Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas in a barn

I suddenly thought of a reason why the roof of the church is painted red! So that it looks like a barn?! (think: barn, manger, farm animals...) The choir singing was great! We were still rehearsing until the last minute, literally, with the congregation already seated, it was actually quite funny... (they apparently knew the practice of coming early on Christmas; the seats were filled probably half an hour before the service started). But once the real thing started, everything fell into place, and it was quite wonderful. Hopefully the rest of the folks enjoyed it too and had a blessed Christmas service... Some pictures here.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Silent night

Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace. ~Mohr & Gruber
I'm not at Orchard Road wearing a Santa hat this year, figured it'll be more appropriate to stay at home and listen to Christmas songs and revising for tomorrow's morning choir singing. Silent Night seems to be the only song I know that talks specifically about the humble circumstances of Christ's birth; it's so very different from the crowds, mad shopping rushes and stress that we usually feel at this time. If I've been at the zoo tonight, it probably would have felt more similar to what happened that silent night. Jesus was born in a stable (because all the hotels were full); there were farm animals, sheep and probably cattle. There were angels too, and the three wise men who appeared later. By the looks of the humble manger and animals, this seems quite a low-key affair, except to those who knew what really was happening; it was the most wonderful thing that happened... Merry Christmas!

Writing slowly

I was just cleaning up my room and came across this homework for art class in secondary school. The teacher gave me 77%, then corrected it to 70%. It's 'calligraphy' on a folded A4 paper, and as I turn the next page, I think I know why she did that LOL. Very inspirational, hor, the first page. The second page says this :)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Product endorsements

I enjoy reading product endorsements in print ads because most often than not, they're quite funny. The layout guy usually puts at least four things onto the page: the product (space-shuttle-technology swimming trunks), the picture of the person endorsing it (Ian Torpedo), the person's autograph (Ian's signature that can actually be used at the bank to withdraw money), and the person's claim to fame (Olympic Gold multiple-medal holder). The byline is a hard thing to write. For example in a quarter-page ad in the newspapers a few days ago, Tan Kheng Hua (of UOR and PCK) decided to lend herself to Kenwood electronics (hifi and stuff), and her byline was Tan Kheng Hua - Celebrity. And I was thinking, couldn't the copywriter have written something more substantial?! Like TKH - mother, theatre specialist, television comedy superstar etc. It is very cheesy, and things don't get better for other local 'stars'. I remember Ms Tan to be a kind lady; our school's video club organised an outing to attend a live filming of UOR many years ago, and Ms Tan took the time to explain things for us... So sometimes despite the fact that the person is supposed to be famous, I have to read the claim to fame (hey it rhymes!) to understand what the fuss is all about. Jennifer Testudo - national rower. Orhhhhh, so that's who she is. I think I'll have the cornflakes she's having, thank you. I'd like to row as fast as she

Friday, December 17, 2004

Party hats

I don't think I'll be going to those huge new year countdowns that folks usually go to party the night away. I've just found out that Corrinne May is coming back to Singapore and performing for free at the Esplanade on new year's eve and day. So I'll be going to listen to her instead of joining the mass parties. Quite bizarre really, first she puts out her entire album on her website, and she's now letting people bootleg her live performance for free. The RIAA should raise a ruckus about that! Oh wait, maybe Ms. May understands that file sharing does not necessarily result in decreased CD sales... A little more about her voice, which I think have the rare quality of being 'bittersweet', I'm not sure of a better word to describe it. Like my favourite movie Lost in Translation and the Japanese Love Letter, punches you in the stomach and doesn't let go for days... In other news, I've been spending most of my afternoons volunteering at a 'drop-in' centre for folks who are recovering from mental illness. The place really has improved quite a bit since last year, there seems to be more people dropping by; some whom I've known and others who have recently started going. One advice from the social worker: put aside your textbooks, for they don't necessarily apply always. I get to see a little of the real difficulties that they face daily, the effects of their medication and so on.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Kangaroo on the tail

I was walking along Orchard Road with the others and the big screen on the wall at Heeren was showing Qantas' I Still Call Australia Home ad. But it's not the same as the first one, it's version two! And it's still as brilliant as ever. The first time I decided I liked Qantas was because of the ad, and they used the same song but didn't let the choir sing it. The marketing department has it easy. Just use this same song forever...

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Fundamental attribution catastrophic blunder

