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Saturday, September 09, 2006

July Trip: 14/7 - Hellish Night, Venice

July Trip
14/7 - Hellish Night, Venice

Our trains on this crazy night: 2052-2252, 2334-0039, 0318-0611.

Dogs were the noisiest and worst tempered in Italy in July of all the countries and times I was in Europe.

On the train from Parma to Bologna, I couldn't sleep. It was hot, crowded, cramped (not necessarily the same as crowded) and smelly (there was an Indian man beside me who didn't smell of the strong soap you don't find any other ethnic group using). A lot of other people couldn't or wouldn't sleep, and so were in the corridor making noise. In the end I got about 3-4 hours of sleep that night.

Trenitalia often gave pro gorma apologies for the delay and inconvenience. Why bother? As they say in Slavery, "Sorry no cure". This is especially so as they didn't seem sincere about their apology, since on-time trains were the exception rather than the rule, and they didn't make any effort to improve (the alternative is that Italian trains used to be EVEN worse - horror).

Italian electricity sockets are really screwed up. Wanting to be different from the rest of Europe, their sockets and plugs have 3 holes/prongs rather than 2, which means their plugs are not compatible with the sockets in the rest of Europe. You would think that 3 hole sockets would accept 2 prong plugs, but many of the power sockets I had access to didn't (and none accepted my power extension's prongs). Some of the 3 hole sockets had enlarged top and bottom holes (viz the centre ones), presumably to accommodate plugs from the rest of Europe, but even this didn't always work. Perhaps the best part was that not all Italian 3 pin plugs fit in Italian 3 pin sockets. Whee.

On reaching our Venetian hostel on the mainland, we had a shower and slept for about 2 hours, before heading out to Venice proper.

I saw a casino named "slot folies". A folly indeed.

Sundresses look very cooling.

S Simon Piccolo, 1738

Down Grand Canal in Water Ferry

Canele di Cannaregio

1 of the 118 islands of Venice

A toilet I saw on Murano cost €1. It was part of the official Venice-wide toilet cartel which extorted tourists by charging that uniform price; buying the Venice card got you free entrance into the toilets, so you can tell how finely they got the art of fleecing tourists down to. I'm quite sure Venice has the most expensive toilets in Europe (xxoos found a €1,10 toilet in Luxembourg City, but the toilets I found there were all much much cheaper).

Damn Chinks.
"In this shop we don't sale Chinese glass!!! (Our production) Whoever sells Chinese objects kills Murano!!!" - maybe they can stop making glass commercially and set up more toilets. It might even be more profitable.


Masks. Besides glass, Venice is also famous for them.

Glass chandelier in Murano church

Of course, there were glass-making demonstrations. When glass is hot it looks like it has the softness of jelly.

Dao glass man

Glass shaping

Glass shaping

Information panel: "The master, ie the head of the team, blows and/or shapes the glass piece: thanks to his sensitivity and artistic ability, he always succeeds in obtaining the desired shape and size." If not, they can always sell it for a 50% discount.


We then went to the island of Lido, where they filmed a movie called "Death in Venice". There were many beaches, and we walked down one of them doing data collection. To wit, how many women were sunbathing topless, and what ages they were. No, I do not have any pictures of this, not even in Secret Diary #3 (or an offline collection) - I was strictly engaging in data collection. The information gathering session lasted from 4:23pm to 4:40pm and covered a long stretch of beach (not all densely packed, though, but the large area made up for it).

Contrary to stereotypes about decadent Europeans with loose morals (in contradistinction to those imbued with Asian Values), we only saw 4 topless sunbathers, despite the beach being host to many people: one 30+ year old, one 50+ year old, one 60+ year old and one 40+ year old. My definition of topless sunbather was quite strict - lying prone and untying your bikini string didn't cut it. Perhaps it says something that there weren't any 10+ or 20+ topless sunbathers - it would've affected the incentives of those seeking a peek. What was interesting, though, was how many pre-teen girls with nothing to show and showing it (ie running around topless).

There was a topless girl of maybe 8 who was on the swing for the longest time. Andrew and I combined didn't have as much stamina as her - she started before we did and ended after we gave up.

Andrew and topless young girl on swing

Me and topless young girl on swing
The seat was too small for me. Ouch. And I got dizzy.

The guidebook recommended Lido but there was nothing special about it, besides huge beaches so expansive that the large crowd could not fill it (but beaches are not my kinda thing).

Lido canal

I always had the impression that a gondola was like a punt - you stuck the pole into the bottom of the river to propel the vessel. Yet all of the gondolas I saw were propelled by oars.

We made the mistake of taking boat 1 back from Lido. It took forever since it stopped at every single stop and was crowded, probably for the same reason.

I wonder if everyone enjoyed the heat. If I grew up in a temperate clime I might.

There was a statue of the Virgin Mary at a circus. Wth. (I can't remember what this scribble referred to)
FT.com / World / Asia-Pacific - IMF and World Bank rebuke Singapore

"The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Friday issued an unprecedented rebuke to Singapore over a ban on accredited activists invited to attend the annual meetings of the two financial institutions next week.

The IMF/World Bank suggested that Singapore had violated the terms of its agreement to host the event by blocking the entry of 19 civil society representatives, who allegedly posed a security threat.

"Singapore had promised to faciliate the entry of accredited representatives under the memorandum of understanding with us," a World Bank official said. The IMF/World Bank was only informed this week of Singapore's plans."

Looks like they want to have their cake and eat it - the prestige of holding international conferences, without the responsibilities that entails.

I love the last paragraph though:

"The chief of Indonesia’s national police, Sutanto, told reporters that NGOs would not be allowed to hold protests on Batam, although authorities would let them meet. “Seminars are welcome,” he said. “But there should be no political agenda, let alone rallies, because this could make foreigners think Indonesia is not safe for investment.”"

