31 May 2006

Invisibility Cloaks in Real Life?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Invisibility cloaks are leaving the Harry Potter world and coming to a place we call reality. Theoretical physicists have calculated a structure of material which allows invisibility by the bending of electromagnetic waves. The structure uses metamaterials, which are materials with a negative refractive index (see figure on the right).

While it seems that optical invisibility is not yet achievable, at least radio invisibility is more promising. In any case, optical or radio or other invisibility, defence organisations around the world will be more than happy to fund the research on this project. This is a very good example of good science, excellent marketing.

The researchers hope to produce such materials within five years. Call me pessimistic, but I don't think they can do it. Perhaps they can achieve some sort of radio wave bending, but firstly, it won't be perfect (i.e. there will still be some distortions), and secondly, it won't come in a "cloak form" (i.e. as a fabric) - I think it'll look more like a barrel. Certainly, more time is needed, and I'd wager that optical invisibility is even further away.

But for now, sci-fi authors should be happy.

My Cat, Her Story

It was very bitter. I was in my room upstairs, and when I heard my maid talking loudly to my grandfather in Malay, my heart froze. There was a feeling of disbelief, like something distant disconnected. I wanted myself to believe that it wasn't true... maybe she was talking about something else, but it was so unlikely.

She asked me before that if I knew where the cat was. I did not see the cat that morning. She then went around calling for her, but the cat never appeared.

My heart froze, because while I do not understand Malay, I do know what the word mati means...

In late 2002, the cat appeared in our house. I think it was around November, I cannot be sure. She was a small kitten then, approaching warily, begging for food. We fed her with a bit of the leftovers we had for dinner, and my grandmother put her by the gates, sort of as a way to urge her to leave. She left.

The next day, she came back. Begging for food once more. We again fed her with some leftover, but this time we did not put her by the gates. From that moment on, unofficially, she took up residence in this home.

She was a tabby cat (more precisely, a brown mackerel tabby) with grey fur if one looks from far, but upon close observation, I could see a mixture of black, yellow and white fur. Around her upper limbs were stripes of very pale yellow and black. It looked more like the stripes of a tiger than a zebra if you were to disregard the colour.

The most prominent feature of her appearance was her L-shaped tail, which stood up naturally, thus revealing her ass most of the time. I believe the shape was a result of her skeletal structure. Touching it with my hands, in the first part of the 'L' (which connected to the body), I could feel something hard, which I presume was the bone. The other part (which was the end of the tail) had only flesh.

Her eyes were light yellow in colour. I often watched in amazement how her pupils can stretch from a slit to a complete circle. They were so beautiful.

A vehicle must've knocked her head. One of her eyeballs were protruding halfway out the sockets. It was stained with blood. It was so horrifying.

My maid shouted for me from downstairs and told me that the cat died. My mother, while going to the supermarket, apparently found her and called back home. Feeling a bit disoriented and foreboding, I set off after my maid.

I did not spay my cat initially. So she mated with some other cats that used to loiter in the neighbourhood, and had her own kittens. It must've been an ordeal for her, since during the last week of gestation, I was in BMT. I had never been so long away from her before that.

She had three kittens. All had the same coat as her, though all had their own distinctive features. Some had short tails while others had a stub. Some had black patches on their faces and some had white "socks".

My brother brought two of them to his NTU hall (when they were old enough), as my mother said that perhaps four cats was a bit of a crowd. At first they were quite well-received by the people there, but soon after they disappeared. I guess that someone brought them home or to a cat shelter.

The other kitten was kept at home. The mother and son grew very close bond, despite occasional and minor disputes which were settled with a few hisses. Shortly after the mother gave birth, I got her spayed. But her kitten, a male, was not spayed, despite the fact that I wanted to. I wasn't at home most of the time because of NS, so I asked my mother to do it for me (she also brought the mother cat to the vet for spaying) but my mother said that the male cat shouldn't be spayed as it would reduce its ferocity against intruding cats. Naturally, when the time came, he began exploring and expanding his territory, and finally, when he was about one years old, he disappeared.

I could remember the day he disappeared: it was the second day of the Chinese New Year of 2004. I felt rather sad that time, but not as miserable as now, probably because it was rather gradual (for a few days, I was expecting him to return) and I do not know what happened to him.

After he was gone, the mother had been living alone with us.

The cat was just across a street. It was lying still against the kerb. All the time I had been hoping against hope that my mother had identified the wrong cat. But as I crossed the road, I recognised the L-shaped tail.

There was an odd feeling... as if the world has sunk into a surreal state. I did not break down at that moment, I did not cry. Somehow I knew what to do. The instructions were clear in my head, though my head was not clear.

I gently lifted her body and slid a bag over her head. Then I pulled the bag over her body and lifted it up. I passed it over to my maid. We then returned home.

All the time, I dare not look at her from the front. I was standing from behind, and I could see one of her eyeballs were protruding halfway out the sockets. It was stained with blood. It was so horrifying.

The cat has a temporal sleeping locations. For a time she liked the long armchair and doormat downstairs. Then there was a time she preferred the corner of my bed (which was a bit of a problem, since she left lots of fine fur wherever she slept). And then for a long time she liked my couch (for so long that I took a lot of photos of her different sleeping positions). There was once when she slept on a dusty shelf in the store room, such that when she emerged she was, on her sleepy face, full of dust. There were many other places that she slept, many of which I probably did not know. Recently, she preferred the red armchair I'm now sitting on.

The red armchair... yes... she had always liked to jump onto my lap while I was on the armchair. Sometimes she'd miaow pleadingly before leaping on, and sometimes she'd just suddenly plop on my lap without warning, giving me a fright. But always, she'd leap from the floor, through under the armrest, never missing her target. It was only lately that she developed the habit of, after some time of comfortable stroking, stepping off my lap onto the chair itself and digging her head behind my back, prompting me to get off so she could have the chair all to herself.

Like all cats, she displayed signs of contentment when being stroked. I found that she liked being stroked on her head, her neck (both the back and the underside) as well as along her spine. Sometimes she'd even tilt or lift her head so that I can more easily reach the desired parts. However, she never purred when contented (though she does when there's something hostile nearby) but she'd usually given those kind of pleasing miaow, soft and prolonged, and her eyes were usually closed or half-closed. And sometimes when she needs attention, she'd give an extremely prolonged miaow (up to a few seconds), quite analogous to a person stretching the word "please", at the same time throwing a look that probably could be best described by that of Puss-In-Boots in Shrek 2.

