When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

A hilarious survey I and some people were asked to fill out last week:

Greetings! We are from the Department of Communication & New Media, we want to find out the behaviour and perception towards casual sex, knowledge about the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS among students (between 18-25 years old).

All information given is important as we plan to use your feedback to help us design an AIDS prevention campaign on campus. Your responses to this survey will be confidential and will only be used for this study. This survey will take about 10 minutes to complete.

We thank you for your participation. Please return your completed questionnaires before 20 September 2006, 1159pm to:

Temasek Hall: ***
Kent Ridge Hall: ***

Or “StompAlDS” box at KR Lobby

Section 1 (Please CIRCLE your responses

1. How long do you usually spend at an event (e.g. bazaar, roadshow, exhibition) at the forum?
a. Less than 5 minutes
b. 5-20 minutes
c. 21-40 minutes
d. 41-60 minutes
e. More than 60 minutes

2. Will you go to a same event at the forum more than once?
a. Yes
b. No

3. What will attract you most in an event at the forum? (You can choose one or more)
a. Freebies [Ed: Free condoms?]
b. Entertaimnent
c. Celebrities
d. Food
e. Discounts for shopping
f. None at all

4. How do you know about events happening in the Forum? (You can choose one or more)
a. Word of mouth
b. Posters and banners
e. Emails & online publicity
d. Newsletters
e. I happen to pass by the Forum

5. If an awareness and prevention campaign on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) is organized at NUS, what specific activities do you think will attract you to participate? Rate the following using a scale of ito 5 (l = least likely, 5 =
most likely)

Talks on sex education
A StompAIDS bash held in a popular club, with special appearance by celebrities.
Competition to design a StompAIDS website or banner.
Opportunity to work with Mediacorp celebrities in StompAIDS advertisement and film production.
Carnival with celebrities on STD and AIDS prevention
Carnival with different stalls

Section 2 (Please CIRCLE your responses

6. In your opinion, on a scale of 1-5, how common is sexual intercourse amongst your peers in Singapore’s society today? (1 = least common, 5 = most common)

7. Do you agree that having sexual intercourse is normal for people of your age? (1 = least common and 5 = most common)

8. What is your definition of “sexual intercourse”? (You can choose one or more)
a. It should happen when 2 partners are married.
b. It happens when one feels approved by the person’s partner/peers.
c. It happens when one feels loved by the person’s partner/peers.
d. It is normal.
e. It is a personal choice that no one can force the person into

9. Do you feel it is acceptable to have multiple sexual partners?
Yes No

10. Have you or someone you know ever had casual sex?
Yes No

11. Have you or someone you know engaged in any sexual activity in the past 3 to 6 months?
Yes (go to question 11a) No (go to question 12)

a. If yes, have you or someone you know engaged in unprotected sex?
Yes No

12. Do you think it is safe for couples to have unprotected sex as long as it is only with their long- term partners?
Yes No

13. How important is it for you to find out about your partner’s sexual history
before engaging in sexual activities? (1 = least important, 5 = most important)

14. Are you aware of the increasing rate of sexually transmitted diseases?
Yes No

15. What do you think about the following statements: (True/False/Don’t know)

Pre-ejaculation fluid can spread STDs
Oral sex is a safe alternative to actual intercourse.
Anal sex is a safe alternative to actual intercourse.
Oral sex can cause STD
Anal sex can cause STD

16. Do you know of anyone between 17-25 years old who has contracted sexually transmitted disease?
Yes No

17. Do you know what STD stands for and how they are transmitted?
Yes No

18. Do you have any concerns after having sexual intercourse? [Ed: Someone - "Are we supposed to assume or are we supposed to imagine?"]
a. Yes, go to question 19
b. No, go to question 20

19. What do you think is the most important concern after sexual intercourse? (Choose 1 only)
a. Unwanted pregnancy
b. Religious stigma
d. Disapproval from Parents
e. Disapproval from Friends
f. Other STDs (e.g. gonorrhea and syphilis)

20. What is the first thing that comes to mind when a condom is mentioned? (Choose 1 only)
a. A method of contraception used during sexual intercourse
b. A form of protection used during sexual intercourse.