Of course, foreigners are not deterred from investing because of KKN (Korruption, Kronyism and Nepotism), kidnapping or the TNI's machinations. This must be called the Singapore disease - thinking that peaceful demonstrations constitute political instability.

But then again, Singapore's violating its agreement with the IMF and World Bank means it's not safe for investment, since it breaks pre-agreed contracts willy-nilly. The multiplier effect from the meeting will be minimal due to our open economy, but who knows what the multiplier effect from pulling a fast one on the IMF and World Bank will be?

Of course, the Nation-Building Press has a different spin: Singapore praised for role in planning Programme of Seminars. And the rebuke somehow metamorphosised into "a joint statement".

(Also see: Singapore under fire as World Bank-IMF protest)

Friday, September 08, 2006

TWO highlights of the day!!

"Highlight #2

After SS lecture, guess who I bumped into?!?!?!?!?!?!??!! Okay well, not exactly bumped BUMPED, but we crossed paths. Okay well not exactly crossed paths, but he and his friends were on one side of the road and I was on the other side, at the Shaw Foundation building carpark.

I bumped into Gabriel-gssq-Seah!!! He's like, ONLY my favourite blogger of ALL TIME!!!! OMG LA.

I ALMOST shouted "Gabriel!!" or "GSSQ!" and ask for a photo so I can display it on my blog in all its glory but luckily my sanity or the like stopped me (well partially cos he was with his friends also and also partially becos he would think im a FREAK). WTH sia. Just cause I read his blog, macam I know him like that. Haha! That's the great part about blogs you see. You can religiously read someone's blog, without even knowing the person, but you kinda know whats going on in the person's life.

I love the way he writes and its through his blog I was introduced to terms like SLUGS and SNAILS and whatever nots. Plus its hilarious too, sometimes. Oh and he just got back from the Netherlands for exchange and he travelled Europe extensively.. Haha see what I mean. Macam I know him like that.

Okay I better stop before I start sounding like a stalker. Haha. Okay lah thats all. I'm still for some reason feeling excited that I saw gssq in person. For the record, I don't personally know gssq, I just chanced upon his blog one day and I liked it so I continued reading."

And hello to you too, amylia. I don't bite (really!)

I am torn between amusement and annoyance.

I have been approached by people before (today someone excuse-d me in lecture and asked to play with my phone because she was thinking of getting it. My friend said that he thought she recognised me), but the more common outcome seems to be that people recognise me but don't come over and say hello. They then (those with whom I am in contact, anyway) tell me later that they saw me, and when I ask why they didn't say hello, they sometimes say that I look intimidating (personally I think it's because everyone runs away from me).

I can only imagine how many people I am not in contact with do the same.

Someone: hahah u look v intimidating

Me: ...
I'm a BFG

Someone: big freaky giant?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

July Trip: 13/7 - Cinque Terra, Hellish Night

July Trip
13/7 - Cinque Terra, Hellish Night

The view from our room - Gnomes outside the window. The last place I expected to see these was in a small village in Italy. I always thought they were a British thing.

The stupid reception only opened at 10am, and the checkout time was 10am, so we weren't able to leave any earlier.

Cinque Terra, as the name suggests, is made up of 5 villages strung out along the sea. From East to West: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Starting at the first, we initially planned to walk to the last, but at Vernazza Andrew decided to go ahead to Monterosso by train to chill at the beach, not least because we had a hell of a night ahead of us.

Via dell Amore - the Road of Love. This was the easiest part of the trek. The road is named such because there's a tunnel with murals about love, but all were vandalised with individual declarations of love.

At Manorala, there were ducks in a cove. Uhh. The cove was also remarkably civilized - there were metal bars along the shore and a ladder leading from the sea to the shore, like in a swimming pool. If you didn't look out far enough, you could almost think you were in an expensive landscaped resort. No wonder so many tourists come here.

Andrew: How come no girls walking around in bikinis?
Me: Instead of mothers?

Andrew: How come no topless sunbtathers yet?

Suntanning women. My fantasy was to push them into the sea quickly in succession and hearing them yelp in turn. After walking further, though, I saw that below them on the other side there were many sharp and hard rocks, not water. Damn.

Manarola-Corniglia route

Manarola in distance

There was a famous beach called Guvano beach, which was even mentioned in my guidebook. Near Coniglia, we were looking out for it but our scam detector alarms went off; there were lots of spray painted signs on the walls of the path pointing to it, which was dodgy and others saying "Naturists presences" (sic) and "ticket park no valid". Even the least dodgy looking sign was just a simple laminated piece of A4 paper.

We followed the signs and found ourselves at the entrance of a tunnel, which was covered by a door with lots of frayed and outdated notices pasted on it, including one proclaiming that entry was €5. We tried the door but it was locked. There was a sign saying to press a button and we did, and after a short while the door opened, only for us to be faced with:

Guvano tunnel

I recalled this movie - Hostel - that my brother-in-law had chattered about. Maybe Guvano beach was a scam to get us to walk down this dark tunnel, whereupon we'd be jumped, knocked unconscious and wake up in some illegal underground pit where people would pay good money to watch us being tortured. But then the only people who'd pay money to watch a Singaporean be tortured would be Malaysians, and vice versa.

Walking for 8-10 minutes down this cold (YES!), dark tunnel, we met a US group who said it was just 2 minutes more, but that it was a scam: there was a viewing platform but the guy wouldn't let them see the beach from the platform without paying. So at that, we gave up too. At any rate, it was nice walking in this cool tunnel. Why can't underground/enclosed areas in Singapore be so cool too?!