I helped my maid wrap the cat's body in plastic bags. More precisely, I helped to hold the bags while she wrapped. I felt numb. Everything sounded so distant. There was this hollow feeling swelling like a flood. I staggered up to my room, closed the doors and lay on the bed. I cried.

It was so painful... there was this sour burning in my throat with every breath I took. It was just so terrible... so confusing... so disorientating. I managed to calm myself down a few times, only to break down again.

Till this day I will always wonder why the cat ventured out of the house. I've never seen her do that. Maybe she did it only at night when no one was looking. Maybe that was her first time doing it...

I've pretty much gotten over the initial pain now... what's left is just some ebbing sadness, which will probably dissipate with time. Things will have to go on... move on... without her.

27 May 2006


This is my cat.

She was killed by a vehicle this morning.

I don't know... I feel miserable... please... I don't know...

26 May 2006

"Fixing" the Internet

Recently, PAP MP Denise Phua kicked up a small storm on the Internet with her comments that the PAP would do well to "manage this channel of communication". By this channel, she is referring to the Internet and/or blogosphere, where she noticed that "more than 85 per cent (of the traffic) writes negatively about the PAP". This was Tomorrow-ed, Mr Wang-ed and Yawning Bread-ed, and I believe there are many others who have written something about it, given that it concerns many of us.

I will spare you of my comments, since most of them would echo what the links above said, but I shall leave you with a quote that pretty much summarises my thoughts:

"They wish to cure us, but I say, we are the cure!"

25 May 2006

Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Given that I'm not really expecting anything from the movie itself except to see how the storyline wraps up, I must say I'm quite satisfied with it. And since I've not read the comics, I'm not so liable to disappointment as a result.

Overall, it was a pretty fine movie. I find the storytelling a bit fragmented at the start, probably because everyone was at different places, so to speak. The pace was okay, though I found the movie a bit short. There was a lot of action at the end, but it was not boring at all. In fact, it was rather tense as Magneto's Brotherhood battled with the X-men, and I certainly liked how it ended, especially Magneto's demise.

Again, as in the previous X-men movies and recent blockbusters like The Da Vinci Code, there wasn't really any exceptional acting. In fact, I thought Patrick Steward's portrayal of Charles Xavier was tad disappointing. But considering that this movie has mostly fresher faces as compared to The Da Vinci Code, I'd say the acting is better.

If there's anything that I felt poorly done, it has to be the character development. I did not see much point in having Angel in the movie. And certainly more could've been done with Mystique and Rogue; the story about them seem to just drop off suddenly. Considering that this movie is less than two hours, I thought the production crew should've paid more attention to this. But I like Jaggernaut; he is the butt of many jokes.

All in all, the movie's one that I'd say, go ahead and watch it. Especially if you have watched the first two.

Jesus + Terminator

Here's a little nice spoof of Terminator (not Jesus), though it got posted up probably because of the hype surrounding The Da Vinci Code.


24 May 2006

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

Prior to watching the movie, I've read lots of reviews, mostly negative, about the movie (I am, of course, ignoring the nonsense that those religious extremists are riling up). Personally, I've read the book and found it pretty good (though perhaps a bit overrated, but nonetheless excellent). But of course, knowing this, I'm careful not to fall into the trap of expecting the movie to live up to the novel's standard, which is all but impossible for that matter. With that in mind, I found the movie pretty good, despite what many said.

The pacing of the movie was appropriate, though perhaps it went a bit to speedy at the beginning. In other novel-adapted movies like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Goblet of Fire, I can't help but feel a rush-me-through feeling whereby some events are just given a touch-and-go treatment, more of a brief mention for the sake of mentioning instead of having a purpose in the storyline. But I was quite glad that this did not happen in The Da Vinci Code. Sure, some events and happenings (and explanation of the controversial history) were shifted around, and some puzzles were removed, but I think it is more detrimental to have them included, unless the Ron Howard is prepared to have a three and a half hour movie.

Another aspect which I felt the director has employed very well was the "overlap" of the past and present. Because this story has lots of explanations of history as well as some flashbacks of the characters, Ron Howard used overlap of scenes of the characters in the present day with the history they are explaining or flashback they had. For example, while the main character was musing over a puzzle concerning a particular (dead) person in front of his tomb, images of the latter's work appeared like hallucination, indicating the main character's train of thoughts. It was good, but what's greater, in my opinion, was that it was used sufficiently, but not overly.

A bit of a letdown was the acting. Not that the acting is poor, but given that this movie has big names like Tom Hanks, Sir Ian McKellen and Jean Reno, I did not notice any exceptional acting. Perhaps a reason for this is that the character has already been described in the novel, so the actors had no choice but to follow. If the actors were to deviate from the characters as described in the novels, it would probably be worse (Michael Gambon in The Goblet of Fire comes into mind).

Nonetheless, I think it is a pretty fine movie. For anyone who has not read the book, I think the movie is worth watching if you are not intending to read it. For those who had, I'd suggest you not to carry high expectations, or to expect the movie to follow closely to the novel. Plus, with so many Christian and Catholic churches calling for a ban, how can you not watch it?

I can never understand why some Christians and Catholics (and the other related religions) are so disapproving of the movie. It's not as if the author or movie crew have not said that the story (and history) is fictitious. I mean, I have no idea why they have to attack something that cast their religion in a different light. They can bring up clarifications and point out factual errors in the story, but going to the lengths of calling for a ban of it? It's a bit extreme. Hell, there are so many movies with poor physics; I don't call for them to be withdrawn!

Well, however unreasonable, at least that's the most they'd probably go to. If someone were to write something controversial about the Qur'an, it would set those extreme Muslim cleric railing off like Lee Kuan Yew after the 1984 election "defeat".

ADDENDUM: found this hilarious... erm... advertisement?... of a website separating the facts and myths surrounding the story.

Minor Update to My Website

Just to inform everyone of a minor update to my website. I've added a links page, which contains also the links from this blog. I've also added a brief description along with every link, so if you're linked from here, please go and check if you have any objections to being linked and the description there (I have a feeling someone would).