It's interesting when you return home from an overseas trip, once you disembark from your ship (or plane), the 'home country feeling' will come flooding your brain in less than 30s. At least it works for me. I've since learnt that there's research into a related issue, and I thought that if one is able to 'reframe' or reverse the process, the quality of life of that person can possibly be improved by a great deal. So on my way to the airport I had a chat with the shuttle bus driver. Turned out that he was born in Singapore but had lived in Australia for decades. And the funny thing is everytime I have this 'on the way to the airport' chat with drivers (the previous one was a political refugee from Eastern Europe), they always tell me the same thing: "What makes your happy? Your destiny is in your hands." In other words, move to somewhere like Perth! So naturally I asked him about my thought experiment, and he doesn't have much advice about that. But I've been wondering about this problem for years now, and practising the scenario for days. I've been staring into the Swan River and imagining that I'm not in Perth, but in Singapore. How do I achieve this state of mind anywhere in the world? I'm unable to tell you exactly how, but I think I'm making progress. But it has to do with the catastrophic blunder. It really helps. The other thing that helps is to let everyone board the MRT first before strolling slowly in. If it's filled, wait for the next train. That really helps too. Anyway, I just signed up to sing with the church choir at Wesley on Christmas day. The ad mentions people who sing in bathroom and asks for people 'who can hold a pitch'. So I guess I could take a shot at it; there's nothing to lose, and I love hymnals and Christmas songs, which I usually sing in the middle of June. So during yesterday's first practice, a fellow newcomer asked me what choir I was from. And I said, the bathroom choir, I even hold concerts there. That probably made the newcomers become relaxed since some of them can't read music. And I said, no worries, just go with the flow, and your gut instincts. The choir director kindly asks the newcomers who are the one who don't know whether they're singing 'high' or 'low'. I was the only one to put up my hand. Later I remembered that my singing teacher told me years ago that I'm a tenor, so it should be 'high'. There were a lot more women than men, and the director remarked that it was only recently (actually, just a hundred years ago) that women were allowed to sing in the church choir, so it's probably 'pay back time'; I guess it's good that the church as progressed since that time. The practise was so fast and efficient, the guys separated from the ladies to do their respective parts; and it was quite wonderful when everything came together...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Van diesel

Actually, it runs on unleaded petrol. I decided to be my own removalist and hired a 1 ton van for a day. If cars are too expensive, vans are a viable alternative! And if there's even a remote possibility that I get to own a car in my lifetime, it'll be a road bicycle, and a van will come in a close second, followed by a conventional car. Too bad this particular Mazda on manual, and the first gear seems to be a little slow in picking up speed, but I guess it's supposed to work that way, not too sure...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Meet the neighbours

I was just coming out of my bath and seconds later, someone was banging on the door. So I opened it, half expecting an Optus guy introducing their latest deals. Turned out there's a woman outside and she said through the grill, "Can I borrow a towel and use your phone? I'm locked out of my apartment." So I thought...hmm... that's a line I haven't heard before. If I opened the grill, was my apartment going to be robbed by this person? But she was in her undies, and it didn't appear that she was lying. So I let her in and gave her a towel to cover herself. Apparently, she lived a few units down, and was cleaning the porch when the wind blew the door shut. None of the other neighbours seemed to be home. "What a way to meet the neightbours, isn't it?!" she said in a bubbly and cheerful-on-a-Sunday-afternoon manner. It was dead hilarious. Her boyfriend had another set of keys, but he was out because he had left his car keys in his car and was out settling it with the RAC. "See? We're meant for each other!" She tried to remember her boyfriend's number to call him up and tell him what happened, and finally got it after many calling many wrong numbers. "Sorry for ruining your Sunday..." I said no worries, this is actually a bloody good story! The tip for today: don't clean the porch when there's a strong wind blowing LOL

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Pasta bottles

In my attempt to bring a little art to an otherwise empty dining table, here's my attempt at replicating Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup can paintings. The idea, I think, is to make the point that at first glance, it looks just like a collection of similar objects. But there are little things that differentiate each, and it can only be discerned when viewed carefully. Warhol has 200 cans, I have 15 bottles. Oh well, it's a good start. And the pasta's delicious!

Friday, November 26, 2004


The emu is the second largest bird in the world. It's also flightless. Emu Draft is from Swan Brewery, so everything's ornithological today. The beer's good... just right and not too strong for a Friday night...
Optional reading: Political blog dailykos has an interesting subject for Science Friday on how all of us are potential abusers and torturers. There's stuff from Milgram and Fiske. Click here.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Funny Aussie traffic lights

Some road traffic lights on Perth streets turn from red to flashing yellow then to green; and cars are supposed to start moving when it starts flashing yellow. I never understood why there was a need for this. What's the problem with just going straight to green? What's the inside joke? I was reading today the road rules because I'm driving next week, and found out that these lights are called pelican lights! It's really funny because the flashing lights mean PROCEED WITH CAUTION. You may proceed, but only if there're no pedestrians crossing. This is the sort of thing I find exceedingly hilarious, although I have no idea exactly why. Pelicans are also my favourite birds; they are the most graceful when they use up the huge length of waterway for takeoff, and when they do their spirals in formation flying at high altitudes with their huge wingspans of I think more than 2 metres...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Movie making

It's all coming together. I had originally wanted to make my flight simulator short film using Mary Chapin Carpenter's Why Walk When You Can Fly. Ms. May's Fly Away seems to be more apt, and the best thing is that there's already a screenplay embedded in the lyrics. The locations have been secured and it's gonna be in Canada; Calgary (Alberta) to Castlegar (British Columbia) based on Aeroworx's tutorial flight. And the clip is about four and a half minutes. So I'm thinking of this schedule: Memorise song - couple of days Visualising/storyboards - 2 weeks Shooting - 1 week Post production - 2 weeks The only problem is actually starting. The other problem is whether the camera crew is able to do the necessary shots that I want. I still remember doing video editing some years ago when computer desktop editing didn't exist. Spending an hour to edit a 10s sequence was the norm then hahaa. Man, those were the days...