21. On a scale from 1 to 5 (Strongly disagree=1 and strongly disagree=5), how
much do you agree with the following statements?

Using a condom prevents spreading of sexually transmitted diseases
Using a condom is an effective contraceptive
Using a diaphragm (a “female condom”) prevents spreading of sexually transmitted diseases
Using a diaphragm (a “female condom”) is an effective contraceptive
Using 2 condoms is more effective than using 1
Using 2 condoms over each other with a layer of tiger balm in between is a good method of detecting tears in condoms [Ed: Some of us didn't know about this. What you do is slather Tiger Balm in between the condoms. If the guy feels a burning sensation, the inner condom has torn. If the girl feels a burning sensation, the outer condom has torn. If both feel a burning sensation, I say shorry to you.]
Using a condom makes sex less enjoyable
Having sexual intercourse with young people my age and like myself reduces the chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Oral or anal sex reduces the chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
It is easy to identify anyone who is infected with a sexually transmitted disease
It is acceptable to have sexual intercourse without a condom as long as it is with
a long term partner

22. On a scale of 1 to 5 (Least effect=1, Most effect=5), how much do the following affects your desire to engage in premarital sex?

Mass media
Peer Pressure
Health concerns
Sex Education in schools

23. On a scale of 1 to 5 (least prefer= 1, most preferred,=5) where would you prefer
to purchase condoms:

Convenience stores
Vending machines in public spaces
Dispensers in both male and female toilets
Adult-themed shops

24. What is the best form of protection against AIDS and STDs?
a. Condoms
b. Withdrawal method
c. The pill
d. Abstinence

25. Under which circumstances do you think sexual intercourse is most likely to happen? (CIRCLE 1 only)

a. Under influence of alcohol
b. Mutual sexual attraction
c. In a relationship
d. Outside a relationship
e. Under influence of Drugs
f. Out of curiosity

26. Do you feel embarrassed purchasing condoms?
Yes (go to question 27) No, (go to question 28)

27. Do you think the embarrassment will result in you having unprotected sex?
Yes No

Section 3 (Please CIRCLE your responses)

28. Which faculty do you belong to?
a. Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
b. Faculty of Engineering
c. School of Design and Environment
d. School of Computing
e. Business School
f. School of Medicine
g. Faculty of Science
h. Law School
i. Dentistry
j. Music Conservatory

29. What is your gender?
a. Male
b. Female

30. Are you currently in a romantic relationship?
a. Yes b. No

The friend who passed it to admitted it wasn't very well designed. Someone else described it as "presumptuous".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of." - Jane Austen


I got yet another response to my Questionnaire for Christians, which made me realise some parts were a bit unclear. So it now says:

4) Do you think your mythology unique? If so, why are so many elements shared with previous religions? (Salvation: Mystery pagan religions - Osiris, Eleusinian mysteries, Alleged virgin births of god-men: Romulus, Augustus, Dionysus, Perseus, Baptism: Mithraic mysteries, ablutions, Miracles: Asclepius raising the dead, Resurrection: Dionysius, Osiris)

If you lived in China, could you "invent" chopsticks?

6) How does your faith in your religion differ from that of others in theirs? If it is the same, who's to say which religions are correct?

Put another way, if Hermes, the divine Messenger of the Gods, appeared to you with his winged sandals, broad-brimmed hat and Caduceus and told you that you had been chosen to rescue a princess (or prince, if you like) in distress, what would your reaction be?

Would you expect someone from another religion to have a different reaction if the Angel Gabriel appeared to him?

The story of Deanna Laney was also apropos:

5) Have you ever communicated with, or felt your god or his presence?... Deanna Laney, a Texan mother, thought God told her to kill her children, like Abraham and Isaac. The court did not accept her argument. Would you?
I was a Singapore Dreaming seminar last friday with Writers/Directors/Producers Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen. After a short monologue (basically repeating everything from the website, press kit and the Mr Brown show podcast, they decided to open the floor to questions. Some interesting points raised:

The only Hokkien/Singlish words allowed in the trailer for theatrical release were "zho", "mana woo pian" and "yam seng". The rest had to be cut.