Also, the outline for my SP2171 project has been rewritten such that it is much clearer and should be understandable to most. If you still don't understand it, then I'm in trouble, for that was written for a reader of secondary school level.

23 May 2006


Today, I attended a public lecture by Claude Nicollier, Switzerland's one and only astronaut. He covered a lot of stuff, including a summarised history of space exploration, his own experience in space as well as the future of space missions. He had quite a lot of photos (plus a few video clips) that you probably would never see in your life, or appreciate it without his narration and personal account of the feelings behind the photos.

One photo he showed left a very deep impression in me. It was a photo of the aurora borealis taken from low orbit. It showed the green aurora above the Earth, something like (but not) this:

The reason why it invoked such a strong emotion in me is because I have always been fascinated with auroras. They are strangely mystic, yet beautiful, and is a natural occurance. I have always wanted to look at auroras with my own eyes, but it only occurs more frequently in Alaska (borealis) or New Zealand (australis). There is no chance that auroras can pop up in Singapore's skies, simply because of the Earth's magnetosphere (a shield of magnetic field around Earth). Plus, the strength of the sun oscillates slightly (but enough to affect chances) with a cycle of ten years, and currently, we are in the lower half of the strength.

Nonetheless, I've promised myself that one day, I will see auroras. Personally. With my own eyes. I promise...

Rainbows dance in the black velvety sky,
Defying silence with its gentle cry.
A tango between the Sun and the Earth,
A shower of lights on a stage up high.

Plane Landing

It is always said that when you're on a plane, the seats towards the rear are usually more "bumpy" than those at the front. Well, here's an exception:

22 May 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Waiting for the partition function to turn on... again.

P.S.: Oh whee... 100th post. I'm such a spammer.

Reservist No More

It turns out that my friend no longer need to spend weeks for his reservist. I think many of my army friends, who (all of us) have reservist in about two weeks' time, will die to be in his shoes. At least I've got one person who agrees with that statement.

21 May 2006

Addendum to Opt-out Option for NS

This is an addendum to the entry Opt-Out Option for NS

I think I have missed out one very important problem with this opt-out plan: what about reservist? How would the 10-year reservist cycle be adjusted, especially for those who serve later? Quite frankly, I cannot think of a feasible solution yet.

Anyway, any comments should be directed to the original post.

Website Updated

I've given my website a vast renovation. The layout is more or less similar, but this time the HTML is proper. Well, it's not W3C compliant yet, but I'll work on that. There isn't much change in terms of the content, except for the addition of an "Articles" section which houses selected essays from this blog.

I'll probably work on a Links page and add more information as well as a picture (this time proper) to the About Me page. I'm also considering putting the tag-board of my blog to that site too. Anyway, please give me some feedback on how it currently is and can be improved.

P.S.: Haven't anyone found out the meaning (or code) behind my handphone number and MSN?

Opt-out Option for NS

While reading about Ike See, the music talent who failed to get deferment from NS and hence gotta pass his chance of getting into the most prestigious music school on this damned planet, a sudden thought crossed my mind: why not make NS an option? Or more precisely, have an opt-out option for NS and flexible service period. Allow me to explain.

Every male (and maybe female, if this opt-out option might cause some personnel shortages) who is a Singaporean (and maybe PR for the same reason) are to serve National Service upon reaching the age of 18. The period of service is two years. However, for those who want to complete their education first, or have other plans, may choose to serve at a later date. This is what I mean by flexible service period, which is similar to deferment. The difference between this and deferment is that you don't need an "official" reason to delay your service. You don't even need a reason.

(By "official" I mean that there is no need to fall into the narrow range of reasons that MINDEF has set as valid reasons for deferment. Currently, the reason that is accepted for deferment is PSC and some other scholarships. Music talent used to be accepted until the Melvyn Tan incident. These are "official" reasons, and if you have a superb talent for, say, belly-dancing, these are usually not accepted.)

As for opt-out option, this means that for those who really hate National Service, they can choose not to serve in their lifetime. Yes, you heard me correctly: there is no need to serve if you don't want to. But this doesn't come without penalties. These penalties will be disadvantages in society, such as a higher income tax (maybe an additional 30%), lowered priority in certain services such as application for flats, less chances for promotion for a civil servant and disqualification for certain privileges/entitlements (such as the Progress Package, a maid licence and rebate for property taxes).

Now, you might be able to see that the opt-out option and flexible service period option are actually the same thing. The former is just the latter that is delayed indefinitely. In another words, until one services his/her National Service, he/she is subjected to the same penalties as those who opt-out. But this allows for more choices and flexibility in one's life. And for most who go on to University, there aren't many disadvantages to serve NS later, so it is a matter of choice if one wants to clear away two years of hell first, or complete his/her education first.

And also, to discourage one from serving at an age too late (and therefore is less physically fit), the length of service can also varying according to age. For example, those who start serving before the age of 25 will only need to serve for two years. Then the next range of 25 to before 30 will serve for three years. And then for the next 10 years, four years of service. For 40 and above, one has to serve five years. And perhaps the NS allowance is scaled (inversely) according to age.

There is one disadvantage that I can immediately see. The first one is that the penalties might be too light for people who take a low paying job (and hence pay little on taxes) but inherits lots of money. For such people, the penalties for not serving is not as strong. A solution to this is to impose penalties that have a heavier emphasis on social disadvantage. But still, this is a problem that is not easy to tackle.

Another disadvantage is on how to fit people who become a citizen (or PR) at a later age, say, maybe 25 or 30. It will not be fair if they are exempted from NS now, considering that it is reasonable (in view of this flexible service period policy) to serve at a later age. So should they serve the full term? Should the penalties apply in full? These are sensitive details that has to be ironed out, and no matter what the outcome is, there will be people who are not satisfied with it.

Of course, another problem is the very implementation of it. It will be a major change, very much like when NS was first introduced. Many factors has to be taken into consideration, such as a dip in manpower in the first few years of implementation. For many years after that, the personnel for each force will fluctuate quite an amount before averaging out (which I'd say will take about ten years). Also, there is the question of those who are currently serving - how should their service be affected? Can they choose to opt-out halfway through? But this is a short-term problem.

