a used bookstore or check it out from the public library, and I hope Jon Sutherland does not hate used bookstores and public libraries. That book-burning thing is sooo 30s. It is because they don't want to take risks and don't see a commercial exit (something ok for somebody who is doing business). Check E.R.Burroughs or Clark Ashton Smith for good examples of scifi authors which were (partly) public domain and, nevertheless, have been published again because of certain market conditions which caught the eye of publishers. If you get a photocopy or scan of a book you cannot afford, cannot find because you live in Antartica or in my home town, or you just want to give a try but feel half-hearted about introducing into your library, you're taking a small percentage from a huge money-making cushion most publishers of commercial literature surround themselves with, normally at the expense of the author, the workers and the material providers. That cushion does include in fact a careful monitoring of self-competence. Print runs these days are shorter than a few decades ago. It is very useful to turn books into seasonal items, so that you always have to go for the new one and not for the backlist, therefore assuring that any new launch, regardless of its literary quality, is a success. No wonder some countries have high VAT for books, with luxury tax levels equal to those applied to furs, gold and designer's clothing. If books are seen like a fashion article and not like a necessity for humans' wellbeing.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts." - Clare Booth Luce


I was asking around for where to buy cheap original games, and 2 independent sources referred me to:

Computex Computer Services (aka Ah Lim's shop), in Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre,

and one referred me to this Hardwarezone thread with more information. I called Ah Lim up on Saturday, and he said Knights of the Old Republic II (KOTOR II) was sold out, and to come on Tuesday at about 2pm. I enquired about the price, but he was skittish, only assuring me that he would give me a "very good price". However, someone had told me that you could save $20 by Final Fantasy XI there, so I assumed that buying KOTOR II might deliver similar savings.

So today I boarded the 153 at Bukit Merah. The bus driver was this grumpy chinese woman who, when I asked her where to get off, mumbled incoherently in the hope of fending me off. However, I was not to be deterred, and wore her down with my persistence until, giving up, she read off her time sheet and gave me an ETA for Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre.

The ETA came and went, yet I didn't see any place that looked vaguely like it was Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre. Experience had also given me faith in the helpfulness of bus drivers in hollering from their seats when passengers' destinations were reached, so I held out for a shout that never came. I was deadened by my confusion, and thrown into a state of apoplexy until I reached Hougang Interchange.

At Hougang Interchange, I called up Computex Computer Services and was given vaguely vague directions, and was asked to ask the bus driver where to get off. So I took the 153 back in the other direction. The bus driver this time was a burly and hairy Indian man with a earring in each ear, but he seemed friendly enough. He tried to describe me where to get off, but in the end he said he would tell me when to get off. And so I sat on the bus, looking around as it moved on for the ever-elusive Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre.

When I started to see road signs for Braddel, my Magnakai Discipline of Divination told me that something was wrong. I went up to the driver and asked if we had passed Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre already. He looked confused momentarily, then replied flippantly: "Pass already, pass already".

And so I got off the bus near Carmichael Road (the location of Patch's demesne, incidentally), and trusted in my stout two feet, sturdy (new) pair of walking sandals and battered but reliable umbrella (for the sun was beating down from above most harshly).

After a long and hard trek, with the four winds tousling my long and silky locks, I finally sighted Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre in the distance, and it was plain why the place couldn't be seen from behind the window panes a moving vehicle: coming from one direction, a huge viaduct in the centre of the road obstructed any view of the shopping centre and especially the letters spelling out its name. Meanwhile, if you came from the other direction, you'd only be able to see the letters spelling out the shopping centre's name if you squinted through the back window of the vehicle and knew where to look, since the letters were not present on the other side of the building. Besides which, the shopping centre, or at least the building with the letters and the bulk of the shops, did not front the main road - it was buffered by another building. So only one traversing by land and so familiar with the lay of the land would be able to determine the location of the place, at least on a first trip.

Descending a steep slope, I found myself staring at an unscaleable fence. Cursing my luck, I had to ascend back to the level of the main road before I could descend another less steep slope some way in front, to reach the shopping centre.

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre itself was an interesting place, run down and with half of the shop units untenanted. Stepping into it was like travelling through a time warp: the place had a seedy 80s feel, complete with the snack bars that you used to find at Bukit Timah Plaza and Katong Shopping Centre (though I think the latter still has them), the smell from which mixed with the generally musty smell of the place emanating from various unmentionables to produce what I call the "Seedy 80s Shopping Centre" scent: one that used to be able to be sampled at Katong Shopping Centre, Bukit Timah Plaza and to a lesser extent, Far East Plaza. Besides the shop hawking half-decade old fashion, a tattoo parlour (where more than half of the photos of satisfied customers' tattoos were of women, strangely), a shop selling school uniforms and the aforementioned snack bars, there was a sauna, relexology centre and KTVs.

