When you can't live without bananas

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Friday, July 08, 2005

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." - John Cage


I will be in Penang from Friday to Sunday. Hopefully it won't be two more days of Ma-laysia than I can stand.


"I am known as something of a philosopher. Some ask me, 'Why are we here?' The answer is often complicated... but today we are here to kill all those bastards."


Me: remember simgirls?

Xephyris: was that some maxis game? i dont' really rememebr

Me on Batman Begins: Katie Holmes is very cold in the last scene.

flyingfaeries: YES! She is such a bitch in the last scene! No emotions at all. HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE ANY FEELINGS WHEN YOU'RE KISSING CHRISTIAN BALE?! Siao woman.

Me: That's not what I meant by cold :)


Time Commanders

"Time Commanders is a new TV game show from the BBC and Lion Television featuring teams of contestants battling against a computer loaded with the tactics of the greatest military minds of all time. Utilizing the latest Total War Engine, With famous battles from history and contestants from all walks of life, the show has proved to be very popular indeed."

The narrator is very mean. During the Adrianople episode:

"Like all good politicians, this team of councillors could continue to debate the details of this battle all day. But with the clock ticking, the time for talking is over."

"Jan's experience in the council chamber begins to show. Despite appearing to agree with her general's direct order to keep her troops together, Jan blatantly has her own agenda and splits her cavalry off to the right immediately."

Host: "You are four politicians. I expect you to be able to portray this terrible defeat as a victory... The thing with politicians of course, is that normally you like to argue and argue about who got it wrong, and there's no real conclusion. But here, of course, we can tell you who got it wrong."


Skirting around Sweden's heat (6 August, 2003)

"He asked his boss whether he could wear shorts for comfort as temperatures hit 25C (77F).

But when his boss said "no", Mr Lundgren decided to find an alternative. And he began showing up to work in a skirt.

Mr Lundgren is exploiting a loophole in the firm's dress code, which allows skirts to be worn but does not specify which sex should be wearing them.

As Mr Lundgren settles into the driver's seat, the navy blue skirt slides up his thighs just above his bony knees, revealing a pair of hairy white legs.

"It's even better than shorts. It's unbearable driving a bus in long trousers when the sun is blazing through the windscreen, but with the skirt it feels just great," he says."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 13 - New York

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover
Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont
Day 8 - New Hampshire-Bretton Woods-Portland Head
Day 9 - Portland-Kennebunkport
Day 10 - Marblehead-Salem-Boston
Day 11 - Westpoint-New York
Day 12 - New York

NB: This is the last installment of the saga.

I left the motel at 6:30, caught the 7:21 train and reached Penn station at 8 plus. There, this guy was standing by a map of the subway system, and when I went over to peer at it (because the bastard at the control station the other day refused to give me a pocket-sized version), he gave me directions to where I wanted to go, then asked if I had any "change to take the subway". He didn't fool me, but I gave him a quarter or something to reward his ingenuity more than anything else.

At Penn station there were army soldiers patrolling the place. Although the sight was slightly discomfiting, I felt much safer than if it had been SAF soldiers doing the job. Their uniforms were faded, their jockey caps wrinkled and their boots dull, but that just indicated their level of experience ('lao jiao'-ness), and that they didn't waste time on unimportant frills like parade-standard appearance. For their firearms they had service revolvers; the logic of the SAF's using rifles on Ops Bascinet (the one where they protect key installations) is lost on me: rifles are useless in close, crowded quarters due to their being cumbersome, bulky, heavy and slow to aim and maneuver - they're meant for long distances and battlefield use. Which is why at Changi Airport SAF servicemen are paired with police officers with sub-machine guns; there's a reason why SWAT teams use them after all. So unless what we anticipate is a squad of parang-wielding terrorists disembarking and then running at our soldiers from 300 metres, the logic of using rifles is lost on me. Either that or 1) we assume that terrorists are stupid and will be more intimidated by patrols armed with rifles than pistols or sub-machine guns or 2) this is all for show and meant more for domestic consumption than terrorist consumption.

After a diversion or two (to get cinammon sticks for breakfast, for instance), I reached Battery Park at 9+, and found out that time passs for the Statue of Liberty had run out at 8:10, 20 minutes before the first ferry left. Ah well, I should've ordered them online (though knowing my luck I would've had to get them 6 months in advance). When they said there were a "limited number of time passes", they really meant it. Be that as it may, the time pass would not have let me enter the Statue itself, but merely the promenade and pedestal and would've restricted the time I could enter (ergo the name "time" pass), so it wasn't that much of a loss. Which might be why, when the ferry stopped at Liberty Island, at least half the people on it didn't get off.

