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... http://www.sorryeverybody.com

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!