It was pointed out that the people in the movie were middle class, and that the middle class does not ask these questions, but only over-educated buggers like us. The questioner asked if there should be a movie about the concerns of the upper class or NUS undergraduates

The "Singaporean Film" line was trumpeted - foreign people did not come in, hire locals and release a film; this was helmed by Singaporeans. Personally I don't see why that would affect its merits as a film per se, and why it's so important to put Singaporean films in a separate category and evaluate them with separate criteria.

In response to my complaints that the film was didactic, Yen Yen said that they'd tried to be. The question was then sneakily thrown open to the floor to ask what they thought, with several responses:
1) It was didactic, but more polished than recent Singaporean films.
2) It had no subtlety and the characters were melodramatic, screaming out what they wanted to say.
3) It was like sitting in her grandmother's house, since her family was very dramatic.
4) Didn't think the directors' voices could be heard clearly, and thought they wanted to express normal Singaporeans' voices and channel their emotions. It was cliched because a developed society is not supposed to feel emotional, so if we see emotional scenes we think it's cliched [Ed: Huh?!]

1) Also commented that the opening was very predictable and they should've faded out at the funeral as the girl is holding her suitcase. The film went through 57 different edits and some were screen-tested on audiences, who didn't like it when the film faded out there since they felt it wasn't satisfying (what can I say, people like a happy ending). I have little knowledge of movie making so I don't know if 57 is a lot. A deleted scene also had Pa waking up in the afterlife surrounded by beautiful things but being unhappy and missing liang teh.

The filmmakers wanted to make the film accessible because Singaporeans do things like laugh at the wrong times in movies (eg Be With Me).

Yen Yen said that saying that Singaporeans do not care about things like Singaporean identity is inaccurate. It's not that they don't care, but you must couch it in terms they can understand. For example the old generation of women might not understand what is meant by feminism, but when they talk about their dreams and giving them up, and how boys and girls are treated in the family, they understand it; you need to frame it in different terms and speak their language so it doesn't go over their heads.

They admitted that the "structure of the film is very much like a soap opera, and it's deliberate" so audiences would know its grammar and they could discuss and engage with issues. This was as opposed to making a movie with a beautiful Chinese woman in a cheongsam smoking a cigarette, throwing light onto the rococo wallpaper: "The world does not need another Wong Kar Wai. The world already has a Wong Kar Wai." What works on stage and on film is not the same, otherwise you'd "stray into Woody Allen land" if the characters went "Woe is me".

Some distributors thought that the film was too arty and asked if they could make it more like Jack Neo. OTOH, they also didn't want a Singaporean movie that plays well only in France.

They said that if they didn't make the film we wanted them to make, we should make our own film. Hmm, that sounds awfully familiar and like the argument thrown out in some other arenas by some other groups. But then if you want to trumpet yourself as a "Singaporean" film, surely there's some obligation to be representative of Singaporeans?

Someone said the characters were cliched, but this was because they were based on stories shared with them, so people would identify with the characters and recognise them. For example, a burly man said that he was Mei. In AWARE's research, many pregnant women got treated the same way by their employers as shown in the film.

They thought the emphasis on the 5 Cs was a fault of the scripting, since the original title was "The 5 Cs".

The story of the $1000 will bequest was based on a true story when someone got $1 with the message: "I'm leaving you one dollar so you know you're not forgotten".

The programmers at San Sebastian in Spain thought it was very Western for an Asian film.

At some point various people from the audience started talking again:

1) "It's people like us sitting in a LT like this who go on about a Singapore identity".

5) Asked why Singapore Dreaming was about Chinese only, and not Malays and Indians. They pointed out the non-Chinese supporting cast, and said the main characters were Chinese because they themselves were Singaporean Chinese. They also wanted to focus on one family - this family. It was also pointed out that TalkingCock was multiracial.

Cock) The mistress was not as well developed as he'd like. The answer was that the movie was already long enough (cinemas hesitate to take any film longer than 120 minutes), and they didn't want the director to say too much. This sort of thing (a strange woman showing up at a man's funeral and crying) had happened many times before, and everyone knew what it was but didn't talk about it. Some Malaysian thought that it was good not to rub the mistress in people's faces.

