Thursday, July 28, 2005

Review of BAK2u Loss Recovery Service

Originally written for SPUG. You probably know what this feels like. Having just misplaced your PDA, you rush back to where you might have dropped it, only to find an absence accompanied by that unmistakable, heavy sense of helplessness. All you can do is wait... knowing that you probably won't see your gadget again. A new service called BAK2u might just be the thing you need to help you recover your lost property. Let's say you've lost your Palm; it is not easy for a person who picks it up to immediately know who the owner is, and this is where BAK2u comes in. The service includes labels that you stick onto your device. On the label is a number and website for the finder to go to and report the missing device. The finder only needs to log into the website or call the toll-free number to report the loss, making recovery much easier than if no such label is found. BAK2u labels are sold in packs that cost SGD$9.90 each. Each packet contains two labels of different lengths (5x2cm and 6.5x1cm). After applying the label onto your device, you will not be able to peel it off and re-adjust the positioning and alignment, so be sure to get it right the first time. Next, we go to the website and register our label. Each label is valid for three years. Click on the Activate Label link... If you haven't created an account before, you'll be asked to fill in your contact and credit card details. The last step involves filling in the serial number and any interesting characteristics of your device. You can also specify any additional reward for the finder. Does it work? You can use the labels on your mobile phone, PDA, MP3 player, digital camera etc. If someone finds a lost device, he or she won't be able to contact the owner without some sort of identification on the device. With the label in place, a finder would have no trouble calling the toll free number printed on the label to report the loss. Loss reporting can also be done through the Internet. When it is confirmed that that finder has found the lost item, a courier will meet the finder at his or her convenience to retrieve the item. Now, this is what I really like about the service. I think it might be the tipping point for a reasonably good Samaritan to decide to return the device rather than to keep it for himself or herself because of the 'difficulties in trying to return it to the owner' self-justifying excuse. There is no cost or hassle for the finder to do the good deed. In addition, the finder will also be rewarded with a S$49.90 gift pack (5 packs) from BAK2u. Is the price worth it? The price for two labels is S$9.90. Now, I do realise there are those who don't believe that any finder would return lost property, especially expensive gadgets! I think that's a fair point. Then again, it is also not totally impossible that there are nice people around who would want to return lost property, and that would be virtually impossible without some sort of identification or labelling on the device. Bottomline: Without any identification, the probability of loss recovery is almost zero! So I think for the price of a Big Mac meal for a label that's valid for three years, it's very well worth the price. When a lost item is successful found through BAK2u, the owner pays BAK2u an additional service fee of S$49.50 plus shipping charges and tax. If the item is found locally, the shipping charges will be the local courier fee. If the item is lost and found overseas, the owner can choose to have it couriered by DHL International; the delivery cost would depend also on the weight and size of the item. Although the extra fee seems costly initially, the cost and benefit analysis is straightforward: the cost to replace a lost item will almost always be more than S$49.90 plus shipping anyway. Factor in not only the inherent price of the lost device itself, but also the cost of not recovering important and sensitive information that resides in your gadget, and the need for a small investment in labels becomes compelling. I have one slight complaint with the adhesiveness used for the labels. By design, the labels, while strong, can be peeled off by a persistent bad guy who picks up the lost item. Now, this is due to customers' requests so that if the labels are not needed in the future, no ugly marks will be left behind. I'd prefer the adhesiveness of the labels to be strong enough to leave behind some 'residue' if it's really torn so that a bad person would think twice before reselling a found item. I'm told this might be considered future revisions of the product. Other than that, for the purposes of identification and loss recovery, the BAK2u serves its purposes well. The website is intuitive, and more importantly, a good Samaritan will be provided with just that needed extra push to return a found item. Discuss here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New Blog: Recovering Christians

I've started a new blog called Recovering Christians, hopefully it can become a community blog eventually. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Getting Married At The Zoo

I was just looking at Cowboy Caleb's call for help to get more information on the workings and protocols of a Chinese wedding ceremony, and it got me thinking of the kind of wedding I'd like. Not like it really matters because I don't even have a partner to marry and I've real doubts about the institution of marriage itself, but just for the sake of wondering aloud...