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I saw a woman with hoop earrings using a phone and, very gingerly, using her other hand to keep the hoop out of the way. I should like to see someone get her hoop stuck in something one day. In other hoop-related news, it's bad enough seeing 11 or 12 year olds with hoop earrings, but I saw one about 5 years old doing so.

Having hair which is still attached to your scalp fly into your mouth is a most unsettling feeling.

Proceeding on to Ellis island, I found that it was very crowded, probably due to dejected souls unable to get their time passes still being determined to get something out of their visit to Liberty and Ellis islands.

By the time I left Ellis island, my feet had been throbbing for some time. Faced with the prospect of queueing for an indeterminate length of time, I sat on the pavement to wait for the ferry like the vagrant that I was. A mother and daughter couple came along and inspired by me, sat down also. Once you start the ball rolling, it picks up momentum on its own - I also saw a couple some distance in front of me in the line sitting. Sitting is contagious and is advantageous.

A guy in a business suit and with an expensive-looking metal (as opposed to platic Casio) watch got his hand stuck in the subway door. He tried to extricate it by wriggling but was unsuccessful. When the doors of the car finally opened, his watch fell to the floor in 3 pieces (the centre and the straps).

In Times Square station, I saw a guy waving a sign which said "Free stress test". By the wall were some counters with funny machines and colourful books. Intrigued, I took a closer look and saw that only one book was being promoted: "Dianetics" by a certain "L Ron Hubbard". And so I decided to have some fun with the Scientologists.

Picking a free counter, I went up to the man, who introduced himself. In the interests of anonymity, I shall refer to him as "Bob". Asking me to hold on to the electrodes of his machine (which looked like 2 tin cans hooked up to a High School Science Project), he asked me to think of something in my life which I would like to improve. I did, and sure enough, the needle on the large display jumped (of course, the fact that one hand of his was behind the High School Science Project might have had something to do with it). I then thought about something in my life that I was fine with, but the needle still evidenced a reaction, showing that I was stressed. Amazing. I asked "Bob" about this reaction, but he either did not understand my question or did not want to understand it, telling me that it was only for stress detection.

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"Bob" then asked me to think of something that made me angry or stressed. I thought about religious evangelism, and the needle jumped again. He asked if I wanted to talk about it. Not wanting to spoil the fun too soon, I bluffed and said I was thinking about people cheating others of their money (which is, if you think about it, pretty close anyhow). Calling my bluff, he asked, "You mean like right here?" Beating a hasty retreat, I demurred and mumbled something about beggars in the New York subway.

I asked "Bob" if I could buy his most wondrous machine. He looked disappointed and said it was only for people who were advanced in his discipline. I asked how long he'd been practising and how much of a master he was, and he replied that he'd been at it for 30 years, but wasn't as good as he'd like to be. "Bob" then tried to sell me his book, the recommended price for which was US$7.99 and had sold 20 million copies in 52 languages. He turned to the back of the book and showed me the locations of Scientologist chapters in various countries and cities.

Looking for Singapore, I found nothing and pointed this out. "Bob" assured me, though, that there was a rapidly growing chapter in Singapore and that many people there were getting into it. Oddly enough, despite his knowledge of this fact, he was unaware that Singapore was a country and not just a city. Looking skeptical, I declined and said I would rather check out some reviews on the Internet first. "Bob" then became quite alarmed, and countered that if you asked 20 people what they thought of Singapore, you'd get 20 different answers. I agreed in a good-natured fashion, adding that if all 20 said Singapore sucked, then it most probably did, and he was helpless to do anything but go along with my observation and add that I had to try "Dianetics" for myself.

Sensing that I'd milked all I could from this adventure, I bade him good day and asked to take a picture, which you can see above. In hindsight, I should've ended off by asking: "Isn't L Ron Hubbard the guy who once said, 'Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.'?"

Returning to the Met, I was pissed off to find large stretches of the museum closed (A "we are closed due to renovations till XXXX" or "we are closed today for a private function" would have been the least they could have done), among them the Cypriot and Ancient Near Eastern art sections and the Musical Instruments gallery and America wing on the second level, cordoned off with no sign or attendant to explain anything to hapless visitors (most of whom had probably been coerced into 'donating' to them).

