31 July 2006

Bloopers for a Break

Here's a couple of bloopers. They may be accidental or intentional, but they're quite funny. Enjoy!

28 July 2006

Canned Protests

I know I'm breaking my resolution of cutting down on my blogging frequency, but I really cannot ignore this. It turns out that while protests are allowed during the IMF meetings, they're only allowed indoors. And more than indoors, they're restricted to only the lobby of Suntec Convention Centre.

While I do understand that Singapore is perhaps not ready for open demonstrations (although peaceful demonstrations will be an ideal goal for an open Singapore in the far future), capping these IMF protests indoors seems so... artificial. On top of that, I wonder if lobby is sufficient to hold the numerous groups of demonstrators. The article also mentioned "strict rules" but failed to elaborate on that, which leads me to question if the "protests" intended can be considered protests at all.

It resonates with the PAP's habit of keeping things in tidy little boxes with tidy little labels. No mess, no dirtyness, no trouble. Just like Speaker's Corner in Hong Lim Park: put a police post right beside it.

I do believe, however, that the authorities are capable of enforcing this law. There may very likely be outdoor protests (either due to defiance or insufficient space), but they will be quelled with amazing efficiency. But I wonder how badly the beating will be on Singapore's reputation.

Public Transport Fare Hike: To Infinity and Beyond!

It seems that public transport fares are going to rise... again. Well, I really question if that is necessary at all, given the fat profits these transport companies get (a suggestion to make it fatter: cut those CEO's and director's pay).

Nonetheless, it can be said that the services they provide are of decent standard. I mean, at least we don't see this yet:

27 July 2006

Movie Review: Lady in the Water

M. Night Shyamalan's films have never failed to impress me. Even those which I find least pleasing, i.e. Unbreakable and Signs, are pretty decent as compared with other Hollywood junk. Lady in the Water is no exception, despite a huge shift in the setting of the story.

The plot moves slowly at the initial stage, but accelerates at a comfortable rate to some rather tense moments at the end. The storyline is more confusing, as there are more characters and more "roles" to fulfill (what I mean by "roles" will become clear once you've watched the movie). Shyamalan's characteristic twists are quite plentiful, but there is no single one that really smacks hard in the viewer's face.

Some of the twists may seem meaningless at first glance, only to reveal its concealed hint when one carefully reviews the movie after watching. This means that there is very much post-analysis that can be done, thus increasing the "value" of this movie. However, to those whose brains are tuned more for Hollywood-styled shallow plots, these turns in the storyline will be irritating, which probably explains the largely negative reviews I've heard so far. These critics aren't completely off either: a few of the twists could've been better worked on, since these few give a feeling that it is carelessly written or thrown in last minute (either that, or I've yet to figure out the significance of the twist).

The music's rather brilliant, though it lacks a certain lustre when compared to The Village's striking violin pieces. As for, for a lack of a better word, creature design, I thought more effort could've been put in. The creatures are similar to those in The Village, which I thought could be improved on. Nonetheless, it is the liberty of the director to make the creatures appear how they should.

One problem some people may have with the story is that it seems so fake or so meaningless for certain "necessary" things, like the task of organising a farewell ceremony. The only answer I have to that is that this is just a bedtime story; certain things are just the way they are.

Now, it has been long since I've watched such a great movie... In fact, I don't remember watching another one this year that can comfortably satisfy me. So, Lady in the Water is a high recommendation from me. And a 100% more so if you like twists.

The Dead Past

I've just read a short story entitled The Dead Past, by Issac Asimov. According to Wikipedia, it was first published in 1956, but I found it in a relatively recent publication called The Complete Stories Volume One.

(WARNING: spoiler ahead until the end of the article!)

Set in the mid-twenty-first century, where scientific research requires so much funding that all scientific research is directed and funded by the government, and publication of one's research is allowed only if one has the approval of the government, there exists a professor of ancient history who goes by the name of Potterly. His research interest is in Carthage.

For a long time he has been applying to the government for the use of the chronoscope. A chronoscope is an apparatus that allows the user to view and listen to events of the past. However, the only chronoscope in the world is held by the government, and for an unknown reason, it keeps rejecting Potterly's applications. In fact, no one can find any information on chronoscopy anywhere - no books, no courses offered, no publications on it. No one researches into it because the government won't grant anyone the approval.

Potterly, suspecting that the government is suppressing the research on chronoscopy, obtained the help of a physics researcher, Foster. With the help of the latter's resourceful uncle, they managed to do some underground research on chronoscopy and managed to build a chronoscope which is smaller and cheaper than the government's (because the government's was based on a theory that was rather ancient; Foster combined his expertise with what he illegally read about chronoscopy to come up with a theoretical shortcut), so small and cheap that anyone can assemble a chronoscope in his room. However, they discovered that there is a limit to how far one can view into the past before the "noise" will drown the signal, thus meaning that all "verified ancient historical events" the government publishes using the chronoscope is clearly a fabrication.

Potterly abandoned his hopes of using the chronoscope to advance his opinions on Carthage but Foster, in the spirit of scientific advancement, attempts to publish his discovery, even if it means the end of his career. Potterly, feeling responsible for dragging Foster into this mess, attempts to stop him and eventually contacted the government before the situation spirals out of control.

Just before Foster could publish his research, he was stopped by an agent of the government. More than admitting that the government fabricates information about the chronoscope, the agent goes on to explain why the government suppresses chronoscopy research:

'Now you three [Potterly, Foster and his uncle] know a century or a little more is the limit, so what does the past mean to you? Your youth. Your first girl. Your dead mother. Twenty years ago. Thirty years ago. Fifty years ago. The deader the better... But when does the past really begin?


'Well, when did it begin? A year ago? Five minutes ago? One second ago? Isn't it obvious that the past begins an instant ago? The dead past is just another name for the living present. What if you focus the chronoscope in the past of one-hundredth of a second ago? Aren't you watching the present?'

However, with a dystopian twist, it turns out the government was just a little too late. Foster's uncle's resourcefulness was the guillotine of privacy, for he managed to get Foster's research out to a few scientists before he was informed of the dire consequences. Containment of the publication is no longer possible. The story ends there, but it became obvious that privacy, from then on, is a thing of the past. The dead past.

