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Saturday, June 18, 2005

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg


I've been playing Stronghold 2 recently. It's a buggy game, but fun. Seeing people fly off walls as the missiles from catapults bring down the wall from under them brings one a certain satisfaction.

And they recorded at least 10 different dying screams, adding to the gratification.


Fight Club is a very screwed up movie. Despite the noisy protestations of some ('it is about the soul destroying modern world and the extremity one is driven to in order to battle it... What would you know of the real world in your cossetted life and the damage it sears onto those of us spilling our blood into the mud'), it's just about screwed up men feeling victimised and then blaming others for their self-wrought misfortunes, then trying to justify their existences and assuage the insecurities they have about their masculinities by beating each other up and commiting random acts of anarchy which they see as a blow to the social order that is supposedly oppressing them.


I was at Marina today and I saw a poster advertising Carl's Jr, with a large picture of a burger (which looked good) and the tagline 'Burgers for grown ups'. Thinking that maybe grown ups ate burgers with bacon in them, I went on a hunt for the outlet.

I eventually found the outlet roughly opposite the Pan Pacific, but it wasn't open yet - the official opening is on Thursday, 23rd June. The menu was up though, and I saw the magic word ('bacon'), so I'm hoping (probably against hope) that they will not be compromising their culinary principles in the search for profits.

Tym, who is still on a quest for a good and cheap burger that can be found in Singapore, and I are going to check the place out on opening day, so a review will probably be forthcoming. My brother-in-law says Carl's Jr is good, so hope springs eternal.


Someone: "did anyone tell u that u look like u're a member of the adams family?
the mother :)"

A source reports (on Dunkin Donuts):

"I know the family who used to own the dunkin donut franchise in singapore. They got screwed so bad, now nobody will touch it with the stick."


The review that Enming and I did of the Tommy Seeback Band's Apache has appeared on some German site (there's also a new download link there, since the original site pulled it).

A rough translation:

"An evaluation of a video from the 70ern from today's view may seem unfair for many, but one must itself times the original video in full length (45 MT!) it looks at, in order to understand for which it goes at all. The Tommy sea-brook volume has fullest respect for the selection of the dancers and the choice of the hair-styles in each case still today mine. Since it is again modern today to be retro and because mode sins in regular intervals repeat themselves (when massive shoulder pads become with Maennerblazern finally again decay, because then can I again my dusty Teenagerklamotten from the Kleiderfundus of my nut/mother, that throws nothing away as well known - must be hereditary - to get out and save so recently money and is nevertheless topmodisch tightened), are topical the video and from incomparable schlichtheit and clarity. Reduction on the substantial without trick-technical Tamtam. In this point I do not go thus with the Review "d'accord". I hate the French. Thanks for the left to the video."

Comments on the post:

"You are debt that I cry nu the janzen Tach long!"

"the Urschreitherapie will make better humans also from you; the future becomes beautiful."

"the video is a masterpiece however I admits, I only remembered the whole time: when do the women become finally naked...?"
While doing a reverse search referral lookup, I found the following response paper for a "Feminist Social Theory class" - on Raffles Guys School:

"I remember sitting through talks given by the school principal or the disciplinarian mistress to promote “the gracious RGS girl” behavioral goal. I don’t remember the specific ways they propose for us to live up to “the gracious RGS girl” vision, but I do remember the rules pertaining to our appearance—our Goffmanian identity kit—that I had to keep for four years. No dyed or highlighted hair. Only black hair accessories allowed. Sports shoes were to be white and its logo, if colored, could not exceed a predetermined dimension.

... “Prefects,” the equivalent of the members of the student council, are the disciplinarian mistress’ spies. They are out there to “book” you, within and without the physical school boundary, for failure to keep any of the rules pertaining to appearance. They embody what Goffman described as a small group of people who control the behavior of a large group of people in a total institution.

... Our RGS “selves” existed in our presentation to the public. RGS administrators wanted to foster the impression that our students were not only smart, but also “good.” The image that we were supposed to portray is that we were not top school because of our exam grades only, but because we excelled in everything, including behavior. The amazing thing is that we, the students, also bought this all-rounder image. We took pride in the prestigious RGS brand—our presentation to the public— and we wanted to keep it. Thus, our role to the public—the “gracious RGS girls”—slowly became our selves. Like what Goffman wrote about misrepresentation, we might say that a misbehaving student did not fit to be an RGS girl, but really what we were saying was that she was not fit to play the role of the gracious RGS girl."

Not bad, but the only theory referenced is Goffman's. Pity, that.

Some background on Goffman:

Analysis of Erving Goffman

"Erving Goffman was very interested in society and how people perform in that society. Goffman's approach to the study of social interaction is often called dramaturgical, meaning that he viewed social life as something like a staged drama (Charon, 191). We are always on stage according to Goffman and consequently, that causes us to be performers. Our performances are labeled as "fronts" - the part of the individual's performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance (Goffman, 22). What I think Goffman was trying to say, was that we have and use "masks" (fronts) in our everyday lives; masks that intentionally deceive the audience from the performers true identity. Fronts can also be assumed roles that society has given to the performer with out a choice or say in the matter."


This sounds really dodgy:

Maharishi University of Management: Consciousness-Based Education

"Founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Consciousness-Based Education
Grow in higher states of consciousness
Awaken your total brain potential
Maximize your creative intelligence
Radiate peace to the world

Practice Transcendental Meditation and awaken your total brain potential
Connect all knowledge with the Unified Field and your own Self
Natural, prevention-oriented health program for all
Organic vegetarian meals using locally grown vegetables

National study puts University among best U.S. colleges:
TOP 3% – active and collaborative learning
TOP 7% – student-faculty interaction
TOP 4% – enriching educational experiences
TOP 8% – supportive campus environment
TOP 26% – level of academic challenge"

Friday, June 17, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 10 - Marblehead-Salem-Boston

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

We started the day by breakfasting at IHOP, where half the staff defied my theory about serving staff at food establishments. On the way there (all of a hop, skip and jump), we noticed a sign advertising an incompetent lifeguard.

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Warning: Lifeguard on duty

Since there was some time before the Salem Witch Museum opened, we drove to Marblehead, traveling on the 495, which had a sign warning of a fine of up to $10,000 for littering (!!!). And you thought Singapore was bad.

While scouring Marblehead for Fort Sewall, we got lost in the labyrinthine network of roads, many of them one way. That the town was badly signposted didn't help. Unable to find the fort, we ended up watching the Memorial Day observance ceremony.

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The ceremony was emblematic of the elevation of nationalism to the status of a secular religion, as well as a conflation of that with conventional religion. Which is fine, unless this secular religion is imposed on those who don't subscribe to it ('You are all soldiers, charged with the sacred task of protecting our country!')

The word 'freedom' was also bandied about repeatedly, as some people are wont to do, without any questioning about whether all the wars the US fought were really about protecting their freedom..

Nonetheless, the ceremony and speech were moving, despite my having no emotional connection to them and (allegedly) being bitter, jaded and cynical. Perhaps it says something about Singapore that such sentiments can be aroused in few; not only do we have few speakers who can spark such fires in the breasts of their audiences, some Founding Myths are more convincing and moving than others, and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is a much more potent rallying call than "stability, (stagnation,) foreign investment and economic growth". Though perhaps the most damning factor is that when you treat people like commodities, they will behave like commodities.

They dressed some people up as Ye Olde Soldiers, complete with muskets, which were fired repeatedly at one point, spooking a dog.

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On the way out of Marblehead, I came across a kids' (emphasis on the plural - there were a lot of them) lemonade stand and after asking for directions, became their first customer of the day. Though from the rate they were drinking their product, I wouldn't be surprised if they had fewer customers than their own numbers. It cost a quarter, but my sister thought it was Minute Maid lemonade.