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Jacques-Louis David - the Death of Socrates

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Sacchi - Pasqualini crowned by Apollo. I swear - this is the first painting (or picture of a painting) that I've seen that has an exposed male member. Perhaps this was done to strike a cruel contrast with Pasqualini, a castrato.

Jordaens - the Holy Family with Shepherds and Van Dyck - Virgin and Child are the first depictions of the Madonna I've seen where she bares her bosom.

Rembrandt painting of Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, shows her as being fat. Eh?

Pissed off by the rude staff and the massive closures, I left the Met before closing time and went to sit on the steps outside to rest my feet. Given that so many galleries were closed, there wasn't anything left for me to see anyway.

Some corner apartment was being renovated, and the construction workers didn't tape the tarpaulin down, so sawdust and wood flakes were flying around, some flying into my head. Some also landed on this woman, who cursed at the workers.

Meeting my sister and brother in law at Newark airport, we found that they charged a breath-taking US$3 for the rent of luggage trolleys. I would have left my trolley at the checkin counter in protest, but apparently too many angry customers had done that, and there were attendants on hand to wheel the trolleys back.

The scanners for check-in baggage were not film safe. Didn't this last happen in the 80s?!

In all, my sister had 7 shopping trips in 13 days (and 12 full days). Luckily I wasn't around for the last 2.

Sister's food diary: "Baja Fresh Mexican - shrimp taco, chicken flauta, beef burrito, salsa bar. [Ed: Since I wasn't with them I didn't have this]"

At Stockholm, they shoved us into a waiting room for over an hour instead of letting us walk around the transit area (which was just within sight). This waiting room had nothing inside but a non-enclosed smoking point that was too small to accommodate all the smokers (resulting in smoke wafting out) and insufficient toilets; there were 2 male, 2 female and 2 handicapped toilets. The last were, naturally enough, appropriated by the females but unsurprisingly the queue for the ladies' was still longer than for the gentlemen's since they were doing the gods' know what inside. Worse, the waiting room was not big enough to accommodate the entire plane, so people had to stand for that hour or so. At least they didn't subject us to 2 security screenings - one on getting off the plane and one before getting on - unlike the first time (they must be dreaming if they think people want to blow up their airport so much).

One of MAS's taglines is "Going beyond expectations". That isn't very hard to do, especially if one doesn't expect very much in the first place!

At KLIA I saw a woman in a tudung, but with one of the hats that some airport staff wear on top. Funky. And at the security screening there one man kept muttering a malay word to me, despite the look of incomprehension on my face. Eventually, a guy behind me translated the word as "open" - he wanted me to open my ice keg. The screening official then repeated the word "open" with a note of triumph in his face. It seems in that wretched country they assume everyone who looks like a native speaks Malay.

On unpacking we found that the Transport Security Administration (TSA) had decided to open one of our bags for "security purposes". Of all bags, they had chosen to open the one with potato chips inside, and suspiciously, some of the packets were open. Whether this was due to pressure differentials arising from altitude changes or hungry security staff is unknown.

Having someone correct your pronunciation exaggeratedly, and then promptly make the same mistake within 2 minutes – priceless.

Even in New York I couldn't get student-priced tickets for things. Gah. The UK is much more student friendly.

Although I didn't pay very much (all things considered) on this trip, that is not to say that a price was not extracted from me. My brother in law in particular assumed that I had given him several blank cheques for emotional blackmail and set himself up as a travel agent for guilt trips. I would pay more of the cost in future trips, but I know that I would be subjected to a similar amount of insufferable self-aggrandisement, so I am resolved to pay as little as I can in future when travelling with them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"A conference is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done." - Fred Allen


The 16th of July seems to be a very popular day for events. So far we have:

- Launch of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- NUS political association appreciation dinner
- Bloggers.SG convention (since I'm helping to organise this, it takes priority)
- ENS camp post-camp gathering
- Screwed Up Girl's Weiqi's tournament
- Baybeats 2005 - "Singapore (sic) Biggest Alternative Music Gathering"
- Bukit Panjang Government High's 45th Anniversary Dinner


The degeneration of a thread on overseas voting in Singapore:

A: Put it this way - given that sammyboy & the talkingcock are examples of overseas Singaporeans - I suppose the government is naturally leery of anyone who has experienced living in the outside world, and who might hold certain truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. People such as these, politically speaking, are highly unlikely to be part of the PAP's reliable heartlander economic-stability-craving constituency.

B: just a quick quibble. one need not believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights in order to believe in equality and human rights. if one adopts the kantian view of universalizability, then we can ignore divinity and bow to the force of rationality.