Almost immediately after my stepping into the building, the fire alarm went off (it just isn't my day). The tenants seemed unperturbed, however, no one panicked and after a while the alarm was turned off. A faulty alarm, I assume.

While looking for the toilet, I stumbled across 'Hougang de Sauna' which had 2 hostess-type women clad in sultry black clothing leaning on railings in a bored fashion; one was playing with her child. They paid me no attention, because it was obvious that I was more of a tourist than a potential patron: my attention was captured by what seemed to be a Buddhist prayer room: it had a small waterfall and a pond which contained a water jet spouting from the mouth of a golden fish, a garland-draped altar with an idol in the centre and various pots for joss sticks. The room was naturally ventilated, and oddly enough roofed with zinc sheets, some of which had translucent portions to act as skylights. And words on the door announced that the room was open every Thursday, and on the first and fifteenth of the month, from 10am-6pm:

"Rules & Regulations

1. Praying for peace of mind, good health and success in business
2. Seeking of lucky numbers is prohibited [Ed: This struck me as odd because you could pray for business success]
3. Anyone caught with abuse will be barred from worshiping
4. No burning of joss-papers"

In the end, I managed to locate the shop, which had a very friendly proprietor, and bought KOTOR II for $49; not being familiar with the market, I thought it was being sold at $69.90 at least elsewhere, but Melvin informs me that it retails in most places for $54.90. I also got 5 Sony DVD-Rs for $1.40 each (at the NUS co-op they go for $2.20 or thereabouts, even with the discount card). So in the end I saved but $9.90, almost half of which I burned in transport fees, to say nothing of the time wasted. But at least I had an adventure, of sorts.

My recommendation would be that only those living in the East or Northeast visit the shop, unless you're buying large quantities of merchandise. And for those who appreciate clearer directions than on the HWZ thread: the nearest MRT stations are Serangoon and Kovan, and if you go by bus you should stop around the crocodile farm or the start of the long viaduct.


Me: I just had an adventure

Someone: wat adventure?
sex ah :P

Me: sex with you ah

Someone: wtf?
how come i didnt noe

was it good?
was i good :P
im bored

Me: I can tell
maybe it was a doppleanger [Ed: Doppelganger]

Someone: so was it good
the sex i meant

Me: not telling

Someone: hahahahhaa
hahahahha :P
u're not the kiss n tell kind

Me: haha you never kiss me what
how to tell

Someone on why he's not doing business: business will confirm get cheated one......... I so gullible.......


After looking at many pictures of moobs, I've come to the conclusion that mine don't actually look too bad. Yay.
"The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood." - Logan Pearsall Smith


A source told me that as of 2004, 河谷中学 (He2 Gu3 Zhong1 Xue2) had ended its communist hair rules (at least for females). I wonder if Anglican is now the only secondary school in Singapore with such restrictions.

[Addendum: A reliable source has informed me that Paya Lebar Methodist Girls School (PLMGS) also has ridiculous said hair rules. Which is odd, since it doesn't immediately strike me as being a communist school.

Another tells me that when we were in JC, the rule in AHS was lifted.]


In the Mix


The habit of sitting around discussing the meanings of songs people find cryptic has been a longstanding pop tradition. From "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" to "25 or 6 to 4," nothing has been taken at face value. Everything is subject to exegesis, as though any use of symbols, no matter how obvious, made a song deeper. How could "Puff the Magic Dragon" be a children's song? What does "Puff" mean anyway?

There's a trace of that crypto-divination in Eminem's "Stan" (for my money, one of the finest singles of last year). "Stan" alludes to a fairly common urban legend, that Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" is about Collins helplessly standing in the distance watching a friend drown and seeing that someone else nearby could've saved his friend but didn't. ("You know that song by Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight?" / About that guy who could have saved that other guy from drowning?") In reality, the Collins song is little more than a song about his impending divorce from his first wife. It's a little ironic, isn't it, that the person who himself complains about overly literal interpretations of his text gives in to the same thing?

Me, I'm ornery and I never believe in conspiracy theories. Best one I've heard, though, is the ludicrously elaborate one that claims the Pet Shop Boys stands for "Pray Eternally To Satan, He Offers Peace, But Owns Your Soul."" [Ed: Emphasis mine]

I can't stop laughing.