I once attended an acquaintance's wedding at a huge open space/void deck, and hundreds of people were invited. Seriously, I can't imagine going through that myself; I figured the groom knew personally only about 10% of the guests. The rest were neighbours and friends of friends and total strangers. These people were only there because traditions dictate they should attend the function.

My ideal wedding would be a simple affair at the Botanical Gardens, or maybe one held at the zoo. And I would also ban everyone from bringing gifts and red packets. So I'd print on the invitations: PLEASE DO NOT BRING GIFTS. ALL GIFTS AND RED PACKETS WILL BE FORWARDED TO THE NKF. JUST BRING YOURSELF AND ENJOY THE FREE FOOD AND ELEPHANT RIDE.

So probably you can imagine my angst at the current state of things, primarily on the issue of 'the market value of gifts'. What is this, the stock market of best wishes? Today VOCC (Value Of Close Colleagues) is trading at $60, POTN (Price Of The Neighbour) is going for $40, COIR (Contributions Of Immediate Relatives) is moving at a six-month high of $80 and projected to climb even higher next week, and MSFT (Met Someone For Tea) is trading for a peanuts $30.

I think gifts are fine; it's just this whole business of feeling that state of despair when a wedding invitation is received and one doesn't really want to go because of the bonus monetary hardship that attending it entails. There shouldn't be any feeling of sorrow when attending a wedding!

The other thing is the quantification of good wishes. Frankly I don't care if anyone even brings gifts to my wedding. Your voluntary, unstressed and happy presense alone is a far, far better gift than I could ever hope for, or could ever deserve.

Of course, there's the other economics consideration. Given that the venues for weddings cost money, there is a purpose in these sorts of calculations, to achieve a not so unfavourable outcome in the bookkeeping. So one would constantly look at the balance-and-loss sheet and hope for only a slight loss, if not to break even. I really don't like this sort of thing. It's a wedding!, not a 'my friends should help me cover my losses' activity. But when all is said and done, traditions still matter to a large extent (maybe the article HuiChieh points out can save me lol) I wish Cowboy will eventually find the information he needs and plan the perfect wedding!

Friday, July 22, 2005

BlogConII@Hideout And Related 感想

So there was a much smaller con at Hideout last night. Managed to get two Kilkennys at half price, haven't had that for around three years, so that's good. But before that, met my ex-gf in the afternoon before wandering into a library that's along the way and deciding to pick up a book on the I Ching but managed to find two instead (fascinating stuff, I should talk about it in a few days.) Went to Macs to get some sidedish, reading the books, and waiting for Angela and later Stephanie... Hideout is amazingly tiny (compared to the pictures), but it's the perfect small place. But the end of the night, it was filled with bloggers, otherwise ordinary people who've graciously decided to write and share their wisdom and themselves on the Internets. Met Tym and her husband Terse. Now Tym is one blogger that I distinctively remember because I had stumbled onto her gripes page (back then in 2000 it probably wasn't called blogs) and read the whole thing until 3 in the morning. So that's pretty surreal to meet the author! Also met RamblingAlcoholic, MailOrderBride. Other folks were were there included YewJin and friend, La Idler, YanYing, Angela (longgg hair wahahaa! :)), Stephanie, Yuhui, Eddy, Kelly, Chin, AirHole, BigFStarStarStar, UrbanMaleBitch, mrbrown, miyagi and SarongPartyGirl who arrived just as we were leaving... I've been involved with another online tech community, the SG Palm Users' Group, and I learnt early on that the tech/PDA business is really just a sideshow, a nice excuse, for the actually objective of networking, and that was one approach I adopted in managing the forums. So I think early on, the folks behind SPUG really encouraged online people to meet offline both for the advancement of the community (it's far less likely for forum flamewars to occur if folks actually met), and to increase the perception of 'reality' (as compared to anonymous nicks). This in turns encourages emotional investment (in the sense that thoughtful people who contribute their expertise know that there're other clever people whom they've actually met listening to them.) The value-add lies, not just the technical stuff behind the initial raison d'etre, but the things that might result from this. For example, there have been two couples who're married partly due to SPUG related opportunities (I myself met my ex-gf from the SPUG IRC.) The local blogsphere is also on a similar path, as it should be. But there's a difference: the main activity of blogging isn't a sideshow, it's part of the actual show! Bloggers who go for meetups already have done one thing: mass disclosures of their personal lives. Which is what I sense (maybe it's just me), a feeling of respect and honour among thieves that fills the air at Hideout. Or maybe, it's just because I'm a little drunk... So I think this development bodes well for the blogging community. For a start, the amount of free material and wisdom to be had is just quite extraordinary. I've just had a glimpse of RamblingAlcoholic's stuff... I know I'll finish reading his entire blog in the next few days LOL PS. The lovely cover version of Sade's Your Love Is King is actually not done by Guy Sebastien but by Will Young, found in the soundtrack of Bridget Jones...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blog Terrorism: Xiaxue Hacked