This forces me to think about the moral responsibility of scientists. I refer not only to applied sciences and engineering (since engineering in a way is applied science but with different focus) where a moral responsibility is obviously essential, but also to theoretical sciences.

My philosophy on the moral responsibility of theoretical sciences is drawn from Richard Feynman's idea that knowledge is power. How that power is used is another matter, but knowledge is power, and it is the responsibility of theoretical scientists to reveal these knowledge so that science, the human race and knowledge itself can progress. One quote he used rings very loudly whenever I ponder over these matters:

"To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven, the same key opens the gates of hell."

Knowledge is this key; theoretical sciences bring about this knowledge. However, this key has no instructions on how to use it. Uranium doesn't come with an atomic code saying that it should not be made into a bomb. There is no line in the DNA that says cloning should not be done on humans. Moral responsibility is not engraved on this key; it has to come from the people who uses the key - the applied scientists and engineers.

So in principle, a theoretical scientist has the responsibility of revealing the truth while an applied scientist has to exercise appropriate moral judgement when conducting his research.

But as seen in this short story, Foster held some theoretical knowledge on chronoscopy. However, this key of his has a consequence so accessible to the layman that almost anyone, everyone, can use it. Where does this fall into now? It may still be theoretical sciences, but Foster now has the same responsibility as an applied scientist.

While this is a situation never seen before in modern science, it is not an impossibility. Just because there hasn't been a theory that allows accessibly applications doesn't mean there won't be. And who knows, as we find out more and more about our current knowledge, there may be a shortcut to everything, that one day complicated devices can be made by the man in the street.

If a theoretical scientist has to carry the responsibility as an applied scientist, then what about his responsibility as a theoretical scientist? These two responsibilities, these two moral principles, become a dichotomy. Which one should he adhere to? Which one should guide what he does?

The applied scientist morals? Then what if, as raised in the story, this theoretical knowledge may have other potential applications that can benefit mankind? Don't forget: this key opens the gates of Heaven as well.

The theoretical scientist morals? Then who should pay for the drastic consequences that come along? Can society or even mankind sacrifice so much on grounds that knowledge is justification itself?

Another more extreme example: a fusion bomb. Right now, nuclear fusion is all but impossible. What if one day some theory appears that results in a hydrogen-fuelled Molotov cocktail? One bomb, same size, only difference: drop it, one city gone.

On the other hand, this also reminds me of my own belief that one day humans will destroy themselves. Firstly, in contrast to a century ago, it is now clearly possible for us to do that, and we have the potential to do so, considering the high-grade plutonium countries like US, Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan are currently sitting on. We don't even need the warheads to kill every single intelligent life on Earth; just a couple of bombs and the nuclear winter that follows will likely clean up the stragglers.

And while today we have nuclear weapons as the main threat to mankind, another threat may be emerging: biological weapons, for example. Right now the technology is still at its infancy, but once someone manages its equivalent of the Manhatten Project, then we have two knives now pointing on mankind's throat.

We don't even have to stop there. Right now, efforts are placed heavily in computing and computer engineering to produce artificial intelligence. Although currently the research is nowhere groundbreaking, the destruction of the human civilisation by robots are well explored by sci-fi writers. A quote from The Second Renaissance (a film in Animatrix) perhaps well describes this scenario:

"Thus did Man become the architect of his own demise."

Another evidence for this comes from another direction. It is known as the Fermi paradox, which can be summarised as such: there are about a hundred billion stars in the visible Universe (we're not counting the Universe out of our visual reach), and a simple probabilistic calculation will show that amongst these there should be at least a significant number which has intelligent life. Why is it then that we seem so alone, that experimentally we have detected no signal of other intelligent life?

There are many explanations for this, but the one appearing most logical to me is that, it is inevitable that intelligent life will destroy itself. From an evolutionary perspective, for an intelligent species to rise up above all others, it has to be aggressive (arising from competition between its peers), destructive (so as to eliminate threats) and domineering (so as to subjugate other or even its own species). These traits of an intelligent species will eventually enable it to master destructive technologies, and ironically results in self-annihilation.

To detect intelligent life, the most common method is to search for abnormal electromagnetic radiation from outer space. That is due to the reasonable assumption that as an intelligent species rise up, it will gain knowledge of the electromagnetic force (one of the four fundamental forces), and resultingly use it as part of their survival. The use of electronic devices will result in the emission of electromagnetic radiation, and a sufficiently huge civilisation (like the human race) will produce lots of it.

Now, consider the human race: it has only been no more than two hundred years since we found control over electromagnetism. In contrast with how long human beings have been around and how long Earth has been around, this is nothing but a flicker in the cosmological timeline. Even if we last a few more hundred years before we go into self-destruction, the window of our "modern" existence is merely in the thousand-years scale. How likely is it then that in this very same window, there exists another intelligent species that are at a similar technological stage as us?

I don't know what all these seem to you, but to me, it seems to be evidence of an end for Man.

24 July 2006

Durian Solves Pebble Question

I was browsing through my weekly summary of physics news when I read the abstract of this article. It was amusing in two ways, but first, the abstract:

A question that has been around since the time of Aristotle -- what shape is a pebble? -- has now been solved by physicists in France and the US. Douglas Durian of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues in Strasbourg say that a pebble is "a nearly round object with a near-Gaussian distribution of curvatures". All pebbles, regardless of their original shape, end up with a similar shape that depends solely on how the pebble was eroded over time. The results could help geologists determine the history of a pebble simply by looking at its geometry (Phys. Rev. Lett. 97 028001).

I find it amusing that pebbles can have such a delicate definition... It is surely interesting. Also, I think the researcher will be the topic of a handful of jokes if he were to work in NUS.

23 July 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Haven't been out (in the mystery and unknown sense) for quite a while... I feel so lonely...

Star Wars Video

Here's a spoof on the Star Wars movie. Special thanks go to Yuhan for alerting me to it.

If you want to see the complete video clip of the symphony at the credits, here it is:

22 July 2006

Back from SOW Prep Camp...

... and I feel dead. Completely. So I shall keep this short.

Firstly, SOW stands for Science Orientation Week. I've signed up as a senior, and for the past three days, all of us went through the prep camp for SOW06. There are three primary purposes for this prep camp: one, to test out some of the games arranged by the SOW committee; two, to let the seniors have fun (since we won't be playing the game during the actual camp itself); and three, to allow seniors to know each other.