Drving to Salem, I went to the Salem Witch Museum. It had a 20 minute presentation (voiceover accompanied by static displays) on the Salem witch trials. It wasn't too bad, but the museum on witches in history was pitifully small (recognising this, they called it a 'presentation'). Apparently, the traditional witch was a Celtic midwife/widewoman, and this image was distorted by the Medieval church into the classic popular perception of witches. There was also a display on modern witches, to try to counter (unsuccessfully, unfortunately) the FUD spread about them by other theists (specifically... ahem). The presentation also drew a parallel between witch hysteria and McCarthyism and the gay-bashing that accompanied the start of the AIDS epidemic (hmm, now where have we seen that before?) - according to their familiar, fear + trigger = scapegoat.

On the road to Boston, we found our 3rd Krispy Kreme on the 1 South!

Near MIT there was a bar and grill called "Miracle of Science". Gah.

It was quite late by the time we arrived in Boston, so instead of having lunch we settled for a snack, sharing a meal at Wendy's. How McDonald's survives with other superior fast food chains, I do not know; Wendy's had 6 types of salads and grilled potatoes, and offered a choice of sides in addition to the usual fries: chili, sour cream baked potato or salads. The chicken in the fried fillet was very tender and moist, oddly more so than the grilled chicken fillet, which was dry and limp.

This shop by the road was selling a 6XL shirt which went to my knees - I could have bought it to wear as a nightie.

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A 7-11 at Cambridge had the sign: "Shirt and Shoes required". Wth?

Walking to Harvard, I was passing by a YMCA when I had to use the restroom. Going in, I asked the guy behind the counter where the restroom was. He looked skeptical, and asked me why. I was preparing a lecture about his failure to live up to the YMCA's mission statement ("To put Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all"), replete with stern admonishments about the Christian value of charity, but told him that I wanted to use it (what else could I do in a restroom? Shoot myself up with heroin?), and he relented.

In contrast to Princeton, with its pretentiously neo-Oxbridge architecture, Harvard was simple and unassuming for the most part (at least from the parts I saw).

Construction was going on at one of the Boston metro stations, so travel was disrupted and shuttle buses bridged the gap between stations. Consequently, I had no time to check out MIT, or most of the Freedom Trail. And as I was re-entering the subway system at the Park Street station, after an interminable bus ride (at least 20 minutes just to travel the equivalent of 2 metro stops), I was handed a 'personal' invitation (bah) to join the Christ Cult by some woman.

They had amphibious duck tours in Boston, as well as one other city that I'd been to previously (perhaps Portland), but they weren't as impressive as the ones in Singapore: the one here is painted yellow (as opposed to purple or some other funny colour), and has a more duck-like shape.

I then travelled to the Charleston Navy Yard, home of the USS Constitution, the 'World's Oldest Commissioned Warship'. The damn thing's been renovated so many times, I doubt any of the original timber is left inside. Which makes you wonder why they keep it afloat (probably just so they can lay claim to the aforementioned title - since it and the other ship in there are still commissioned, the place is technically still a military installation, which makes no sense). Perhaps to make up for the lack of internationalism in US foreign policy, it was festooned with the flags of many nations, making it look quite hideous. Furthermore, by the time I got there (thanks to the disruption in metro service), its deck was closed, so I could only look at it from afar.

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The thing that pissed me off the most, however, was that I'd thought it was an ironclad, thanks to its nickname ('Old Ironsides'). Even with my diminished state of erudition, I should have realised that it was half a century too early. Oh well.

There was also the USS Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer.

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How come we don't get such amusing safety signs?

In the gift shop they sold The Journal of the War of 1812, which was in its 9th year - how do they find enough stuff to keep publishing new issues?!

Journeying from the naval yard to the subway station, I followed the Freedom Trail most of the way (I'd taken another route there, and gotten lost for a short time), so as I followed it I was singing, partially to distract myself from the pain in my feet, "Follow follow follow follow follow the yellow brick road! We're off to see the Wizard - the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!"

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I'd tried looking for ticketed events in Boston on Memorial Day Monday, but the only thing on was a lousy baseball game - Boston Red Sox vs Baltimore Orioles, so I joined my brother in law for dinner with his friends at the Border Cafe, which served Cajun/Tex-Mex food. It was like Molly's in Hanover, but a lot more noisy, if that were possible. And unique among all the restaurants we visited, at least half the serving staff were male.

The Harvard co-op chain claimed in a sign that it was world-famous. Bah.

On the way back to Tewksbury, we took some night shots. Despite his pretentions and classes, my brother-in-law was unable to take a decent night shot, so I had to do the honours.

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At the motel, there was a list of attractions and the distances to said joints. For example: "Boston - 80 miles". The attractions were listed in decreasing order of distance, till the final entry was: "Applebees Restaurant - Across parking lot". That would make a great Mastercard-style ripoff. I wanted to get a copy of that brochure the night before our departure to scan in, but was counseled to wait for the next morning. Unfortunately, the reception wasn't open when we left, so not only did we not return our keys (encoded keycards, so it wasn't much loss to Motel 6), I didn't get my brochure!

Sister's food diary: "Day 10 : Breakfast at IHOP - pancakes, bacon, sausage, potatoes, sourdough beef sandwich. Snack at Wendy's near MIT - grilled and spicy chicken sandwich. Dinner at Tex-Mex-Cajun restaurant near Harvard. Popcorn crayfish, Cajun mozzarella sticks, Cajun catfish, shrimp quesadillas, seafood enchiladas."

My sister was making dismissive noises when watching Pretty Woman the previous night. I wonder if she does that when she reads her smut novels.

The disadvantage of tipping is that only the waitress serving your table will pay attention to you. However, since they want their tip, they'll be sure to give you at least a minimum standard of service (come to think of it, that may be the real reason why service in America is so much better than in Singapore). In fact, they might even stand for it if you snap your fingers to summon them (another one of my many fantasies - but first I've to learn how to snap my fingers). And you can be sure the service charge won't be appropriated by the despicable management.

Cellular service providers in the US are so helpful, offering service to auto-update your phone's time/date. Why don't we have that here?!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Word of the day: "ataraxia"

Today's dose of weirdness:

My company pantry is staffed with Cantonese-speaking Aunties (CSAs) who assiduously keep the fridge stocked with soft drinks, and the biscuit cans filled with - surprise, surprise - biscuits. I was ambling there for my usual shot of electrolytes (100 plus - the substance which has come close to ruling my life these days. That, and citrus-flavoured Listerine Oral Strips. Dissolving ten oral strips in a can of 100 Plus actually creates a tangy, fruity revitalizing infusion which keeps me going in the mornings - but I digress), when I beheld one of the CSAs standing by the biscuit tin with her wizened features bunched up in extreme concentration.

She was taking cream biscuits from the can (the type that consist of two crackers with lemon cream adhering them together), methodically separating the crackers, and repasting them together. Her features were reminiscent that of a Florentine sculptor preparing a masterpiece for St. Peters' Basilica; or a golf pro at the US masters sizing up a 10m championship-winning putt.

I watched her for some minutes in sheer, horrified fascination. Unable to resist, I asked her why she was doing that.

Her response (in Cantonese) were that they were not "properly aligned" (sic).

I sincerely hope her behaviour was out of OCD or sheer ennui; it would be a terrible alternative if she had been berated by some big fuck structured products dealer who chewed her out for delivering him a plate of "mis-aligned" biscuits and was now acting in fear for her employment. Or if it was actually part of her year-end objectives - ("ensure that cream biscuits in can are properly aligned within 2mm diameter tolerance")

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Congratulations andrew, you are...

mr brown of www.mrbrown.com

Like that ad for Toys 'R Us, you are that kid who doesn't want to grow up. Except you do. And now you're just a big overgrown kid who doesn't want grow up. You have a warped yet addictive sense of humour. It takes skills to poke fun at serious things and you have no problems doing that. Your peers look up to you and yet you're humble about everything. You are an infantile.

Which Singaporean Blogger Are You?



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 9 - Portland-Kennebunkport

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

We started off the morning with a mad dash from Augusta (where we stayed the night) to Portland to catch a lobster tour (the first of the season, and the last on Sundays before some regulations against lobster fishing on Sundays kicked in). Luckily, we made it with some minutes to spare.

My sister and brother in law had gone on a lobster tour 11 years ago, but they kindly followed me on this one (though then again, I paid for it, so).

