When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Amsterdam, March 2006 (Part 2)

When I left the Anne Frank house, it was already 6:15. I was feeling kinky, so I was trying to decide between the Sex museum and the Torture museum (actually most museums close at 5pm or 7pm, and only those two open really late). In the end, I decided I wasn't feeling kinky enough, so I went to the Sex museum (actually it was on the way to the train station so I wouldn't have to walk as much).

The sex museum was surprisingly cheap, costing only €2.50, though there were no student/elderly discounts, and I couldn't use the museum card either (sex sells, after all). The minimum age to enter was only 16 - gotta love these Europeans!

(NB: The kiddies should stop reading now - they're underage for all the wacky out-of-this-world stuff the Europeans churn out. They should start reading again when they see this picture:

[Yes, they're all men. Damn Japs.])

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Kinky paintings by Johan Garst

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Truly bizarre - this is a woman wearing a strap-on, with a gas mask on her face and a flail in her hand

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An erotic diptych!

Compared to the Museum of Sex in New York, this was definitely much more hardcore. There were sections devoted to graphic gay and lesbian pictures/photos/art pieces (the latter is not surprising, but the former might be to some - New York probably had none because they feared the fundies would burn the place down), as well as the fetish gallery (see below).

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Rare Chinese depiction of homosexuality, and 3 monks getting it on

They had lots of interesting items, including some from the Romans (I didn't see any Sacred Penises for Mother-In-Laws, though) and a music box where 2 people screwed each other to the tune of Edelweiss.

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This manages to be doubly controversial - bravo!

Guess what this is

If you didn't get it the first time, here's a longer clip

The above 2 clips are of me sitting on a vibrating chair. It's something of an easter egg, really - nothing tells you it exists. I was sitting on on of three chairs in a row, beside a giant phallus, and must've stretched my arms too far, activating the sensor. The woman who was sitting on the chair beside me then suddenly jumped up with a cry as the chair started vibrating. Well, not just vibrating - it was like a vaguely phallic object was thrusting at her from below. How do I know this? Watch the videos above!

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Really hardcore cards. 10 of diamonds (bottom left hand corner) is particularly... strange.

Compared to New York, the collection was not only more hardcore (with many 'perversions' showcased - there were watercolours by Rohan of a woman and her dog), it was also more exotic, varied and representative - all but one (IIRC) item in New York was from the late 19th Century or later, but this one had loads of stuff from across the ages (including a 16th century engraving of Lot and his daughters). The rest of the world was also well represented here, with items from Latin America, Polynesia and Africa, unlike in New York where the collection was very American-centric, with some French stuff (since we all know they're kinky). New York was more in tune with popular culture, and was more polished presentation-wise but its selection was rather limited (though it did have those [cold] silicone breasts).

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This item wasn't labelled, but I found it sufficiently novel.

They had a few of those machines that you peer into and turn a lever to advance the picture, but they didn't work. There was one which presumably did, but it cost a Euro. Bah.

There were these suspicious booths ('Videocabines') where you could sit on a padded seat, rest your back on a heart-shaped cushion, lock the door, notice the light go off thereby plunging you into darkness and giving you privacy, and pay a Euro to watch 1 of 8 shows, whose contents were not specified. Hurr hurr. Against my post-hoc better judgment, I sat inside one to rest my feet and scribble the notes on which this paragraph was based.

Another interesting exhibit

"... the visiting of brothels which was accepted as quite a natural pastime by the Chinese (sic) in fact, it was more of a rule than an exception". Now I know why Geylang exists.

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16th/17th century chastity belt

In New York, for some reason most of the visitors to the museum were women. The sex ratio was more balanced here, but there was still a slight bias towards women.

Apparently Mata Hari's uniform fetish led to her demise. Ho ho.

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Replica of a Babylonian terracotta tablet showing temple prostitution

There was a fetish gallery, at the entrance to which visitors were warned that graphic images lay within. After having had Lady Vesuvius and Beckham's Soccer Blooper (very funny) foisted on me, I didn't think there was much worse I could see. Inside there was stuff like:

- Golden Showers
- bestiality (the one with the pig and the woman inserting snake into her unmentionables were quite gross); curiously they claimed that bestiality was often a sign of degeneration for men, but part of female sexual experimentation
- "fat mammas's"
- cumshots (I thought this was in the mainstream already) - "It is a fact that sperm does contain a number of very healthy ingredients" (Right. Same for plain water)
- transsexuals ("In the past the phenomenon 'transsexual' was already known in Singapore and owadays [sic] it is striking how many coloured and oriental women (!) belong to this group" - exclamation mark in original)
- anal (they claimed that it originated in the US for contraceptive reasons, and claimed it was 'much used and generally accepted', 'contrary to Europe')
- scatology (oddly, everyone was wearing black leather and though in some pictures people were peeing, I couldn't see any scat, so the pictures were wrong

A distinction was also made for some reason between flagellation, sadism, bondage (all the pictures illustrating this featured Japs, and they claimed it was popular in the US and Japan), SM-bizarre. Uhh.