Monday, November 22, 2004

This Singaporean singer might just break your heart...

I'm just now listening to this singer called Corrinne May, never heard of her before. Never heard of this voice before. With shades of Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell and Beverly Craven; absolutely beautiful. For some strange reason, her website provides CD-quality, full length clips of the songs. But I'll get the CD soon enough...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Seriously, it doesn't really matter who wins Australian Idol. Both of them will have no. 1 albums, so it's all good. What I especially liked was the totally interesting rendition of Waltzing Matilda. I hope it comes out as a single or something... Optional reading: I just happened to stumble across the weblog of this person called Elizabeth, and feel as if I've been punched in the stomach. She cuts to the chase and tells it like it is; another one of those pages that I go through from the beginning. There just might be hope after all...

All aboard!

Crowd dynamics seen in public transportation like trains fascinate me. Like I was mentioning to Sharon the other day, in Singapore, one can see a very strange phenomenon when the train stops and people want to get out, and some want to get in. I'm sure this is not exclusive to the MRT, the trains in busy cities elsewhere probably are similar. The situation is like this. When the train stops, those that are outside should do what? They should stand aside and let the folks inside alight first, correct or not? But for some interesting reason, many do not, so the authorities draw yellow lines on the ground to emphasize that point. So fair enough, people get the idea; and will try to stand away from the doors when the train stops. Then a second funny thing happens. Those that are outside will wait for some of the people inside to get out. And they will squeeze into the train before everyone has the chance to get out. If you're still inside, you need to push your way out! (Insert Batman punch!pow!wham! speech balloons here.) Assuming the width of a person to be one quarter the width of the door, two people doing this will mean that the volume of movement per unit time gets cut by 50%. Obviously, this is a serious matter that can't be ignored. So I've thought about this for a long time. Why do people do this? Isn't it reasonable for someone outside to wait for the folks inside to get out first? What is the motivation for this? My original feeling is that for the person outside, the rational thought process that tells us that's it's more efficient to wait is secondary to the primary objective: to get in first. Now why do people want to get in first? Well, maybe they want a seat. I had the chance to observe a different setup a few days ago. I took the train back to Perth, and almost everyone alighted, and there were lots of people wanting to get in. So I decided to see if there's anything different. Firstly, there's a huge crowd outside, four lines deep, and they automatically parted like the Red Sea when the doors opened. I went out and stayed behind to watch. Do they try to get in before everyone got out? Interestingly, they didn't. It was a smooth transition between the flow of people going out, and then going in. So the big question I have is again, why?! The crowd sizes in the two scenarios were both large. It was a weekday, not a unbusy weekend. So these two situational variables were quite similar. So what might have accounted for the differences? I think it boils down to the motivation I mentioned. The whole idea is to get the seats. And the corollary is true: the probability of success in getting the seat is directly dependant on the aggressiveness of the fellow passengers! So it's actually a hard-fought struggle, against each other! That's why people wanna rush in before it's too late! But why isn't that thinking seen in the Perth train? Because the motivation is quite different. It's not that urgent to get a seat, I think. The race just isn't quite there. And this is related to another cultural difference: in Singapore, if there's a queue, just join it! Ask questions later. The idea is that if there's anything to be had (including train seats), grab it! There's this time I actually asked someone who's in this very long queue whether he knew what he's queueing up for, and he said he had no idea, so I can see how this can happen. So what's the antidote for this? I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with rushing for seats since everyone has understandably very tired legs. But maybe everyone can have a better quality of life and be kinder to one another if those who don't need a seat let those who need it more have it, and to see it as an unnecessary race, if they can afford to. In reality though, it's very difficult to do. The situational forces will more than overide any sense of common sense... Note that I only have a sample size of one, so this must be taken with a pinch of salt. I'd be interested in observations from places like say Japan where you can be in a train and everyone is squeezing you so tightly, the lateral forces are able to physically move you from place to place. Not exactly my idea of fun though...

Friday, November 19, 2004


Now this is an interesting dilemma. At 8.30, three interesting movies and a dog show will be showing at the same time on different channels. I don't think I've ever encounted this before. Strictly Ballroom should be superb because it's done by Mr. Luhrmann. And then there's Top Gun, nice plane (F-14 Tomcat) with nice actor Mr. Cruise in a b-grade movie. And then there's Training Day in which Mr. Washington won an Oscar for best actor. And then there's the dog show, Inspector Rex. Inspector Rex is a German police weekly drama. The main lead's partner is Rex, a German Shepherd. Rex is easily one of the best actors on TV today. And the show is crisp and intelligent. I think I'll go with Training Day, with occasional switching over to the others...

Somewhere down the road...