6) Why "Singapore Dreaming" and not "A Singapore Dream", "Dreaming of Singapore" or "The Singapore Dream"? [Ed: If it'd been anything else, the same question would've been asked of that title.] The boring answer to the boring question was that it just sounded nicer than the alternatives (eg "Cooling Tea"), since the "ing" had a feeling of being ongoing and not stopping and hearkened back to "California Dreaming". 6) also felt it was unreal and had a sense of pseudo-reality, and that the actors were intentionally melodramatic to bring out the characters.

HWMNBN) Is the middle class HDB family representative of Singapore as a whole?

7) Why were there no expletives? In his experience, especially from the army, it's not Hokkien if there's no cursing. Woo: The older generation does not use Hokkien to curse, unlike the Slaves. "In my family, it doesn't happen. You don't say hello by saying 'kanni-'".

Different people have different perceptions of Hokkien - when they went to a secondary school to give a talk, the students asked why the characters spoke in Hokkien, since all Singaporeans speak English [Ed: ACS ah?]. "If you like expletives, see TalkingCock the Movie".

One asked how Woffles contributed. Reply: "If you notice, all the women have huge -"

Enming: I have been a follower of your work for quite some time.
Colin: Poor guy, you need a life.

2 people came because they had to do the film for their homework. Heh.

The yearbook was not, as some think, an RI one but a Gan Eng Seng one.

They said the actors speak like their characters in real life. Colin: In many Singaporean movies only the Ah Bengs speak in Hokkien, so the language gets a bad rep.

Any film needs an element of hyper-reality to bring out the story. It's a narrative, not a documentary or CCTV footage.

Be With Me got international acclaim but performed badly at the box office. Laurels might even be a turn-off for some Singaporeans who then think it's an arthouse film. Film fest audiences are not the same as real ones. In Taiwan in the 90s, a lot of local films didn't have a local market and could only go overseas.

At 7:45pm the end of lecture buzzer went off. I didn't know it was still on at that time.

Their "gift from us" - the number of the paper car is 3771 and the number of the paper house is 9348.
Singapore Blogger Bashing Malaysian Products

"Yes. This is pissing me off. Darn Blogger from Singapore dissing off Malaysian products. Sheesh. Get a life. What does Singapore offer ? Country bashing bloggers ? Crap to me… And I don’t care who this blogger is …coz every minute I write on this post, I lose a lot of my income from problogging. but …Venting can be so nice sometimes

In order to defend Malaysia, I hope Malaysian bloggers will track down this person..The thing I hated about that post is the General Sweeping comments…Gabriel says ….”All Malaysian food products are made with and contain palm oil, which is one of the most unhealthy oils you can get.”

Well, there goes our palm oil industry and we’ve just lost USD30000000000 in business because of that remark. lol.""

When I first saw the page, I thought this was one of those annoying spam blogs set up just to increase a page's Google PageRank, or one of those empty sites which are devoid of content and only contain ads, set up in the hope that random surfers would click somewhere and earn the webmaster money (example).

When I realised it was a real post, I was very amused. A few comments, since I have no life:

What does Singapore offer ?
Malaysia being the Land of Poor Quality and Singapore having nothing to offer are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

In order to defend Malaysia, I hope Malaysian bloggers will track down this person.
Notice he doesn't deny that Malaysian products suck. The way to defend Malaysia is not to show that Malaysian products do not suck, but to track down those who say they suck. Right...

The thing I hated about that post is the General Sweeping comments…Gabriel says ….”All Malaysian food products are made with and contain palm oil, which is one of the most unhealthy oils you can get.”
I have yet to see a Malaysian food product without palm oil. No, Kordial and Orange Jus don't count.

The comments are even better:

I guess we need to come up with a list of what Malaysia can do best ? I for one still love Malaysian Nasi Lemak.
Obviously they didn't read the essay, which concludes: "Just about the only things in Malaysia that're well-made are hawker food (outside of food courts), pirated products and fresh fruit and vegetables."