The Dutch talent for phrasing was also evident:

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Curiosities - including a mention of Long Dong Silver!

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Masturbation - "All through the history of porno man has never been very interested inthe male masturbation which, on account of its lack of variation, isn't very spectaculair. (sic)"

With all the above possibilities dealt with, the "bizarre" category truly was bizarre:

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The man appears to have a lock fitted through his glans

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The All-Seeing Feminine Eye
At the door, the Illuminati's influence was clear. No wonder the museum is so cheap!

All in all, "Gotta love these Europeans" pretty much sums up the sex museum.

(The kiddies can start reading again)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Amsterdam, March 2006 (Part 1)

On Tuesday, I finally went to Amsterdam.

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Canal - Nieuwe Prinsen Gracht

I bought a McKroket for €1. That's cheaper than krokets themselves in some places. However, when I went to the toilet I got pissed off because there was someone stationed there who said I had to pay €0.30, despite my obviously being a paid customer. Wretched country. Hell, I wonder if the toilet fees even cover the costs of stationing someone there (in Maastricht the bugger was probably off partying at the Carnival). I was so pisssed, I was tempted to piss in the streets. Come to think of it, maybe that's what all those security cameras are for (later when I was wandering around, I saw this guy move suspiciously towards a stoop (A small staircase leading to the entrance of a house), crotch first, but when he saw me he beat a hasty retreat).
Someone: "the problem with [mid to northern] europe is that you keep paying for public toilets! dont they figure out that most ppl will resent paying and want to vandalise the loo instead?"

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Windmill plopped in the middle of nowhere - photo bait for stupid tourists

I spent 2 hours enjoying the bustle of the city and wandering the streets; taking in the "Real" Amsterdam, not bothering to do the cliched touristy thing and rushing for Madame Tussads or some other commercialised tourist attraction. In other words, due to a combination of sleepiness and hunger (I had only a bit of leftover spaghetti for breakfast), I couldn't find the VVV, went in a circle, bought a map in a shop, foolishly decided to head halfway across Amsterdam to the Rijksmuseum but ended up going in the opposite direction and emerging further from it than when I'd started.

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Canal near the Anne Frank house

After I fortified myself with lunch, I got my bearings and located the nearest attraction, which happened to be the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum, housed in a formal naval depot). On my housemate's advice, I bought a Museumkaart, valid for free entry to more than 400 museums in the country, for €17.45.

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Cannon in the Museum square

The naval depot was established in 1656, and is more than 30 years old. They were celebrating their anniversary, and there was an exhibition about the history of the museum. Just outside the exhibition room, the Dutch penchant for amusing phrasing was clearly visible: "After years of faithful service, major renovations are now in order. But first, it's time for the 350th Anniversary!"

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Royal Barge - Neptune and 2 Tritons on the bow

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Royal Barge - 2 female messengers of Jupiter on the stern

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View from the deck of the VOC Amsterdam (replica of the original built by 400 volunteers)

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VOC Amsterdam - Stitch.
I was afraid my stitching software wouldn't be up to the job, since there's a man who moves position in the first 2 source photos, but it didn't let me down:
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Once I went back indoors, most of the exhibits had a soporific effect on me. Either there was a lack of oxygen in the building, the English translations of the Dutch captions were too sparse to interest me much, or I've experiencing diminishing marginal utility of consumption from museum visits, specifically maritime ones.

There was this art exhibition featuring paintings inspired by the museum's exhibits. Amid all the kindergarten drawings of blocky figures, this was my favourite:

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Robert-Jan Blietz - Groot Rood (Big Red), on acrylic

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"Art involves more than an aesthetic perspective. Personal terms like 'beautiful' and 'ugly' should never be decisive when evaluating works of art... Their work is pure and original, not encumbered by an academic art education or elitist ideas."

And of course there was a Politically Correct blurb about how one should not - can not judge art. Those who actually bothered to read the blurb above would notice that the exhibition featured works by mentally disabled people. This does not change my evaluation of the works: I choose not to insult the artists by being condescending and applying a radically different standard from one I'd apply to works by normal people. [visceral: "I do not exclude my gay friends from the subject of my jokes, because they know I treat people of all sexual orientations equally and dont put any of them on pedestals"]

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"It is a little dark around the objects that tell the story. This is not meant to give you the creeps but because bright light may damage these valuable items."
More delightful Dutch phrasing

There was this exhibiton (aimed more at children) about how the Dutch discovered the world, and there were surprising artefacts such as a polar bear pelt (the fur was remarkably soft) and a beaver pelt (the polar bear's was nicer though); just wait till PETA hears of this. I also suspect something went wrong in the translation for some parts, namely where they were describing people's lives: the entry for this famous person who led a trapped crew on a trek across ice when their ship was stuck in ice went: "Career: *what the person did*, Danger: *some danger the person did*, Hard Decision: *to trek across the ice or something*, Action: *I forget*, Sad: *the person died*". Not quite Engrish, but not quite there either.