So anyway, the terrible news today was that Xiaxue's blog was hacked and entries and thousands of her email were deleted from her email account. Now, was also hacked yesterday, but somehow I don't feel much sympathy for them. But Xiaxue's different. There's so much material inside, in the form of personal diaries, that it's a personal space (and not merely a commercial website.) Even worse was that last Saturday, she explained at the library one reason why she started her blog was because the girlfriend of her old boyfriend threw away her paper diary. So by putting up her stuff online, no one would throw that away. According to CowboyCaleb, the bad guy will be caught. I'm researching how to backup blogspot entries, it doesn't seem entirely straightforward. The default instructions for doing Blogger backups aren't good enough; some variables need to be tweaked further... Update (!): Rather than use the default backup template that seems to be missing some things, I'm using the following. Substitude "[","]" with "<", ">". Have fun with template tags! Where's MyBloggerSQL when you need it?!
[Blogger] TITLE: [$BlogItemTitle$] [BlogDateHeader] DATE: [$BlogDateHeaderDate$] TIME: [$BlogItemDateTime$] [/BlogDateHeader] ----- BODY: [$BlogItemBody$] -------- [BlogItemCommentsEnabled] [BlogItemComments] COMMENT-AUTHOR:[$BlogCommentAuthor$] COMMENT-DATE:[$BlogCommentDateTime$] COMMENT-BODY:[$BlogCommentBody$] -------- [/BlogItemComments] [/BlogItemCommentsEnabled] [/Blogger]
Update (!!): Another blog, WonkyTong, was hacked yesterday, using the blogger's own computer, by her colleague. Truly bizarre and criminal. I was just saying to Angela, these folks probably don't feel a thing, there's no empathy...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Singapore I Want

Over at the SPUG Forums, there's an interesting thread going on titled The Singapore I Want. I said,
The Singapore I want: Is a Singapore where all the folks can move out the MRT before the folks outside start to walk in.
For some reason, I believe that if we can do this, Singapore would be an entirely different place compared to now. Anyway, I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Immediately increase your quality of life by intentionally holding yourself back from going into the train when others are rushing in. Then, slowly stroll in. I've always tried this when it's feasible to do so, and the feeling's heavenly...