Don’t bother to write about him. He is just another crab who condemn anything not right. Check his post about “How girl waste time” and religion thought. You will know what I mean here.
Crab? And if something is not right, surely it deserves condemnation or criticism at least. Maybe the philosophy behind this comment is "if something is not right, support it anyway"

Forgive him for being rude, young and ….
And I forgive this person for being stupid, old and...

As a problogger, I’m sure you noticed his crap Alexa ranking, which means that the number of people listening to his pathetic whines is really nothing. Just roll your eyes and chuckle at his ignorance!
I think they checked the Alexa ranking of the wrong page. And I wonder who's laughing... [Addendum: My technorati ranking is 19,476 (231 links from 132 blogs), his is 53,819 (89 links from 51 blogs)]

“This is probably one of the reasons why Malaysian Dunkin Donuts tastes like shit,” He is the one who tastes shit before (singaporean shit expert). That the reason why he truly know Dunkin Donuts tastes like shit in Malaysia. I got smell of shit in this web now.. by..
Maybe English education in Malaysia is poor quality too, since this person doesn't understand the use of analogies...

More complaints about Malaysian products I've received:

proton cars are notoriously fragile - a kiss on the rear and the whole bumper falls off: "a malaysian car rammed into the back of my car
my car had a very very slight dent and scratches.. the malaysian-made car had to whole front hood disfigured..
shows how 'good' and 'safe' their products are"

"secret recipe at city square
the tiramisu there sucks
no difference from a regular sponge cake
must be the lack of liqour, coffee, too much cream"

u know i bought this xiao ding dang stuff toy from malaysia
slept with it for many years
one day the seam split open and inside all the rubbish fell out
sweet wrappers
HWMNBN is fond of proclaiming that I have the largest gamebooks collection in South East Asia. I doubt that, but feel justified in claiming that I have one of the larger ones. Someone else was curious, so I've made a photographic record.

Fighting Fantasy 1-37

Fighting Fantasy 38-59 (I must get Bloodbones the next time I visit a bookshop), Grey Star 1-4, Combat Heroes 1 & 2, the Magnamund Companion

Lone Wolf 1-28 (I like Beaver covers and so got 1-12 Beaver), Steve Jackson's Sorcery! 1-4, Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy (I just Buy-It-Now-ed the Riddling Reaver from eBay), Titan, Out of the Pit, Dungeoneer, Blacksand, Allansia

Blood Sword 1-5, Legends of Lone Wolf 1-4, 7, 9, 10-12, Virtual Reality 1-2

Way of the Tiger 1-6, The Skull of Agarash (I keep forgetting I have this), The Tasks of Tantalon, Casket of Souls, Clash of the Princes 1 & 2

Virtual Reality 3-6, Zagor Chronicles 1-4, all 3 Fighting Fantasy novels, Eternal Champions 1 & 2, Freeway Warrior 1-2 & 4, Maelstrom, Cretan Chronicles 1-3, Fabled Lands 1-5, Grailquest 1-3, the Sword of the Templar

Sagard the Barbarian 1-4, 2 Time Machine books, assorted crap. As you can tell from how these are in the same place as my old Chinese materials, I'm not as fond of these.

Ah, those were the days!

There're assorted CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) and CYOA-type books, but I despise most of them and so didn't bother digging them up. I'm also quite sure I've a Golden Dragon and a Falcon somewhere but can't remember where it is. No matter - the complete Golden Dragon set, Dragon Warriors 1 (hmm, maybe I should've picked up 2 of these when I got Way of the Tiger 4-6) and Falcon 1-5 are supposed to be on their way.

Back to heteroskedasticity...

[Addendum: I now also have Grailquest 4-5 and the Riddling Reaver.]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"We live in an age when pizza gets to your home before the police." - Jeff Marder


Lynn: you remember my v-girls porn site? it ended up on a vietnamese students' forum!

it's for viets in singapore and i asked someone to translate. i don't know if they were aware it was a joke

[Later:] only dodgy places use such tasteless mannikins. and if they are tasteless, the clothes are likely to be so, therefore shan't bother

i'm telling you, they're made in some cheapo place and exported all over

Me: hehe
cheapo place = malaysia?

Lynn: maybe also hor.