There was a woman wearing a bikini and boots. Uhh.

The women must've been very happy in Italy in July. Not only did they sweat less, they also got to wear less, so they were cooler.

Grape farming for idiots - Corniglia. Even the promotional booklet talked about the 'naivete of poverty'.

One of the advantages of coming in summer was that the essential oils came out and permeated the air: Rosemary, Thyme, Lemons and Lavender. Or at least, they were supposed to. I smelled little, if anything. Andrew picked up a bit more. My olfactory senses have never been very developed anyway.




4 pussies grooming and eating in the shade at a picnic area. There was one more to the right.

Andrew: Do you want to pour some water on them?

A man walked past holding his dog in his arms, and it made a lunge at the pussies. Heh.


Me and Vernazza

We had some very good (and cheap) gelato in Vernazza, and I had some food to prepare myself for the last leg of my hike.

Alley in Vernazza

Between Vernazza and Monterosso, there was another cat feeding point with 1 cat. There were 2 containers with a sign: "Please, use the food inside this container to feed these homeless and unloved cats. Thanks !!" Well, obviously someone loves them enough to trek all the way up (up the hardest part of the path between the 4 villages) just to replenish their food. And the cats are so loved that they don't even eat all the food given to them, since there were 2 piles of uneaten food which were obviously quite old and 1 which was not-so-old; the group in front of me tried opening a can, but the cat just went to sleep. Rosie should come here since there'll be no shortage of food. Oh, and this time I did spray water on the cat.

Vernazza Tower


Final stretch! The last cliff to pass to get to Monterosso


Slide on boat
This was funky. From the boat you could slide into the ocean.


I was waiting for Andrew by the beach and one woman went to the toilet in 1 bikini and came out in another. I don't get it.

I think Fanta Orange in ITaly was more tart and less sweet than outside. I prefer F&N Obiang Orange.

While waiting for the train in Monterosso, we saw 3 tudung women. Why did they bother coming to Cinque Terra?!

We'd originally planned to take a night train to Venice, with one connection. Unfortunately by the time we got down to buying tickets, they were sold out. So we planned a crazy night with 2 connections and no sleeper cars. Unfortunately, we forgot that we'd be dirty after the long trek. We asked the people we rented the room from if we could use the shower, but they refused. Grr. So we had to pass the night dirty and only bathe in Venice. To add insult to injury, we were charged €2 each for left luggage by the people who rented us our room on the previous night.

While waiting for the first train, I discovered that I had 2 cuts in my right heel and 1 in my left. Worse, since I'd changed into shoes for the hike, there were black cotton bits in the wounds. Also, the public toilet that I knew of was now closed so I had to use fountain water and tweezers to remove the foreign particles and clean the wound. The number of flies flying around didn't exactly inspire confidence in my wound healing quickly (nor did the amount of walking I had done and would be doing).

I don't know why Italians like to add a vowel to the end of practically all their words.

While waiting for our first train, I discovered one reason why Italian trains are so late. One was scheduled to come at 1952 and depart at 1953, at least according to the TV monitor. Such an unrealistic schedule, with no buffer time at all, would leave even the Gifted Germans hard pressed to follow, let alone the Inefficient Italians. So you can imagine what happened - the train came at 2032 and left at 2037, snowballing the delay.

While at our first connection station, I discovered another reason why Italian trains sucked - their clocks weren't synced. The clock at Parma gave the same time as my watch, while the one at Riomaggiore was 7 minutes ahead of it.

My smaller bag had been giving me trouble for at least a month. The shoulder straps were filled with some hi-tech red soft springy padding (like a much softer version of what goes on running tracks) in a honeycomb configuration, and presumably to show off this special padding there were holes in the shoulder straps; they were so proud of it that the bag came with a triangle of this red material hanging from a ring attached to a zip. The bag was only 2 years old, but some time in May or June (possibly earlier), I'd noticed red streaks on the shoulders of my light coloured T-shirts - I traced it back to the bag; the gel inside had partially melted and become sticky. I tried powdering it but to no avail. So I had to condemn some of my light-coloured T-shirts. Presumably the manufacturers (Jansport) expected that those who bought its bags wouldn't be using them after 2 years. Hurr hurr.

Another thing about Trenitalia was that the delays kept increasing (whether because they were too optimistic in projections or were just trying to con us, I don't know). At Parma-Bologna, our connecting train was rit by 10 munutes at first, then 25 minutes, then 40 minutes. The final total was rit 45 minutes. Bah.

The reservation fee for Trenitalia tickets is €3/ticket/person. Bah.

'Cuccette libere / couchettes libres / freie liegerplaetze' - Seen on the side of a sleeping car. Notice which language is conspicious by its absence. Gah. Interestingly, this also implies that in the past you could hop on to a night train without booking a seat/bed.
msn : (tu) appearing before some of the nicks on my list - Miranda IM Forums

[Editor's note: In case it was not already crystal clear, A is *NOT* me.]

A: a little problem with msn after upgrading to v0.5


start appearing

(tu)(tu)firezblade appears too after some time

i think it may be due to me clicking update now on their user profile or them changing their user pfile

i also think it is also not affecting those who are offline. only those who are online and i click on their update.

using miranda im v0.5 on winxp sp1


B: can you post using http://help.miranda-im.org/Version_info

A: here is my version_info.


B: none of your plugins would cause this to happen
are you sure your contacts are not named like that?

A: nope. they are not named so

B: can you make a network log of when you retrieve a contact (when you click update)

A: here is my network_log

i have to apologize that i don't know how to sort out the relevant parts.
the file size is over 3500 lines i believe


B: according to your network log thats how your contacts are named
any idea what client(s) they are using? and if they have any special mods?