My manual dexterity is insufficient to perform the required actions, but Enming offers a walkthrough for the flash game Hapland:

turn on all the windows before you begin

then shift the arrow

after which you get the stick figure out of the manhole and get him to fire one rock to hit the bridge over

adjust the pointy thing near the bell so the other end points upwards...

then hit the bell with the second rock

fire the two bombs (the two green things in the cannon are bombs...after the rocks) on low...and when they hit the bridge, bounce them so they explode in mid-air.

fire the blue pass low so that it ricochets off the surfaces to reach the guy in the cave

then jerk the lever once more and send the guy into the launcher.

get another man out of the manhole, let him fire, as he flies near the top of the hill, click the steel arrow so that he is not impaled...

he will land safely on the hill, then click on him to push the tower over

click the gun turret on the cannon to lower it
when the tower is pushed, click on the bell until it falls on the sharpened see-saw, this will flip the rock over and explode the land mine

then get the man out of the house, he will enter the other house and light the torch

AT THE SAME TIME get the man out of the cave...

time them both so that when the man gets into the house and activates the switch that causes the rocks to fall, the rocks would fall on the dog that drops out of the exclamation mark box...

just make sure that you get the man out of the house and the other man out of the cave so that once the man gets into the house, he can drop the concrete that will kill the dog...after this happens, both torches will be lit and the goals will be accomplished.


Singapore Sucks: Total(itarian) Defence - "Youths are too apathetic, the government of Singapore says. They watch MTV and spend their time trying to sneak into Zouk. After years of suppressing dissent and promoting the "values" of a one-party state, the motley crew of aging cadres have become seedless Abrahams. Perhaps in the seventies and eighties they thought they would live forever. But they will not, and they have realized that a mausoleum is no substitute for a state."
Though he is as fond as Xenoboy of using big words, at least here they do not sound awkward and actually mean something.

Ultimate Christian Wrestling - "UCW is an exciting Christian Outreach Ministry that uses Professional Wrestling as a vehicle to minister to the world. UCW is a family oriented company, focused on clean and spiritually educational entertainment. UCW exists to minister the Gospel of Christ to the Lost and to see lost souls saved. Our long term goal is to have prayer placed back in public school. With your help, and the help of other dedicated Christians, we will achieve just that. UCW is carrying out the Great Commission of our Lord."
I'm quite sure that this is a joke.

Clueless Robber Gets No Respect - "A Minneapolis man allegedly tried to rob a grocery store last month, but tripped himself up when he put his gun on the counter so he could scoop up the cash. The store clerk lost no time in grabbing the gun himself, and chased the gunman out of the store"
Reading about so many gun robberies, you wonder why people can still oppose gun control and claim that their opposition is grounded in rationality.


I wonder what lecturers hate more during lectures - students sleeping or students talking loudly.


I prefer your old blog. I'm not interested at looking at all the websites you looked at over the day

[On Secondary School life vs NUS life] life was good. i didn't know what orientalism was.

Inside a squirrel *Draws a deformed squirrel* This looks like a squirrel, doesn't it? You guys are gonna have nightmares tonight.

[On biologists not adhering to the reproductive definition of species] First you ask whether they are a botanist or not. If they're a botanist you don't trust anything they say about species.

[On ending reproductive isolation] Eventually the plants will reproduce with the animals, and you get some unimaginable creature.

[On 2004] Last year was a bad year for evolutionary biologists. They all died.

[On Donoghue] The fact that he talks about whether species exist outside the mind tells you about the confused mind of a botanist.

After we finish speciation, we move on to the next subject. Does anyone know what the next subject is? [Student: Sexual selection] You wish.

Actually in a triathalon, if you're a triathlete and you're riding on a bike, there's a good chance that your [evolutionary] fitness is very low.

[On the relentless march of modern technology] If there is some chalk, I will write on this board, but nowadays chalk is a very scarce commodity.

[On the Uniform Distribution] This distribution has nothing to do with school uniforms, or police uniforms, if you were hoping for that (?!)

Now you have to know how to integrate. Not integrate with your friends or with the school.

How long before the next person arrives in the queue - which is very useful - not just because you're kaypoh [Ed: nosy] - if you go into business. Last time they called it 'Operations Research'. Now - 'Management Science'. They want to make it sound good - 'science'.

I thought these comments would liven up the class, but some people are just closing their eyes.