I was clearing my backlog of aviation entries yesterday; I'm currently in the Middle East, going to Europe next. As I was reseaching for the Jerusalem entry, it strikes me as deeply ironic and saddening that a region of rich religious traditions can be the site for some much death and hatred. The bizarre thing is that everyone has roots in the same place, often at the exact same geographical coordinates. So what went wrong? Why have we stopped talking to each other? It's the saddest thing in the world, really. Love your enemy. But who's my enemy? Someone whom I hate. But why would I want to love my enemy? I suddenly realise it might be because I'm not that good myself, and the other person isn't really an enemy in the grand scheme of things...
So much pain and no good reason why. Cried until the tears run dry. Nothing else can make you understand. The one thing that you held so dear. Is slipping from your hands. And you say..... Why, why, why, does it go this way. Why, why, why, and all I can say is. Somewhere down the road. There'll be answers to the questions. Somewhere down the road. Though we cannot see it now. Somewhere down the road. You will find mighty arms reaching for you. And they will have the answers. At the end of the road... ~Wayne Kirkpatrick/Amy Grant/Faith Hill

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Press release from the Information Minister!

Only in Singapore (and a few other countries) can one find such funny statements such as these from the Information Minister. Reminds me of Iraq's MSS, hope he's doing OK:
Singapore slams media watchdong for low ranking in press freedom Singapore on Wednesday slammed a media watchdog for ranking the island in the same league as authoritarian North Korea and Myanmar in press freedom, saying outsiders shouldn't equate freedom with criticizing the government. Tightly controlled Singapore placed 147th in the annual index put out by Reporters Without Borders - by far the lowest ranking of any developed country in the annual ranking - and just one notch above Iraq and 18 above Myanmar. Information Minister Lee Boon Yang said the index imposes a standard that fails to take into account "special circumstances" in Singapore, where he said journalists contribute to the nation's development and are not necessarily adversarial. Lee said the Reporters Without Borders index "is based largely on a different media model which favours the advocacy and adversarial role of the press." "We have a different media model in Singapore," Lee says.
Journalists contributing to the nation's development?! Journalism is about reporting news stories, not about public relations! Fantastic spin, and it's even quite attractively believable... :) Source

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Another day, another destiny...

The exams are over. An anticlimax is quite an understatement...
May the good Lord bless you and keep you; May the good Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; May the good Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. (Numbers 6:22)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Someone wants to say sorry to you...

...actually, thousands of Americans want to apologise...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Bad research topics

I was reading my Avantgo and there's this short review of the new movie on the author of The Kinsey Report. Coincidentally, the author's name is also Kinsey. He's a scientist who studies sexual behaviour. 50 years ago, he and his team wrote Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and later, this, that make up the Report. When you do this sort of thing in the 1940s, really bad things happen to you.
Many saw Kinsey's work as a threat, and the response to it and to him was vicious and devastating. In Kinsey, [director-writer] Condon runs through the scientist's litany of misery: a loss of funding, ongoing ridicule, personal attacks, death threats and, most of all, the health effects of living under severe stress. Kinsey died, at 62, of a heart attack.
According to director Condon, "Having spent twenty years collecting over a million gall wasps, Kinsey discovered that not one of these tiny creatures was identical to each other. He took the biological concept of individual variation and applied it to human sexuality. It was Kinsey who first said that each person's sexual makeup is unique, and the term 'normal' isn't relevant when dealing with human sexuality. There's only 'common' or 'rare'. It's still a radical notion today." I really admire people like him. Warts and all, they are the ones who bring us closer to the truth, whether we like it or not. But more than that, knowledge like this erases prejudice, one step at a time. It may not be a totally good thing, but I think it's a darn good start...
But Kinsey's life was a complex one, and Kinsey on the whole paints a revealing portrait of it. Kinsey's story reminds us of the liberating power of knowledge, and that sexual equality, like gender or racial equality, is a right that 20th-century heroes fought and suffered for. Anyone working in origins science, stem-cell research or global warming might find Kinsey especially timely -- it's a reminder that good science can set us free. --Wired News

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Tipping the scales...

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when I saw this. I'm simply stunned silent. One guy asks...
How can Iraqi deaths be made to matter? As bad as losing our own soldiers is, I believe the deaths of Iraqi civilians is truthfully our biggest problem. As you suggest, the impact of each Iraqi death is to create further generations of hatred towards us. Only a society that sees the Iraqis as subhuman could fail to understand that 100,000 deaths will ripple out amongst 100,000 families, friends, and fellow citizens who will hate us forever. Yet making this point to the average American seems almost impossible. How do we impress upon our fellow citizens the extraordinary damage we are creating?
Another guy answers...
Easy. We must somehow convince the right that the civilians dying in Iraq are actually fetuses.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Hua Mulan

Let's get down to business - to defeat the Huns Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons? You're the saddest bunch I ever met But you can bet before we're through Mister, I'll make a man out of you ~Officer Donny Osmond
haha, Hua Mulan is on channel 7 now... so many punny lines. The Emperor just said, 'A single grain of rice can tip the scale; one man may be the difference between victory and defeat.' haaaha. Anyway, it's strange that Lea Salonga sings both today's and yesterday's songs. Ubiquitous!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A little fall of rain

Don't you fret, M'sieur Marius I don't feel any pain A little fall of rain Can hardly hurt me now You're here, that's all I need to know And you will keep me safe And you will keep me close And rain will make the flowers grow. ~Les Miserables
I passed by the cinema and decided to watch a movie just now called Wimbledon. Not too bad; I seldom watch movies that has Ms Dunst, but the reviews refer to her as 'intelligent', so I figured I needed to see what an intelligent actress actually entails. It was raining, and I decided to walk home and not take the bus. As I was telling a friend, nothing compares to walking in the rain in Perth. This is especially true at night, along deserted main roads, with the winds howling and sheets of rain falling so gently horizontally, vertically, and all over the place. That feeling, wet, but yet dry, cold, and yet sharp, and everything zooms into focus, like cleaning the lens of eyeglasses. I seem to remember reading somewhere that raining is like God crying. Well if that's true, it was a darn good cry tonight...