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Scheepvaartmuseum - Stitch

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After buying my Eurail pass (there goes €345), I went to the Anne Frank house. The mercenary bastards allow no student korting (discount), do not accept the Museumkaart and don't allow photos. They had a cute way of saying that they didn't accept Diners and American Express, though - they displayed the signs you usually see when those cards are accepted, but with a big red cross over them.

"In order to preserve the diary it is not allowed to take photos" - presumably idiots are making the world a worse place for everyone else. But still, this doesn't justify a video ban. The best solution to this problem I've yet seen is still the place in England which required you to sign an underaking saying you would not use your flash. Perhaps a more advanced version of this would be to have visitors who wish to take photos pay a deposit, refundable if you are not seen taking any photos with flash. And the ultimate statement these organizations could make about customer service and giving them what they paid for while protecting their attractions would be to offer pictures for download on their websites, perhaps restricted with a password available only to paid visitors. But then they all want to sell their postcards, catalogues and such, so visitors will never get what they paid for.

There was an interesting section in the exhibition where a point was made about Holocaust Denial, and how Neo-Nazis dispute the authenticity of the diary because it forms part of the documentation of the Holocaust.

At the end, there was a "Free2choose" interactive multimedia presentation, where various scenarios were presented to the audience and they'd vote on how they felt. For example, whether the NDP in Germany (a right-wing extremist party) should have the right to demonstrate in front of a synagogue (I voted 'Nee', for the same reason that someone has the right to get upset when two gays are having sex in his bedroom after he has told them not to do so and the khalwat squad is 2 minutes away); whether citizens' information should be stored in a nationwide database - 1/4 of the citizens of Yokohama, in accordance with their Asian Values, refused to supply their information to 'Yukinet', and one transvestite commented: "What my gender is is my own business. I don't see why anybody else should know"; and whether police officers should have to wear the standard headgear despite their religion (with a look at Sikhs in Britain). The results for the current session and the all-time summary of visitors' responses were then displayed. I think the system was buggy though, for when there were only 4 people in the hall and only 2 of us voted, the system claimed 33% had voted no to the proposition.

At the end of the exhibition was a quote from Otto Frank: "It is not only important for people to come to the Anne Frank House to see the Secret Annex... They must be inspired to realize that people are still persecuted because of race, religion and political ideas." I wonder if he ever considered what should be done if people are persecuted because of political ideas in the name of protecting race and/or religion.

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Front of Anne Frank House

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I saw a Church of Scientology in Amsterdam!

I saw a male mannikin without shorts. Ooh, no wonder the city has such a reputation for decadence.

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In the city centre of Amsterdam, every street has 2-3 coffeeshops - they must be getting rich fleecing all those tourists. Those in Utrecht are a lot more discreet.

There are quite a lot of people living in boats moored in the canals. I saw (lit.) how they get power and water, but I wonder about sanitation.

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There are cruises through the red light district. Wth.

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Believe it or not - this is a conference centre (along Singel).

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Zool cafe - Cheap marketing tricks
Make proficiency in mother tongue an entry requirement for university - March 8, 2006

"I refer to the letter "Stem decline in use of Chinese language here" (ST, March 6) by Mr Heng Cho Choon.

I hope the authorities will revert to the practice of making proficiency in the mother tongue in the O level examination a prerequisite for entering our universities.

In the past, the minimum requirement for mother tongue language was D7 at O level. But this is no longer the case.

I believe the number of students who failed to obtain D7 in mother tongue language at O level is less than 3 per cent. Moreover, not all of them apply to go to the local universities.

So why should the authorities succumb to the demand of a small group of parents and students? Besides, all Singaporeans have the obligation to support and achieve the government's goal to make them bilingual and retain their own ethnic cultures.

Our bilingual policy has made Singaporeans proud. Why not retain the prerequisite and revamp only the mother tongue syllabuses?

Tan Kia Sin"


Thursday, March 09, 2006

My new fantasy is to wear a pair of pointy shoes - steel-capped ones, and then go kick people.

Many days, my hair, pullover designated for house use and sometimes even my clothes smell of smoke. This sucks.

Walking in a drizzle isn't so bad here, because you don't feel the rain drops through the coat. However, when the drizzle turns suddenly to sleet and starts stinging my cheeks - gah.

It seems Germany's the only country not to give youth discounts on train tickets. Bah.

Train tickets cost €0.50 more if you buy them from the counter. This sucks because for long trips (eg Maastricht) I'll go to the counter anyway to enquire about the fastest way to get there - my trip to Maastricht, for example, involved a transfer from a fast intercity line train to a slower stoptrein instead of being a direct trip. The self-service ticket machines really should provide this sort of information, with your ticket or otherwise (also, to boot neither type of ticket machine accepts notes - only coins, Chipknip, credit card or Dutch bank card). Unfortunately, there's no contact email address on their website and I'm not going to bother calling them up and/or going down to tell them this, wading through layers of bureacracy along the way.