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The worst lobster fisherman in the world

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Measuring lobster

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Banding lobster

We caught what must be the ugliest fish in the world - the Sea Raven. Kissing it supposedly gives you 7 years of good luck, so I can go break a mirror now.

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Sea Raven

We had our lunch at a restaurant beside the lobster tour booth, which we suspected overcharged us some. Oh well.

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Lobster Stew, Clam Chowder, 1 1/4 lb whole lobster (boiled), crab cake

Boiling lobster and dipping it melted butter isn't the best way to eat lobster (in fact it may be the worst), but the freshness and firmness of the flesh made up for it.

Back at Portland, there was a pet accessory store named 'Fetch' with 'Political pet toys: you can't get even but your pet can'. There was the Governator and Bush.

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At Scarborough, on the outskirts of Portland, was Lenny, the world's only life-sized moose. He was 1700lb when made, but apparently after the many touch-ups he's had, he might be about 2000lb now.

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We then drove to Kennebunkport, George HW Bush's summer home. One guy was looking at the compound with binoculars and spotted cameras by the water, and there were many Secret Service vehicles around the area. And I got to blow a dandelion again (as you can tell, I have got issues).

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After that, we went to Kittery, a factory outlet cluster, on the 5th shopping trip in 9 days (and 8 full days).

A converted schoolbus painted brown driven by a dodgy looking guy and with a naked female blown up doll leaning out of the window passed us. On the bus was painted the URL finzup.net. I thought it was something riotous, or maybe a BangBus wannabe, but their website says that: "Finz Up Limousine is New Hampshire's most fun limo service. If you are looking for a classy sophisticated ride... it is not us, but if getting there is half the fun, enjoying either relaxing or crazy times Finz Up limo is a unique experience." Right.

After visiting 2 McDonalds, I was by this day very disturbed. Entering them, I found only 2 flavours: Oreos and M&Ms. Hell, even the UK had more flavours (3). I certainly wasn't hallucinating when I found 6-8 flavours of McFlurry in Hawaii in 199, so the sad conclusion I am forced to draw is that they pulled most of the flavours. From what I recall, in 1999 they had Oreos, M&Ms, Butterfinger, Reese's, Orange Dream and some Mint thing. And possibly Nestle Crunch and something else. Perhaps this is because, as Everything2.com reports, Hawaii was the McFlurry's first test market, and it sold like hot cakes there.

We then went to Phillips Academy in Andover which is supposedly what RI is trying to be: a preppy school for future leaders and other bigshots. A lot of famous people might have gotten their education there, but that didn't impress me because for some reason, even though it was a chilly evening, there were swarms of mosquitoes infesting the area. Add to this the fact that my sister had never been bitten by mosquitoes in 4 years at Brown and this makes the infestation even more appaling.

For dinner, we were looking for a place around Lowell, MA near Boston and found this joint called Giovanni's. It had excellent lobster ravioli and scallop and bacon pizza. Both dishes had a lot of their titular seafood, and weren't expensive.

Arriving at the Motel 6 at Tewksbury, MA, we were amused. In Burlington, there had been a McDonalds in the parking lot, and a Burger King just next to it. The Tewksbury Motel 6, though, not only had a McDonalds just outside the parking lot, but an IHOP (International House of Pancakes beside the swimming pool). Furthermore, this IHOP seemed to have almost mythic status, for while the road signs listed such profane chains as Wendy's and McDonalds under "food", IHOP was accorded the status of "attraction".

Sister's food diary: "Day 9 : Whole lobster, crab cakes, lobster stew, clam chowder by the waterfront in Portland. Ice cream at the chocolate moose shop. Dinner at Giovanni's, Lowell MA. Buffalo wings, scallop and bacon pizza, lobster ravioli, cannoli."

There're an amazingly large number of Subway and Dunkin Donuts outlets in the Northeastern USA. Outside of cities, we saw more outlets of each chain than McDonald's outlets (seemingly the next most popular among franchisees).

Food serving staff (ie Waitresses and their ilk) were almost all disproportionately small and lean. Perhaps, seeing how the food is cooked, they refuse to eat any of it.
"It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up." - W. Somerset Maugham

Random Playlist Song: Westminster Cathedral Choir - Holst - Nunc dimittis H127


The furore on the ST's SPG article is dying down, but a few thoughts in closing:

People are slamming the ST, but to be fair to them, their coverage was quite neutral and balanced. Though the fact that they bothered to do such an article in the first place might tell you something.

There also seems to be an unnecessary conflation between the gahmen and the ST here. Given the lack of a moralistic and preachy tone, and the article's generally objective voice (as much as can be concluded from such a short tract), driving up circulation and/or one-upping The New Paper and friends (so much for being part of the same holding company) were much stronger motivations than beating the drum of morality.


They were advertising a CD, "The Best of 2005", on TV, and Gunther's Ding Dong Song was featured. However, the video clip they played for the song was of a chimpanzee.

Brings a whole new meaning to the line: Oh, you touch my tralala...

My sister reports:

"there is a dunkin donuts at the airport in JB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
donuts are RM1.80 each.
yet another reason to go to malaysia"

How come Ma-laysia gets all the good stuff?!


5) "Dell - Software Support or Extortion?"

Reader Henry S. Winokur forwarded this note, which was passed along
from person to person, apparently originating from one Art Wolinsky:

My Dell laptop came configured with Dell Support loading on the tray. (It's about 6 months old.) From time to time a bubble pops up with an alert. Normally I just click them closed without reading them. For some reason, I looked at today's alert. It informed me that on June 3, they will AUTOMATICALLY install Dell Support 3.0 on my computer and that the new software will monitor my system and send updates back to Dell to insure that my software is running properly. It further explained that if I did not want Dell Support 3.0 installed on my computer, I would have to remove Dell Support via the Add/Remove Programs menu.

I have enough loaded on my tray already, and I just upgraded memory to improve performance. No way do I want this software on my computer. No problem... I'll go uninstall it. The only problem is that it will not uninstall.

OK, let's call Dell tech support. After a 20 minute wait and another 15-20 minutes of unsuccessful attempts. I am transferred to the software division. After explaining my problem the "non-technical advisor" she begins advising me of the three different payment options I have for resolving my problem.

Wait a minute... Let me see if I have this right. You installed Dell Support on my computer and then tell me that if I don't want the upgrade, I'm going to have to pay you help me get off what you put on?

After some discussion, it is absolutely clear that is the case with "no exceptions". Any software support I need, no matter what the nature of that support, I am going to have to pay for.

I would have absolutely no problem paying for support on any software that I have installed or modified, but to me this amounts to either extortion or a support system that needs to be fixed. If the system is so inflexible that people that I spoke with have their hand tied and can't rectify this obvious inequity, something is wrong.

Now besides this issue, I have a problem if the only way people are being notified about this upgrade is thorough the alert bubble. If I understand things correctly, Dell Support 3.0 is significantly different from what is currently installed. It would see to me that changes significantly increase the intrusion into my computer. Shouldn't I be notified in some other way than an alert bubble. If an e- mail was sent out on this, I have either not received it or my spam filter ate it.

Am I being unreasonable to expect Dell to assist me in removing the software? ---Art Wolinsky


While CY spots Pacnet's interesting employment declaration, in relation to point 1: "I am not a member of or associated with the Communist Party or fascists organisation", Benito points out:

"How do you tell whether someone is fascist or not, anyway?

Salient features of fascism:

1. political dictatorship / despotism

2. all-pervasive and intrusive police state

3. extreme state-directed capitalism, i.e. an economy and industry dominated by state-controlled companies and state control

4. military dominance in public and private life - e.g. military officers holding high positions in politics and industry, conscription, maintaining large sections of the population under arms, etc.

That all seems quite familiar somehow…"

The political aspects of fascism have been done to death, so here's a look at the economic aspect: Fascism, by Sheldon Richman. The salient bits follow.

"Fascism affirms the State as the true reality of the individual"... This collectivism is captured in the word fascism, which comes from the Latin fasces, meaning a bundle of rods with an axe in it. In economics, fascism was seen as a third way between laissez-faire capitalism and communism. Fascist thought acknowledged the roles of private property and the profit motive as legitimate incentives for productivity—provided that they did not conflict with the interests of the state.