Monday, November 8, 2004

Altruism exists

I've been reseaching for the 'altruism doesn't exist, discuss' exam question, and I think the answer I'd give is 'it exists, but the extent of it is mediated by certain factors', and then use the theories to elaborate on the conditions when altruism's more/less likely to be displayed. Interestingly, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is mentioned in the textbook.
A lawyer wants to test Jesus, so he asks, "Sir, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus says, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And the legal eagle says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." Jesus agrees, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." And the legal guy, apparently thinking he's done all of these things, probes further, "And who exactly is my neighbour? The guy living next door, perhaps?" But Jesus doesn't answer the lawyer but tells a story instead. I shall paraphase in more contemporary, stereotypical, but quite accurate analogies. A man was going from Singapore to Johor Bahru, and he fell among some robbers who stripped him and robbed him and left, leaving him to die. Now by chance, a senior pastor of a nearby church walked past and saw the half-dead man, but he decided to pass by on the other side. Another reverend happened to walk by a while later. Again, he chose to ignore the dying man for some reason. But then, a Bangladeshi foreign worker passed by and had compassion for this man. He went to him, bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He then brought him to a nearby motel, and took care of him. Next morning, he told the front desk clerk, "Take care of him, I'll repay you when I get back." Then Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer says, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus replies him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:25-37)
Altruism, the kind that is motivated by empathy and compassion, is indeed possible. It's very difficult in reality, though. Optional reading for today: Taking back Christianity

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Exploding egg

Just finished some note-taking; 4 more days to the next exam, go go Gomez! On a lighter note, I was microwaving an egg this evening, started the stopwatch, but was distracted with cutting meat and forgot the time. And then suddenly, BOOM!!! The egg exploded, the hot air forced the egg holding apparatus to open up, and everything was a mess. It's actually quite a cool sound, that explosion. On a heavier note, the Marines are preparing the largest combat operation since Vietnam to take over Falluja; there will be many soldiers and civilians killed. Any boom there is the last thing that anyone would want to hear. 'Your mileage may vary' reading for today: Views from a former Christian conservative

Saturday, November 6, 2004

A soldier's eloquent opinion on election results

4 more years America
If you voted for Bush, didn't vote, or voted no on gay marriage, I hope you get drafted. I hope they stick you in my unit, and you go with me to Iraq when my unit goes back in September. I will laugh when you see what soldiers in that country face on a daily basis. I hope you work with gay soldiers too. I did. One of them saved my life. Think he shouldn't have the right to get married? F*** you. He fought just as hard as I did and on most days, did his job better than me. Don't tell me gays don't have the same rights you do. Think the war in Iraq is a good thing? I'll donate my M-16 to you and you can go in my place.
From Drew.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Nation States

I just came across this free online 'game' called Nation States. You can create your own country in 5 minutes during which you answer a few questions about your prefered political leanings, and then everyday, you'll receieve a couple of 'issues' so that you can vote on what position your governement prefers to take. Gradually, your country's profile will reflect your leadership. Would you like to be a left-wing, compassionate liberal, or a right-wing, neo-conservative, or even, none of the above? It's really quite fun. Do you support welfare? Or do you think the poor deserve it? Do you support the death penalty? Or do you think people behind the death penalty should be put to death as well? My country is here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills...

John Kerry is in trouble as Mr Bush has got 51% of the popular vote! If the exit polls are to be believed, 2 things influenced the results: the war on terror, and moral values. If moral values are indeed something that over half of Americans think are important, and these moral values are a derivative of Bush's faith as he interprets it, then on this day, I'm ashamed to be a Christian. I even want to get away from it as far as possible. If arrogance, warped ideology, aggression, pride, oppression, hatred, bigotry and killings are a reflection of our faith, I really don't want to have no part in it. :( But tomorrow, I know the fight continues; it's a long struggle, and the race is long. We need to continue to turn this thing around with calm reasoning, education, awareness and wisdom, and to deal with others in moderation. I suspect a lot of these 'values' would be lost since the opposite will be seen to have received a mandate from the results. But as Tim Allen said in Galaxy Quest, "Never give up, never surrender."