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Pork fried with cashew nuts, red pepper and carrot.
Carrot was a bad idea since it was quite tough - I should boil it first before throwing it in next time. I wanted to add the rest of the broccoli I didn't use in the red wine stew, but there was mold growing on it so I dumped it (the carrot was wilted but otherwise intact). The flavour of the cashews didn't come out - I think they're meant more to give variety and crunch (most recipes say to scatter them on top), since later even when I fried them for a while before throwing them into my spaghetti, they didn't really release their aroma either.

So many recipes call for chicken broth, so I bought a tin of chicken broth granules.

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Spaghetti fried with Babi Pangang sauce, chopped sausage, onions and egg
I'd actually made this for lunch the same day, but because I was preparing a presentation I was trying to do many things at once. As such my oil was too hot when I put the garlic in, and I watched as before my eyes, my chopped garlic was cremated within seconds. The end product had many black specks in it. For dinner I was originally going to eat at the UCU dining hall, but as previously mentioned didn't feel like having what they had; I contemplated stopping by the pizza parlour near my place, but there was a long queue, so I ended up returning home. I paid more attention to what I was doing this time and it turned out okay.

Inspired after watching Goo Goo Gai Pan, I made General Tso's Chicken according (mostly) to this recipe.

I followed the ingredients list closely this time, except for ginger and green onions (forgot to buy), MSG (decided not to use), chiles (for obvious reasons). Deep frying is also easier than I thought.

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Some very expensive (€2) Kai Lan can be seen in the background.

I only faced 3 problems:

1) I used tapioca starch instead of corn starch and it's more powerful, so my sauce became too sticky, resembling a sea cucumber's natural defences. When we finished eating the remaining sauce was coagulating into a bouncy stream.

2) My chicken wasn't crispy. I mixed the starch into the chicken-coating before adding the chicken instead of dumping it on top after the chicken was in the liquid and then mixing. Oh well.

3) No wok hei. But since I've no fire, this was probably the best I could do.

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affect economical growth (economic)

[On pasting group members' pictures on South Park character cutouts] I've been sitting here for 9 hours listening to presentations, I'm very tired. *makes whooshing sound*... I like it. Other tutors may not like it as much.

Why do you drink?... In Finland, it's different. People drink for fun. During summer - in Finland, there's no summer. People just drink... After a few beers, they feel better... They go to sleep, they do't wake up.

[On the economy of Finland] A few reindeers, that's about it (reindeer)

[On deregulation] We have some papers on Finnish alcohol consumption. They're quite amazing... Maybe they'll drink less, but it's Finland.

[Tutor: ***, reflect on his presentation skills.] I can't. I'm part of his group. [Tutor: You can. I'm asking you.] I was looking away.

Yes, you have to entertain us. But you're not an entertainer, you're an economist [Student: I will be]

[Student: One minor point - chewing gum during the presentation.] I don't have chewing gum. I'm chewing on my tongue.

Dutch people don't talk using their hands. They put their hands in their pockets... It's ok to start talking with your hands, but you started clapping yourself... I start counting the claps.

croo toe (crude oil)

inter diction of the problem (introduction)

We're going to con'kood (conclude)

[On a student looking at the ceiling while doing a presentation] It's like he had a slide on the top of his head.

[On a nervous student shifting from foot to foot during a presentation] It's funny if you tape it then play it back. It's, like he's dancing.

They became the world's greatest traitor, trade country (trader)

You put your hand in your pocket and you started - *tries to click pen with hand in pocket*. I even can't do it. It's a good trick, but don't do that. (can't even)
I bought some tea, and couldn't be bothered to get milk since I don't drink it. Thus, as creamer I used Vla, lending the tea a nice vanilla aroma and a richness that milk alone cannot lend it. Pity it wasn't enough to sweeten it though.

The Plus supermarket along Voorstraat was recommended to me as being very cheap, but I wasn't very impressed when I browsed its wares, not least because of a free coffee machine in the shop.

It's so hard to find a cheap restaurant here. Knowing of the high prices, I usually don't bother looking but those I've checked out the menus of all have main courses for >=€10 (even one cheap-looking Chinese restaurant I saw had each dish going for €11.50 minimum). Even the Indonesian "fast food" place sells sate for €6+ a portion. So far one cheap restaurant I have come across is Mr Jack's Grieks-Italiaans restaurant along Voorstraat, which has most pizzas and pastas for €5, which is like cafe prices.

I finally activated my bank account, but the way it works is really silly. I have 2 bank accounts, not one, a savings account and a normal account. Money in the former accrues interest but can only be withdrawn from ABN AMRO ATMs. Money in the latter can be used to topup the Chipknip (smart card) capacity of the bank card, make payments and withdraw money from other ATMs (I also got this funny chequebook but I haven't figured it out yet) - it accumulates no interest, of course.