... Mussolini's fascism took another step at this time with the advent of the Corporative State, a supposedly pragmatic arrangement under which economic decisions were made by councils composed of workers and employers who represented trades and industries. By this device the presumed economic rivalry between employers and employees was to be resolved, preventing the class struggle from undermining the national struggle. In the Corporative State, for example, strikes would be illegal and labor disputes would be mediated by a state agency.

Theoretically, the fascist economy was to be guided by a complex network of employer, worker, and jointly run organizations representing crafts and industries at the local, provincial, and national levels. At the summit of this network was the National Council of Corporations. But although syndicalism and corporativism had a place in fascist ideology and were critical to building a consensus in support of the regime, the council did little to steer the economy. The real decisions were made by state agencies such as the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricosstruzione Industriale, or IRI), mediating among interest groups."


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz - Mosquito swatting!
My US Trip (2005)

Day 8 - New Hampshire-Bretton Woods-Portland Head

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover
Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont

Bethlehem, New Hampshire in the White Mountains advertised itself as the "highest elevated town east of the Rockies". Bah!

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Near Vermont-New Hampshire border

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Suntanning near the border

My sister kept suggesting that my brother in law and I wade into the middle of streams and take 'Action Man' shots. We rightly told her to go and die, and pointed out that with our shoes, socks and pants, we were hardly suited for such activities. She of all people, in her sundress and female footwear (ie Open toed and no socks) was suited for such.

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On a rock in some stream

Driving through the White Mountains, we arrived at Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Hotel, venue of the famous 1944 conference. Unfortunately, it being Memorial Day Weekend, it was booked for some conference, and there were 1200 people up there. It must've been a family event, since there were kids and bouncy castles.

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Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods

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Bouncy castle

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Flume Cascade

The next stop on the road was Crawford North State Park and Mount Willey, where we stopped for a few snacks, including a kiddy-sized serving of Hershey's ice cream that was the size of Andersen's big scoop (and all for US$1.25 too). The water in Willey Pond was ice cold and crystal clear, and a Golden Retriever jumped into it and was swimming around, but my brother in law wasn't fast enough to get that shot.

After some more driving we ended up at the North Conway factory outlet for the 4th shopping trip in 8 days (and 7 full days). However, we did stop for a late lunch at Tim's Chowder House, where we had excellent clam chowder and lobster bisque ($2 to add a cup of soup/chowder with an order of food and $3 for a bowl - we should've opted for the latter); normal lobster bisque is made with a lot of cream, some wine and very little lobster. This one was made with, uhh, a lot of cream and a lot of lobster and so it has a full-bodied taste. However, we were initially served by this girl who was probably 11 and could not have been more than 13. I thought there were laws against child labour?!

While at Tim's Chowder House, I had a can of 'Barg's Famous Old Tume Root Bee, since 1898. It's good!', although it was rich and creamy, it had a slightly medicinal taste and couldn't beat A&W.

Crossing over into Maine, we sa a 'Country Bumpkins Childcare Centre'.

We went into a Walmart Superstore in North Windham to look for Apple Cider but amazingly despite their size they didn't stock any! Argh. Though we did find interesting Walmart shit: 'Twister grips multi-purpose gripper pad' to open tight bottles or jars. Also seen in Walmart: Nabisco Chicken in a Biskit! No awful, ersatz "In a Biskit - Chicken" for the discerning American pallete, no! Other funky things: a metal detector ($98) and beside that, a gizmo that honed in on animal noises and amplified them - the box illustrated this with a picture of a lion (for hunting?). Beside the Walmart Superstore there was a Shaw's Supermarket - I wondered how they survived (and no, they didn't sell Apple Cider, so that's not how they survived).

Walmart should just come to Singapore, but then NTUC would probably find some sneaky way to trip it up, so.

There were many posters of missing children at the entrance to the Walmart with funky age progressions (computer ageing of their kiddy photos to simulate what they'd look like in the present day). There was even one of someone missing since 1974, and now aged 47 or thereabouts. Is age progression really that accurate for 3 decades' worth of ageing?! I wonder why there're so many missing children in the US - I really doubt they get shipped to Bangkok to fuel the sex trade.

Further along our journey, we saw a sign reeking of idiocy outside Gulf of Maine Gunsmithing:

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"For those of you who keep sending Demarats (sic) to Augusta stupidity should be painfull" - We can tell this misspelling of Democrats was not deliberate from the later misspelling of 'painful'. Talk about stupidity!

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"Demarats. Sexual offenders. Bill Diamond" - What the three have in common, I have no idea! But then the Bill Diamond here is probably Senator Bill Diamond.

We reached the Portland Head lighthouse in the evening. Unfortunately, it was covered with scaffolding as it was being renovated. Just my luck, as with Hadrian's Gate in Athens. I did see an altogether more interesting attraction though - a girl with the most amazing number of straps on her bermudas.

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The Strapper

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Portland Head Lighthouse

On the way out, we saw a boy who put his large teddy bear on a swing and was pushing it to and fro.

For dinner, we stopped at Valley Chinese Cuisine at Portland, Maine. There was a lot of seating space inside, as well as a newspaper writeup, but we seemed to be only the second occupied table. As we ate, a lot of people came in, but they all ordered takeaway - what's with the association in the US of Chinese Food with takeaways? The joint also had ang moh staff, which seemed to be rare for a chinese food joint. This was good, since they're friendly and the Chinese staff always seem to be grumpy; one girl there reminded me of my cousin, with the same sullen look.

I had egg drop soup which came with kok kok (the fried pieces of wanton skin that you put on top of yu sheng), and they gave almost as much kok kok as soup. Furthermore, it was the best kok kok I'd ever tasted - very fresh, very crispy and very cruncy, and not as greasy as normal kok kok. I also tried chop suey, which was better than my sister had warned me, being basically a vegetable stir fry with a thick, gooey, gelatinous and translucent sauce (ie A lot of cornstarch). We also had Crab Rangoon (Wanton skin wrapping cream cheese and crab meat; what was Burmese about it, I didn't know). And the fortune cookie I got not only had 2 slips of paper, the papers had "daily numbers" and "lotto six #'s" on their rear. I suppose even fortune cookies have to move with the times.

Unfortunately, they didn't offer whole lobster, and neither did any of the Chinese restaurants we passed by, except for "Sally Ling's" in a Korean neighbourhood in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the option for which I spotted while asking for directions inside on a previous day.

The fried rice both Valley Chinese Cuisine and at Dong Fang (Westpoint) was not very good, having almost no ingredients (just a bit of pork and some sauce lending the grains a brownish colour), tasting reheated and worse - without the wok hei (wok fire). This was surprising given that their food was otherwise excellent. Perhaps they fry their fried rice in a big batch at the start of the day. Or maybe Americans aren't fans of good fried rice, preferring simpler forms of rice like plain rice or egg fried rice.

We drove on some more, and visited LL Bean, near Freeport, Maine. I didn't really see the attraction to some of visiting a place with a hell of a lot of outdoor stuff. A perfect place to go if you want to go outfield, but otherwise?

There was some interesting stuff in the aisles, though. Outdoor food, for example, cheaper (I'm told a 24 hour ration pack costs something like S$50) and sounding better than SAF rations (but then again, Pineapple Rice with Chicken sounded nice before I tried it): $2.75 for a freeze dried ice cream sandwich, and $7.25 for Teriyaki chicken with rice. There were also luxury items - a portable ice cream maker and a blow-up mattress, for example.

The hunting section was also curious, with goods like a 'Gun scrubber. Solvent/degreaser. Fast, easy, non-flammable and cleans gun actions without disassembly', a 'Bore scrubber. 2-in-1 bore cleaner. For copper and nitro fouling', a 'Boresnake rifle cleaner', 'World's fastest gun bore cleaner' which promised to clean gun bores in 10 seconds and best of all: 'The OTIS Elite - the most advanced gun cleaning system on Earth'. Sure beats a 5 piece oil and flannelette. So much for using technology to empower soldiers.