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

John Kerry: One heck of a class act

The day of reckoning is upon us (or at least for the Americans). Governments, for better or for worse, are elected by the people. The reverse is also true. How the citizens of a nation think, feel and treat others is also very much influenced by how their leaders act. That's why I'm concerned about my own government. The position taken by the leaders of the US dictates so much our own attitudes towards our fellow men. Our cavalier attitude towards acceptable loss of collateral lives is only matched by our gross errors in the justification for war. Mr. Bush has swept away the ideals of the founding fathers. He has waged war when he should have waged peace. He makes fun of the absense of weapons of mass destruction, when he should have apologised for the ultimate error. He has made ideology a key basis for his actions, when he should have looked at the facts and thought things through. He is simply not fit to be Commander in Chief, not of the United States, and not of the world. John Kerry, on the other hand, seems to me one heck of a class act. He listens to diverging views, doesn't insult the intelligence of others,and brings moderation to the table when extremism is the order of the day. I think if he's not careful, he just might become one of the great American presidents. Too bad he has to pick up the mess that Bush created. That alone says a lot about the man. The right man, for the right job, at the right time. Go Kerry!

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Something from Canada

Not long after Eminem's effort comes another powerful new video; this time from Ms. McLachlan. World on Fire

Friday, October 29, 2004

Located prominently in the middle of the UWA website's frontpage is a 'news and events' box that describes what's on in school. I've never known that actually serves much of a purpose... Until today, that is. The frontpage screamed out a note that there's going to be a 1pm talk on clouds at the art gallery located a hundred metres from the last 'abnormal' lecture theatre at 2pm. This is to accompany the ongoing exhibit on clouds. I was floored. Is it befitting for a serious art gallery to have such fluffy programs? Passing this art gallery for 3 years now on the way to the bus stop without going in once, this was as good a time as any. From the romantic perspective, clouds are the intermediary between heaven and earth. Moses and his complaining group were led for 40 years in the desert by a pillar of cloud. In today's terms, it's probably a cumulonimbus; still, that was no ordinary cumulonimbus. It was divine. The Creator was personally involved with this one. I think clouds are the only things in nature that performs for people on a grand scale. Sure, other aspects of the natural word do that to a certain extent; birds fly in V-formation, Old Faithful geysers erupting every 2 minutes, whales doing their thing beside the tourist boat... But the performance of clouds is different. It's a canvas that stretches from one end of the earth to the other, it's one of the few things that is wider than the visual field of the human eye. And on this canvas comes the most textured of all paintings. You can have soft clouds, hard clouds, grey clouds, cotton clouds, rainy stratus, isolated cumulus, whispering altocumulus, fire stratocumulus, mushroom cumulonimbus... And the artist has lots of things to work with; humidity, light colour, dust density and so on. It's also a different performance at different times of the day, and some would say the final act is the sunset. Why is the interplay between the evening light, the sun, and clouds so enchanting? The answer is obvious; it's in our genes. I'm pretty sure in a century or so, someone will find a 'clouds' gene to explain the awe one has for sunsets and related phenomena. In the meantime, I'll try to get past the genetic basis of autism for the exam first...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

You will do what I say

In the classic Asch conformity experiment, a volunteer sits together with a few other confederates to do a very simple task. Look at three lines of different lengths and decide which one most matches the length of a fourth line. It's straightforward. However, there's a catch. The conferederates will intentionally say the wrong answer, i.e., "oh, I think this line (2cm) is longer than this line (5cm)." The volunteer, not knowing that the confederates are in the loop, takes all the additional comments into account. It's shocking, but 74% of volunteers will waver in their convictions at least one time, abandon what they really know all along, and go along with the group just because it's the fashionable thing to do. This happens even in the total absense of explicit coersion and in the presense of total strangers. It's hard work not to conform. Mr. Asch manipulated the variables and found that the extent of conformity could be reduced if certain things happened, including, I think, a most crucial thing: if there was a dissenter in the group. This morning came the shocking news that Australia's top spy at ASIO (Australia's CIA equivalent) has decided to dissent. It's like this huge bubble that those hardliners are in, believing in something and taking lots of people in as well to believe that 'the war on terror will not increase the threat of terrorists striking back.' Howard, Downer and Bush has till this day decided to conform to each other and not admitting that simple fact.

ASIO Director Richard says, "it is Australian interests overseas that are at greater risk because of Iraq, especially those in the Middle East... the coalition campaign in Iraq has helped Al Qaeda recruit potential terrorists...Iraq has provided Al Qaeda with propaganda in recruitment opportunities and it only stands to reason that they would have some success... it has provided another justification or rationalisation for acts of terrorism... it has increased the threat against Australian interests in the Middle East."

This sort of assessment should have been made before the war began. But things are beginning to turn. John Kerry punched out of the bubble, and dissented in the first debate. That started the ball rolling...and I hope it keeps on rolling...because I think a 3cm line is not really longer than a 5 cm line... And oh yeah, I usually listen to country music, but Eminem has a new Bush-protest video out. It's very, very impressive.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Last essay yesterday, last presentation today. It's 7 days to the U.S. election, and 11 days to the exam. May the good Lord help us all...
I just went to the office to get some staples for the new BIG stapler chained to the table at G25, and I asked Collette how much it cost. "More than a hundred dollars?!" Oh my goodness! This is the most technologically advanced manual stapler I've seen, and probably the most expensive. Please, drop by the room to staple your stuff. It's quite wonderful.
There's no greater feeling of effortless flying when you've got the wind behind your back. Today, the conditions just fit together like a glove, 10+ knots easterly winds, glaring sunshine, sub-20 degrees, waves pointing in the direction you want. Hitting 30-37km/h for a considerable distance, with that 'no-chains' feeling, when the body is streamlined with the metal to create the most efficient combination-combustible engine Man/Woman has ever made...