In short, for the past three days I've been running around, playing games, learning mass dance, playing games, practising cheers, playing games, and exhausting myself physically. And it doesn't really help that we sleep less than four hours every night (a result of placing a hyper-charged and hyperactive bunch of people who are on self-induced steroids in one tutorial room). The prep camp ended in Sentosa with, what else, games, games and more games.

Nonetheless, aside from achieving the above aims of the prep camp, and in the process getting wet and dirty a few dozen times, I've found out these interesting tidbits:

  • The latest Science Faculty T-shirt (blue with a white 'Science' in front) is good in absorbing water and highly capable of picking up an awesome amount of sand.

  • Putting people in a small area of the field and asking them to duck-walk and burst opponent's water bombs is a very effective way of soil erosion, second only to mud wrestling.

  • Never trust a girl to splash water on a person you've held onto to prevent him from running away.

  • Indian dance is a lot more difficult that what it usually seems on TV.

  • Werewolf, hunter, and priest is one of the best and smartest games I've played.

That's all for now. I'd better catch some much needed sleep before I slump over my keyboard. I can't wait for the actual camp to start.

One day pigs will fly...

19 July 2006

Advent Repark

In October last year, the government announced a spending of S$160 million to improve facilities in Aljunied, no doubt to prepare the grounds for elections. The fund will be split between the five districts under Aljunied.

According to the news report (I can only find it reproduced here; the original ST page has long been taken off), some S$65 million goes to upgrading. So taking that off and distributing into five portions, it's about S$19 million per district.

Now, I remember there was quite some hype on the news when the government announced this, and one of the highlights of the use of this fund is to build an adventure park. Situated beside the Kovan Community Centre (under the Paya Lebar district), it had quite some prime time news coverage. A certain amount of the S$19 million fund was set aside for this, and judging from the "hot" news coverage, I believe it must be a sizeable sum.

Here's a quote from Cynthia Phua, MP for Aljunied in charge of Paya Lebar district, taken from the Paya Lebar Kovan website (beware of the unstoppable auto-playing news clip):

In Paya Lebar, we can of course look forward to the new Adventure Park which is currently being built next to the Kovan Community Club. This will provide a good outlet for those who want to have a little fun with their children and enjoy the great outdoors.

Well, the park is still under construction but almost complete. I went there to take a look at the shape of this park.

Eh... wait a moment... did I say 'Adventure Park'. Oops, my bad... it should be...
... 'Advent Repark'.

Well, look! That's a... er... something!... A tightrope perhaps... My, my... that must've cost S$200,000!

Okay, I dunno what this one is for, but doesn't it look fun?!! You can try and hit those... those... balls... with a flying kick! Just like those gongfu movies! And they are coloured!

Now, that's a good one. I suppose it'll prepare our young male Singaporeans for the great and wonderful SOC (Standard Obstacle Course), don't you agree? You may not be able to see in from the photos, but trust me, those are First World tyres. S$10,000 each! Now, even Michael Schumacher doesn't have that!

Oh yes, it is not a park without them. Never mind that I've never figured out what's they're for, but it is a signature of every modern park in Singapore! Now, that's First World!

Well well well, who says that everything will turn bad after the elections?

Three Ways to End the Israel-Lebanon Conflict

Actually, not just the Israel-Lebanon conflict, but also all conflicts related to Israel, i.e. the Israel-Palestine conflict, Israel-Iran dispute and Israel-whatever disagreement. I assume that there is a sufficiently large organisation/country like the US or the UN that has the technology and financial backing that can effect these changes.

The first is to support Israel unconditionally and let it demolish the remainder of the Middle-East, crushing whatever resistance once and for all. The second is to support the other party unconditionally and let it do the same but to Israel. The third is to grab a couple of nuclear bombs and start nuking the entire Middle-East, thus removing the conflict by removing both sides.

These are the only ways I can think of for a possible resolution of the Middle-East conflict; I see no other way out. Of course, right now there is no organisation/country that has such capability (not even the US) to fend off the consequences.

16 July 2006

Concerning this Blog

I've been thinking about this for quite some time. This blog started out as a personal blog... meant for documenting and sharing my erratic thoughts, mundane life and kooky musings on current affairs. However, it began to occur to me weeks ago that perhaps the last category of entries is not quite compatible with the first two, primarily because it is meant for different a kind of audience. (More precisely, people who read the first two may go on to read the last category, but those who read the last is unlikely to read the others.)

However, the thought of maintaining two separate blogs feels rather stressful... In addition, my postings on current affairs are pretty sporadic. It's not like you'll definitely get a new post every three days. Nonetheless, I may do that for a better organisation of information, as well as greater efficiency in infecting other Singaporeans with my corrupted thoughts.

I do have a page on my website that contains the more worthy articles, sorted into neat sections, so that anyone who wants to refer to my previous (worthy) essays can do so easily. Many of them are on political and social issues. But being a website, it is rather inaccessible or hard to chance upon by the others, and I don't update it immediately when I've got an article ready for publishing. A blog, partly because of the rising trend as well as the made-easy advertising (e.g. blog aggregators, comments, trackbacks, Technorati), is more capable of gaining readership, which is a key consideration if I have to blight as many readers as I can.

While for now, I'm sticking to one, I'm not ruling out the possibility of a bifurcation of this blog. But if this happens, those readers who follow my (personal) blog because of the first two reasons need not worry; I'll probably re-post the same (current affairs) article on my (personal) blog as well.

Meanwhile, I've resolved to cut down the frequency of updates to this blog. The primary reason for this is the falling standards of writing. In fact, my observation is that the nonsense I've posted in the past were of high quality than the nonsense I write these days. Perhaps refraining from blogging about every single item in my daily life and thoughts may sieve out the lousy ones.

Moreover, this blog is steadily approaching its 200th post... it's achieveable in less than a month's time if I were to blog at the current rate. That's not healthy, considering that this blog has been in existence for less than five months, thus equating to an average of more than one post a day. This is probably symptoms of blogaholism. Not healthy... not healthly...

It is likely that I may face withdrawal symptoms while I restrain myself from blogging. I'm not sure if I can overcome it, so please pray for me... Oh, no need for the traditional type of praying... I doubt it works, given its checkered history. I prefer the new type of praying I've invented: dab your eyes with freshly cut onions while sniffing (with force) chilli padi seeds. I'm sure you'll get the sensational feeling of a successful prayer.