None of the chairs and sofas for sale in LL Bean had 'do not sit' signs, so you could try before you buy. There was also a substantial dog section - mostly stuff for the home, but none for cats, because cats are evil and nobody likes cats.

Sister's food diary: "Day 8 : Brunch by a pond in New Hampshire. Chili dog, hot dog, ice cream (one adult one kiddie). Early afternoon snack at North Conway, Tim's Chowder House complete with child labourer. Best-ever lobster bisque and clam chowder. Dinner at Valley, Portland ME. Egg-drop soup with kock-kock, seafood lo mein, pork chop suey."

Highway signs warning of deer had silhouettes of deer on them, but those warning of moose had the word 'moose' on them. Why?! (Unfortunately, I didn't get to see real deer or moose either)

New Hampshire had a lot of road signs warning of guys on snowmobiles.

Using lawn mowers is so much more efficient than dressing banglas up as terrorists armed with their Weapons of Mass Destruction (except for slopes and uneven ground). Hell, if you use a manual lawnmower you don't waste any fuel either. So why do we continue with our inefficient methods of grass cutting? Perhaps it's a conscious element of foreign policy.

Singaporeans universities cannot be Ivy League-standard because if ivy happened to grow on their walls, the administrators would have it removed forthwith and apply herbicide, thinking that it looked unsightly and disrupted the clean and pristine surface of the walls.
Incidentally, a friend of mine just told me that her mom was watching over her shoulder as she was laughing hysterically at Gabriel's rebonding pics.

And her mom's first response was: "Is that your one of your friends' mother?"


Monday, June 13, 2005

"I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!" - Tom Lehrer


Cartoon dug up by My Little Bird

A source told me that the one person who's tried to convert me in real life was very traumatised by the experience. Heh heh.


A common disingenuous trick is to claim that an "impossible" task is telling one that "I M Possible". Of course, such linguistic sleight of hand is never applied to other words (An imperfect item/job tells one that "I M Perfect", so one might as well stop work).


Joe Dever's Time of Need
by Jonathan Blake

A common aphorism says that a friend in need is a friend indeed. Now is Joe Dever's time of need.

We recently learned that Joe Dever is in need of surgery to remove malignant tumors on both of his kidneys. By the time we publish this issue of the Kai Grand Sentinel, Joe will have already been through a partial nephrectomy on June 8th. When we received his email, we immediately sent a message wishing him well in behalf of everyone involved with Project Aon (that means you).

On July 20th, after recuperation period for the first surgery, he will undergo a radical nephrectomy on his other kidney. We will keep you posted if we hear anything further about Joe's health.

The Lone Wolf MMORPG has posted a heartfelt message from Joe in response to their letter to him:

"I close my eyes. As I turn my head I see rank upon rank of noble Kai standing by my side, battle-armoured, caparisoned, resplendent. Their golden blades gleam in the dawn rays of an early summer's day, their proud faces resolute, steadfast against dark uncertainty. United and defiant we stand afore an implacable foe.

"I open my eyes. The Kai are with me still, strengthening my spirit, steeling my nerve for the fight that I alone must face. My battle, our victory.

"For Sommerlund and the Kai.

"Joe Dever"

Joe, we wish you good health and happiness in the coming days!



THE END OF THE WORLD & THE NEW WORLD ORDER: Black Helicopters, Hong Kong Gurkhas, Global Conspiracies, & The Mark of the Beast (Skeptics Society--Archives)

"Listen to any fundamentalist radio station for a while and you will hear reports of ominous black (i.e. unmarked) helicopters harassing good conservative folks. Supposedly they were hovering over the Branch Davidian compound in Waco just before the tanks went in. People have claimed that the helicopters are often filled with men wearing unusual uniforms, hence the speculation that they are carrying foreign troops and that these are trial runs for the U.N. takeover of the U.S., eventually instituting the world government that will be ruled by the Antichrist. Among the people who claim to have been buzzed and harassed by low-flying black helicopters are Christians who are home-schooling their children to keep them out of the secular school system. Despite the popularity and availability of video cameras and despite reports of repeated harassment, none of these sightings have ever been substantiated. This last minor fact has not reduced the fears concerning the infernal machines in the least. If anything, the ability of the black helicopters to avoid detection has added to their satanic mystique.

... Another horror story of the impending world government is that they have already subverted our money, planting occult symbols on dollar bills that hint at the drive to a globalist dictatorship. This was done during the (infamous) Roosevelt administration. The symbol in question is the pyramid with an eye on the back of the dollar bill. Below it is the Latin inscription Novus Ordo Seculorum, which translates as "New World Order." Or does it?... far from saying "New World Order," Novus Ordo Seclorum reads "New Order of the Ages." Since this symbol and motto are on the back of our country's Great Seal and were put there when the nation was being founded, they represent the revolutionary sentiment that by dispensing with kings, whose rule was autocratic and based on force, and replacing that system with a republic based on reason, balance of powers, and self rule, the founders of our nation were creating a new order for the ages.

Another phrase to be found on the back of the dollar bill, in fact one more prominently displayed than the Latin motto as well as being written in English is: "In God We Trust." For some reason this phrase and its obvious implications seem to be consistently overlooked by conspiracy theorists.

Other excursions into modern monetary subversion involve credit cards, bar codes, and other technologies that could potentially be a modern version of the Mark of the Beast. The most technologically sophisticated of these would be a computer microchip inserted under the skin either in the forehead or the back of the hand. Such technology is actually available and has been used to locate sheep and cattle grazing on range-lands. However, such solid state electronics are extremely vulnerable to electromagnetic fields, such as those generated by television screens. Sitting too near the boob-tube could erase the Mark of the Beast from many a couch potato.

... Official government and international organizations in the supposed conspiracy include the Federal Reserve System (FRS) and, of course, the United Nations, the world government itself. Facts have little credibility in the minds of conspiracy addicts when it comes to the major players in their cherished scenario. That the UN is unable to control or bring into obedience one warlord whose clan controls one section of one third-world city would seem to make it a paper tiger. The same is true of the European Community, the other major contender for the role of Empire of the Antichrist. That the EC was either unable or unwilling to intervene effectively in Bosnia, its own back yard without American assistance, makes it a bit of a dud as the Neo-Roman Empire. Conspiracy theorists counter that the U.N. and the EC are allowing the conditions in Bosnia and Somalia to deteriorate for various reasons of their own, among them being a draconian program of population control. Of course, if either of these two institutions were to intervene effectively, these same theorists would use those events as evidence of the growing power of the UN and the EC. Thus, their belief is confirmed regardless of what happens, a sure sign of intellectual self-deception.

Templars, Freemasons & the Dreaded Illuminati

It is understandable that those who see the world as rushing to its final doom are likely to see any group urging international cooperation as being an instrument of the Antichrist. Instead of seeing the CFR and the Trilateral Commission as idealistic and somewhat elitist brain trusts, millenarians see them as a network of semi-secret societies wielding power illegitimately, not merely to influence but to control sovereign national governments...

But were the Illuminati really such radicals? Indeed they were, and they were justly considered a threat by virtually every government in Europe. And what were the Illuminist beliefs that were so threatening to the governments of Weishaupt's day? Among them were such dangerous ideas as universal suffrage, equality of the sexes, and complete freedom of religion... Are the Illuminati still active? Are they the unifying power behind the CFR, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, and the Club of Rome? Are they the secret masters of worldwide Free masonry? For the most part the Illuminati were absorbed into other revolutionary groups. No doubt many joined the French Revolution or shifted in the 19th century from utopian socialism to Marxism. There is no evidence that they exist today.

... But children also need to exercise their minds. And here is the rub. People can only be taught to think for themselves by questioning the validity of ideas. People who question invariably start questioning the Bible or at least how their parents and other authorities interpret it. Since children who question things may end up questioning their parents' premillennial beliefs, fundamentalists, when it comes right down to it, really do not want their kids to think.

... In his book The Mind of the Bible-Believer, Edmund D. Cohen points out that it was extremely fortunate that the Soviet Union was run by atheists. Since they did not view the world as being fulfilled in an apocalyptic vision and did not believe that they had immortal souls that would survive a nuclear armageddon, they had a built-in reason to avoid an atomic war."