A: thanks for your attention.
this is not a problem with miranda client.
i just never expect ppl from all over to start puting (tu) before their nicknames for steve irwin, that crocodile hunter who died.
ignorance on my part

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I doubt this is one of my better works, but as requested by someone...

Someone: i'm agog with anticipation

Me: it's not very good :(

Someone: to you maybe

Me: haha

Have you ever wondered which hurts the most?
Saying something and wishing you hadn't?, or
Saying nothing and wishing you had?
If it's of any comfort, you're going to regret it either way.

I guess the most important things are the hardest things to say. "I'm pregnant", "I want the house" or "Your money or your life"
Don't bother to tell someone you love them.
If you do, they will probably break your heart... if you don't, if the feeling is mutual they'll tell you the same in time anyway, so why risk it?

Have you ever decided not to become a couple because you were so afraid of losing what you already had with that person? Good for you! See how many of your friends have ruined friendships by pouncing when interest was not reciprocated.

Have you ever wanted to love someone with everything you had, but that other person was too afraid to let you? Don't commit yourself so soon, for in 20 years the hormones will have gone and you'll see just how much of an idiot you were - getting married at 18? Hah!

Too many of us stay walled up because we are too afraid to care too much... for fear that the other person does not care as much, or even at all, since the guys who care too much get dumped for being nice guys, while the girls who do likewise get dumped after their boyfriends have had their maidenheads.

Have you ever denied your feelings for someone because your fear of rejection was too hard to handle? You know how it goes: "For every winner, there are dozens are losers. Odds are you're one of them".

We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But guess what? Everyone else is lying too! Every time we tell the truth, we get laughed at and humiliated.

Life is all about risks and it requires you to jump. Just don't blame me if you land in a pirahna-infested pool - after all: nothing ventured, nothing lost.

Don't be a person who has to look back and wonder what they would have done, or could have had. Buy that $10,000 bottle of wine, go bareback the next time you visit Bangkok, or rob a bank today!

What would you do if every time you fell in love you had to say good-bye? Writing sappy chain mails and annoying all your friends would be a good way to pass the time in-between crying.

What would you do if every time you wanted someone they would never be there? A dog would be nice to have at night. At least it won't lie to you and run away with your money.

What would you do if your best friend died tomorrow and you never got to tell them how you felt? (even if it is that you don't care anymore) If you needed to tell them, you musn't have been very good friends with them, must you?

What would you do if you loved someone more than ever and you couldn't have them? Stalking is always a good idea.

People live, but people die.
I want to tell you that you are in my email address book even though I either wouldn't recognise you if you came up to me on the street, or would love to stick a dagger into your back for the time you backstabbed me in third grade.

If you died tomorrow (God Forbid - I might rather see your liver being eaten out by an eagle each day)
you would be in my heart.
Would I be in yours?

If you care about me as much as I care about youÂ
 you will send this back, and we'll start an infinite loop that'll result in the Internet crashing

You might be best friends one year, pretty good friends the next year, don't talk that often the next, and don't want to talk at all the year after that. But remember: you can always spam someone's mailbox even if you have no idea who they are!

So, I just wanted to say, even if I never talk to you again in my life, you are special to me and you have made a difference in my life. You have allowed me to practise self-indulgent emotional masturbation in a vacuum. Don't mind the cyber-seminal fluids.

I look up to you, respect you, truly cherish you. And I have such conviction that I will say so in an email chain letter sent out to 200 people.

Send this to all your friends and enemies, no matter how often you talk, or how close you are, and send it to the person who sent it to you. It's as easy as clicking "Fwd"!

Let old friends know you haven't forgotten them, and tell new friends you never will, unless Hotmail wipes your address book again.

Remember, everyone needs a friend someday you might feel like you have NO FRIENDS at all, just remember this e-mail and take comfort in knowing somebody out there cares about you and ..... always will.. Save this email so when you're hooked up to an assisted-breathing machine in 50 years time, you'll have something to read and do when your kids have run off with your retirement money.

I care about YOU!

(But I'd still rather have the unattainable, aloof and uninterested person described in the first half of this chain mail before I realised there was no hope and decided to bother all my acquaintances instead)

[Editor's note: It is in the nature of chain mails to evolve, but the best original version I could find was at http://www.mail-archive.com/milis-orangmedan@yahoogroups.com/msg00523.html (the original original version is on someone's locked LJ)]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this." - Bertrand Russell


Someone claims that those all who advocate that Singlish be preserved and not stamped out can speak both Singlish and Standard English, and that those who can speak only Singlish all want to improve their English.

Those who advocate abstinence-only education even though it doesn't work are like imaginary advocates for World Peace through immediate universal disarmament ("immediate universal disarmament is the only surefire way of preventing war"), and are then surprised when no one listens to them and the human race annihilates itself, when advocating gradual and partial multilateral disarmament would have let to a much better outcome ("one lives with the consequences of one's actions. it's quite simple really.").

Those who attend events at the University Cultural Centre are not allowed to bring flowers in. Like how you aren't supposed to smile on new passport photos since it screwes up facial recognition technology, I suppose this is another sign of the times.

The piano seems to be a very attention-snatching instrument which distracts and draws one's ear more easily than other instruments, which are more complementary.

At a supermarket I saw Minute Maid 100% from Concentrate retailing for $13.20 for 1.89L. Meanwhile Florida's Natural 100% NOT from Concentrate was retailing for $7.55 for the same size. Outrageous.

I saw "imitation vinegar" in Carrefour - acetic acid and water. Ugh.

There's XXX spam in Shareaza under the filename "nur wer die sehnsucht kennt". Uhh.