This is just some thoughts of mine. So what are your opinions of it? And assuming if you had a choice, would you choose to opt-out/delay your service?

ADDENDUM (added 210506 at 2110)

20 May 2006

The Photo I've Always Wanted to Take

I've always wanted to take this kind of photos, but my old Sony digital camera didn't allow me to change shutter speed. So I'm quite glad I can achieve this with my new camera.

Anyway, this is just a test, so the subject's nothing impressive.

19 May 2006

Paved With Good Intentions

If you have never read the article Paved With Good Intentions by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, then I'd recommend it. It may be tad outdated, and the promised revision/update has yet to materialise, but it is nonetheless accurate in its analysis of a typical Singaporean's life.

Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen are a Singaporean couple currently living in New York. Colin is a lawyer by training, while Yen Yen is a teacher. They are most famous for being the editors of TalkingCock. Their latest movie, Singapore Dreaming, has received quite a good response during its premier (I'm not sure when it'll be hitting the cinemas).

In summary, the article highlights the differences between the Singapore Dream and the Singapore Plan. It makes us think about what we want in life and for our future. It makes us question the path that we have chosen or has been laid in front of us by others.

I see a number of my university friends confused about their directions. Where should they go after graduation? What jobs would be suitable for them? What is the purpose of working so hard? Why are they studying this? And that? I'm not claiming that this article has the answer to these questions. I merely hope that it would encourage them to consider about their choices in life.

This is the least I could do.

18 May 2006

Why Sitoh Lost Potong Pasir

This is a bit late, but still worth a good laugh nonetheless. If you remember that I recommend a blog long time ago called Parking Idiots in Singapore, it appears that PAP was featured there.

17 May 2006

Free Will (Part II)

(This entry continues from my thoughts in the entry Free Will (Part I).)

My philosophical voyage into the question of whether we have free will has landed me in a quicksand of philosophical ideas.

It all began with an innocent discussion of movies with Yao. We eventually, if not inevitably, came to the topic of The Matrix trilogy and the debate of choice versus causality in Reloaded. It was then that the idea of anomalous monism burst into my attention, which in summary says that mental events (such as "reason") are not subjected to physical laws like all other things. Naturally, this is a concept hard to grasp, and Yao had a miserable time trying to explain it to me.

In the end I decided to do some mini-research on it, and from that I opened the floodgates of philosophical articles in Wikipedia. I found myself looking at determinism (in particular hard determinism), epiphenomenalism, behaviourism, as well as a host of many others.

It became clear to me that my previous opinion on free will had a couple of underlying assumptions which I was then unaware of. The first of which is what anomalous monism attacks: that mental events are subjected to physical laws. The second is that scientific laws are and will be deterministic. These two assumptions arose from the idea that science is capable of explaining every scientific question there is, and that it will be of the same nature as past theories. Of course these two assumptions I still take as valid, since the first is the ultimate (unspoken) goal of science, and the second I can't think of any exceptions.

Allow me to elaborate. The first assumption is that science can explain all scientific questions. By scientific I mean questions like "what is the shape of the vortex formed by a cylinder of fixed wall but rotating bottom?" and not questions like "does God exists?" or "is Harry Potter a better novel than The Lord of the Rings?", which are questions of opinions. This is important in the discussion of free will because while we know quite an amount of how our brain functions, with neurons and the parallel networks, we still have no idea of the precise mechanisms, that is what happens when we make a choice, how we make a choice etc.. I assume that science is capable of explaining that.

The second assumption mainly assumes that scientific laws are of a deterministic or indeterministic (but purely random) nature. Examples are Einstein's general relativity (deterministic) and quantum mechanics (indeterministic). Both natures do not allow free will to exist (see the previous post on why quantum mechanics does not allow free will). Quite frankly, I can't see how things can be different.

Now, I must digress a bit and touch on the possibility that there may exist random and indeterministic laws, but the randomness is governed by our free will. That is, our choices determine the outcome of the laws (which is a loose definition of free will anyway). But then the question we must ask ourselves is, what is a choice? Do humans have choices? Do animals have choices? Do plants have choices? Do bacteria have choices? Do quarks and gluons have choices? What is it that constitutes our choice? I'll leave this open for now, and I might come back.

Right now, I'm even more lost than before regarding this debate of free will. I daresay a part III will be coming (very soon) in the future.

16 May 2006

More Photos from Demo Lab

The demo lab has temporary shifted to the year 1 lab, since the latter is not in use during the holidays, and has a much larger space to manoeuvre. Which is good news for me, since that gives me more space to take my photos.

Here are some experiments other than the uniquely amazing superconductor:

Bubbles! The primary subject of this experiment is surface science. Bubble experiments are the perfect tool for demonstrating the fact that in nature, the tendancy is to minimise surface area, and hence surface tension. That's why bubbles take the shape of a sphere. With two rings, it is difficult but possible to create a catenoid.

This is an electrostatic experiment. There is a hand-wound generator which is connected to the lower and upper plate, resulting in a potential difference between both plates. The aluminium pellets will have the charge of the lower plate and, when the potential difference is high enough, jump up and touch the upper plate. Upon touching, it will discharge and gain the charge of the upper plate before dropping back down. The overall result is the aluminium pellets "dancing" inside this container.

Ah yes! The plasma lamp. The explanation for this is pretty complicated, but the essence is that the core is of a high alternating voltage. This sets up a high electric field, which will ionise the low pressure gas (usually a noble gas) and thus giving off light. Since the human body is a conductor, putting one's hand close to or on the glass surface will "ground" the electric field.

Ooo... slinky! I believe this serves to demonstrate conservation of momentum, in which when the slinky is set to "hop" in one direction, it will continue in that direction. This is evident when you think of how a slinky can hop down the stairs. It's a bit hard to see here, but if you look closely, the slinky is actually in the act of falling. Beautiful, eh?

Anyway, I'm quite satisfied with my camera. I still had to get used to its features though, but so far I'm happy with what I can do.

Minister: Impossible

TalkingCock does it again.