15 July 2006

A Lesson from Harry Potter

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there is a scene of provocation by Draco Malfoy which resulted in disastrous consequences for our protagonist. I'm not sure if this scene is going to be included in the upcoming movie, but anyone who has read the book would surely remember it.


The setting of the scene was in the Quidditch field, immediately after a match which Gryffindor narrowly beated Slytherin. Harry was in his usual position of the Seeker, while Ron Weasley was the Keeper. The reason for the "good" performance of the Slytherins was Ron's incompetence in his job.

'Saved Weasley's neck, haven't you?' he said to Harry. 'I've never seen a worse Keeper... but then he was born in a bin... did you like my lyrics, Potter?'


'We wanted to write another couple of verses!' Malfoy called, as Katie and Alicia hugged Harry. 'But we couldn't find rhymes for fat and ugly - we wanted to sing about his mother, see -'


'- we couldn't fit in useless loser either - for his father, you know -'


'- but you like the Weasleys, don't you, Potter?' said Malfoy, sneering. 'Spend holidays there and everything, don't you? Can't see how you stand the stink, but I suppose when you've been dragged up by Muggles, even the Weasleys' hovel smells OK -'


'Or perhaps,' said Malfoy, leering as he backed away, 'you can remember what your mother's house stank like, Potter, and Weasley's pigsty reminds you of it -'

What happened next was that the Weasley twins and Harry Potter physically assaulted Draco Malfoy, and resultingly, they received a lifelong ban from playing Quidditch by the High Inquisitor for Hogworts, Dolores Umbridge (for some unknown reason, she kinda reminds me of Bhavani... but that's for another day).


Now, from a calm, outsider perspective, while Malfoy's provocation is indeed vicious, Harry's action is the one that crossed the line. Worse, it is hard to prove that the former indeed occurred, yet the latter is impossible to deny, given the overwhelming number of eyewitnesses.

Malfoy's words are but words, baseless and harmless. Harry should've seen that Malfoy's attack can do no damage as long as he himself does not take it seriously. By yielding to the insult, he falls precisely into the trap Malfoy set up for him and entangle himself in a dreadful situation. If he had responded by shrugging those verbal attacks aside, he would not have played himself into Malfoy's hands; in fact, it could've angered Malfoy even more, seeing that his plan has foiled.

However, in the heat of the game, amidst the rush of adrenaline, it is naturally difficult to maintain a calm and rational state of mind. Often, primal instincts and emotions rule. It will take tremendous amount of will power to rein those under the control of logical and rational thinking, but it is not impossible. In fact, that can be an advantage, for one can often see clearer if his mind is not misted by irrational factors. It is a valuable attribute we should all try and adopt.

Perhaps Zidane should've read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

CHMA 2006

I went back to Catholic High last night for the annual Catholic High Music Awards (CHMA). This event, a highly polished talentime competition, was organised by the iMedia Club, of which I was a part of its predecessor, the AVA Club.

Started in 2003, CHMA is wholly organised by the iMedia Club. They did everything, including the talent search, stage backdrop and behind-the-scenes preparations. Of course in its inaugural year, it was a little more than an assembly-styled, typical talentime competition. But with the enigmatic Wang Jiunn helming his capable iMedia crew, they rode on the awesome success of the first CHMA and led the valiant charge that propelled the event into a magnificant glory of the school.

Since CHMA 2004, the competition has turned into much like a concert... somewhat like a Singapore Idol or Campus Superstar, except that, very fortunately, the judges still hold the power to decide the winner. This implies, of course, that the competition picks a talent and not an idol, which stays true to its name of "Music Awards".

Unfortunately, for some of you readers out there expecting photos of the event, I'm sorry to say that you have to satisfy yourself with the above picture, because that is probably the best I've taken. One reason for that is because I took a seat at the far corner at the back of the hall, which naturally means I do not have a supreme view of the stage. A second reason is that I've realised my camera is not really suited to taking pictures in dark surroundings (and the hall was really dark), thanks to the lack of complete manual focus and poor image stabilisation (as well as, for this event, the high zoom I have to use).

The competition in terms of the support elements faired pretty fine except for some minor hiccups. The behind-the-scenes video screened in the competition was amazingly well done. If I were to nitpick, I'd say that the bluescreen effect employed could've been better dealt with... it looks a bit unnatural and the edges of the host clash nastily with the background (an imperfection in lighting, I guess).

The sound system had a few glitches, but otherwise smooth. There were instances of audio feedback in several occasions, but they were quickly snuffed out before it could develop into a banshee's wail. There was also an unidentifiable blob in the sound system when one guest performer was transiting from one song to another, but that was not disruptive in any case.

The lighting was quite flashy and apt for the event. Of course, if they had more funds, they could've brought in First World lighting, but for what they had, it was rather decent. Moreover, the stage backdrop logo (the photo above) was made of diffuse reflective material, so it gleamed of different hues as the light varies. This complemented well with, if not synergised, the overall visual feel.

The emcee has changed. Mark Tan, the talented emcee who hosted CHMA 2004 and 2005, was enslaved had National Service duties, so there were two new hosts this year. While they did not fall prey to onstage diseases such as stammering or forgetting lines (which is a good achievement by the way), they could've done better in terms of the speed and clarity in their delivery. Their lines were also tad artificial and disconnected from the general mood of the audience, but at least they have fulfilled the primary objectives of hosting the event.

Most disappointing of all, at least in my opinion, was the talent, or lack thereof. Nearly half of the performances were instrumental, and the vocal half weren't too impressive either. To give them credit, a few of them were of quality, and it was obvious that they put it tons of effort into this event. Many of them evidently have passion in music.

However, in comparison with CHMA 2004 (of which I have the DVD), the quality of the singing has dropped. This was understandable, because there isn't a large pool of students to source the talents from, and, over the years, the real talents have been diluted by previous CHMA. And with only hundreds of students flowing in every year, it will be an illusion to expect the quality of singing to equilibrate at the level of past CHMA.

It was almost ten years since I entered Catholic High, and now seeing how far it has gone, the milestones it has achieved after my graduation... it kinda makes me feel like a forgotten relic, a part of an ancient past, a distant speck in the annals of the school...