Owl / 貓頭鷹 / mao tou ying / cat / bird

Apple: iBox - "My iBox has no cords, no cables, no plugs, discs or cartridges - it's just a box. Life is difficult enough."

man show / Man Boobs - I watched this in Hawaii! In the same episode I think they had Chicken Skin without the chicken and how to trick your son about penis size.

Priests, helpers at Novena Church sued over alleged exorcism - Someone asked me for commentary on this. Simply, I will just point to the case of the exorcism of Anneliese Michel and the many cases of priests sexually abusing altar boys.

TV watchers watch TV - "Here's another problem: these studies rarely demonstrate cause and effect. I mean, would Mikey be more social if he stopped watching hours of Smackdown! or do his viewing habits reflect an anti-social predisposition? Is Susie watching her Firestarter DVD for hours at a time because she likes Drew Barrymore or because you've hid all the matches in the house? Sometimes, the headlines don't even gel with the science. Last month, the Associated Press cited a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found television and homework do not mix. At least, that was how the story started. But if you retrieve the study, you find that researchers were testing a subject's specific ability to actively multi-task by asking him/her to: (1) predict the weather based on a series of clues while (2) keeping a mental tally of randomly emitted tones."

nofearSingapore: Of Wild Goats and New Citizens- Not a fairy tale - "The Goatherd scolded them for their ingratitude in leaving him, when during the storm he had taken more care of them than of his own herd. One of them, turning about, said to him: "That is the very reason why we are so cautious; for if you yesterday treated us better than the Goats you have had so long, it is plain also that if others came after us, you would in the same manner prefer them to ourselves."... Most of us are peeved (or some say pissed) that the government seems to go to extra-ordinary lengths to please these potential immigrants. Even to the extent of treating them better than her own citizens. How else can one explain away the facts that money is being spent on scholarships for non-Singaporeans and that new male citizens do not need to serve National Service? It is no wonder that this Aesop’s fable will strike a chord with many."

300 people try to use mind power to levitate City Hall - Obviously it failed due to their lack of faith.
"The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well." - Joe Ancis


For one of my modules, you have the possibility of gaining 10% of "extra credit" by handing up tutorial assignments on 5 randomly selected weeks, during the lecture. What a novel incentive.

There was this couple in one of my lectures where the guy kept touching the girl, massaging and squeezing her back and neck, running his hand up and down her back and at one point resting her hand on her far side. People should YouTube this sort of thing.

In Week 3, one of my lectures ended after 55 minutes and we got off 50 minutes early. Wah. I think there's no need to fill lecture time just for the sake of filling lecture time, especially since we got lots of examples already.

When one leaves school at night, besides people running, one can see hall couples coming back from god knows where.

One of my classmates was wearing a cute homoerotic T-shirt: Batman and Robin were kissing and on the bottom left hand corner there was the word "Wow!", in the style of the 60s show.

I don't understand why people rather sit on the LT floor at the back of the LT than on proper seats in the front rows.



The mathematics of it, which is meant for the mat'tee students (mathy - maths inclined)

All grapefruit are vampires. Socrates is a grapefruit. So, clearly, Socrates is a vampire.

First week I was nervous. Last week I was ok. This week I'm ok again. It's like the judges from Singapore Idolare sitting in that row over there.

[On giving time to copy notes] I would tell you some jokes in the meantime, but I think I ran out of all my jokes

When you do computer work, you do not treat the computer as [a] person. You treat the computer as a machine... all raise (always)

[On a scatter plot] There are 1534 dots. If you're not sure, please count.

gr'air'f (graph)

[On Eviews] If you have a difficulty, come back to me. I may or may not solve your problem, but I wish I could.

[On errors with solutions] I just got this... I forgot to get the answer from the lecturer. I had to solve it during lunchtime.

[On buying a textbook] If you are really serious about investment, you [will] buy one and you [will] keep it. But for this module the lecture notes are enough.

A triangle has 4 sides. Is this true or false? Don't tell me false. Don't give me topology... Any mathematicians here? [Student: No] Good. Otherwise it becomes a maths problem.

[On running overtime] The last time I was teaching this class, the Head of Department's class was next. He came up and stared at me through the glass door. I stared back. 'This is my class'... No one told me.

Where's ***? I have to ignore some sections to make room for your dad. Tell him he has to be more interesting than differentiation and linear programming.

'All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitably appear to jolt its smooth consummation'. That is a very... weird statement.

[On Quality = Performance / Expectations] It's difficult to put numbers on these things, but managers are magicians... That is a managerial art.

[Student on bridge weighing: How will you weigh it?] How do you weigh things? I will use your mother's weighing scale. Bring it to class.

Tee bert? Holiday in Tibet?... Yah yah. When he was in Engineering he was also a bit unuusal... Don't tell these things to him. You can tell him this after the talk. (Tibet)

[On 'CFM'] The original English term was 'come heater' (hither)
A conversation with someone in China on exchange:

Someone: i forget why im here in asia.
prcs fucking piss me off.
so annoyed.

Me: you didn't know?
eh weren't you defending them the other time

Someone: gah.
fucking corruption.

fucking hell, we had to register our apartment
and for that, we had to pay a fee.
so i asked the landlord why we had to register and pay
and she said it was a way for the government to keep track of us and to "take care of us"

so then i asked how exactly were they gonna do that
and she said they can't....which just meant that the government was taking our money for no fucking reason.

and then she explained that this is common in china. the governemnt constantly taxes the people, and the tax money goes to the pocket of the officials whereas the common people just keep suffering.

now i know why there're so many illegal immigrants from china to the states or anywhere else in the world.

because china treats its own people like shit.
the gahmen treats them like shit, the people themselves treat each other like shit.
singaporeans may be kiasu, oh but prcs are fucking kiasu kings and queens.