Why Marriage Has Become a Raw Deal for Men

"This writing seeks to educate men about the realities of what he may be getting himself into when he marries. An informed decision is less likely to be one that is later regretted. The intent is not to dissuade men from marrying, but to encourage them in communicating frankly their concerns and expectations of marriage with their potential spouses. The aim of this writing is to also enlighten women with some of the reasons why increasing numbers of successful eligible unmarried men, who otherwise prefer monogamous long-term relationships, are turning their backs on marriage.

Society automatically paints a stereotype on men who hesitate, delay, or elect not to marry. They are labelled as:
a) womanizers who are unable to participate in a long term relationship, or
b) Selfish/childish/irresponsible men who can not take care of themselves or another person.
No other explanation is ever explored."


Just give me that old-time atheism!

"Not believing in God is no excuse for being virulently anti-religious or naïvely pro-science," says Dylan Evans, a professor of robotics at the University of West England in Bristol.

Evans has written an article for the Guardian of London deriding the old-fashioned, "19th-century" atheism of such prominent thinkers as Richard Dawkins and Jonathan Miller, instead proposing a new, modern atheism which "values religion, treats science as simply a means to an end and finds the meaning of life in art."

Indeed, he says, religion itself is to be understood as "a kind of art, which only a child could mistake for reality and which only a child would reject for being false."

... "To see religion as "a kind of art," as Evans rather sweetly proposes, is possible only when the religion is dead or when, like the Church of England, it has become a set of polite rituals.

The old Greek religion lives on as mythology, the old Norse religion has left us the Norse myths and, yes, now we can read them as literature.

The Bible contains much great literature, too, but the literalist voices of Christianity grow ever louder, and one doubts that they would welcome Evans' child's storybook approach."


Know your art from your elbow - "Does art civilise? Obvious points are made: Hitler was arguably the greatest art-collector in history, and John Paul Getty's repulsive views - a "saloon-bar fascist" self-ennobled by a fetishistic interest in art - are gleefully quoted."

Telling Lies for God - "Plimer says that the speed of light, according to creationists, was 200 billion times faster than now to allow everything to have happened in 6000 years. That would have made everything somewhat more energetic. "...if Adam lovingly lit a fire for Eve, than the energy released would have been equivalent to a 50-megaton atomic blast. Adam and Eve produced two children and the energy released during each of the two necessary acts of procreation would be equivalent to an explosion of 500 tons of TNT. This is clearly the origin of the expression 'Did the Earth move for you also, darling?', or perhaps it could be interpreted as the creationist big bang theory." pp. 33-34"
My US Trip (2005)

Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover

We started off the morning with a pilgrimage to the first Ben and Jerry's factory at Waterbury, Vermont. Their employees get to take home 3 pints of ice cream a day, 5 days a week, so that's a nice perk of working there. And they play music in the production room. There was also a display showing the flavours currently extant - I think in Singapore we probably have 5-6, barely a fraction of the wide variety they have available. If only we had a scoop shop - but then kiasu Singaporeans would bankrupt them on the free scoop days (though my sources inform me that they have a scoop stand at the Jurong Bird Park, and another at the Zoo - anyone has more detailed information?). Ah well, I can always make my own Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch by crumbling Heath Bar into their Vanilla ice cream.

[A source: the zoo scoop shop isn't very impressive
they don't have the nice flavors, or the obscure ones
the one at the zoo had sweet cream and cookies, peppermint, vanilla chocolate - basic stuff
that [sweet cream and cookies] IS in the shops and anyway cookies and cream is boring!
they don't have the NICE ones like phish food, or chubby hubby, or oatmeal something something

Me: I want my vanilla heath bar crunch :(

Source: YES

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Guilt-free mirror

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We want you to be our CEO

The store had some interesting merchandise - a lock for ice cream pints, for example, and I got a reasonably priced waterbottle ($3). However, their Men's hoody sweatshirts and women's zip hoody sweatshirts cost $55?!

My brother in law and I were contemplating trying the Vermonster, but we decided not to have a go at it, especially after seeing what else it had besides 20 (American) scoops of Ice Cream (you get to keep the tub, but still!): 20 scoops of ice cream, 10 scoops of chopped walnuts, 4 ladles of hot fudge, 4 bananas, 3 chocolate chip cookies. 2 scoops of 4 toppings, 1 giant fudge brownie and whipped cream.

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Stupid cutout

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Flavour Graveyard

After that, we went to the Cold Hollow Apple Cider factory/store (New England Apple Cider is not alcoholic [they term that 'Hard Cider'], but basically unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice made by pressing apples). The cider press was not in operation, but a video was running and free samples were to be had. Although it was unsweetened, it was still very sweet, and had a more robust flavour than normal apple juice, with a crispness reminiscent of Fuji Apple juice. The shop also had Apple Cider Doughnuts: moist on the inside, crispy on the outside and full of apple flavour, since where normal doughnuts used water these substituted cider. Gourmet magazine's March 2000 issue ranked them one of the four best doughnuts in the country (LaMar's, which I've never tried, apparently won, but I couldn't find out what the other 2 finalists were)!

On the I-89 2 miles from Burlington, we saw 2 [presumably plastic] whale tails stuck into the ground. Wth?!

From time to time, I got bored and rolled down the car window to let the cold air blow in my face. Twice, my hair got stuck in it when I wound it up, making me really pissed off.

For lunch we stopped at Friendly's - a fast food joint the concept of which was like Swensen's, but where the food was much better both in variety and quality.

After that we went on to the Vermont Wildflower farm, where I got another go at blowing dandelions. The pamphlet talked about mandrakes, but I didn't get to see any, and the staff said they bloomed during the first week of May and were "gone really fast". I also asked the staff the $6 million question: if they're wildflowers, how can they be farmed? Apparently wildflowers aren't grown in the wild, but are called so because you don't need to replant them for each new season.

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Another go at dandelion blowing

A short while after we arrived at the wildflower farm, a Singaporean student couple arrived, to noises of displeasure from my company, which just goes to show that those who condemn some forms of discrimination like racism often have similar prejudices of their own, which aren't really all that different, which is one of the reasons why my favourite misanthrope is so disgusted with the sanctimony of most of the human race.

There was a friendly pussy at the wildflower farm that my sister kept playing with.

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Friendly pussy

We then proceeded to Dakin farm, where they had a very wide variety of maple products - maple syrup, maple spread, maple candy, maple sugar, maple-smoked hams, maple and garlic barbeque sauce, maple baked beans - you name it, they had it. There was also Vermont Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber and Grade A Dark Amber syrup for sampling (presumably Grade B is considered too strong for consumers to drink unadulterated).

The last stop of the day was Kingsland Bay State Park, formerly a camp for French-speaking girls and then a convent. On the way out there was this friendly horse who came quite near to the car.

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Spotted opposite a Ben and Jerry's outlet: Shelburne Athletic Club. Seen along the road: 'Ho-hum motel'.

For dinner we stopped in a restaurant in Burlington called 'Shanty on the Shore' which my brother-in-law speculated was run by a buaya since almost all the waitresses were young, blonde and looked similar (though that probably describes most waitresses in towns with colleges, since waitressing is a de rigueur job for college girls). The toilets there were marked for 'mermaids' and 'sailors'.

We ordered a 'Captain's feast' - their ultimate dish for one person, and found that there was much more than a Seafood platter for two at Fish & Co. I ended off with Fried Dough - flattened and fried like you tiao but plate-shaped; crispy on the outside, but a little chewy and doughy on the inside, and served with a small jug of maple syrup (as opposed to maple-flavoured syrup), which left me with a warm glow inside for hours.

Sister's food diary: "Day 7 : Breakfast wrap of ham, eggs and cheese, Waterbury VT. Pilgrimage to Ben and Jerry's. Tasting portions of Chocolate Therapy and ?? [Ed: Sweet Cream and Cookies]. Two scoops of Dublin Mudslide and Fossil Fuel. Food tastings at Cabot Creamery, Cold Hollow Cider Mill (and also apple cider donuts and apple cider steamed hotdog), maple farm (maple smoked meats, 3 of the 4 grades of maple syrup available to sample). Dinner at seafood restaurant on Burlington waterfront. Crab soup, seafood platter, seafood linguini, fried dough with maple syrup."