Nonetheless, returning to such a grand event, I can't shake away the unspoken pride that kindled inside me. Pride, not of myself or my work, but of what former teachers have achieved, of what a club that I once was a distant part of, can do.

The Business of Shirt Folding

I believe by now everyone has heard of, if not watched, the hyper-efficient Japanese shirt folding method:

I dunno what's with this shirt folding fad, but apparently, someone has came up with a simple shirt folding machine made of cardboard:

Let me indulge in a feeble attempt to guess what's coming up next. How to fold a shirt with your legs? You know... you start with sitting cross-legged, and then tuck the shirt in between your thighs, pull it over your knees etc.. Then when you stand up, the shirt will fold and flop neatly onto the floor. Why, it can also be considered as exercise too!

Erm... how about: how to fold a shirt with one hand in mid-air? Heh, your hands go into a blur within a swirl of fabric, and voilà!... a nicely folded shirt. Why, if someone really invents this, it'll sure appear in as a music video dance in some weird Taiwan shirt folding song.

Oh... oh... how about this: folding a shirt with just your eyes? Yep, just blink and stare and the shirt will be folded! Shirt folding by eye-power... it's just like magic!... Hey, wait a minute... sounds like something I might've seen two or three years ago...

14 July 2006


Recently, I've tried producing homemade lemonade. After a few accidents (in which my cheeks almost collapsed into singularities), I've found a rather basic formula for making it. It is easier than you might think, and it's very cheap too.

Below is the formula on how to prepare lemonade concentrate:

1) Wash a lemon and cut it into half.

2) Squeeze it using a citrus juicer or by hand with a sieve.

3) Dissolve 8 to 12 teaspoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you want it to be) in about 150 cm3 of warm water. Add ice or cold water until 200 cm3.

4) Mix sugar solution and lemon juice.

5) Refrigeration is necessary (or the lemon juice will turn bad).

6) To drink, dilute in a ratio of about 10:1 or more, depending on your preference.

The good thing about this lemonade concentrate is that it doesn't take up too much space in the refrigerator; the above formula can easily be contained in a Newater bottle. Yeah, it may lack a bit in terms of colour (which you can remedy, if you really want, by sprinkling some yellow food dye into it), but it is very easy to make. The only drawback is its high perishability. Even with refrigeration, I doubt it can last more than five days.

But preparing it will show you just how much sugar those lemonades sold commercially have.

13 July 2006

Great Blog on the Rise

The Intelligent Singaporean may be a lofty name for a blog, but it turns out surprisingly intelligent! The blogger doesn't write his own articles there; rather, he gather worthy blog entries from various acclaimed blogs like Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma and Yawning Bread and recommends them in his blog. Sort of like a blog aggregator similar to Tomorrow.sg, but focuses on social and political issues.

So far, it has been up for less than a week, but judging from the entries there, it looks promising. It is awesome for me in that it gathers from great blogs like Kway Teow Man which I sometimes do not have the time to peruse.

Currently, however, there seem to be an unnaturally high influx of entries. I hope this is only temporary, and as time passes, the number of recommendations will drop to an acceptable level.

12 July 2006

The Trick Kick

Here's another funny video clip regarding football...

11 July 2006

Is Our Vote Secret?

In almost every elections in Singapore (at least those recent ones I can remember and still hear about), there is always, definitely, the question of the secrecy of our vote. Without fail, there will be letters to the newspapers questioning if the government knows what each individual votes or asking the Elections Department to take steps to ensure confidentiality. And despite assurances from the numerous government officials that they do not peep at people's votes, hearsay would arrive from various sources about people who voted for the PAP because Big Brother is watching.

Despite the question recurring periodically alongside with every Progress Package and its various manifestations, the Elections Department has never seemed to give a completely satisfying answer. It's always the old answer of accountability of the ballots. (Somehow doesn't that make you wish that the old NKF had similar zeal?) Of course, I must admit that I have not doggedly followed every single argument that the Elections Department or the government uses to justify the presence of the innocently threatening serial number (which, allegedly, can be further traced to one's identification number), but as far as I can recall, it never seem to venture far from the same old line.

(However, it is rather worth mentioning that, there might be a subtle shift in the replies by the Elections Department over the years. Like I've said, I do not read every reply the department sends out defending their lovely numbers, but according to a rather sharp and well-educated friend, their replies have been moving from the lines of "your vote is secret" to "why I should know your vote, but rest assured, it is still secret". Since I did not personally read this, I shall treat it as, for now, unfounded rumour.)

So, the holy question in Singapore, akin to the global equivalent of "does God exist?", is "is our vote secret?".

Personally, I used to think it is. That's based on the reasoning that, despite what some may label as naïvety, I doubted that PAP will stoop so low as to scrutinise every single vote or a particular individual's vote. In spite of the fact that PAP sometimes employ questionable tactics, I doubted that it'll behave like a scrooge over his money.

However, recent reflections about it, together with opinions from many intellects, lead me to modify this opinion. I still doubt the PAP will track down each individual's vote, but the crux is that they can do it if they want to. They have the power and ability to do so. They probably have never done and will never do it, but it doesn't matter so long as they have the potential to do it.

The rationale behind this is that, if they track down what each person votes, and somehow it was exposed by the public, the Elections Department will be chest-deep in shit. Tons of problems will suffocate them like corrosive flatus in a small, sealed room. The country will suffer considerable social and political backlash. Support for dissidents like Chee Soon Juan will skyrocket as if he had just won the Singapore Idol contest. But if there is no evidence that the Elections Department goes around snooping the ballots, anyone can say whatever they want and it can easily be dismissed as coffeeshop talk. And the best way to achieve this absence of evidence is to not do it at all.

So how do they affect the votes to their favour? It is via the fact that they have the capability to. It is this fear that they mobilised to their advantage. And this is a very influencing factor to many Singaporeans who are pragmatic, who are more concerned with whether they get promoted in their civil jobs than whether Hougang gets its upgrading. So on one hand, the PAP can say that they don't know what each individual votes, yet they stand to gain from this system.

But how true is this belief of mine? To me, it's pretty logical, but others may have their reservations. It is hard for me to convince others, just as it is difficult for others to convince me of another conjecture. The easiest way to collapse my argument is to remove the serial number or all other possible traces, but realistically speaking, I doubt that'll ever happen soon.