The final exam and the mid-term test is open-book. You can bring in anything you like, including your favourite comics. (are open-book)

[On the normal distribution] There is one distribution to rule all of them, like the Lord of the Rings tri'lorgy - One Ring to Rule Them All. *laughs from audience* What's so ticklish about that? I thought it's quite a good analog'gee. You're all giggling. (trilogy, analogy)

Carl Frederick Gauss (Friedrich)

You want to impress your friends at a party, you want to turn people off, you talk about the normal distribution. If you want to turn people off some more, if you want people to leave you alone, you tell them: 'I was studying the Gaussian Distribution yesterday'.

[On th probability density function for a normal distributed random variable] When you go out into the working world - all the businessmen, all the statistically illiterate people, they will be talking about the bell-shaped curve. You can talk about the Gaussian Distribution, and you can write down this formula. You'll be one up against your colleagues.

[On finding the points of inflection in a normal distribution] You can prove this by differentiating the equation. Probably more productive than going to a disco on Saturday night.

[On sending errata to textbook authors] I hope they will send me a free copy for pointing out the errors in the book.

If you want to check it up, look for this book: Kendall's Advanced Theory of Statistics. There're always a lot of copies lying around in the library, because no one wants to read it.

That's what beauty parlours are trying to do. They're trying to turn people from platykurtotic to leptokurtotic.

I like cats. Some of them have very fat and ugly tails. But the normal distribution has a very nice tail that's nice and thin.

[On Murdoch and Barnes' Statistical Tables] You'll be given this red book, which has hon students in NUS for decades. (haunted)

Any other questions? Class participation graded ah.

A Colonel Sanders suit... All of us wouldn't want to be caught dead in it.

[On the shopping experience giving consumers satisfaction] Probably not a thing for guys, but girls! You love to go shopping.

[On the failue of the government's policy of encouraging entrepreneurship and scholarship simultaneously] Usually the entrepreneurs are the school dropouts.

[On the GEP retarding entrepreneurship] For those of us who came from THAT particular program, we know that we're the top 1%... Those of us from THAT particular program: we can do whatever we want, but they want you to become a President's Scholar... Only 20-30% go into the private sector

[On the teacher leaving the class to let the students engage in independent discussion] Where's his webcam?

[On an essay] So you got a B+ without a thesis? So we don't need a thesis. First question answered!

I don't think a normal person is interested in Churchland. [Someone: If they're interested in Churchland, they're not normal]

[On close reading] It's getting something out of nothing.

We should mark each other's papers and take the average. So you give the other person A+

He said what we write is too shallow... He has a PhD in Philosophy... It's not our problem, it's his problem (fault that's it's too shallow, fault)

[On deep analysis] The more you wirte, the more you realise you dare'rer'vate (deviate)

[On the Engineering writing module compared to the USP one] You should look at these 3 page readings. I can finish it in 3 minutes. I take twice as long to read a single paragraph [from our readings]

[On writing essays for general readers rather than the teacher] We write for the sake of readerS. Not [a particular] reader. [Someone: The reader. The reader.]

Provided the judger will be fair enough (judge)

Here's a revised schedule for you, so you can frame and show your parents and be proud of. (that)

[On the expected value of an opinion poll being 3.5] There are a lot of macroeconomists so it doesn't matter if we cut one into half.

You can start a society in NUS: Asian Prince Society

[On Asian Prince] I see people putting up his picture.

[On the door to the secret vaults of a museum] This is like the gate to hell over there.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"Ecclesiastes 3
A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. "

Random Playlist Song: "What would jesus do?" - Big Tent Revival. Choreographing for future dance.

Random Trivia bit:


Yay!!! Union House Theatre season has started again!! So fun!!! Hmmm.... which ones should i go for?

"If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead." - Johnny Carson


An Economic Analysis of Advertising and Bust Enhancement in Singapore

"It was reported in the Straits Times on February 17th that advertisements from two companies offering bust enhancement services were to be blocked by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) because they did not carry disclaimers stating that their results were not verified by scientific studies. This case raises pertinent questions about the role of advertising in a market economy, especially with respect to non-surgical bust enhancement, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, as a scan of Singaporean newspapers will show."

Comments, analyses, criticisms, suggestions and clarifications with respect to my draft are eagerly sought, preferably before my deadline (end Monday/early Tuesday).


Previously my essay would have started in a different manner, like so:

"Women have many options for making themselves look beautiful: cosmetics, plastic surgery, clothing and the like, but as far as enhancing the appearance of their busts is concerned, they have three choices: breast implants, helpful lingerie and non-surgical bust enhancement; these three are substitute goods for each other, with the demand for each being related to the demand for the other two. Implants and lingerie have been available to women for quite some time, but in recent years, non-surgical bust enhancement has become more popular, as evidenced by the proliferation of bust enhancement ads in Singaporean newspapers. These ads, which can be seen in newspapers everyday, promise women bigger busts using non-surgical methods and natural extracts.