I can't find my favourite periodical in any bookshops or newstands. It must be a symbol of the Western European defiance of iniquitous Anglo-Saxon liberalism!

I found what must be the cheapest place to have a full lunch in Utrecht. For €2.80, at the University College Utrecht dining hall, you get as much food as you can eat (or fit onto one oversized tray, at any rate). If you think this is a good deal, recall that the Dutch usually eat cold lunches, so bread, cheese and ham are the mainstays at Dining Hall lunches (or at least for the day I dined there, assuming it is representative). There was a salad bar, but the only hot items were soup, a snack (some banana puff) and pancakes. You get one piece of fruit too, but that doesn't improve the menu much. No wonder the Dutch eat so much junk food - if I had to eat that for lunch everyday I'd be eating lots of krokets and frites too. (I dropped in to look at dinner, but didn't feel like paying ~€5.75 for Veal sausage or Paella, mashed potatoes and vegetarian tau gey soup).

Snowball fights outside the classroom are very distracting.

One of my classmates spent 3 1/2 months travelling from Utrecht to Bangkok, but only spent €100-150 a month. Ah, the joys of Third World travel.

I had to go to Amsterdam Centraal to buy my Eurail pass. Given that Utrecht is the centre of the Dutch rail network, I am very pissed off.

It seems international fund transfers are cheaper and faster than buying bank drafts. Damn.

Bamiblok is truly bizarre - as the name suggests it's made of bami (noodles) pressed into a block, crumbed and deep fried.

I went to a student Baroque concert. It wasn't all that good, but then I only paid €7, and it's so hard to find Baroque music being played at concerts - at the most you usually only find Classical pieces, and the rest is Romantic, 20th century or worse (as someone observes, it's because "classical does better in orchestra halls mahhhhhhhhh").

Perhaps as a sign of low costs, the conductor was also the principal violinist. As such, it was very interesitng to see how he conducted while playing - by moving his body not only left, right and about but also up and down.

I think I prefer chamber music - there are less people, so it's harder for them to hide, there's a warmer sound (from the smaller room if nothing else) and you can see the players. But as someone points out: "less profits so fewer concerts". Ah well.

It's really been too long since I first (and I think, last) heard a harpsichord - 5 long years! And of course, it's always nice to catch the look of practised surprise that conductors affect when they receive their bouquets.

Kunstorkest: 'Internationale betrekkingen'
Pieces performed:
- Vier muziekstukken voor de Roentgen-Kinzing Chronosklok (1785) uit het Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement (playing of a musical clock in the venue, it being a musical clock museum)
- Suite in g-klein van Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello
- Symfonie op. 3 nr. 3 in g-klein van Franz Ignaz Beck
- Concert voor twee fluiten, strijkers en b.c. in C-groot RV 533 van Antonio Vivaldi
- Symfonie op. 18 nr. 6 in D-groot van Johann Christian Bach

Someone commented that the food I cook is all red in colour. I fried some spaghetti with soy sauce, vinegar, onions, cashew nuts and sliced rookwurst (Dutch smoked sausage) and looked at it. Apart from being a fine example of fusion food (read: I just threw together whatever shit I had - not bad, but I should've put more vinegar) it also was vaguely black in colour. I'm not sure that this is an improvement, especially give 42SAR's black meal.

More than half the 'butter' I see here is actually margarine packaged like butter. I looked at the labels, but they all claim they contain plant oil and fats. I bet it's palm oil following me here from Malaysia to clog my arteries!

Raw meat doesn't keep as long in, or lemons out of, the fridge as I thought. Gah.

Someone: i practically never cook any vegetables other than peppers and onions because they keep for a long time, heh


[On a case study with a text] All the answers you came up with just now are from your own imagination right?... Please use the text, unless we tell you to use your fantasy. (imagination)

For the students who read Dutch, if you read quality newspapers like the Volksrant, there's a nice article about privatising universities. For the foreign students among us - learn Dutch. No, of course not.

[On Joe Average in the Netherlands] He's white... He's meal (male)

'Find examples for each case from public life in your community.' I don't understand this question. Let's move on.

I didn't ask you to prepare this question. [But] Next week's the exam. You have all the knowledge now, right?

There were farmers who decided to grow fish (rear)

They have to readopt to time (readapt)

You want to know how many prisoners were let out during the weekend in Chile? 411. [Me: Prisoners let out during the weekend? Sounds like me during conscription.]

Why is education conductive to economic growth? (conducive)

[On raw labour vs human capital] We have the input of raw labour - maybe I'm just sitting here and not talking.

Do you know about Queen's Day?... It's even more stupid than Carnival.
Email forward I got:

email from a student doing corporate finance summer subject:

excuse me, can we shift our exam time one day earlier on Feburary 13th? it is valentine's day on Feburary 14th.

thanks for regard!

happy new year and best wishes!

And response from the lecturer...

Dear XXX,

This is such an important question that I felt that it would be important to answer to all students who may be affected by the very serious predicament of an exam being held on the morning of Valentines Day.