Naturally, it'll be impossible for the Elections Department to convince every single soul in this island that their vote is secret (think Benjamin of Animal Farm). There will be skeptics no matter what the Elections Department does, critics who will accuse that the PAP is not being honest with our votes. However, first steps can be taken. The Elections Department can be disconnected from the Prime Minister's office. While this move may not prove that the Elections Department is independent of the influence of any political party, at least it is a step towards transparency. Also, serial numbers can be removed from the ballot, so that there is no clear and easy method for one's ballot to be linked with his/her identity.

But since there is inertia in the system, there will be some grounds for my suspicion to grow.

Mr Miyagi Leaves TODAY

Mr Miyagi has decided to quit TODAY. He did not mention the specific reasons, except that it was born out of "many many long discussions between brown and myself". There are two parts of this issue which I'm interested in.

First, what is the exact reason for his resignation? He did, after all, mention that the salary he got as a columnist is "nice and secure", so what prompted him to drop it? Could it be due to friendship and integrity, to show his support for mrbrown, to stand by his side in this time of crisis? Or is it because, after this incident, he was dismayed by the lack of progress in the mainstream media towards the freedom of expression, and, resultingly, he found it pointless to continue bridging the widening gap between the offline and online world? Or is it an attempt to send an awakening shockwave towards the offline readers, to make them wonder why bloggers are leaving the mainstream media, and hence urge them to explore the story for themselves online?

The second part of interest to me is the consequence to the bigger picture of his action. Will it further disconnect the online and offline world into two distinct universes (like the real world and the Matrix)? Will it reduce the authority of bloggers (which is incorrectly but often associated with credibility) in the eyes of the general population? Or will his disappearance from the column go unnoticed, that readers will not be bothered with the cause of his resignation?

It will be interesting to see how things turn out.

09 July 2006

Of Flatulence

Here's a little video clip that has been sitting around my desktop, forgotten, for quite a while.

It's quite amazing... but this video led me to ponder about the... magnitude of the... erm... mushroom cloud if a video was taken of similar nature but with a BMT recruit after powder bath...

Anyway, while we're on the topic, here's a completely embarrassing one:

If you were to look around Google Video, one clip that has topped the charts for months had a person lighting a candle using flames ignited from his flatulence. I didn't find that funny, but that led me to consider if it was possible. Therefore I jumped into Wikipedia's article on flatulence, which said that it is possible. But that's not what I want to say.

The whole article talked about flatulence in human. And then suddenly I saw this section:

Man, for a moment I was stunned, thinking that human flatulence is contributing to the greenhouse effect! Of course, it turns out that the section was talking about livestock, which was weird because the rest of the article talked about humans.

Perhaps this is one instance of the disadvantage of a wiki...

Another Way of Looking at the mrbrown Affair

In one of Cherian George's recent blog entry (actually, it was the second of a three-part musing), he raised a unique view on MICA's letter, which resulted in the suspension of mrbrown's TODAY column.

In this post, entitled WHEN BLOGGERS ENTER MSM, PART 2 (MSM stands for mainstream media, I believe), he suggested that the letter was meant to tell the editors (specifically those in TODAY) that this kind of content is unacceptable in a medium that is widely read by the general public.

Personally, I think that without knowing how the connection within the mainstream media and the government works, it is hard to speculate how much direct influence the latter has over the former. If we assume that there is minimal influence, then MICA's letter can be seen as a way of telling TODAY that the infamous OB (out-of-bounds) markers have been breached. Alternatively, we can also see it as a staged progression of events; the suspension of mrbrown's column without the MICA letter would appear very unjustified. MICA kicked off the ball, and TODAY has to keep it rolling.

Whatever the situation is, it has never occurred to me (or from what I've read so far, much of the blogosphere) that the target audience of the letter is the mainstream media, to remind them of the existence of OB markers and where they lie, even if approximately. I think only sharp thinkers who is/was in the industry will see it from such a direction (Cherian George used to be an editor for The Straits Times).

Anyway, it turns out that mrbrown has released a satirical podcast regarding this event.

08 July 2006

Wikipedia Vandalised

A few days back, while I was looking up Wikipedia for some personal research, I stumbled across a page struck by vandals.

Man, someone really hates that guy.

Anyway, Wikipedia, full of great and kind-hearted people as it is, restored the page to its original form within minutes (according to the entry's history).

Nonetheless, it did stunned me a bit when I chanced into the few minutes window and saw a rather bizarre title for the man, which I initially thought was some weird order from the British.

Anyway, I also hit Wikipedia's main page to see if they had any featured articles that are of my concern, and I've hit this:

1,234,765 articles... hmm... how improbable that is! It's as improbable as getting any other numbers! And also quite improbable to hit the short window of Lee Kuan Yew's profile getting defaced. I have strong reasons to suspect someone near the Solar System was using the Infinite Improbability Drive.

The Standard of Today's Electronics

Last week I had to re-tune my grandmother's Akira TV. Again. This was not the first time that TV lost some of its screws. Granted, it was quite a few years old, probably more than three, and therefore it has every right to start acting cranky by today's standards of electronics. And it may be too early to blame the TV for losing its tuning without considering other possible causes. But that's not the topic of this entry.

What I'm grumbling about is the falling quality of the electronics we have today. I still remember TVs of the past, about a decade back or more, when TVs really cost a bomb. A simple 21" TV can easily rob you of $500. Comparatively, today's CRT TVs of similar type only go for $100+.

However, TVs of the past were made to last. Heck, we still had a working 14" TV (though we no longer use it) that is older than I am! Never mind that it only has ten channels, no remote control, and uses a screw and a knob to tune. The fact that it is still spitting out electrons correctly today, more than twenty years after it was born, is an exemplary quality of electronics made to last. For your info, it was a Sony TV. It will be a miracle for today's TVs to work properly after five years.

I shall not deny that the market demand has shifted from costly but durable TVs to toilet paper TVs, and it'd be foolish for the manufacturers not to tag along. Two favourable factors caused this shift. First is the desire of the consumers to follow the latest trends, whereby designs and technologies that are no longer in the forefront of the industry are discarded and replaced. The other factor is the dirt cheap manufacturing cost in China, where goods were churned out like Zero One.