15 May 2006

$1000 Spent Today

Today, I spent what is probably the greatest amount of money I've ever spent in one single day - S$999. I know the number looks nice, but what I've bought is even nicer:

Kodak EasyShare Z650
0.45X Wide Angle Lens
2 GB SD Card
Camera bag (free)

The camera itself, a SLR camera, cost about $680, and the lens nearly $200 and the SD card something like $100+. The price tag costs should go above $1000, but the vendor managed to cut it down and give me something just a dollar below my budget (which I, perhaps wisely, did not reveal, since I know I'm terrible at bargaining).

Considering that I've been wanting to get a new camera for more than a year, it feels great that I've finally bought it. And to be frank, I thought for the features it had it would be more expensive. It had a whooping 10X zoom and a modest 6.1 megapixels, which I thought would've hit least $800, and that'd restrict me on the accessories. The only letdown was the lack of a complete manual focus.

Nonetheless, I'm so far satisfied with my purchase. I'll test it out during tomorrow's demo lab demonstration, and post a few pictures here (and comments if I have).

Alley Cat

Once upon a time there was this DOS-based computer game called Alley Cat by IBM. It was one of my favourite games when I was young. It's a low resolution, PC speaker sound game (which game at that time wasn't?) but it was rather addictive.

Recently, I found that I could download it from this site. It was sure nostalgic.

14 May 2006

PAP Thanks Aljunied Citizen for Their... erm... Support?

Just moments ago, the PAP truck carrying the MPs and some of their supporters started touring the Aljunied area and thanking everyone for their support. Isn't it a bit too late?

I asked my father that. He replied, "The PAP candidates in Aljunied must've been so terrified by the results that they forgot to thank the people right after the elections."


12 May 2006

It's Feeding Time!

Sorry... couldn't help it...

By the way, that bright light is not the sunrise; it is the reflection of my camera's flash.

Gomez Freed

... for now.

Channel NewsAsia article

Firstly, the Public Prosecutor claimed Gomez used threatening words to a civil servant. Unless I've read wrongly (from other sources), I believe he used the word "consequences" against the civil servant. So everyone, next time, please be very careful of using the word "consequences" on a civil servant.

Next, this move of not charging Gomez strenthens The Negative Man's argument that the PAP (and the Elections Department) cannot do nothing after kicking up the storm. This move is probably employed to gradually lower the momentum of the storm, to cushion the ground for landing.

Then, the next question is, why does the PAP, traditionally intolerant of political opponents, willing to let go of this chance of eliminating a member whose team snatched a harrowing 44% in a GRC? There could be several reasons to this, and they're not mutually exclusive. One, times are changing, and the new PM has greater tolerance that his daddy. Two, instead of scaring people away from the opposition, it has achieved an opposite effect. Three, there is insufficient ground to justify that Gomez has committed the act of criminal intimidation; even many experts agree that it is pushing the boundaries of the law. Four, the Enernorth case in Canada has sparked worries that the Singapore judicial system is deemed as unfair. Five, pursuing this matter will cause PAP to lose votes, judging from online public opinion.

Well, all in all, I'm glad things turn out fine in the end, and the saga wrapped up nicely (and I sincerely hope it will not be unwrapped). Therefore, while I remind people to still remember this incident, perhaps it will be very wise to take this ending into account.

In a way, one of my post-election thoughts have been fulfilled. At least I'm one-third satisfied.

Spoof Commercials

Here's some spoofs on...

Samsung phones!


11 May 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Next time I have a wish, I shall post it here. It gets granted very quickly.

Google Scores in Scientific Journals

It has been reported on PhysicsWeb that Google's searching algorithm - PageRank - is capable of unearthing worthy scientific literature, and is in some ways superior than the traditional citation method. Although the experiment is based on physics articles, I see no reason why it shouldn't work on papers on other sciences. I suppose this gives me even more reason to use Google Scholar when searching for articles.

Of course, PageRank has its pitfalls, as highlighted in the article. In that case, would a combination of PageRank result and number of times cited produce the best results?

Google or Google Scholar, however, only gives the abstract and other basic information of the journal articles. Most of the time, if anyone wishes to view the complete article itself, there will usually be a request to sign up as a member or pay for the article for something like that. This is natural, given that these journals have to operate at least with a profit. Fortunately, there are two ways around this. Most libraries subscribe to many online services. For example, most journal articles are available if you log in to the NUS library website. Another method is to visit ArXiv (pronounced "archive", since the "X" is actually the Greek letter "chi"), which is where many authors, before sending their scripts to the publishers, put their draft for peer reviewing. Of course, this means that the article may not be accurate/corrected/edited, but I never had any problems.

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Waiting for the partition function to turn on...

10 May 2006


Behold! A suspended superconductor!

As mentioned previously, a superconductor can levitate below a magnetic track turned upside down.

Here's a closer look:

To see the explanation why it won't fall away from the track, see the explanation in the link above.

Also, it turns out that, since the Open House two months ago, the demo lab has obtained another piece of superconductor. A complete, unbroken piece:

If anyone's interested, the material of this superconductor is yttrium barium copper oxide. It is the first material discovered to exhibit superconducting properties above 77 K, or boiling point of nitrogen, thereby making it much cheaper for experiments on superconductor to be carried out (and for me to play with).

Here's another view of the superconductor in action:


Missed my recommended Google Video clips? Sorry about that - the elections have been taking up most of my entries, and I think I might've exhausted much of the interesting videos out there. Nonetheless, here's a couple of bloopers that might tickle you. Enjoy!

08 May 2006


Not really unexpected, James Gomez was arrested by CID after the elections. Right now, I can see from the online community that many are infuriated by this move, seen as the PAP eliminating potentially "dangerous" opposition candidates. Even a strong-worded online petition has emerged in support of James Gomez.

However, my opinion is that this is a futile effort. The PAP holds an overwhelming majority in the parliament. Three opposition MPs is as good as a cardboard roadblock. PAP can do whatever they wish. Even Lee Kuan Yew seem hell bent on banishing James Gomez. We all know that in Singapore, he gets what he wants. Online petitions hold no water. Public opinion does not matter. Getting the court to acquit James Gomez is as easy as fitting a D24 durian through your nostrils.

I advise people to keep their heads cool. Stay calm, and don't make any stupid moves. Just remember this man who has been unfairly treated. Just remember that the PAP can disobey the laws of the country. Just remember this sense of injustice boiling inside you right now. Just remember how the PAP bombarded James Gomez ridiculously during the elections.