C: Back in Singapore, and one good quibble deserves another =P.

Why should we adopt the Kantian view of universalizeability? Because it is true. But how do you know, save that you choose to adopt it over another view that you don't like? Why should "the view that I prefer" be the true one? Or even the view that 51% prefers?

Perhaps because it is "reasonable". But what reason is there for believing in "equality" when men and women are naturally unequal in strength, talents, intellect, moral character etc? What reason is there for the extension of "equal rights" to members of one's species (an entirely arbitrary category in any case - why not just one's family, or friends, or countrymen, or ethnic group? Why do you have to extend rights up to the boundary of sexual reproduction and not after or before? How very illogical.) when the other animals don't bother?

If the Kantian view is reasonable and true, which I don't doubt, you will require an additional factor to make it so - a factor not founded on nature as we observe it, with its visible and real inequalities, but on a common human essence transcending nature. And in the search for that essence, you and I have already left natural materialism behind as an inadequate hypothesis/world-view.

Me: >what reason is there for believing in "equality" when men and women
>are naturally unequal

It might be argued that granting people equal rights are merely an expedient way of ensuring society's smooth functioning. Granting people equal rights acts as a foil to social discontent, is an implicit (explicit?) part of the social contract and obviates the problems of judging who has more rights than others (Who is to judge? What criteria should/can/must one use?).

>you and I have already left natural
>materialism behind as an inadequate hypothesis/world-view.

Alternatively, one can use a conjunction of rationality and social expedience (see above). It may not be as philosophically satisfying as whatever alternative you might be proposing, but then philosophically satisfying and internally consistent as Aristotle's system of crystalline heavenly spheres through which the planets circling the earth rotated in concentric circles in uniform circular motion was, we all know how marvellously wrong that theory turned out, especially in reference to the real world, don't we?

Or in other words:

C: "The world would make sense if we believed that the moon is made of blue cheese"
Me: "The moon is not made of blue cheese, therefore your proposal is invalid"

A: I acknowledge that you are attempting to traduce a form of experiential "understanding" that cannot be reduced into an internally consistent argument via the framework of logical or mathematical thought (viz. the rationalist/positivist approach).

However, because of the manner in which human perception is structured - i.e. - that our mind operates according to certain structural/physiological (I acknowledge this is open to debate but it's safe to say that some commonality of operational framework generally exists amongst all members of the human race to some extent, leaving aside the occasional aberration) precepts that convert a mass of sensory data into perceptual frameworks and experiences - the result being that the a materialistic framework built upon what is often derided as the "common sense" approach (you know, lame, simple minded, parochial and fallacious notions like "cause and effect") is the only valid one when discussing purely political or empirically observed phenomena. This holds more true when one is communicating in a structured linguistic fashion - ie. academic debate - in which the nature of its operands and operandi are built on axioms which have their origin in the commonality of human consciousness, the mechanism by which we interrogate our existence both within and without.

In other words, the difference between mysticism and theology:) The closest obligatory academic name-drop I can think of at this point offhand would be to refer to Spencer's concept of the metaphysically Unknowable (First Principles, 1862); at least in terms of his postulation that these should be segregated completely from the discussion/illustration of philosphical discourse.

If you wish to abandon those axioms, in search of an understanding or comprehension that exists beyond this sphere of influence - there is no manner - beyond literary hyperbole, unsupported assertions and appeals to emotion and authority - that we can effectively discuss or even debate, given the limitations of human perception, the English language, and the cognitive structure of human consciousness.

D: *slow smile*

Witness the slow slide from rights of overseas voters, to Kant in the sense of "ignore divinity and bow to the force of rationality", which immediately red-flagged C into replying :) with a simple assertion that rationality ain't all that rational when one looks at its deeper assumptions (or axioms, to quote A), to A's challenge that hah! rationality is perfectly rational within the framework of biopsychology dash psychiatry.

*somewhat amused* did I summarize it correctly? (maybe i left out a few points unintentionally because i'm not thoroughly familiar with the internal subtext of all the ppl on this list yet. apologies.)

I mention this to forestall a vicious crossfire where eventually no one will know which issue of the above series of emails is being addressed. Neuropsychology is a tremendously contentious field all by itself without adding the rights of voters into the mix, if all that one intends to discuss is only neuropsych.

Me: Yes, why do we always end up in this sort of morass?

Ah, what is truth?

Reality is an illusion!

There is no spoon.

Save us from the black helicopters!