Dear all students (and especially those who may be romantically involved with another),

In setting the exam date for corporate finance I thought long and hard about the impact of it coinciding with Valentines Day. Would exam preparation be affected by shopping for perfume, flowers or the latest Anthony Callea cd? What about young lovers who planned on meeting for an early morning latte, a sugar-coated biscotti and a sharing of the Age's Epicure section at Brunetti's? Isn't life hard enough without having all the joy of the international day of lovers taken away by some cold-hearted academic eager to finish the exam period off and get to his summer chalet in Dromana? For who was I to stand in the way of young love, for wasn't I also young once?

With grim resolve, steely determination, a stiff upper lip, a hand of fate, a nose for trouble, a tennis elbow and an eye for detail I put forward my claim on behalf of the lovestruck to the Grand Poobah of exam timetabling:


In his infinite wisdom he replied:

"But XXX, what of our students of Italian, Chinese or Brazilian origin? For surely you know that in ancient Rome it was the festival of Lupercus,the god of fertility that was celebrated by young lovers on the 15th (not the 14th) of February. In China, Valentines day is superceded by "The Night of Sevens" (being the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calender) and in Brazil, June 12th marks the date of celebrating "Dia dos Namorados" (lit. "Day of the enamored", or "Boyfriend's/Girlfriend's Day"). Surely my friend, you are not suggesting that we alienate young lovers from each of these other important members of the university community?" [Reference: >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine's_Day]

So, with head bowed and with great contrition I apologised to "He-who-must-not etc" for interrupting his musings on whether to set the next lot of the exams under the clocks at Flinders Street Station, in the Great Southern Stand at the MCG or in the roundabout on the corner of Elizabeth street and Royal Parade and returned to my office.

Students, and (specifically XXX) know this: I fought law and the law won, you have to know when to hold and know when to fold them, love is a battlefield. Now it is up to you to put it behind you, to show that true love can't be beaten by a three hour exam, even with an additional 15 minutes reading time.

Study hard friends.

Dr XXX "No-problem-too-small-(apparently)" XXX

Monday, March 06, 2006

The feedback unit has recently released some "games" to help the public understand how it works.

Besides being inane, boring and pointless, I was particularly peeved by "Feedback Pursuit". Sacrificing some of my time to play this hilarious (in the bad sense) game and putting up with a banal 2-minute long soundtrack from the 80s put on loop, I bring you these findings:

1) You can lose points on penalty squares. Sample penalties:

- "Complain endlessly without any constructive suggestion" (the alternatives, of course, being either to provide on an unpaid basis suggestions to people who are paid handsomely to think up solutions, or to keep silent and pretend that everyone is happy and that no problem exists) [Addendum: Someone - "Aw, gee. If I were the majority shareholder of a company and I complained to the CEO about the lack of profits, or the shitty reputation it has, and the CEO asked me for an alternative, I'd have him sacked."]
- "Decline invitation to participate in dialogue session" (because the results of and treatment of feedback is unclear)
- "Disregard national issues" (thanks, no doubt, to decades of depoliticisation)
- "The government will take care of everything" ("We decide what is right, never mind what the people think. That's another problem"; the Faustian bargain is being amended - now citizens are expected to do their part, with no commensurate compensation)

2) There are "Reward" squares with items like:

- "Write to Forum page" (no doubt "complain[ing] endlessly without any constructive suggestion" or worse: coming up with a moronic one like governmental regulation of blogs, and concluding with "May the relevant authorities please look into this and/or reply")
- "Your feedback helped make a difference"

- "Participate in social survey"
Considering Section 20 of the Census Act reads:

"Any person who refuses to answer, to the best of his knowledge and belief, any question asked of him by a census officer which is necessary to obtain any information required for the purposes of a census... shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,600 ($1,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to both"

it's no surprise that people feel compelled to participate in social surveys.

Some may point out that refusing to answer the census is a crime in the UK and US as well, but not only is that besides the point, offenders there do not have to go to jail.

3) They spelled "revitalise" with a Z. Tsk tsk.

All in all, this typifies the top-down mindset that locates citizens on a lower level whose sole conduit in attaining political self-actualization is by participating in feedback exercises and
writing in to the relevant authorites with constructive suggestions, and delegitimises other potential conduits, including those typically found in modern democracies.

Following this mindset, instead of using Critical Thinking skills so important to the New Economy in writing their Op-Eds, Catherine Lim and Cherian George should have gone to more tea sessions and participated in more feedback dialogues and written more letters to the Straits Times Forum with suggestions to the relevant authorities, resulting in their feedback being filtered and attenuated through an impersonal apparatus, with unknown results.

Also, given that the Feedback Unit is part of the Civil Service, it is exceedingly odd for the people to engage with it, rather than with the political process proper by voicing their opinions to their elected representatives; the Civil Service deals with implementation of policies, while the political process formulates them - thus, working through the civil service would presumably only tweak the implementation of said policies, rather than resulting in substantive change.