Just remember, this incident, five years later.

07 May 2006

WP Rally Audio Recording

In addition to taking photos during WP election rally, I also recorded the speeches and crowd responses with my Zen Micro. I didn't expect it to turn out good, given the poor recordings I always get when I try it on lectures, but surprisingly, it was rather audible. I'd recommend listening to the Hokkien one if you understand, and Low Thia Khiang's one. I almost made the mistake of putting this up before the elections ended, which would be illegal because of the blanket ban on political podcasts. (Technically, mine is not a podcast; it is a zencast...)

I must apologise: I forgot to start recording until about half an hour after the rally started. But at least I captured some of the Hokkien speeches that I talked about (I mistakenly identified it as Teochew in the photo essay). Also, the quality is not very good: you can hear the rhythming bumpings at times, which is the Zen Micro swinging in my pocket when I was walking, and the varying volumes, which is a result of me changing positions all the time.

Last thing to add: I did not venture into the real, enthusiastic crowd at the front, so the cheers would not be so loud. That should also explain the seemingly long periods to silence from the stage - because the crowds were actually cheering and the candidates were waiting for the cheers to subside.

So here's the unedited .wav file of the recording:

050506 WP Aljunied (right-click -> Save Link As)
(Edit: it appears that my SPS account has insufficient file space to hold the recording. So, unless I find another host, I'll have to take it down for the moment. If you want to hear it, drop me a comment, and I'll email it to you.)

And here's a rough outline of the speakers as far as I can discern:

0:00:00 -unknown- (Hokkien)
0:07:50 -unknown- (Hokkien)
0:20:35 Mohammed Rahizan (English)
0:30:45 Emcee (on PAP supporters)
0:31:20 Chia Ti Lik (English)
0:32:00 Commotion at the gate
0:36:00 Chia Ti Lik (continued)
0:41:20 Goh Meng Seng (English)
0:45:45 Goh Meng Seng (Mandarin)
1:02:20 James Gomez (English)
1:17:50 Tan Wui-Hua (English)
1:20:20 Tan Wui-Hua (Mandarin)
1:30:50 Low Thia Khiang (Mandarin)
1:52:30 Sylvia Lim (English)
2:01:35 Low Thia Khiang (English)

Also, if you haven't, please go and listen to the mrbrown show on the James Gomez saga. It's a brilliant parody of the affair.

Lastly, this is probably the last entry I'm writing on the elections. After this, this blog should resume its normal, boring content.

Summary of GE2006

Someone has written a very good analysis of the results of the general election in Singabloodypore. A highly recommended read:

General Election 2006 - results

Aljunied Falls into PAP's Hands

I'm rather depressed by the news, but I can, at least, take comfort in a couple of matters:

1) WP garnered nearly 44% of the votes. This is the only PAP-constituency to hit over 40%. And it's a GRC. And chances are, Sylvia Lim is gonna be the NCMP. And if things go well, I think it is probable that Aljunied enters into WP's hands in the next one or two elections.

2) Lee Hsien Loong did not get his strong mandate. He only got 67% of the overall votes (according to Channel NewsAsia). That's not strong at all. And he got less than 70% of the votes in Ang Mo Kio. I consider that a defeat for him.

3) Most people I spoke to did not appear to support the PAP. This is a sign that my generation - the post-80s, first time voters - are no longer so willing to submit to the PAP as older generations did. That means, coming elections, the votes PAP can grab is likely to slip even further.

4) Goh Chok Tong got a slap in the face. He, the PAP heavyweight, was tasked to help win back Potong Pasir and Hougang, but instead of winning more votes, they lost more, and even letting Low Thia Khiang secure more than 60%. In the words of a commentor in another blog, "Take your peanuts and eat them Mr Goh!"

Here's a few post-election thoughts I have:

1) I hope Lee Hsien Loong will continue and fulfill his promise of an open society. I'm still waiting for it to happen, and I must say I am very disappointed with the progress so far.

2) In the next election, please exercise some reasoning when drawing the electoral boundaries. I'm quite worried that my area - a collection of private houses - may be detached from Aljunied and flung into Marine Parade.

3) Please leave James Gomez alone. I believe he is innocent. But we know how questionable our judicial system can get when it comes to defamation lawsuits.

06 May 2006

My Vote

I've cast my vote. It was a big cross right beside the WP logo.

Why do I vote for the WP? There are many factors that come into play. Firstly, what counted against the WP was the fact that the PAP team are capable people with lots of resources at their disposal. There is little doubt that they can do many things. Also, WP's manifesto has several questionable points, such as the abolishment of the Internal Security Act and the grassroot organisations. The fact that James Gomez would make a mistake in his application and that it took some time for WP to come out clean counted against them too.

Then, why do I support them? It's because I, being an idealist, subscribe to their ideas of a more level political playing field, greater freedom of speech and how public services are carried out (such as in public transport). I also felt a strong need for an opposition voice in the parliament. PAP's own indulgence in pork barrel politics without shame or guilt is also a very strong factor. I am not so particular with the gerrymandering, but it still counted quite a bit against the PAP because some of the boundaries are just too ridiculous. For example, my relatives who live in the private estates of Tai Keng Gardens were drawn from Aljunied to Marine Parade. For goodness sake, they're closer to (the town) Aljunied than Marine Parade!

Of all, the greatest factor that pushed me towards WP was PAP's relentless slamming of James Gomez. It was obvious what PAP was trying to do - to bombard him with accusations until he retaliated, then counter with defamation lawsuits. I was shocked that even today, when we are supposedly a First World country, an open nation, that this sort of dirty tricks still persisted. I was extremely relieved that WP played it right this time - not into their hands - and maintained their coolness. In the end, PAP had to cut off its smearing campaign because it became apparent that many people were disgusted by it. I was too, and hence the deciding factor was this.

Now that election campaigning has ended, I'd say that even if PAP has not pursued the James Gomez matter, I would've voted for the WP anyway. The arguments I listed for WP above was stronger, in my opinion, than those for PAP.

I've placed my vote. Now I hope they will win. And if any GRC is going to be liberated from the PAP, it's gotta be Aljunied.

A Comment in Another Blog

I came across this particular comment entry amidst the torrent of comments in this entry in singaporeelection.blogspot.com. The blog entry itself is not of my interest, but it is this comment that touched my heart.