Throughout our time in Vermont my brother in law (M1) and I found that we could not roam onto the USA 890 (or something) network.

The disadvantage of everything coming in American portions is that it's hard for one to sample things. For example, soft drink bottles are almost all 2 litres (especially in supermarkets) and it's hard to find 500ml ones (or more likely, 600ml ones). So there's a higher risk to trying new things - both financial and psychological (because you don't want to waste food/drink). Also, what happens if one is not hungry? And what do the SACSAL-equivalents (or even those higher up the scale, like college-age waitresses) eat?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them." - Bill Vaughan

Random Playlist Song: Stanley Holloway - Married To A Mermaid

There was a gay young farmer,
Who liv'd on Salisbury plain;
He lov'd a rich Knight's daughter dear!
And she lov'd him again.
The Knight he was distressed,
That they should sweethearts be.
So he had the farmer soon pressed,
And sent him off to sea.

Singing Rule Britannia,
Britannia rules the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be married
To a mermaid at the bottom of the deep blue sea

'Twas on the deep Atlantic,
Midst Equinoctial gales;
This young farmer fell overboard
Among the sharks and whales;
He disappeared so quickly,
So headlong down went he,
That he went out of sight
Like a streak of light
To the bottom of the deep blue sea.


He said that as he went down,
Great fishes did he see;
They seemed to think as he did wink,
That he was rather free.
But down he went so quickly,
Saying, ''Tis all up with me,'
When he met a lovely mermaid
At the bottom of the deep blue sea.


Hurrah for rare songs! Though this version's truncated and poor quality. Oh well.


I just realised - it's my one year anniversary today!


Cowboy Caleb is the latest to wonder: "is he gay? maybe not. rebonding is not a gay thing. or is it? shit shit shit…I need to go revise my gaydar detection shitlist now"

Damn, I really need to find out why I keep sending out the wrong vibes. But for now, I'll just say this:

I am not gay, so guys, don't bother sending in your picture. As a punishment for thinking I'm gay, I posted a picture of this man, named Dustin. He is in the Possibly Gay Men section. If you ever seen him, now you know he's gay! Don't send in pictures if you're a guy, or you'll face the same punishment as him!

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"All that remained was the scientific specialist, who knew "more and more about less and less", and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Perspective was lost. "Facts" replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom. Every science, and every branch of philosophy, developed a technical terminology intelligible only to its exclusive devotees; as men learned more about the world, they found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their educated fellow-men what it was that they had learned. The gap between life and knowledge grew wider and wider; those who governed could not understand those who thought, and those who wanted to know could not understand those who knew. In the midst of unprecedented learning popular ignorance flourished, and chose its exemplars to rule the great cities of the world; in the midst of sciences endowed and enthroned as never before, new religions were born every day, and old superstitions recaptured the ground they had lost. The common man found himself forced to choose between a scientific priesthood mumbling unintelligible pessimism, and a theological priesthood mumbling incredible hopes.

... For if knowledge becomes too great for communication it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshipping at a respectful distance its new priests, and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology...

.... Let us not, then, be ashamed of teaching the people. Those jealous ones who would guard their knowledge from the world have only themselves to blame if their exclusiveness and their barbarous terminology have led the world to seek in books, in lectures, and in adult education, the instruction which they themselves have failed to give. Let them be grateful that their halting efforts are aided by amateurs who love life enough to let it humanize their teaching."

- Will Durant, preface to the 2nd ed, Story of Philosophy

"He is disreputably intelligible, and nothing could be more damaging to a philosopher. We "Moderns" have become so acustomed to windy verbiage in philosophy that when philosohy is presented without the verbiage we can with difficulty recognize it. One must pay a penalty for having a prejudice against obscurity."


Since people are googling "Gabriel Seah Sarong Party Girl" anyway:

My source in Ma-laysia tells me that The Star picked up the Sarong Party Girl story. Must've been a slow news day for them. I was expecting an editorial on the decadence of immoral Singaporean girls, but apparently they just ran the original Straits Times / Asia News Network feed.

For the record, my full quote goes: "The Internet is a free society, there is no reason why anyone should not do this, because it doesn't hurt anyone. *A lot of things that used to be considered bad are now acceptable, so maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge and condemn.*" (or words to that effect)

The full quote was in the original version of the article, so I guess the editors chopped it out either because of space constraints or to avoid offending the Moral Majority (TM).


Dug up by Tym:

"Gaffer or chief lighting technicians are in charge of the lighting crew. Working under the director of photography, the gaffer plans, sets up, manages, and maintains the lights and lighting equipment. With all the heavy equipment and high voltage involved, this work can be dangerous, especially for the untrained.

Best boys, also called second electric, lay cable and set up lighting equipment. Best boys work under the gaffer.

Key grips prepare the set for proper lighting, arranging backdrops and drapes and other equipment, and supervise their assistants, the dolly grips and rigging grips. As instructed by the producer, director, or one of the assistant directors, key grips also move and adjust equipment and parts of the set. Key grips usually begin as dolly grips and best boys.

Dolly grips operate and maintain the dollies and cranes for the key grip."


He Who Must Not Be Named: have you ever read the Story of Civilization?

wouldn't a comprehensive 11-volume treatise on the history of civilisation spanning 5 decades be of appeal to you?

each vol is approx 1,000 pages
that's research

Me: I can summarise it in a few paragraphs.

"In the beginning, the Earth was without form, and void.

But the Sun shone upon the sleeping Earth and deep inside the brittle crust massive forces waited to be unleashed.

The seas parted and great continents were formed. The continents shifted, mountains arose. Earthquakes spawned massive tidal waves. Volcanoes erupted and spewed forth fiery lava and charged the atmosphere with strange gases.

Into this swirling maelstrom of Fire and Air and Water the first stirrings of Life appeared: tiny organisms, cells, and amoeba, clinging to tiny sheltered habitats.

But the seeds of Life grew, and strengthened, and spread, and diversified, and prospered, and soon every continent and climate teemed with Life.

And with Life came instinct, and specialization, natural selection, Reptiles, Dinosaurs, and Mammals and finally there evolved a species known as Man and there appeared the first faint glimmers of Intelligence.

The fruits of intelligence were many: fire, tools, and weapons, the hunt, farming, and the sharing of food, the family, the village, and the tribe. Now it required but one more ingredient: a great Leader to unite the quarreling tribes to harness the power of the land to build a legacy that would stand the test of time:



Star Wars Revelations .. A Panic Struck Productions Film

""Revelations" is a non-profit Star Wars fan film that was shot within the Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC Metro Area. "Revelations" is made possible through a combined effort of artists, fans and the local film industry. Everyone who has worked on "Revelations" is a volunteer. No one is paid to make this film. Panic Struck Productions set out to produce their first independent film with a very small budget and the result is "Revelations""
My US Trip (2005)

Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park

In the morning, we had our 3rd shopping trip in 6 days (and 5 full days), at a Prime outlet at Lee, Massachusetts. The original plan was to drop my sister and I off there while my brother in law went to the Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mass. She would shop and I would find ways to entertain myself. However, we found that the two places were too far apart, so he decided not to visit the Hall of Fame. So what we were doing there, I did not know, since my brother in law was too spineless to come down on my sister. At least I got a large Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy milkshake (3 American [ie Anderson's Regular size] scoops of 'Chocolate Therapy'). It was very intense and very heavy hitting; I was lucky I wasn't female, or I would've been left helpless, whimpering softly in an alleyway as my body jerked with the convulsions brought on by the chocolate rush.

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Happiness is...

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A sight for sore eyes. Why can't we have one?!

It seems almost every little town in the UK is twinned with some other one on the continent, or across the globe, yet almost none of those we saw were twinned, not even with towns in another state. Hanover, New Hampshire was a notable exception, twinned with Joigny, France and Nihonmatsu, Japan.