If anyone wants to torment themselves with bad music: http://fbu.snazza.com/
"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination." - Thomas De Quincey


"Choose Your Own Adventure" Books That Never Quite Made It - "You're the star of the story! Choose from 20 tragic endings. DON'T BOTHER. You die in most of the endings anyway."

Buridan's Ass - "The passing of Buridan's ass theory is a tragic shame, primarily because this theory is the best possible way to understand most romance novels, especially those of Brenda Honnefleur. The heroine in each novel is torn between two equally suitable mates and often resigns herself to life alone instead of selecting one... Buriden's ass theory can be applied to more than just relationships. Douglas Coupland's novel Paradise by the Refrigerator Light concerns Ellie McDaniel, a graphic design student and poet who cannot decide whether to major in art or English. Instead of pursuing a double major, she simply drops out of school, smokes tons of marijuana, and eats tremendous amounts of microwavable tater tots.."

YouTube - Tits for Tots - "There are millions of girls out there who are learning as they enter their teens that they're gonna be flat chested for the rest of their lives. This means no good-looking boyfriends, no immediate hiring in meaningful job interviews, no quick access to the VIP section at exclusive clubs and Hollywood premiere parties. They will instead have to learn how to dance, and flirt, and have actual engaging conversations with hundreds of overweight, overbearing, nerdy or just plain moronic men. But we can stop this wretched madness right now."

Japan massage - "Girls hitting dudes in the nuts. Beacuse the dude pays for it"
Damn Japs.

Real Life Simpsons Intro - "Someone went through a lot of trouble to very accurately depict the Simpsons intro with real life actors."

Doonesbury@Slate - "Situational science is about respecting both sides of a scientific argument, not just the one supported by facts! That's why I ALWAYS teach the controversy! Like the Evolution controversy, or the Global Warming controversy... Not to mention the Tobacco controversy, the Mercury controversy, the Pesticides controversy, the Coal Slurry controversy, the Dioxin controversy, the Everglades controversy and the Acid Rain controversy."

Hey,Dudette! - "The tendency towards unisex names is useless in this regard if everyone needs to quickly identify a person's sex and thenceforth refer to them with sex-based pronouns. Living in a patriarchy we simply cannot imagine a circumstance in which knowledge of a person's sex might be irrelevant or unnecessary. But let us pretend for a moment that such a circumstance is possible... traditionally inclusive terms like he and him can also be used inclusively without regard to sex. In the event that there is a bona fide reason to communicate another person's genital status, it is as simple to say that "Same is female," or "He is female, as it is to say that "The surgeon is female," or The attorney is female." Having once established a person's sex, it is no more necessary to refer to them in terms of their sex, than it is in Hofstadter's satire, to refer to people continuously in terms of their race."
What is this woman smoking?!

I shall post this, part of a scan of the cover of an issue of the Hikaru no go manga, whenever stupid Americans get upset over someone's use of the abbreviation "Jap".


Hitler has only got one ball / Adolf Hitler / Heil Hitler / NSDAP

England 1939-1940

Hitler, he only had one ball,
Goering, he had two but very small,
Himmler had something simmler,
But poor old Goebbels had no balls at all.
Whistle Chorus:

Frankfurt has only one beer hall,
Stuttgart, die München all on call,
Munich, vee lift our tunich,
To show vee 'Cherman' have no balls at all.
Whistle Chorus:

Hans Otto is very short, not tall,
And blotto, for drinking Singhai and Skol.
A 'Cherman', unlike Bruce Erwin,
Because Hans Otto has no balls at all.

Whistle Chorus:

Hitler has only got one ball,
The other is in the Albert Hall.
His mother, the dirty bugger,
Cut it off when he was small.
Whistle Chorus:


Someone: macs are awful machines
there's no rightclick button

Me: hehe
the mac whores will claim you don't need one
and anyway there's the $60 mighty mouse

Someone: the mac whores don't realise that you can rightclick ANYWHERE on the desktop to bring up a context menu that has multiple options (new XYZ program file, especially)
the only good thing about macs is the rotating wallpaper thing

i felt like i was using win3.11, with the annoying frequently with which i had to go to the top window to click on options

Me: they will claim you can Cmd + Click to bring up a context menu

Someone: the context menu is part of mac, but only limited to mac
programs don't have mac-integrated shells that allow you to add stuff to that context menu

Me: I'm sure you can go hack the Unix code
but that's besides the point, once again

Someone: in windows, you rightclick on desktop, any folder, you get arrange icons, refresh, {new}. that new is quite important
to go from tab to tab in firefox, you need to press 3 keys: command, mac, and arrow key
rubbishy... since in windows you just need 2: control-tab