Nonetheless, being somewhat a social oddball, I never really liked to follow latest technological trends. I'm not sure if this stems from my belief in environmentalism, or is it just nostalgia about stuff, but I always liked things that last. That's probably why I'm looking at a Philips CRT monitor now, though it is starting to give me minor problems (it is about four to five years old). That's probably why I chose an IMB laptop, because it supposedly has a slightly longer life on average. That's probably why I like my trusty Toshiba TV, which has given me no problems in the last six or seven years in service.

Anyway, two weeks ago, we had to send another TV, this time the one in the living room, for repair. When the repairman came and took the TV, my father asked him, out of curiosity, what kind of TV today can last. He said anything but LCD TVs. Looks like I won't be wanting an LCD screen anytime soon.

06 July 2006

Mt. Tomorrow Erupts

With MICA's response on Monday to mrbrown's TODAY article and the suspension of his column, the special feature article in tomorrow.sg has went off like Krakatoa, spewing out what is probably a record number of comments (131) and trackbacks (76). mrbrown's blog even had a supernova; there were more than 1000 comments on the two articles related to this whole affair.

Well, what have I gotta say? Just that it can't be helped, really. I mean, for a while I thought that the government has softened down on its media control, but it seems to be just a typical pre-elections tolerance.

So, where is the open society you promised, Mr Prime Minister?

Anyway, with regards to this incident, I ask one thing from everyone, just as I once did before. Remember. Just remember how receptive the government is to criticisms. Just remember that the government has as much sense of humour as dry rot. Just remember the trauma mrbrown had to go through.

Just remember, this incident, five years later.

Angels and Demons the Comedy

I've just started reading Angels and Demons, the supposedly better novel as compared to the insanely popular The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. When I flipped to the first text of interest, a capitalised subtitle proclaiming "FACT" appeared followed by a few paragraphs of words, which I've reproduced here:


The world's largest scientific research facility - Switzerland's Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) - recently succeeded in producing the first particles of antimatter. Antimatter is identical to physical matter except that it is composed of particles whose electric charges are opposite to those found in normal matter.

Antimatter is the most powerful energy source known to man. It releases energy with 100 per cent efficiency (nuclear fission is 1.5 per cent efficient). Antimatter creates no pollution or radiation, and a droplet could power New York City for a full day.

There is, however, one catch...

Antimatter is highly unstable. It ignites when it comes in contact with absolutely anything... even air. A single gram of antimatter contains the energy of a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb - the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Until recently antimatter has been created only in very small amounts (a few atoms at a time). But CERN has now broken ground on its new Antiproton Decelerator - an advanced antimatter production facility that promises to create antimatter in much larger quantities.

One question looms: Will this highly volatile substance save the world, or will it be used to create the most deadly weapon ever made?

The first thing that struck me was that the above "facts" are so ridiculous that I wanted to shove a banana up my ass (which I didn't because of the lack of bananas). It is teeming with factual and scientific error that I wonder if the author did much research into these "facts" or not (because some of them don't even affect the storyline if it was corrected).

For example, while I'm very certain that, after the cancellation of the Superconducting Super Collider in the US, CERN is the world's largest particle physics research facility today, I think it is debatable whether it can be considered the "world's largest scientific research facility". In fact, it's not even owned by Switzerland alone (simply because the costs of building and maintaining it are so unbearably huge that selling chocolate alone can't possibly make up for it); it's only located there.

Also, antiparticles has been produced for a large part of the 20th century. Positrons (antiparticles of electrons) are the first to be produced in the 1930s. It is only antihydrogens (a positron orbiting an antiproton) that has been produced recently.

In addition, the way he described the 100% energy efficiency... I can say that, by the same logic, all other energy sources are also 100% efficiency, by the principle of conservation of mass-energy. The question is, how efficient is the turbine generator that is going to convert this "100% efficient" energy from heat/light to electrical energy?

One last major flaw I'd like to point out of his "facts" is drawn from the principle of conservation of mass-energy again. Now, antimatter, for obvious reasons, doesn't exist in our natural environment. In fact, the absence of antimatter is one of the greatest puzzle in physics; this problem is called baryongenesis or baryon asymmetry. (It is worth mentioning, though probably irrelevant, that, mathematically, we can treat antiparticles travelling forward in time as particles travelling backward in time.) In that case, we will need to find a source of antimatter, which means we need to put energy into its creation. By the abovementioned principle, this energy has to be at least what we can get back when we annihilate the antimatter. So it is not really a source of energy, unless someday some NASA spaceship encounters some huge lump of antimatter happily drifting in space, which is of course by then too late.

In fact, I found the first one-third of the novel a huge comedy. It was extremely apparent that Dan Brown has as much knowledge of physics as a toothpick. I'm not sure if he knew this or not, but it might delight him that there is something called a God particle and a Oh-My-God particle.

Nonetheless, I found the remaining of the novel (I'm about halfway through) pretty good. Ignoring the gross factual errors, this novel does have that tight grip and intense action that keeps one from stopping. It's definitely great as entertainment, and a brilliant piece of mystery and thriller (as well as comedy to me).

04 July 2006

Living in the Clouds

I was just fooling around with Google Earth earlier on, and I decided to look at where I live.


Effeminate Referee

I'm not sure if this is a real match or just some gag about an effeminate referee, but it is quite interesting.

Heh heh, if he were to referee a World Cup match, he would displace the results as the headline news.

03 July 2006

A Letter to TODAY

Upon reading mrbrown's column for TODAY on Friday, I felt a strong need to rectify the misrepresentations he made. Here is a letter I've drafted for TODAY.

This entry is a work of satire. It's a trashy piece of parody. No one, especially people wearing white, should take it seriously.

Distorting the truth, mr brown?

When a columnist becomes a 'constructive critic' in politics

Press Secretary to the Minister for Truth

Your mr brown column, "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" (June 30) poured sarcasm on many issues, including the recent General Household Survey, price increases in electricity tariffs and taxi fares, our IT plans, the Progress Package and means testing for special school fees.

Naturally, the results of the General Household Survey were only available after the General Election. But similar data from the Household Expenditure Survey had been published last year before the election, only that there was no election last year.