Friday, October 22, 2004

The computer I'm using now at G25 is working. It didn't use to. Or at least it didn't work for weeks and perhaps even months. It's weird because every computer in the room worked, except this one. It won't power up when you press the ON button. As usual, I've tried to see what could be done but I came away with the diagnosis that the power switch was spoilt. It's a reasonable analysis, except that it was wrong. That was quite a while ago. A few days ago, I decided to try again because it's just so incongruent to have a non-working computer. I remembered the old urban legend that quite a large percentage of tech support calls could be solved over the phone, with a simple instruction to 'please check the cables to see if any are loose, especially the power cable'. Could it be that simple? Apparently, that's what exactly happening. Although the cord was plugged in correctly, the switch wasn't switched on. Problem solved, but no one noticed it. I expected myself to catch this the first time, I didn't see it either. If the problem seems a little too difficult to solve, the answer is sometimes right under your nose...
6000 words down, 2500 words to go! Deadline is Monday morning. Thank you.

Monday, October 18, 2004

This past weekend I'd the opportunity to read one of the scariest pieces of journalism on the Bush administration in recent months from the New York Times (username: jefftest, password: jefftest). And why should I care? Because this guy has personally affected, and still is affecting, my and our collective lives. If terrorist wants to do something bad in Australia, the place that I often go to in the city is the ideal spot. And so, I'm angered by the things that the Administration has done and at the stupidity of it all. Singapore's ministry of foreign affairs is so slaved to the US alliance that their official statement regarding their stand on Iraq was such because "we don't want to see the US abandoned." John Howard's foreign policy is also tied to the US' agenda. Doesn't anyone dare to say 'no', any more? For many months now, I've wondered about the high opinion poll ratings that Bush has been getting, and it didn't make a lot of sense. It didn't make sense because it's plainly obvious that this guy is not fit for the job, then why are so many people still sticking with him? One of the main reasons is fear. The PR machine has very successfully ingrained it in the citizens of the war on terror and the need to be 'resolute', never mind the repercussions of current US foreign policy. Another reason for Bush's population is probably his conservative base, the so-called Christian Right demographic. The marketing is so good that Bush is the default 'God's man'. He has traditional family values, is pro-life, and is making the country safer. The concern is that Bush is hardly a Conservative in the traditional sense of the word. He's neo-right wing, way out of the mainstream. Back to the article at the NYT I was talking about. Now the reason this article is so scary is because it attempts to explain the appeal of Bush, and at the same time delineate why the Administration has lost its way. One obvious observation from most people who had watched the three Presidential debates with John Kerry is that Bush cannot see reality, or choose not to. What happens when one attributes this to 'faith'? The article describes how the voices of those around him who disagree with his views are systematically removed, directly or indirectly, to such an extent that there wasn't a reality check to be found. The management of the Presidency has turned into a 'faith-based' operation rather than one based on reality and reasoned argument. Iraq is going badly. There was no post war planning. There was a plan to win the war, but no plan to win the peace. No, I don't want to hear it. Your foreign policy is creating new terrorists, increasing hatred all around, and making the country less safe. That's not true. Everyone wants freedom, and we'll give it to them; that's the destiny of the United States of America. I have faith that the good Lord wants me to do this. And his conservative base love this sort of thing. What an inspiring and good man. Strong, resolute, never wavering, never faltering. But as Kerry reminded us, one can be certain, and yet, wrong. It's useful to compare this with the opposition. Al Qaeda, although a bad organisation made up of murderous monsters, works almost entirely on faith. I think few would volunteer to be a suicide bomber if he or she doesn't not have faith of the rewards/respect to be had later, among other motivations. In this respect, both the terrorists and Bush operate on a similar level: based on faith. And that's the most chilling part. Now, one would ask, isn't faith in God a good thing? That's a fair question. But I believe God not only gives us the ability to have faith, we are also given the rest of it, like reason, intellect, and wisdom, which Bush doesn't seem to have a lot of. I think there's a precedent to this sort of question about faith. When Jesus is tempted in the desert for 40 days, the last thing that the Devil tempts Him with is to challenge Him to jump from the top of the temple (Luke 4). "Angels will be sent to rescue you." the Devil suggests. Jesus answers, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." I could be wrong, but I think what Jesus is trying to say is this, "You have a brain, so please don't be stupid." Jumping off from a high place is not a show of faith, it's actually an obscene act of defiance. Firstly, there are rules of physics that are indicative of the masterful work of Creation. You want to challenge that? You want to tempt that? Who on earth do you think you are? Reason, intellect, and plain old common sense thus come into the picture, not just faith, or as I'd like to think it, it's a different and misguided sort of faith. Bush knows he is a man of faith. I think he's sincere in his thinking, but so are the terrorists. When faith pushes out everything else, something's wrong. The biggest problem is, Bush doesn't see that yet. He has forgotten Matthew 5:9, "Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." And that's the saddest thing of all.