It was a reply to another commentor named kt, who stands on the side of PAP. That was rather brave, given that the general mood in that place was anti-PAP. He (or she) did bring up certain good points about the PAP, and it was no doubt that if he (or she) were to vote, it would go to the PAP. One of his main argument was that if the PAP was no good, it would've been kicked out a long time ago.

This was the reply, by a sixty-years old person. It stands out because most people in his (or her) age vote for the PAP. So it is impressive to hear a view from that generation that says otherwise. Note that he (or she) did not advocate to overthrow the PAP or to vote for the opposition. You read it yourself, and draw your own judgement.


I used to think like you. It is true pap had in the past done a good job which is why many people supported them. Pap was then lead by a bunch of leaders like Goh Keng Swee, Rajanatnam, Toh Chin Chye, Hon Sui Sen, Devan Nair, etc who were without doubt fought very hard to get elected. Please believe me Singapore is today is not a one-man show. These guys' names are hardly featured today but they really sacrificed to fought for independence and progress for Singapore. Money and reward were never on their lips. They were respected because they were not mercenary and not yes-mens. They would argued with lao lee and displeased him if they have too. But nowadays, it is a different story all together. Ministers and mps are recruited in like employees of a large organisation. Looking at the paper-qualified "Generals" in action in only a constituency election, and more of them will be drafted in, I am worried about our NS men going to war if it ever happen.

It is not too late if kt still support pap to wake up pap becasue my believe is that we are heading into big trouble, probably 20-30 years down the road because of pap tinkering with the political system to stay in power and the heavily dependent on "like-minded friends and relative" to rule Singapore and control the assets of Singapore. Recent big international corporate sagas including nkf should give us food for thots.

I am 60 years old with a wife and no children, still working with decent income. Why do I need to worry for a future that may not happen to me? In fact, I should be happy like kt because I am sure I will continue to get progress packages as long as pap is there and of course still doing well.

In fact, pap should appreciate all feedbacks whether negatives or positives and not resort to branding citizens who do not agree with them as anti-Singapore or trouble-makers. In fact, they are practicing discrimintation boldly now re:upgrading. What message does this sent to all the ministers, mps and civil servants? You know how animal handlers trains dogs and even wild animals, any difference?

It is sad, a nation of people has been reduced to such a state. I do not subscribe to this which is why I no longer hold them up high. Where is the dignity of a people?

Photo Essay: WP Rally at Serangoon Stadium

Yesterday night, I attended the last round of rallies. My first experience. I was lucky enough to have one right near walking distance from my home. It was held in Serangoon Stadium, a WP rally. It was unfortunate that I only had time during this election period to listen to one rally. I would be able to form a more balanced opinion if I were to go for the other party's rally, but then, this is a blessing in disguise, for who goes to PAP rally anyway?

Anyway, here's my humble photo essay on the event. It was taken with my old Sony digital camera, so pardon me for the poor exposure control and blur images, as well as the badly done stitches. Oh yeah, and if anyone needs it, just take the photos as long as it is not for commercial uses. (But frankly, who would want mine when Yawning Bread can give much better ones?)

I reached the rally site at slightly after 7. It was still not very crowded yet. The stands were all filled, but the fields were only about half full. There were some people scattered along the tracks and the dee. Outside the stadium, people sat in a line on the kerb. It's still early.

The first few speakers were quick, and they are from other constituencies. I did not pay much attention to what they said because I was taking photos.

I was walking around to find good photo shots, and guess who I bumped into? Andreas Keil! He's a German student in NUS taking his PhD in physics. He is also a brilliant SPS senior. It turns out that he's here to watch the show. Indeed, opposition rallies are a special sight in Singapore!

Gradually, the crowd began to swell. Interesting banners also start to appear.

At some point I stopped taking photos, and started listening to the speeches. I remember one guy... I forgot his name... he spoke in Teochew. He got everyone crackling in laughter with his witty jokes and snips at the PAP. It was just like the rallies in the past that my parents sometimes describe to me.

At about 2000 hours, the crowd began to hit the limit.

At this point of time, I planned to head towards one of the HDB blocks over the street to get an overview of the entire place. When I reached the only entrance/exit (which was rather small), it turns out that there was some trouble.

I'm not sure what exactly happened. What I know is that the police were trying to close the gate, while the people outside (angry, might I add) were trying to get in. I conjecture that the stadium has exceeded its maximum capacity, and the police were trying to stem the inflow of people. Later on, there were also repeated calls from the emcee to ask the people to move further in, so that those outside can come in. I remember the emcee saying, "I know there are some PAP people outside. Never mind. Let them come in." Hahaha...

Back to the situation at the gates, a short while later the police gave way to the crowd, and let the people stream in freely.

While I took this photo, I could hear the incoming people swearing at the police. Anyway, with that temporary blockade, an incredible size of crowd gathered outside the gates.

Quite clearly, I couldn't get out. So I went back in and took more photos. If you have been to Serangoon Stadium before, you would know that there is a small "alley" (for a lack of a better word) behind the stadium. That was filled with people as well.

At this point, I also caught a very funny banner.

When Sylvia Lim gave her speech much later on (which was the penultimate one, in between the two Low Thia Khiang gave), this banner apparently made its way right in front of the stage. She commented that "if two or three of you love me, that's okay, but if ten or twenty people, I can't concentrate." Hahaha... nice one!

Okay okay, rewind. And no more photos on this, because my camera was running out of memory space and battery. Back to the time after the gate incident. I went to a less crowded spot and listened to the speeches. I'm not quite sure who spoke next, since I forgot to bring a notepad, but about this time came the guy of the controversial storm - James Gomez. When the emcee announced his name, there was thunderous applause from the crowd. It seemed that PAP's smearing campaign has failed. Gomez brought up a couple of things, but what I remember the most was his take on the political ban of podcasts and videocasts and political discussions in blogs. He said that WP will not have such a policy. I like that. Obviously.