Me: ;)

Lynn: you should go tap them and see if they're hollow or wat. i always wondered if mannikins are hollow. easier to carry.

Me: you’re as bo liao as me

Lynn: i'm scientifically curious.

Me: that’s what I say too!
join the club

HWMNBN: top level structure - can't be headings right?
this isn't a presentation

it COULD be something along the lines of

paragraph 1: This is a story about my house, and how I burned it down whlie taking drugs.

pargraph 2: A week ago i had invited some friedns over to my party. They came with lots of drugs. We took some and got ihgh. Then one of my friends tried to eat my head. I fought him off with my father's blowtorch. It caught fire on my girlfriend's chemically-saturated hair. The house hurned down. Many peopel died.

paragraph 3: And that was why I learned that you shouldn't take drugs and play with blowtorches

ie. summary, narration, conclusion

Someone: *Uses status message: "msg me if you wear Zara size M!"*
*Some time later* *Changes status message to: "msg me if you wear Zara size M and you're a girl"*

Me: did any guys who wear size M msg you? haha

Someone: almost everyone who msged were Guys

Me: hahahaha
why ah why ah

Someone: coz they want pink tank tops

Me: o_0
kinky man

eh but Zara has male clothes also what
so they msged you after you added "and you're a girl"?

maybe they're transvestites

Someone: yea
guys are weird

Someone else on crazy essay requirements: anyway, one big part of the challenge in writing commonwealth essays is to construe the topic creatively, eg. my friend wrote the topic "Water" and described a rape victim using water to cleanse herself, and that got sent in

we are conditioned to cope with the pedagogical diarrheoa that teachers have all the time

[for the other portfolio] we used funny things like habits of mind, the 7 habits of highly effective people, thinker leader pioneer, creative critical lateral independent thinking

in the past, the teachers structured their lessons according to pedagogical paradigms, now they throw them directly at us

Me: all rubbish lah
they have to come up with new ideas/suggestions to look good

so some idiot comes up with cheem sounding rubbish
and all of you have to suffer

"The estimation model for a demand function of daily cigarette consumption is given as follows:

cigs = β0 + β1log(income) + β2log(cigpric) + β3educ + β4age + β5age^2 + β6 restaurn + u

where cigs is the number of cigarettes smpoked per day, income is the annual income, cigpric is the per pack price of cigarettes (in cents), educ is years of schooling, age is measured in years, and restaurn is a binary indicator equal to one if the person resides in a state with restaurant smoking restrictions."

This will be interesting.

I wonder if all this data is real; the dataset also includes the variable "white - =1 if white" - maybe we didn't have that since in Singapore racial discrimination is forbidden.
Faith, riots and (un)reason - Threatening the Pope or Salman Rushdie with death is just a way of avoiding reality

"I would add that I am far more horrified by the endless Muslim-on-Muslim killing going on in Iraq than by anything the pontiff could possibly say.

According to United Nations estimates, an average of a hundred Iraqis are being killed every day, almost invariably by other Iraqis. And all too often, many of the victims are tortured to death.

When Israel killed a thousand Lebanese civilians in a month of senseless bombing, Muslims (and others with a conscience) around the world were rightly incensed. But approximately the same number of Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every 10 days in Iraq, and there is no protest anywhere.

Before the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tortured and gassed his own people with impunity, I do not recall any Muslims condemning him publicly.

Applying these same double standards, when Nato forces accidentally kill Afghans, we are furious. But when the Taliban kill innocent Afghans in suicide bombings, and assassinate teachers for teaching girls, we look the other way... Saudi Arabia, while funding Wahabi mosques across the West, refuses to permit non-Muslims to build their places of worship on its soil....

For me, the really worrying part of the Pope's address was his demand for the subordination of reason to theology: "Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought; to philosophy and theology."

Sorry, but I'm not buying this. This is precisely why I don't think faith and reason can ever be reconciled."

I'm surprised that this actually got published in Today, instead of the tired old platitudes about religious harmony.

Maybe they're trying to regain street (or intellectual, at least) cred after this July's fiasco.

I just hope the author doesn't get any death threats for being an apostate.
July Trip
17/7 - Ravenna

Fire instructions in youth hostel: "Do not shout fire." ???