Me: you used to think PRCs were so nice
I remember you said the ones spoiling disneyland were a minority

Someone: well. not everyone in china can afford to go to disneyland...so yeah.....

Me: but those who can't are bastards also

Someone: yeah.
i just didn't feel like being a complainer at that time.

but now im pissed.

Me: if the complaint is legitimate...

Someone: i don't know leh...sometimes i feel bad...

because it's like....

1) im a foreigner
im not a prc-chinese, so i feel that i don't have the rights to criticize.
and 2) im worried that im judging their culture in my culture's perspectives.

Me: 1) arguments retain the same level of validity regardless of who is articulating them
2) there're some universal benchmarks. like decency to your fellow man

Someone: why are things like this in asia though?
why, why?

why all this corruption
why this aggressive kiasuism
why? is it because of our history?

what's the deal?

Me: it's partially poverty
but in singapore people aren't that poor
but still bastards
so that's because of social engineering. you treat people like dogs, they remain dogs

Someone: being here in china makes me understand some of the shit we do in singapore.
why are we still bastards
are old habits hard to break?

i feel that even if the prcs receive a higher of standard of education and attain a higher quality of life, they'll just be like singaporeans and they'll still treat people like shit.

i feel disillusioned.
why does europe and united states seem better than asia?

Me: europe is not uniform
italy and greece are rude places

I'd say PRCs and Singaporeans are kiasu cos of materialism

Someone: i don't know. maybe singaporeans are kiasu coz of materialism.....

but today, i saw the prcs make a dash for seats on the mrt even though all of the seats were empty.
there was absolutely no need for that aggressive kiasuism.

Me: PRCs are materialistic
they were told to get rich
and heck care democracy

Someone: it was just terrible.
and i feel that good manners is a crime.

i apologized for stepping on someone's foot today
and that person looked at me like i was daft.

i was so touched by this young man yesterday who helped me carry groceries to my apartment.
that's the first kind act i've come across in my whole 2 months.

more people should be kind to each other then. sure win.

Me: maybe he was trying to pick you up ;)

well they don't see the point of kindness
and it's game theory. if you are kind but no one else is, you lose

Someone: human nature. oh well.

Addendum: dear GSSQ,

please let that someone who's complaining that china is bad and got kiasuism that europeans are guilty of that. just that they masked it with the ideals of being gentlemanly and stuff..

what utter bullshit and you are right about italians, they are like malaysians of europe. they are so good at producing masks in venice, that they can't even be bothered to wear the mask of being gentlemanly, thus explaining their rudeness or apparent rudeness.....

other than that, today in sweden, this whole bunch of Swiss exchange students were all cutting my queue, even though i showed them where the place to queue is and the best thing, they did it under the disguise of saying hi to their friends who's in front of me.

what the fuck. this is so bullshity. why i didn't say a word is that my gf asked me not to make any noise as that is my neighbour.


Editor's note: I would still say that Europeans are less kiasu, on the whole.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rationality/Science, by Noam Chomsky

"What I don't understand is the topic: the legitimacy of "rationality," "science," and "logic" (perhaps modified by "Western")--call the amalgam "rational inquiry," for brevity. I read the papers hoping for some enlightenment on the matter, but, to quote one contributor, "my eyes glaze over and thanks, but I just don't want to participate." When Mike Albert asked me to comment on papers advocating that we abandon or transcend rational inquiry, I refused, and probably would have been wise to keep to that decision. After a good deal of arm-twisting, I will make a few comments, but, frankly, I do not really grasp what the issue is supposed to be...

[We question] the legitimacy of the entire enterprise. That I find perplexing, for several reasons... Are conclusions to be consistent with premises (maybe even follow from them)? Do facts matter? Or can we string together thoughts as we like, calling it an "argument," and make facts up as we please, taking one story to be as good as another? There are certain familiar ground rules: those of rational inquiry... If they are to be abandoned, then we cannot proceed until we learn what replaces the commitment to consistency, responsibility to fact, and other outdated notions. Short of some instruction on this matter, we are reduced to primal screams...

X postulates dogmatically that "a predictable end point can be known in advance as an expression of X-achieved truth," and insists upon "grounding values in [this] objective truth." It denies the "provisional and subjective foundations" of agreement in human life and action, and considers itself "the ultimate organizing principle and source of legitimacy in the modern society," a doctrine to which X assigns "axiomatic status." X is "arrogant" and "absolutist." What doesn't fall "within the terms of its hegemony...--anger, desire, pleasure, and pain, for example--becomes a site for disciplinary action."...

Several writers appear to regard Leninist-Stalinist tyranny as an embodiment of science and rationality. Thus "the belief in a universal narrative grounded in truth has been undermined by the collapse of political systems that were supposed to [have] produced the New Socialist Man and the New Postcolonial Man." And the "state systems" that "used positive rationality for astoundingly destructive purposes" were guided by "socialist and capitalist ideologies"--a reference, it appears, to radically anti-socialist (Leninist) and anti-capitalist (state-capitalist) ideologies. Since "scientific and technological progress were the watchword of socialist and capitalist ideologies," we see that their error and perversity is deep, and we must abandon them, along with any concern for freedom, justice, human rights, democracy, and other "watchwords" of the secular priesthood who have perverted Enlightenment ideals in the interests of the masters...

One contributor calls for "plural involvement and clear integration in which everyone sits at the table sharing a common consciousness," inspired by "a moral concept which is linked to social trust and affection in which people tell what they think they see and do and allow the basic data and conclusions to be cross examined by peers and non-peers alike"--not a bad description of many seminars and working groups that I've been fortunate enough to be part of over the years. In these, furthermore, it is taken for granted that "knowledge is produced, not found, fought for--not given," a sentiment that will be applauded by anyone who has been engaged in the struggle to understand hard questions, as much as to the activists to whom it is addressed.