And one wonders why most people here rather stay out of the fray, and spend their time doing more productive (or at least more enjoyable) things.


The False Promises of a Draft - Why conscription won't improve the military

"What is the purpose of a military? Is it to spread the social burden—or to fight and win wars? The U.S. active-duty armed forces are more professional and disciplined than at any time in decades, perhaps ever. This is so because they are composed of people who passed comparatively stringent entrance exams—and, more important, people who want to be there or, if they no longer want to be there, know that they chose to be there in the first place. An Army of draftees would include many bright, capable, dedicated people; but it would also include many dumb, incompetent malcontents, who would wind up getting more of their fellow soldiers killed.

If conscription is revived, draftees are not likely to serve more than two years. Right now, the average volunteer in the U.S. armed forces has served five years. By most measures, an Army of draftees would be less experienced, less cohesive—generally, less effective—than an Army of volunteers. Their task is too vital to tolerate such a sacrifice for the cause of social justice, especially when that cause isn't so urgent to begin with.

Would lawmakers be less likely to approve and fund wars if their children and the children of their friends might be drafted to fight? The answer is unclear... If patriotism or party loyalty did not play a role, might they fear accusations of selfishness or cowardice if they seemed to oppose a war simply to save their children's hides?"


Wives should submit to their husbands

"The marriage vow basically says that even if a husband turns out to be a scumbag or a couch potato who cares more for Man U than for his mother-in-law, we still have to accept him.

My husband and I have demanding careers, but when we come home, I give him a sponge bath even if I am tired. I prepare supper, and yes, I do peel prawns for him. I do so without asking for anything in return.

He is the head of the household. When it comes to any major decision, his vote counts for 60 per cent, and mine for 40 per cent. My grandfather was right. This is difficult. I find it challenging to submit to my husband."

Suffice to say that if a man knows how to make his wife happy, the marriage can equally be long-lasting and harmonious. Or, for that matter, if a country does not resist a foreign invader, the occupation will likely be less bloody and harsh.

The violent, incoherently-expressed misogyny expressed by many on the Sammyboy forum thread on this issue is amazing:

"Equality my ASS, as long as women don't serve AntAss or continue having mood swings every monthly cycle, they better shut the fuck up and serve their man's needs.

No wonder the very same pussies advocating more pussy power in Sinkapore wonder why nobody wants to marry them."

"I conclude that one line of thought (submission) should be imposed on women, and on people in general when it comes to values like politeness and courtesy.

On recalling, the brutal murder of a women right's leader in Taiwan many years ago was a good move.

If reason can't bring them back from their erroneous "liberal" beliefs, then violent force should be the next and last best recourse."

"the diffe is we fxxk them while you kenna fuck ha ha ha. They BJ us while you BJ them. Also you can get dump and they go back to their home country while we can dump them and they have no where to go. Also we can chop them to pieces and take their money ha ha ha. SG bitches fxxk ooooffffff...... who the fxxk need you."

Monday, July 04, 2005

"In spite of the cost of living, it's still popular." - Laurence J. Peter


Let's Be

Student take pride in thy learning labours and strive
to be true to thy self and neighbours
Show courtesy and tact in word and deed
and helpfulness to those in need

Be filial and show respect and
toil to raise mankind’s prospect
Always turn a peaceful and harmonious face
to those of other culture creed or race

Promote a good opinion of our school
and let self discipline become thy rule
and make commitment to our school and nation
A salient feature of thy education

Develop the Hua Zhong spirit through a sense of Hua Zhong unity
And thus through constant self renewal make our school a fine community
Guide thy self each day through thick and thin
By our school philosophy of Win-Win

Source: We sing this with a straight face. It was written with fervour by a Samuel Tan in a [Ed: Communist] propaganda song competition ~1991 when then principal tooh fee san wanted students to "march from point to point in school". scary.
the rule couldn't last very long, as dictated by sheer logic

in 2000 we lost the sec1sec2 b division, so we all sang 满江红 (man3 jiang1 hong2), the song which one columnist in ST previously translated as "River of Blood"
the principal was lambasting her on stage

My take: And you thought communism in Singapore was dead.


Posted by someone on Wikipedia:

"Halal labels scare some people to death!

In hungarian language "halal" means "death". When some oriental packaged food is sold in local supermarkets, people look at the label and see a stamp like "Halal - approved by Islamic Council of Blahblah". Of course they think food is infected by anthrax and 1/3rd of the sales price goes to funding Al-Kaida and so they call the police ..."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

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