Dispenser of miscellaneous products in the staircase area: "Preservativi: Preservatives con spermicida". Ahh. But then the hostel had male and female floors, so maybe they were encouraging people to go at it in the garden.

I made my way again to the Basilica of San Vitale, in an invigorating ~30 min walk from my hostel. There were many tourists in there and flashes were going off every second; no attendants were there to shout at them. Sometimes more than once every second. It was very very very irritating, and almost induced an epileptic fit in me, but at least I was conforted by the thought that it wouldn't damage the mosaics, their being far from the sources of light.

Mosaics behind altar

Mosaics behind and to left of altar - Justinian and friends

Mosaics behind and to right of altar - Theodora and friends

Mosaics to right of altar

Mosaics on roof above altar

Mosaics to left of altar

Right part of the arch in front of the basilica altar. How many saints can you spot?

Pope Clement XII in cloisters

Cloisters, 2nd cloister
It is very hard to capture cloisters and especially convey the serenity and peacefulness they project

Basilica from the outside - very unassuming
The inside reminded me of the cupola at the heart of Aachen Cathedral- a dome crowning the building and surrounded by a circle of pillars holding it up.

The toilet cost me €0,20, even though this was inside the ticketed area. Gah.

Mausoleum of Galla Placida, 2nd quarter of 5th century


They had the National Museum of Ravenna also but it didn't sound that interesting so I went looking for more World Heritage Sites.

I then went to the Domus Dei Tappeti di Pietra. Not a World Heritage site but it sounded fun. Photography was prohibited, naturally. Very cunningly, a sign informing the visitor of this was visible only after the ticket was bought.

Dance of the Four Seasons, 6th century AD

'Good Shepherd' - late 4th century AD. This is different from the other good shepherd representations.

I then walked over to:

Battistero Neoniano


Baptism of Christ, with an old man, the personification of the Jordan River, and surrounded by the 12 Apostles

2 small temples (of 8), 1 altar with a Gospel book (of 4) and 1 throne with a Cross - etimasia (of 4). Underneath there are small stucco shrines of the prophets.

The woman at the ticket booth said we could visit each place twice. Wah, so generous.

Next I walked to the museo arcivescoville (archepiscopal museum). Unfortunately the S. Andrea chapel was closed.

6th century ivory throne. Probably a gift of Justinian to Bishop Maximian.

5th century liturgical calendar used to determine Easter from 532-626

Mosaic of Praying Virgin, 1112 AD. From destroyed Ursian Basilica

S Barbaziano, Ursiaino, 1112 AD from Ursian Basilica

The group called Ravennantica which ran the Domus Dei Tappeti di Pietra and also another place I went to ("Santi Banchieri Re") proclaimed that its "principal purpose [is] to exploit, also for tourist aims, the... heritage... in Ravenna". It's nice that they admit that they're exploiting it. Or maybe this is another example of European English.

Santi Banchieri Re: Consul Boetius Diptych. 6th century.

The secular mosaics in Ravenna were not bad, but those at Pompeii were much better. They were the Dark Ages indeed! The sacred mosaics, on the other hand, were good. Perhaps more effort was put into them? Or maybe there was no basis for comparison since they had different subjects and iconographies - there was no tradition of Christian mosaics to live up to, so the sacred ones seemed better than the secular ones.

Floor mosaic with personification of one of the seasons. 6th century. Nouman (Syria), Ma'Arrat an.

There were more mosaics at a church in Classe, but it was out of the city so I couldn't walk there and would have to take a bus, so I decided to skip it, only having a day to do Ravenna.

There was a self-service restaurant at S Apollinare Nuovo which had 5ml sachets of balsamic vinegar from modena and 10ml sachets of extra virgin olive oil. Gah.

The bookshop had a vending machine selling Coke for €0,70 a can. I'd paid €1,50 in the cafeteria. !@#$ Across the street in a cafe it was even more - €1,80.

Luckily they allowed non-flash photographs in the Ravenna World Heritage sites, or I'd write in to UNESCO to protest, since "World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located." Or maybe they could put it in the "World Heritage in Danger" list, in this case the Danger coming from unrestrained greed.