Me: wah that sucks
you know, fundies and mac whores share a lot in common

Someone: and look. minimum specs for winxp is 400MHz pentium2
minimum specs for the latest macosX is a 400MHz G4
difference being that mac G4 is just 2 years old
rate of os obsoleting hardware is phenomenal in mac machines, in other words

itunes 7 cannot be installed on a first-gen imac
os and software obselete hardware by refusing to be installed on 'slower' machines

machines get obsolete if new software or OS cannot be installed on them
the 400MHz p2 came out 1998 *(at least i bought mine then)
winXP came out x year. hence 400MHz machine got obsolete in y years

no matter which version of winXP, you are guaranteed that if your machine could run winXP original, your machine will be able to run sp2, sp3, sp4, etc
mac: 10.3.x cannot be installed in the first generation imacs

Me: ah
so it's a built in thing
the Apple tax is levied in another insidious way
this is contrived obsolescence

Someone: quicktime. i can't watch anything on my workplace mac, since the quicktime5+ cannot be installed on the firstgen imac
i got so annoyed i started to use mac's notepad equivalent to write my stuff instead of office

the latest adobe suite requires G5 to install, not just G4 chips
so my boss was complaining: his harddisk is bigger than the minimum, he has twice the recommended ram, but he can't install the latest adobe

i pity the macheads

Me: false consciousness :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Wednesday, we finally got some proper snow which blanketed the ground, rather than the sleet ('frozen raindrops that bounce on impact with the ground') of a week or three ago and the very sporadic snow that we'd been getting on and off. The ground was then blanketed in a sheet of white. Of course, as someone noted, snow is only fun for the first 30 minutes. Then it begins to melt, get dirty and turn into slush.

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Snowscape, from the window outside my room

Venturing further afield, I located another Aldi along Groeneweg, and this one was much larger than the first one I'd gone to (though not within walking distance of the Central Station). They had most of the stuff I need, except for fresh meat and Coke. Beside it was a Nettorama, a discount supermarket, which did have them, and stuff found in normal supermarkets. Meat seems cheaper at the market, and if I looked hard enough, most fresh produce might be as well, but the trouble with the market (besides it being 3/4 open on Wednesday, half open on Friday and fully open only on Saturday) is that it's inconsistent, heterogeneous and prices are not always clearly displayed (if they are marked in the first place), and one has to spend some time visiting all the individual stalls to find the best bargain. Unlike most females, I do not incur negative search costs (ie They enjoy the process of looking for low prices itself), so I will probably opt for the satisficing option of doing most of my non-meat shopping at Aldi and Nettorama (and going for Euroshopper brand products like €0.29/kg spaghetti and the Bonus [sale] items at Albert Heijn).

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View of Vredenburg, where the market is

Nettorama even had Made-In-Belgium Garnier Fructis, and at a lower price (€2.49 per bottle) than the market too - the power of economies of scale trumps that of cross-border arbitrage. I noticed that the Nettorama had a price guarantee, but oddly stocked none of the brands that Aldi had; Aldi almost surely stocks funny brands you don't find elsewhere for this reason, especially since in this case they were right next to each other - even if Aldi had lower prices for pasta sauce than Nettorama, it's for another brand so the price guarantee would not apply.

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The birds seemed strangely unperturbed

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Then they took wing

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I like snow-covered trees. This from just outside my housing.

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Interestingly, here they call peanut butter pindakaas, which translates as "peanut cheese".


[On a model] We decided to, or I decided to extend it.

[On the Solow model being insufficient to explain growth] This is good news, or the course would end here and you'd be bored for the next 10 weeks.

[On education and human capital] In the end, this is the reason you came here this afternoon - to learn something so you can make more money.

[On Malthus] This model, which brings tears to your eyes because it's so terrible... People will make kids until you run out of food, then they'll die. It's terrible.

Those are things we can build into the model, but it's too much work and it makes me very tired.

[On health correlating to income and vice versa] Proof that these are true. Even if you believe, the proofs are quite fun, so let's have a look.

[On food and height] The body responds, 'This is not very good. I better not grow so much'. I have no idea what I'm talking about - this is biology... it takes up too much energy [to be tall].

[On conscription] They measure your weight, they measure your height. They even try to measure your intelligence - it's very funny.

[On an Italian minister] 'I will not enter parliament because it would decrease my human capital'... he went back to Florence to become an Economics Professor.

By going here, you have increased your future wages by a certain amount. I'll reveal it later - it's a secret. (coming)

[On human capital wearing out] If you don't practise the Solow model everyday, you'll forget it.

People who go to College are not a random ability sample... Now I'm flattering you. People who go to College are smarter. This is twice as so for the teacher.

In formulas - it always looks more impressive if you say these things in formulas.

I give you this data because it has the Netherlands in it. Your textbook does not. Very wrong.

[On finding productivity] In your homework, there's an exercise with data for the USA and Netherlands from 2000. It shows you, if you do it correctly, that you can manipulate the numbers to say pretty much anything you want.

[On productivity being a catch-all term] It is indeed a collection of garbage.

Now is when we start doing mathematical gymnastics.

[On the dot above a variable indicating its rate of change] This notation, by the way, was invented by Isaac Newton, because he was writing a large book, and he got very tired.
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