I'm not sure who exactly came up after this, but I remember (no one would forget, I believe) Tan Wui-Hua started off by saying he wanted to thank someone and apologise to someone. It was his wife that he wanted to thank, for her support during this election period, and his two-years old son, whom he said he has neglected because of his busy schedule. His voice started off shakily, but when it came to his son, he broke down. It was rather touching, I must admit, though as far as I'm concern, it did not become a factor in me deciding my vote, and I don't see why it should for anyone. He went to gave a speech in Mandarin, which according to him was the Mandarin version of what Sylvia Lim was going to give afterwards. There was a minor interruption at the middle of his speech, as Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim and some other party members came onto the stage chairs.

And then... the man came. Low Thia Khiang. The moment the emcee called out his voice, the audience broke into wild cheers. He gave a speech, first in Mandarin, then he let Sylvia Lim give hers, then he spoke in English. When I hear him speak, I finally understood why, even in the heavy onslaught of PAP, he was able to defend Hougang. It is not that he can articulate fluently (he admitted that he got F9 for his English in O-and A-levels). He is more of an orator, and he really knows how to connect with the audience. I cannot describe it here; you have to hear it for yourself.

Before he ended, he said that he wanted to prove the integrity of the WP candidates, to refute the claims of the PAP that the WP's candidates were of questionable reputation. He asked all the candidates on stage to recite the pledge, first in English led by Sylvia Lim, and then Mandarin, led by himself. I don't think he really pulled this one off nicely; I didn't find it impressive, and neither do I find his reasoning logical.

Anyway, he finished right on the dot - 2200 - and asked the people to leave slowly and in an orderly manner. I stayed for a while, since I don't want to squeeze into the exiting crowd. Moreover, there were some interesting photos to take. Oh, did I mention that, just like in the rally in Ang Mo Kio, the crowd were chanting "Worker's Party! Worker's Party!"

And finally at about 2220, I headed for the exit, but before turning home, I took my last photo of the crowd outside from the overhead bridge. Too bad it didn't come out nice.

And then I turned back and headed home.

(You can see the rest of my photos here.)

05 May 2006

Movie Review: Mission: Impossble III

I have watched the first movie a long time ago. I do not remember much of how it was like, just that it had an impossible storyline to follow (bearing in mind that I was only twelve then). I did not watch the second movie, but from what I've heard, it had a terrible storyline and action.

But M:i:III looks promising, and I've heard positive reviews of it too. After watching it personally, I think it is rather acceptable. And that's quite a high praise for an action movie, which in general, I do not really favour.

The actions are, well, sometimes a bit extreme (like the pendulum-Tom Cruise in Shanghai) and sometimes a bit physics-defying (e.g. Tom Cruise gets thrown sideways into a car when a missile slams into something behind him), but still not too ridiculous. The storyline's pretty fine, with appropriate twists at different parts. However, I find that it gets a bit draggy at the middle. You know, it's like missions coming one right after another, so you get action after action after action after action and so on. Got a bit boring there, but the rest were okay. Acting is generally fine, but Philip Seymour Hoffman must be given special mention for his amazing portrayal of the villian.

In conclusion, I'd say it a nice movie to watch if you have the time.

03 May 2006

Kindred Spirit (Singapore Edition) - The James Gomez Soap Opera

It appears that there is a new twist in the James Gomez saga. I mean, something more audacious that the usual bashing from PAP. Inderjit Singh, a PAP candidate, and his assentor spoke out that in a conversation they had with James Gomez, they asked him why he made a mistake. According to them, his response was that it was just a show.

Now, if I were James Gomez, and I really intent on sabotaging the Elections Department, the last persons in the Universe I'd say about my plans are the PAP people. Hell, I wouldn't even tell anyone, not even fellow WP members, unless they're vegetables.

I still need more information before I really know what's going on, but from what I have right now, I'd venture the following possibilities:

1) Inderjit Singh and his assentor are lying. George Yeo has already said earlier that he's hammering down on this issue because the people "have not fully grasped the importance of what has happened" (Link). So since their tactic of smearing the opposition candidate has not worked as well as they wanted to, they took a step further and made up this story.

2) James Gomez is a complete idiot. He was an idiot the first time round - filling up the form wrongly - and the second time round he took his revenge carelessly - by revealing or boasting his plans to his opponents which have, as seen in history, a thunderous zeal and capability to tarnish reputations.

3) James Gomez indeed did say that, but he was, intentionally or unintentionally, quoted out of context. Maybe he was referring to something else; maybe he was saying that filling such forms for minorities is excessive paper work, all about form and not substance (seriously, whoever can't tell that James Gomez is not a Chinese must have had pebbles instead of a brain in his/her skull).

Another fourth possibility is that James Gomez is actually an agent for PAP, conspiring with them to bring down WP. But I don't take conspiracy theories seriously; they're good for laughs, that's all. Plus, I don't think PAP is so dirty (maybe in the past, but not now) to use such tactics.

Unless possibility 2 turns out to be the true cause, I'd say that, in my mind, whatever grounds PAP has gained because of James Gomez's blunder, these fruitcakes have lost it altogether because of their ridiculous pinching of James Gomez and WP.

02 May 2006

WP's Rally in Hougang

(All photos used are taken from Yawning Bread. Read his photo essay here. It was put up without his permission, but I hope he doesn't mind!)

It was utterly amazing:

Comparatively, this is the PAP rally at the same place, same time, one day later:

Today I went back home. I live in the Kovan area in Aljunied. Upper Serangoon Road, a very long main road that runs right through Serangoon to Hougang, was right within view. My father told me that on the night of the WP rally, the road was jammed pack. And that's a freaking 3 to 4 km from the rally site in Hougang!

And even though rally turnout doesn't translate to votes, but this goes to show that many are interested in what the opposition (at least Low Thia Khiang) has to say.

Now, thinking about it, during the first rallies that took place (which was in Aljunied), WP had theirs in a field in Ubi, while PAP took the Serangoon stadium. Most of us know that it rained that night. WP persisted and continued theirs in that open field, and their supporters trudged through water and mud to listen to them. PAP abandoned their stadium to some indoor place, which could only hold a handful number of people. (Interestingly enough, CNA reported more on PAP's rally than WP's, but that's not what I want to talk about.)

I'd really want to ask PAP this: is this how they utilise the resources allocated to them? They were given a superior venue, but they just cast it aside. Rain? Lightning? The WP did not stop. No excuses here. More importantly, is this how they're going to handle the resources of our nation? Our money? Our votes? Our people?