There was no reason to suppress the information. We merely delayed it. It confirmed what we had told Singaporeans all along, that globalisation would stretch out incomes. That is why ministers' salaries are on the rise, as evident from the General Household Survey.

These were precisely the reasons for the Progress Package — to help lower income Singaporeans cope with higher costs of living. The fact that the package came before the survey showed our foresight in anticipating such crises; it has nothing to do with the election.

Our IT plans are critical to Singapore's competitive position and will improve the job chances of individual Singaporeans. With the smart chips already implanted in Singaporeans' forehead at their birth, we will be able to individually monitor a worker's performance and assess his thoughts. That way, we can remove workers that are adverse to the growth of our economy and keep Singapore competitive. It is wrong of mr brown to make light of them.

mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of criticism he should write like all other journalists do. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym, Lee Kin Mun, to defend his views openly.

With the capable leadership of our Government, there is no need for journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign against the Government. A columnist should not present himself as a non-political observer, while using his access to the mass media to highlight the people's concern. He should take up the Government's position and convince the people that, for all things they are unhappy with, the blame should not be on the Government but on the opposition MPs in Parliament.

Majulah Singapura!

Analysing the Numbers

It has been more than four months since this blog has started spawning daily spam. Although it was end February when I started, only in March did I installed a counter to track the hits. So far, they have been like this:

Graph of hits

Graph analysis... ahem...

The hits for April and May were greatly affected by the elections (or post-elections). During the few days before polling day, the numbers can go beyond 100. The highest number of hits in one day was in the start of May, reaching about 200+ views. That's when Mr Wang quoted me in his blog, Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma (I can't find that particular entry anymore... I guess he has deleted it). To be frank, it was rather scary; for a moment, I thought ISD has tuned into my blog...

The hits for June are probably more normal, and future monthly hits should remain at around this level unless some unforeseen spotlight (or worse, the Sauron Eye spotlight) is aimed at me. I do expect future monthly hits to be slightly above June's, mainly because there were a few breaks in June.

Anyway, extrapolating into the future, when I was looking at this graph at the start of June (i.e. I have the statistics for March to May), a thought dashed through my mind: are the hits adhering to an exponential behaviour? This thought kinda freaked me out... I can't imagine the daily hits of 200+ for that to happen, and the even higher hits in following months. However, disregarding May's abnormal data and taking June's statistics into account, it can be said that the hits are following somewhat a logarithmic growth, which, logically, should be expected.

Why do I get the feeling that I'm reading too much into my data? I mean, I was thinking if a Gaussian curve will fit the data better or a Maxwell-Boltzmann curve provides better predictions.

02 July 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Recent discussions with a friend has led me to doubt what I thought might be a progressively good sign. Sigh... such is the confusing yet inevitable meanders in our lives. Perhaps things have been too artificially smooth...

I was Sunday Times-ed

01 July 2006


I was tagged by Currytan...

3 blogs because of their pictures

Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma - Not that Mr Wang puts up a lot of pictures, but when he does so, he puts in witty captions that well describes the entry that it accompanies.

ZenEkz - I have no idea where he got his pictures from, but many are rather funny and can brighten up a gloomy day.

Currytan - Be it photos he has taken, or those he took from elsewhere; be it edited or left untouched, it does well compliment his entries. It's somewhat like the newspapers, where they have cartoonists or photographers generating suitable pictures to go with the headlines.

But I must say that I don't read a blog just because it has great pictures. The written content is primary, no matter how good the photos are.

3 blogs because they really makes you think or seek information

Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma - A lawyer is a lawyer. He can slice thickly veiled social and political matters up like a Ginsu knife into easy-to-swallow bits. Reading his entry is like a daily ginkgo supplement; the only difference is that the latter is supposedly able to boost brain activity while the former definitely does so.

i-speak by Gayle Goh - A mere 17-years old girl with the analytical power that surpasses 99% of Singaporeans, her entries are as enlightening as Gandalf's Istari light, and she has no qualms about digging into the Constitution to bring across her point.

Yawning Bread - Speaking on social and political issues (particularly about homosexuality) in Singapore and, to a lesser extent, the world, it is probably the only local blog that comes close to investigative journalism.

I really wish I could squeeze more in this section. For example, there are many which qualifies for this, such as The Singapore Angle (a diverse collection of essays on social and political matters), Tomorrow.sg (great for finding "hidden treasures"), Singabloodypore (the anti-establishment entries are worth taking note of), and The Negative Man (for his commentaries on political, social and philosophical issues).

3 blogs because they make you laugh

mrbrown - This guy is a genius in nonsense. Not that everything he say is nonsense, but he can seemingly parody anything effortlessly. His weekly columns in TODAY are also full of wisecracks. And that's not even bringing in his amazing podcasts.

The Dilbert Blog - If Scott Adams blogs, his entries are probably gonna be as cranky as his Dilbert comics. His blog entries have a wicked twist to them, and the way he writes it, it's just plain ridiculously funny.

ZenEkz - It's mainly his pictures, as I've commented above, that really makes it a blog worth visiting for laughs. Of course, not all the entries are funny, but a once-in-a-while-visit will ensure me a hilarity bank.

3 blogs to be tagged

Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma Let's be more realistic...
The Negative Man
half-asleep (since he's the only linked blog from mine left untagged)

Man, this feels like a good-willed chain letter...


I've just came across this tidy little programme called Dasher. It is a programme used to input characters into the computer without the use of a keyboard. It is somewhat like a virtual keyboard (like those kind of keyboard appearing on the screen and the user clicking on the keys) except that it has a much more creative way of inputting characters.

Still in development, I believe this programme will be exceptionally useful for the disabled who have trouble inputting characters with a keyboard. Although the current standard version uses the mouse as the control, I think it is possible to use an eye tracker (i.e. a device that followed the direction of your eye), thus making things faster and easier.

Naturally, for those accustomed to typing with a keyboard, Dasher will appear to be very inefficient, but hey, it's fun!

Here's a demonstration:

I've used Dasher to type the words "welcome to dasher i am now blogging with dasher it is a fun program to use". Here is the video, but I've no idea why the resolution is so low.

Note that "i am now blogging with dasher" seems much easier to input than the others. That's because the programme has the ability to learn words, so words used more often by the user will be more likely to appear. I've been experimenting with "i am now blogging with dasher" for a while now.