When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

New blog pic:


Friday, December 12, 2008

Via tinkertailor:

Me: What's wrong with this picture?
Someone: The girl in the centre is really ugly?

(alternate link to pic)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies." - Woody Allen


Prudential - a piece of shit

One of the most innovative and dynamic industries around must be Financial Planning. Being a very rewarding career which offers one independence and which also has much potential for career growth and advancement, turnover in the industry is exceedingly high.

One of their old tactics was to rename themselves. Thus, a whole range of euphemisms sprung up. Financial Consultant; Financial Planner and Service Consultant; Wealth Management; Wealth Relationship Executive/Manager.

Yet, like a polymorphic virus, it has to continually evolve in order to escape detection by increasingly savvy and aware potental victims.

Forget about old, staid, fuddy-duddy industries! Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.

One of the products of this arms race is analogous to a stealth liposome, hiding its toxic payload just long enough to get through the proverbial immune system.

Take this job ad:

"Management Associate ~ MNC
We're looking for enthusiastic individuals who are keen in learning and take up new challenges. You'll go through a training program where relevant skills will be picked up. Excellent remuneration benefits and career advancement opportunities. Send your cv to Send your cv to jas.jcohrdept@gmail.com . Only Singaporeans and PRs need apply. Fresh grads welcome."

Innocuous enough (as far as the metastasizing cancer is concerned), though suspiciously vague, with no company name (though this is normal in recruitment agency listings), no company description and a job description that's suitably generic and useless; what company would want unenthusiastic people who refuse to learn and don't want to be challenged? Who wouldn't want to be paid well and have opportunities for career progression?

A variant ad on the same site brings up (barely) more details:

Perhaps the most useful information here is that the company is the forgettably named "JConsultancy".

Unfortunately, a web search reveals that it is a software solutions provider. Owned by a Dutchie. Which helps you with Ubuntu, het gratis platform dat op nieuwe en oudere PCs uitstekend werkt.

[Clarification: A software solutions provider based halfway around the world has NOTHING to do with a financial planning recruitment scam in Singapore.

I apologise for not making this clear earlier.]

The address of this "JConsultancy" turns out to be 80 Anson Road, Fuji Xerox Tower, #08-01, a place with an extremely bad reputation for housing Prudential nonsense. And the 8th floor is occupied by Prudential offices, with "JConsultancy" nowhere to be seen.

And now "Management Associate" is the latest term, in the Financial Planning universe, for one of their flunkies.

This is only surprising if one forgets that this is the same line that is very rewarding, offers one independence and which also has much potential for career growth and advancement.

Maybe next they will advertise for the position of CEO, only for you to discover that this stands for "Consulting Executive Officer". And that they are hiring year-round. And that they are so eager to welcome you into the family that they actively seek you out.

Bear in mind that all this skulduggery is just on their supply side!

The Financial Planning industry continues to find new ways both of sucking in grunts to flog their wares and fodder to sustain it.

At least for MLM buyers and sellers were the same, so you got only half the annoyance.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"You know, you can't please all the people all the time... and last night, all those people were at my show." - Mitch Hedberg


Baltics trip
Day 13 - 28th May - Tartu, Estonia
(Part 1)

This day, we headed to Tartu, a university town.

The first time I'd seen a bathtub - let alone a jacuzzi tub - in a hostel. This was next door to our room.

We walked to the bus terminal early in the morning to take in the sights.


1954 building with casino

Faces peeking at you from the basement

They were advertising a sex shop. Meh.

We then had a 2+ hour bus ride.

In Tartu we saw a McDonalds by the bus terminal.
nw.t: The first [Baltic] country that's so advanced it has two McDonalds.


NAMBLA Statue Isa ja Poeg, Father and Son (1977), depicting the author (sic) and his 1.5-year old son Kristjan. Ironically it was unveiled on Children's Protection Day: June 1, 2004

Town Hall

We got brochures for a walking tour around Tartu, and embarked on it.

Tartu Coat of Arms


Crowd around a mechanical bull

Monument to Field Marshall Barclay de Tolly

The brochure was quite good, so I took some pictures of it to narrate the journey

Statue of Two Wildes: depicting a hypothetical conversation between Oscar Wilde and Eduard Wilde (an Estonian writer, naturally). The building behind had a shop founded by yet another Wilde - Peter Ernst.

House where the peace treaty between Russia and Estonia was signed in 1920. Gah.

We took a detour to visit the KGB Cells Museum, which was in a very unassuming house we had trouble finding (presumably how it was when the KGB used it).

"Free admission: repressed persons and persons equalized to them"
We didn't ask if Singaporeans counted.

Dodgy "changes of population" figures. To impress those who didn't look closely, they included as "losses" people "repressed" by the Soviets/Nazis (whatever that means) and "Children remained unborn" (then again this proves that Abstinence is Murder)

"Nationalization of the Brett's cloths store at Tartu"

Churchill's alleged lies to the Baltics: that he'd hand them over to Sweden

Their excuse for why so many Estonians helped by the Germans (>10,000 enlisted): "In reality the destruction of the Republic of Estonia and the repression of the communist regime were the only reasons for enlisting in Hitler's army" (yeah, conveniently ignoring the other occupied countries)

"Binoculars that belonged to brothers Aksel and Arnold Ojaste; they took them apart and both of them used their respective half"

The last 'forest brother' (resistance fighter) was found shot dead in 1980. You must respect their tenacity.

Corridor of KGB Cells Museum

The Prison Cup - who says there's no Welfare in prison?

"Estonian musicians at the Chunaa camp having a buttbreak"

"Straw incrustation" - this seems to be a term unique to former Soviet republics.

"Straw incrustation is now a rare form of folk art; only some craftsmen are still
working in it" - Snippet from Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia / Volodymyr Kubiĭovych, Shevchenko Scientific Society (1971)

Box made of a mined rock.

"Chinese domino" (1953)

All hail Brezhnev

My Slavery Bunk

Isolation cell

Presumably a dedication

The museum was very bad - the narrative hung in mid-air and was not resolved.

""Cornflower" Memorial" commemorating those who died for Estonia from 1990 to 1994.

I like how it concludes: "God save Estonia, our homeland!"

NB: A Google search for "weeping cornflower" (another name for the above) brings up a Hot amateurs site as the last result.

We then walked up to one of the things I had been looking forward to seeing in Tartu:

Struve Geodetic Arc (DORPAT Tartu Observatory. Tartu, Tartu, Estonia): UNESCO World Heritage Site

Since this is one of the more obscure World Heritage sites, I will say something about it: the various points along the Struve Geodetic Arc mark where the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve took measurements to make better maps and determine the size/shape of the earth. At this place, the observatory of the University of Tartu, Struve got his brainwave.

nw.t and I at UNESCO World Heritage plaque

Observatory. We tried going in but it was deserted.

Dilapidated house from the hill

Estonian Anatomical Museum: House of the Dead both literally and figuratively

Bust of F.R. Faehlmann

More blurbs

Angel's Bridge

Devil's Bridge (no, I'm not joking), erected for the 300th Romanov anniversary

Johan Skytte, some guy importantly enough to feature on a huge rubber stamp but not on our walking tour pamphlet.


What's the weeping cornflower? [nw.t: It's a memorial to all who died from 1940 to 1994] Don't they have enough [memorials]?
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