Before bust enhancement gained in popularity, women had recourse to two other methods of enhancing their cleavage: breast implants and helpful lingerie. However, these two methods have their drawbacks: implants require surgery, which leaves scars and has the potential for future complications. There is also the danger of leakage: leaking silicone implants are hazardous to health, while leaking saline implants may necessitate additional surgery. Besides which, implants look and feel fake. As for helpful lingerie, it is not a permanent solution, and as with implants, it looks and feels fake, and isn’t satisfying."

I was also going to talk about Maslow's hierarchy of needs (and bust enhancement being quite high in the hierarchy), bust enhancement being a normal good, and women being conscious of their body image.]


The January 2002 archives and February 2002 archives have been restored.

More Miserable Moanings and tales of Obedience School have now been returned to circulation for perusal.

God, it's been 3 years, yet rereading my posts from the time can still make me miserable. I'm not sure that I would be able to take another 30 months of that torture. No matter, it is all a nightmare now, a bad dream that never happened.

Though I did find this gem amusing: "Apparently many people lose their faith while they are indentured. I don't intend to let that happen."

Ah, the witless naivete of youth!

Blast from the past: Seen on a T-Shirt: "Pain is temporary, glory is forever". My response: "Satisfaction from testosterone-driven acts undertaken under peer pressure is temporary, injury is forever".


On my forthcoming Economic Analysis of Bust Enhancement in Singapore:

Someone: placebo effect may not be that relevant

Me: can you think your boobs bigger?

Someone: i don't think u can 'think' your boobs bigger.
i wouldn't know really..
PLEASE don't conduct a survey!!!!!!

Someone else on the same: ok i've only read to page 3 but i have to say
u have amazingly made both bust enhancement and econs interesting
in a way i've never thought possible

Patch on the same: eh
cannot remember my econs

This is what spending the equivalent of 1 1/2 semesters majoring in Economics in Chicago does to you... No wonder NUS is 10th in the world rankings for Social Sciences! So, boys and girls, come to the Premier Institution of Social Engineering!

Someone: i was going through my girlfriend's IE favorites
and guess wot i found?

Me: hahahaha
let me guess
asian prince
steven lim

Someone: YOUR FRIGGIN' QUOTES PAGE, the one that was contributed by ME
you bitch


My writing tutor was saying how in an essay you need a thesis, just as how in a movie you need a plot.

I then told a classmate: "Spirited Away".

My sister wrote a paper in 1994 about the difference between the American writing style and the non-American writing style.

She said American essays are like symphonies and sonatas - subject, exposition and then resolution, while non-American essays are like fugues - everything is going on at the same time, but there is an order in there.


David's Daily Diversions

"The ban on fox hunting will not stop the killing of foxes. Foxes may still be killed with guns. They are, after all, pests. Until the Labour parliamentary mob completely run all the farmers out of business (and they are working hard at it) foxes will still kill livestock. They just may not be killed by hounds. This will put thousands of hounds out of work.

What happens to thousands of hounds out of work? They will have to be put down. So all the foxes will still be killed and now so will the hounds. And what of the jobs that depend on foxhunting? Those people will be at the local Job Centre claiming the tax money paid by the toffs, rather than being paid wages from the toffs. And they will no longer be paying any taxes, since they no longer earn a living."


"And no, it's not just your imagination. Underwear companies note that Singapore women are becoming bustier. Five years ago, the average size was 34A. Today, it is 34B." (Ginnie Teo. “Uplift, upsize, upgrade.”, The Straits Times, October 19, 2003)

See? It's not just my imagination! Must be all the bust enhancement treatments Singaporean women are going for.

The essay I'm writing on bust enhancement isn't as fun as I thought it would be (since I have to make it relevant for my purposes), but reading past ST articles on bust enhancement is still helluva amusing.

The ST (which can stand for whatever you want it to stand for) has made up a quote again!

Luther has been quoted as saying: "You are a geek only when you don't have varied interests" when in fact he never said anything of the sort, ie He was not paraphrased, but had words put into his mouth.

I just knew this would happen again. So much for the responsible reporting that we have in a society imbued with Asian Values.

Maybe I should start reading the ST again so I can pick out all these things. Then again I'd rather spend my time more enjoyably and productively finishing Power Rangers Turbo.
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