There is also at least an element of truth in the statement that the natural sciences are "disembedded from the body, from metaphorical thought, from ethical thought and from the world"... Quite regularly, "my eyes glaze over" when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count...

I should also "favor particular directions in scientific and social inquiry because of their likely positive social outcomes, "thus joining the overwhelming mass of scientists and engineers--though we commonly differ on what are "positive social outcomes," and no hints are given here as to how that issue is to be resolved. The implication also seems to be that we should abandon "theories or experiments" favored "because of their supposed beauty and elegance," which amounts to saying that we should abandon the effort to understand the mysteries of the world; and by the same logic, presumably, should no longer be deluded by literature, music, and the visual arts."
"I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me." - Dave Barry


Assorted notes on my new phone (Nokia 6233):

- There's a mirror beside the camera to help with self-taken camwhore shots
- There's an English-Chinese dictionary
- The annoying thing about the 5 way button is that I sometimes press the centre button without meaning to, so SMSes get sent before they're fully composed.
- To accommodate the big screen, the buttons are close together so I sometimes press keys accidentally when SMSing (especially the 0 key)


"Political Correctness: a system of thinking where it's OK to offend someone right in front of you by enforcing a made-up rule to stop a theoretical offense to an unknown person later when you aren't even going to be there."

Sec 4 RI boy's nick: "They say the grass on the other side is always GREENer, but sooo are the skirts."; "i was just quoting one of the many messages the sec 3 members of photo club wrote in the farewell card"

Someone: guys: (to phy teacher) can we take a break to rest our eyes and look at the greenery?

FEMALE phy teacher: yeah, tt's what e girls' skirts are for

Sunday, September 03, 2006

This was my favourite song from last Tuesday's Girton College Chapel Choir concert, and they also used it as their encore piece.

Unfortunately I can only find one non-instrumental setting of this song through Google, and it's not my preferred version, nor does it have a good bitrate; wind orchestras and bands like to perform this song for some reason.

Percy Grainger - Lincolnshire Posy: 6 - The Lost Lady Found

Twas down in yon valley a fair maid did dwell,
She lived with her uncle, they all knew full well,
Twas down in yon valley where violets grew gay,
Three gypsies betrayed her and stole her away.

Long time she'd been missing, and could not be found;
Her uncle, he searched the country around,
Till he came to the trustee, between hope and fear,
The trustee made answer, She has not been here.

The trustee spoke over with courage so bold,
I fear she's been lost for the sake of her gold,
So we'll have life for life, sir, the trustee did say,
We'll send you to prison, and there you shall stay.

There was a young squire that loved her so,
Oft times to the schoolhouse together they did go,
I'm afraid she's been murdered, so great is my fear.
If I'd wings like a dove I would fly to my dear.

He traveled through England, through France and through Spain,
Till he ventured his life on the watery main,
And he came to a house where he lodged for a night,
And in that same house was his own heart's delight.

When she saw him, she knew him, and fled to his arms;
She told him her grief while he gazed on her charms.
How came you to Dublin, my dearest, I pray?
Three gypsies betrayed me and stole me away.

Your uncle's in England, in prison does lie,
And for your sweet sake is condemned for to die.
Carry me to old England, my dearest, she cried.
One thousand I'll give thee, and will be your bride.

When they came to old England her uncle to see,
The cart it was under the high gallows tree;
Oh, pardon, oh, pardon, oh, pardon I crave. I'm alive,
I'm alive, your dear life to save.

Then from the high gallows they led him away,
The bells they did ring and the music did play,
Every house in that valley with mirth did resound,
As soon as they heard the lost lady was found.

Me having a Mint Granita in Riomaggiore, from and outside the gelato/granita shop just below our room which sold them cheaply

Me striking a Malaysian pose of endorsement for said Granita

My Favourite Test Tube Washer: it looks like those malaysian tv commercials for sugus
or some other malaysian sweet

Xephyris: boleh ah
­or tak boleh?

Editor's note: The following had not been told about the pose I was affecting before giving their comments.
I was washing the orange One Tablespoon (20ml) measuring spoon and it broke. Gah.

Mother: "How can it break?"

Me: "Dunno"
Economic Growth, by Paul M. Romer

"Imagine the ideal chemical refinery. It would convert abundant, renewable resources into a product that humans value. It would be smaller than a car, mobile so that it could search out its own inputs, capable of maintaining the temperature necessary for its reactions within narrow bounds, and able to automatically heal most system failures. It would build replicas of itself for use after it wears out, and it would do all of this with little human supervision. All we would have to do is get it to stay still periodically so that we could hook up some pipes and drain off the final product.

This refinery already exists. It is the milk cow."
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July Trip
12/7 - Uffizi Gallery, Florence; Riomaggiore, Cinque Terra

At least half the "gelato" outside of Italy is fake gelato. Real gelato contains no cream, only milk, and thus has little firmness and melts easily. That's why you almost always find it handled with spatulas. So if your "gelato" is like ice cream, you know you've been conned.

Besides XXX magazines, there were also gay magazines at magazine stands. "Top Gay" magazine had a dark-haired man with a moustache and hairy chest; basically the guy from Eurotrip. I always thought gays went for muscular, hairy men. But then, this was Italy.

Malaysian Mannikins. Somehow I was neither surprised nor disappointed to see them in Italy.

The morning was dedicated to the Uffizi Gallery, the most expensive museum in the world. The entry price was €9,50, the reservation fee was €3 and an online reservation fee resulted in a grand total of €18,20 - per ticket. To add injury to injury, a voucher had to be printed out and displayed at the ticket office, or the tickets one had already paid for would not be given to one. The person at the booth didn't check the voucher before giving us the tickets - I should've photocopied copies of it and sold them to people.