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Although I've created my blogger account for quite a while now with the initial purpose of getting a Gmail account, I've never really used it to actually blog stuff. So maybe I'll use it to talk about fluffy stuff. For example, I would like to report that I'm doing my essay now and there're only 1300 words to go. Assuming a speed of 100 words per hour, I'll be able to finish it by tomorrow morning. Thank you.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I was just reading this comment from someone at the dailykos, the person said something like, 'if Kerry is still unable to capitalise on the utter incompetance of Bush at this stage of the game, he doesn't deserve the presidency', or something to the effect. And I thought to myself, hmm... reminds me a little of Optimus Prime. Optimus is a man (robot) with a huge dilemma. He's the leader of the Autobots. Being a leader means you need some qualities befitting of a leader in a cartoon series. He needs to set the bar. Because he's tall, I reckon he has no choice but to set the bar pretty high. He is therefore constrained by his own moral considerations. Why on earth did he not finish off Megatron in that episode? Why did he let him go? From the point of view of the scriptwriters, this is necessary for the show to go on. From Prime's point of view, it's the only thing he can do if he wants to sleep soundly at night. It's called taking the moral high ground, even if it means the cartoon series would continue as a result, with Megatron still alive to fight another day. John Kerry is similar in many respects. This guy embodies the qualities of a leader utterly different from the usual politician. The planners for the Democratic Convention had watched too much of Transformers and decided they would take the moral high ground. They would end the cycle of trash politics by sticking to the issues. No more attacking the Repugnanticans. Not even mentioning the word 'Bush' in their speeches. America would embrace their sense of nobility, and they would win a landslide in November. The cartoon scriptwriter forgot to tell them cartoons don't necessarily reflect real life. A few weeks later at the Repugnanticans' Convention, the mood was entirely opposite to the positive message that the Democrats brought to the table. Full of anger, hate, and fear, Bush and Cheney attacked Kerry's character relentlessly. A 'plausible deniability entity' attacked Kerry's Vietnam record. It was dirty and disgusting. Kerry's advisors' position was not to respond to those attacks. The mainstream media and the citizens would see through the ploy and ignore it. That didn't happen. Ratings for Kerry sank so much most predicted Bush have already won the election. Are Americans so shallow? Evidently they are. But one consolation is that everyone can be shallow, even you and I, when push comes to shove. (When push comes to shove meaning that the political spinners have an upper and subconscious hand in the perceptions of the voters.) So the Kerry people regrouped. Changed the advisors. Strengthened their talking points. Kerry totally demolished Bush in the first debate. In the second debate, he had chances to attack even more, but he held back. Why did he hold back? As Prime would say, "Because I'm an honourable person." Can an honourable person (or at least someone who seems to be remotely honourable) win the White House? The answer is clearly yes, if the voters pull the wool out of their eyes. But one consolation is that even if Kerry was just being Kerry, and didn't do anything spectacular, he's still able to demolish Bush with his intellect, reasoning, common sense, calmness, humility, courage, sense of civic duty. He can do all that just by being himself. Bush needs all the spin he can get from his handlers to pull it off. That might be the reason why he didn't attack Bush hard enough thus far. He wants the voters to see a polite person challenging the President with obvious, reasonable answers to the problems that he is not willing to see. He doesn't need to lift a finger to do that. It's just not something he does, the angry, petulant, scowling, bullying attitude that his opponent is forced to adopt. It would be wonderful if Kerry decides to pound Bush into pulp in the third debate. There's a time to be Optimus Prime, and there's a time to finish the job. That's perhaps the strategy that he has in mind all along.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Thanks to the live webcast from the BBC, I was able to watch the presidential debates between Bush and Kerry. The bottom line: Kerry totally demolished Bush. The latter was simply out of his league, he was tired, angry, repeated himself repeatedly, and just plain...helpless. Granted, Bush had an inherently much weaker argument for going to war, and that was already bad enough. To be unable to defend against the intelligent reasoning of his opponent is just too cruel to watch. Most of the major networks had online, non-scientific polls. Kerry got like 60-80% of the vote for the winner of the first debate. The pro-Bush Fox News was the only main network without an online poll; it was just too embarrassing to put up one. Bush didn't look presidential; I don't think he ever was presidential. Kerry, on the other hand, not only looked presidential, he appeared calm, reasoned, professional. The power of the GOP's spin made sure people didn't see through Bush's facade. But when you strip away all that in a face to face debate, the contrast of stature between the two men is just so apparent, it isn't even funny. Bush didn't think he was funny too, exhibiting all sorts of weird facial expressions seen in the split screens shown on some networks here. In his 4 years in office, he hadn't really needed to stand up to any opposing viewpoint. Today, he had to. And he was simply stunned. NBC has excellent videos of the proceedings. (Topic 7: a gem) And by far the best analysis I've seen so far, from Mr. Stewart.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Friday, June 11, 2004

I heard that there's been a recent influx of gmail invitations. I would like one, please. Thank you.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The second post today. I would still like a gmail account. Thank you very much.


I want a gmail account. Thanks.