Monday, July 18, 2005

NKF Peanuts Abhor A Vacuum

Why is it not a complete surprise to me that someone's wife has now stepped into the fray? Mrs Lee Hsien Loong (Prime Minister's wife) has just written a letter "Charity still saving lives and still needs support" and it takes up almost half the ST Forums page today.
On the issue of CEO pay, I believe that even charities ought to be managed professionally. How else can we extend high-quality and impactful services, including specialist educational and therapy support, to those in need? After all, we do not expect CEOs of publicly funded hospitals to be poorly paid, do we?... I would not begrudge Mr Durai proper and well-earned compensation and bonus. He probably earned less than what he would have earned if he had continued in his profession as a lawyer... Yes, some of the things that Mr Durai has allegedly done rather raise a questioning eyebrow or two. Some may have crossed the line of proper conduct in respect of conflicts of interest as well. If so, they should be corrected... Many drops an ocean make, and many hands will lighten the load. On my part, I will continue to donate to the NKF and other favourite charities."
Full article here. I think essentially, what Mrs Lee is arguing for is not much different from what Mrs Goh is talking about too. But now it's put in a much nicer way and is more convincing. My hats off to the behind the scenes people. Very well done...:) More from SingaporeAngle, HeavenlySword, SingaporeInk. PS. The idiom isn't exactly correct when applied to peanuts. Most peanuts like vacuum. That's how the peanut pack keeps it shape and its freshness. But when one cuts the packaging, all the peanuts fall to the bottom because air has gone inside... From TalkingCock

Saturday, July 16, 2005 BlogCon: ST Reporters Got Tired And Yawned

Today (Saturday) is the event to be held at NTUC at the Esplanade. I'll be helping out at the event, so see you there! Sunday Update (!): When I saw this in this morning's papers, I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD! Click picture for bigger picture. I believe I know what the reporters are talking about. At the event (I was the guy ferrying the microphone around), I was standing next to one Chinese blogger/明日 editor and a reporter approached him to request an interview. He then asked the blogger if he had a blog, and the blogger said 'no'. No?! Wahahaaa... He's only saying 'no' because he didn't want to give you a quote to run with, that's why! I wonder how many people said 'no' or were reticent to give comments when asked the same question. No wonder it's such a big YAWN for the ST reporters and the bloggers seemed so 'guarded'! Which reminded me of...
"I won't be your monkey." ~Daily Show's comedian Jon Stewart, responding to his hosts on CNN's Crossfire who suggested he wasn't as funny as they thought he'd be.
So anyway, in the morning, fellow volunteer Angela and I went to Woodlands library to attend the morning session where Xiaxue (Falling Snow), mrbrown and Preetam were speaking. I wanted to attend as she's the most popular local blogger and also due to the fact that she mentioned 'editorial integrity' in big, bold letters in one of her recent entries. Any media person who believes in these two words gets my vote LOL. A third reason was because the target audience of her speech were parents and teachers, and I was most intrigued to see what would happen if this demographic of people actually went to her blog and read what she was writing! Anyway, I thought Xiaxue did well in her speech, and already has made at least one parent understand the need to let the kids blog freely. All in all, I think she's a nice person, has that 'X' factor, and she's been very kind to Angela before... Too bad there wasn't enough time to get more indepth into her presentation topic, but good stuff from hers and mrbrown's presentation... We were late for the blogcon and left before the third presentation from Preetam... There were about 15 volunteers at the afternoon session at the NTUC club next to the Esplanade. Han has the pictures; I'm in picture number