S Apollinare Nuovo left wall

S Apollinare Nuovo right wall

Grapes in cloister of S Apollinare Nuovo

Unfortunately, Theodoric's palace was closed.

Even the department stores took a siesta - one called 'UPIM' had a 70% sale but was open only from 9-1 and 3:30-7:30.

Ceiling of Arian Baptistry
Information panel: 'No other city in the world with remains from late Antiquity has managed to preserve a baptistery dedicated to the Arian cult with wall decorations'
Which begs the questions:
1) Do non-cities where blah blah exist?
2) Do blah blahs without wall decorations exist?
The actual building itself was quite plain, like the others, so I didn't snap it. For some reason it was situated on a lower level than the surrounding ground, though.

Rocca brancaleone, the 15th century fortress of Ravenna. The walls of Constantinople or Krek de Chevalier they ain't, but not bad lah.

Rocca brancaleone from Southwest

Chapel tower of Rocca (or 'arx')

Main gate

I rounded off everything by visiting the Mausoleum of Theodoric.


Roof of upper level



Arch (on bottom level)

I was distinctly underwhelmed. Like this also can be World Heritage Site ah?! There was a €2 fee to enter the place (€1 for students) but there was no ticket control and the turnstile turned freely. No wonder.

Both buses I took in Ravenna (to the hostel from the station and vice versa) were air-conditioned, and all others I saw were similarly equipped. How civilized. Or maybe it was because of the smell - in some parts of the city I was strongly accosted by something I hadn't encountered in years, since Secondary School - the rotten egg smell. I have no idea why this was so.

I bought a €14+ ticket to Milan from Ravenna on the scenic route (aka the cheap railway lines). The expensive ticket cost €27+ but it would save me only 2 hrs and anyway I had nothing to do.

At the ticket counter in Ravenna there was a US couple and a boy arguing with the female attendant for at least 10 mins (they knew some Italian, of course). They'd put €20 into a machine and it'd swallowed the money. They'd filled a form but were told to come back in a week. Of course, they'd be in Berlin by then.

Whenever there're signs in a few languages, more oftehn than not the one in French is the longest. They should've gotten a French to write War and Peace. Then again I haven't seen enough Russian signs.

Nutella and Esta The Limone and Baked flour sticks were combined in a single package which won the "Gran Premio Marketing Innovazione 2006" contest.

There was a train station called "Casalpusterlengo". Its name reminded me of a festering, pus-filled boil.

Arriving in Milan at 9:53pm, I discovered no one at the metro ticket booth. The machine accepted notes of up to €200, but only gave €9,95 in change and anyway rejected my €50 note (probably luckily for me). I didn't have enough in small change, so once again I rode without a ticket - it'd probably cost more to employ people to work at that time than they'd get in fines.

A sign reading 'Con segnale attivato ABBANDONARE LA STAZIONE' hanging from the ceiling of the metro station was not reassuring. Perhaps they have terrorist problems.

I had quite a bit of trouble finding my Milan hostel. The wonderful directions given
read: "Situated in Milan, in the Città Studi-Lambrate district, Hotel Adelchi is to 150 metres to the Underground Lambrate Station. 10 minutes from the center of the city. It is easly attainable from the Stazione Centrale and from Linate Airport, and by car from the gates Lambrate of the East Tangential. Take the green line for 4 stops and exit at Lambrate Cologno for our hotel." As you will note, it didn't even say which exit to take from the metro station, so I had to topo my way there.

First I asked a young couple. The girl didn't speak any English and both had no idea. Suddenly though, an elderly couple leaned out from their first floor balcony and the woman gave directions in Italian with a cup of yoghurt in her hand, which were then translated by the guy. When I got closer, I asked 3 filipinas who also had no idea, but they asked 2 old men and 1 took a map out of his car boot and eventually I was pointed in the right direction.

When I got to the hostel, the guy manning the desk spoke hardly any English. He also had insufficient change for my payment and asked me to pay €0,60 or so the next day. Luckily the person who was there the next day was better (and said to forget about the €0,60).

Except for the automatic public toilets, most toilets I used in North Italy had bidets. How civilized.
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