The €5 T-shirt I'd bought in Rome was the lousiest in existence. It'd started to fall apart (the fabric was parting) even on its first wearing (this day). I should've known that a €5 shirt couldn't have been anything good - obviously a lemon.

I was wondering why the busts inside were so complete, then I saw: "Total height 0.85m. Height of the antique part 0.34m". Gah.

For some reason I was very tired. Walking up 2 high storeys didn't help. So I didn't play any games with the staff, especially since I'd had my fun the previous night. Strangely, no one else played them either (I heard one person being Tsk-ed, but I'm not sure if it was for this), not even with the most famous Botticellis (Birth of Venus, Spring), contrasting strongly with David the previous night. Maybe that's why the exhibitions started on the second floor - to tire people out by making them climb 2 huge flights of stairs first.

Ponte Vecchio, from the Uffizi Gallery
People were taking pictures of this, so I got clued on.

For some reason a third of the rooms were closed. Even the Rubens gallery was closed. Well done.

For some reason, when I think of Titian I always have an image of a nude woman reclining on a couch with her front to the viewer. I don't think I saw any of these.

Scuola di Fontainebleau's Due Donne Al Bagno was weird. Who takes a bath with such weird hair? It looked like it was permed.

The Dutch paintings were mediocre.

There was vegetation in the fountain outside the cafe. Uhh.

I find Italian No Trespassing signs funny.

Palazzo Vecchio from terrace of Uffizi

There was also an exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci. There was a sketch of an exploded skull by him - now I know where Dr BodyWorlds got his inspiration from.

One room with Caravaggios had an unlabelled item - a shield with a Medusa's head on it. The blood could be seen spouting from the bottom of the diseombodied head, and the snakes were so animated, you could almost imagine they were alive. The crowning glory was the expression of shock on Medusa's head - evidently this captured the moment when she'd just been decapitated. Stupid museum.

"Good girls go to Heaven. Bad girls go to ~". I'd seen this T-shirt template a few times, filled in variously with "Italy", "London" and "Amsterdam". Of course it only worked in the last case, the City of Sin - the first 2 were just laughable.

I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt reading "FBI: Fashion Beauty Inside". I should pair her up with the few men I saw wearing T-shirts reading "FBI: Female Body Inspector".

Cosimo Medici

I was looking for the bronze disc in Piazza della Signoria where Savonarola burnt and in turn got burnt. At first I couldn't find it - I thought it was covered by the tourist crowds, hawkers or maybe the Philip Glass structure. In the end, I did find it:

The Loggia Della contained many famous works of sculpture. What most hapless tourists did not know, of course, was that at least half of them (maybe all) were fakes (copies). And yet they had the cheek to erect a sign claiming that it was "an important historic site on par with any room of the Uffizi Gallery". My foot.

Pigeon bait. This might be a fake, but there was no Gestapo guarding it.

Giambologna - Rape of the Sabines. 1581-3. This was also a copy.

Cellius - Perseus. 1545-54. This is also a copy.

A cambio was offering US$100 to €75 and proclaiming: "Easy: the best in the world". How modest.

I don't know how men in ties in Italy in Summer stand the heat. The best part is that I didn't even see them sweat. I'm sure there were normally more than I saw - maybe the rest all went on holiday. Which brings to mind a question: if everyone goes on holiday in July and August, doesn't the economy shut down? Then again it's too hot to get any work done anyway, so.

The toilets at Florence train station were €0,70. Wth.

Florence done, we headed to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terra, via Pisa, for a break from museums, ruins and churches. If we missed our connection, we'd have had 2 hours in Pisa, so actually we could've gone out to see the Leaning Tower (the only thing to see there), but decided against it. A conversation with a fellow traveler later revealed the Tower was just 20 minutes from the station and very easy to find. Oh well. Perhaps another time.

Even the most expensive Eurostar trains have graffiti on them. Gah.

"Very important part of the physical examination. Making sure the G Spot still works." - Andrew

Cinque Terra is really amazing. One moment we were traveling through normal terrain, the next we were passing through a tunnel, and when we emerged, we had a breathtaking view:

View from Riomaggiore train station

Critique of GDP. I was thinking this was a justification of how tax dollars were eaten up in maintaining the place with little return, but given how much tourism Cinque Terra draws that's unlikely.

Me and Andrew in Riomaggiore



Boat coming in

Man reading newspaper. This is one of my favourite shots. He had this feet in the water and was just reading.

Rocky beach. Why would people like such a rocky beach?! The smart ones brought inflatable air beds to use.

Why do little girls like to wear swinsuits covering the top parts of their bodies? It's not like there's anything to cover.

There were grannies in 2 piece swimsuits. These Europeans don't care about social expectations - they just go ahead and show their cellulite! Gotta love these Europeans.

About this time, I noticed that *BOTH* my heels now had cuts on them. Gah. Disadvantages of going round in sandals...

Village of Riomaggiore and the shore


Main street


I had a mint granite (variant Italian spelling) and it was refreshing. Most Italian granites were a touch too sweet (and coming from me, that's something) except the lemon ones, which were too sour.

Riomaggiore is how I've always imagined a little seaside town, clinging to the rocks, to be. Small alleys, coloured, weathered walls et al.. The place is so damn pretty that you can take postcard-perfect shots effortlessly. Hell, you'd have to try to not take them. You almost suspect they brought Disney in.





Biggest Bougainvillea I've ever seen

Vive la Italia!

Railway station

One part of dinner - Scampi pasta
It was expensive for what we got (3 scampi, though the menu said "penne with prawns"), but it was good. Ah, the perils of going to restaurants with writeups.
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