four talking with Gabriel. It was electrifying to touch his rebonded hair (with permission, of course.) It's really very smooth and straight. You should try it sometime. The legal panel was good. My only regret was that it was too short, which wasn't really anybody's fault. I'd have no problem listening to legal interpretations of blogging for hours on end hehe... I thought Daniel the lawyer was pretty objective in his explanations, and didn't really take the 'oh you better don't blog sensitive things' sort of scare-people advice. He mentioned the spirit behind the defamation laws, and what possibly might constitute defamation and what might not. I managed to squeeze in a question for them about disclaimers, and Daniel's opinion was that disclaimers alone are not a good defense if the intent to defame (or basically to go really overboard) is apparent to reasonably intelligent people. Personally, I still think when all has been said, the grey areas regarding interpretations is just so wide that it's very difficult to pin down exactly whether a certain piece is defamatory or not. The session on blog technology was useful for me as well. I'm really not into RSS, but maybe I should consider implementing/using it. Again, the session could have been longer, but it's very difficult to please everyone since everyone's expertise and proficiencies were different. Overall, I thought the event went as well as I thought it would, given that this was the first time that a conference like this has been organised, and having it run like it did was no mean feat. A few of us volunteers later went to Marina Square to have some dinner before coming back for the free drinks; Angela, Stephanie, Yan Ying and Yuhui. One thing about the NTUC club is that the service is very good. La Idler later told us that's probably because they didn't have much business and were probably very happy that they even had customers. At 11.30pm, not a single person had started dancing at the dance floor. Poor DJ, play techno music, yet no one wanted to dance. Yuhui has a longer writeup. Other people I met included Chin, Eddy, Kelly, YewJin, MercerMachine... Hopefully we'll have this again next year. I think mrbrown and miyagi are quite excellent moderating panel discussions. mrbrown can really talk to a newbie about technology, as seen during the morning session. These guys have no airs about them, and were very nice... In the meantime, I guess regular drinking sessions at Hideout isn't a bad idea at all hehe... PS. I want to take this paragraph to talk about Kenny Sia who also flew first class from Malaysia to attend the blog. Kenny, you remind me of the chimpanzees at the Singapore zoo during the 'pay money to take a photo with the monkey. Peanuts not provided' attraction! Lots of people wanted to take pictures with him, he just seems like a photo prop and was very patient with everyone. If only he got a dollar from each person... Yeah, and I also saw SPG who has written quite a long entry. Me, Eddy and Kelly. Angela and I. Me and _unidentifiedhotbabe_ . My attempt to have the same face colour as Guan Yu has been quite successful! Update (!!): Tym has a much better explanation for the big yawn. As usual, the MSM doesn't quite get it. :) More from RamblingLibrarian, an angry Anthony, Mr. Wang, the Associated Press (whose reporter didn't yawn), Cowboy Caleb who reminds the journalists that the Blogcon wasn't meant to be a Mardi Gras, LindaChia who probably saw the same reporter (she calls him the bugger from Sunday Times) I mentioned in the beginning, and Airhole who didn't entertain a reporter's request for photos. More trackbacks from . Update (!!!): Confirmed by TinkerTailor in LindaChia's entry, the photo taken by Postmaster-General of the reporter I mentioned in the beginning of this entry is Shawn Woo, one of the reporters who wrote the story. Finally, checks and balances, right of reply, say one wrong thing and you're in trouble! modus operandi of blog journalism's answer to MSM LOL! Update (!V): Tuesday's supplement which focused on the bloggers at the blogcon was much, much better. More from .