Travel was made much more pleasant with the ice keg. As I remarked on our having an ice box in bunk back during my nightmare in hell, ice is more than a luxury - it's a way of life!

It was still unseasonably cold for that time of year, but at least I could hide indoors. Interestingly, a sign in the food court read: "Please do not throw your trays in the garbage".

There was a shop at Prime called "rue21", slightly more upmarket than This 'Lian' Fashion, and with similar prices. They had apparel in SACSAL sizes and fashions, and accessories to boot. All this made me wonder how they made money: low margins, small target market (how many SACSAL sized girls are there in America?!) Perhaps it and other such outlets survived on the disproportionately high portion of female visitors to the outlet cluster who were of East Asian ethnicity.

Later, we arrived at the Hancock Shaker Village - a restored village formerly inhabited by the Shaking Quakers (aka Shakers). There, I got to blow dandelions (yes, I'm deprived), but the ones there were lousy - I had to blow with a great deal of force to dislodge the seedlings.

The Shaker village was full of Shaker goods, which all were plain and of austere designs, which is presumably why they praised the gift to be simple.

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Blowing a dandelion flower

After that we passed Williams College in Williamstown, MA, where Goh Chok Tong did his Masters. It must've been a very miserable place to study, being tiny, remote and isolated.

My sister emptied a cup of water out of her window while we were driving, but threw it into the wind, so some of it sprayed back into the car's interior.

Going down Vermont mountainsides, we saw a lot of 'runaway truck ramps' - gravelly paths branching off from the main road, presumably for runaway trucks to go down. They didn't look long enough, though, so maybe the ramps are not meant to bring the trucks to a stop, but just to slow them down so the driver can bail from the cabin before the truck flies off the slope and crashes in the trees at the end of the ramp.

There were a lot of spots with nice views on the Vermont highways, but there was nowhere to stop. Oh well.

My brother in law got caught by a Vermont State Trooper for speeding. We were held up for at least half an hour, because the border authorities had no record of his entering the country (and to think they fingerprinted us and took our photos in addition to stamping our passports - so much for Homeland Security), and in the end were let off with a written warning. As I was telling my brother in law on our arrival in Newark, they wouldn't be able to co-ordinate databases scattered across the various states and create a central federal database with our fingerprints and photos, whereupon he mockingly asked if I was a logistics expert. Looks like they couldn't even get our records of entry right, so I was probably correct in my assessment.

The highways in Vermont had a minimum speed limit. I'd never seen minimum speed limits anywhere, so I wondered what happened to those who went under the speed limit. Perhaps they get fined.

In the evening, we reached Hanover, the home of Dartmouth. Unfortunately (or otherwise, as the case might be) I didn't meet the one known member there of a very elite and exclusive club. We had dinner at Molly's, a restaurant seemingly staffed by college students. Just for fun, my sister asked me to order one of their $2 margaritas to see if I'd get carded, and I did. What really pissed me off was that the waitress didn't accept my International Student Identity Card - "the one and only international form student of ID" - as proof of my age, and asked to see some local ID. Damn Americans - who cares about the world or international recognition as long as you're American?!

Hanover had a lot of Asian restaurants, probably because of Dartmouth students. There was a 'Bamboo Garden' (Japanese), 'Panda House' (Chinese) and 'Mai Thai' (Thai, obviously). I had a scoop of Splenda-sweetened Blueberry Ben and Jerry's, and the bastards glued the paper to the cone, like Swensens used to do, so I had to peel it off carefully (and then a small scrap of paper remained).

When we reached the motel late at night, I was made to do laundry - one trip to put the laundry into the machine, one trip to transfer it to the dryer and one trip to retrieve the dried clothes. My sister was supposedly feeling sick, but she was still able to play her stupid game on my palm for an extended period of time.

Sister's food diary: "Day 6 : Chocolate Therapy milkshake at Ben and Jerry's, NW Massachusetts. Dinner at Molly's, Dartmouth. Crab cakes, prosciutto/goat's cheese/mushroom pizza, baked scrod, lobster and scallop pie. Ben and Jerry's Blueberry icecream sweetened with Splenda."

The US is very student-unfriendly. I only got to use my student card successfully twice, and one time it was for a 'donation'.

It would be great if UK distances, attractions and lack of shopping could be combined with US accommodations, prices, food and gas prices.

Difference in Coke taste could possible also be attributed to the lack of fluoride in the water, since that had a noticeable effect on the taste of the tap water.

Lay's has perfected the art of making Kettle-cooked chips. Their kettle-cooked Mesquite BBQ chips had the same kettle taste, crunch and heavy texture that Australian Kettle Chips had.

The states all have nicknames, which are sometimes printed on their license plates (depending on the state). Conneticut is the 'Constitution State', New Jersey is the 'Garden State' and Vermont is the 'Green Mountain State'. Unfortunately, there's no 'Mullet State'!
"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." - Carl Sagan


Today was a flag day, so there was ample prey roaming about Orchard Road - mostly Raffles Guys and girls from Jurong Secondary. What happened to all the boys?!

Unfortunately, only the girls with short hair or long hair that I didn't want to tug (one had 2 pony tails, another had frizzy hair) approached me to ask for donations.

Maybe flag day organizers distribute a poster with my face on it, warning those with nice long hair to stay away. Dang.

There was also this vagrant in the underpass between Wheelock Place and Shaw Centre playing a didgeridoo.

My sister complained (not to me) that I complain about her here, but don't give her credit where credit is due.

So even though I've mentioned more than once before that she's been urging me to rebond my hair for many months now, I shall mention it again.



Chick Publications is now blocked with the notice that:

"Due to Media Development Authority (MDA) regulation, this website that you are trying to access is a restricted website."

Safesurf complained that they were being given a bad name, I guess.

I tried using a proxy server, but somehow it didn't work, and What Is My IP told me I was still using a Singaporean IP and proxy.

Argh! Have they found a way to block the use of proxies to access sites that the Powers That Be, in their wisdom and foresight, deem Singaporeans too immature, stupid, vulnerable, infantile and mindless to access?!

[Addendum: Okay, my use of a proxy works now. My build of Deer Park must be buggy.]


"There are times when I see Kreia as a magical, mythological Ayn Rand. These are the times when I realize that I’ve spent too much time thinking about this game and that not everything has to have a deep meaning."

"Funny thing; now the whole "wound in the force" idea is also beginning to make sense in a 'life mimics art mimics life ...' sort of way.

As I finally grasp the ending that should have been, I am also beginning to grasp another truth - KotOR 2 is filled with echos. The broken quests and unfinished dialogs are echos in the force. Echos of a sacrifice some believed necessary. Echos of a sacrifice that collapsed the world of KotOR 2, much like the sacrifice wrought by the mass shadow generator that collapsed the planet of Malacor V.

The real "wound in the force" is the sacrificed game ending; an ending that might have made KotOR 2 a true contender among all RPGs, both past and yet to come. And so we have a wound within a wound, and echos within echos. Those echos refuse to be silenced, and even now continue ringing into the future."


Crypto-Gram: February 15, 1999 - Snake Oil

"The problem with bad security is that it looks just like good security. You can't tell the difference by looking at the finished product. Both make the same security claims; both have the same functionality. Both might even use the same algorithms: triple-DES, 1024-bit RSA, etc. Both might use the same protocols, implement the same standards, and have been endorsed by the same industry groups. Yet one is secure and the other is insecure.

Many cryptographers have likened this situation to the pharmaceutical industry before regulation. The parallels are many: vendors can make any claims they want, consumers don't have the expertise to judge the accuracy of those claims, and there's no real liability on the part of the vendors (read the license you agree to when you buy a software security product).

... Elsewhere I've talked about building strong security products, using tried-and-true mathematics, and generally being conservative. Here I want to talk about some of the common snake-oil warning signs, and how you can pre-judge products from their advertising claims. These warning signs are not foolproof, but they're pretty good."


Ways to recycle a CD-ROM - "6) Recycle CD-ROMs into Carpet Protectors. Use them under your couch and chair legs to help protect your carpet from getting the dreaded furniture indent."
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