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

NKF Saga: A Watershed In Local Court Case Reporting!

他中计了! (Please don't sue me, my personal unreliable opinion only.) NKF CEO finds himself A Few Good Mened after he's forced to reveal his salary ($25,000 a month + 12 months bonus = $600,000 a year) during cross examination in the latest interesting defamation case of the National Kidney Foundation against the Straits Times' owners. The NKF "is taking issue with a Straits Times article by senior correspondent Susan Long published on April 19 last year, which stated that a gold-plated tap had been installed and later replaced in the private bathroom in Mr Durai's office suite." So yeah, Mr Durai has forgotten that his opponent is a media empire, they naturally control how the news is reported. Secondly, he has enough skeletons in his own closet to warrant letting the matter rest. But no, he has successfully sued two people who said he traveled on first class in 1998, and won the court cases. And he wants to continue this winning streak by suing the newspaper. Now, as things stand, maybe Durai's last resort defense is going to be this: if we don't pay good people well, there'd be corruption! If this really happens, it'd be too funny, for it's MM Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh who is going to counter this argument LOL Anyway, another interesting thing is the way this news story is reported. Obviously, since the newspaper is the defendant in the case brought on by the NKF, they decide to be as objective as possible, including printing almost an entire page of verbatim court statements. Isn't this just wonderful? Let's hope that other defamation suits can result in similar treatments in the future, especially the more 'interesting ones'...;) So the next thing people are going to wonder is how come the Board (according to Durai) approved of him travelling in First class when he's only supposed to travel Business. (His explanation was that he used the same monies for SIA Business to exchange for First class in other airlines.) A quick check reveals that Mrs Goh CT is the patron of NKF (she walked out halfway through the proceedings), and also Prof. Chia, my favourite ACS principal! I don't think they were so unaware of these sorts of ethical slippery slopes to allow for such things to happen. Maybe there's yet more to come. Now lets hope that with more disclosures and increased transparency, the money would go to the folks who need it more... More from . Update (!): The NKF has dropped the untenable suit at the end of day two... Update (!!): In day two of the trial, more was revealed, including the underestimation of its reserves to last for 3 years (instead of 30-40 years), the overestimation of the number of patients it's helping by about...uh... 50% (if I'm interpreting it correctly), revelations of conflicts of interest with another member of the Board, and the access to a personal Benz for him and his wife (not really of material importance but good cannon fodder for Singh nonetheless!) Ms Goh Chok Tong (wife of ex Prime Minister and current Senior Minister) has been photographed together with Durai at the end of the trial. I'm still trying to understand what the pictures editor was thinking when he or she chose this particular justaposition of the two persons... (Click on the picture to see bigger version.)
"She [Mrs. Goh] said it did not make sense to her to attack an organisation which helped the sick. All the NKF had wanted from The Straits Times was a retraction, she said, but the case had been extended to question NKF's transparency and 'expensive things'. 'Why make a fuss out of it?' she asked. She said she would continue as patron, and added: 'I have complete trust in the NKF and Mr Durai.' Asked if Mr Durai's annual salary and bonuses were 'excessive', she replied: 'For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, $600,000 is peanuts as it has a few hundred millions in reserves.'
I think even if that was what she really felt, this is turning very quickly into profoundly disastrous PR, and not just for Durai. I wonder what the real story behind all this is... Anyway, I can't believe I'm linking to such a vulgarious blog, but Rockson's analysis is simply brilliant (adult material). (I really like the airline seats part.) Update (!!!): The entire Board, the CEO and the Patron has stepped down. I wrote in the forums yesterday that I'd have prefered the CEO to hang around a little longer.
I don't agree that Durai should resign at this point in time. He ought to remain as CEO for as long as it's beneficial for the national consciousness to debate the issues that has surfaced: transparency, high pay, peanuts, ivory tower viewpoints, entitlements etc. This does not just pertain to this particular charity organisation, but should also touch on the rest of the national governing machinery. (I'm sure expensive things are not only found in NKF office.) If Durai is gone, we'd quickly forget about the rest of the related issues... I think the only way to salvage 'image' is to have the organisation say something like "we regret this...Durai was wrong...we need to reexamine our policies", but so far, nothing of that sort has come out. This suggests to me that the folks with the organisation still sincerely believe that there's nothing wrong with what there're doing so far. The ends justifies the means. There are strong arguments to justify this point, depending on what worldview one subscribes to. The NKF managament will continue to think this way unless there are clear indications of 'spoilt votes' in the upcoming shows. If Durai goes, people would say "ok lah, he's gone, but the patients still need our help, this is the time to continue supporting the NKF, so I'm going to call the number, maybe can win a car also."... I don't think Singaporeans would stop giving if NKF can't salvage its image; there are alternative places to contribute. I just think this is an excellent opportunity to open up the debate. The idea of winning the car as a final end to me is as, or more, insidious to the national fabric and cohesiveness than theatrics concerning gold taps, all things considered...
Luckily, I don't think Singaporeans are letting the matter rest so soon. I dare say some sort of psychological barrier has been broken both in the population as well as the folks in the Straits Times. Thursday's forum page dealth entirely with the saga, most expressing 'strong views'. The first forum letter with the title "Flabbergasted, appalled, disgusted by revelations" ended with the challenge "Am I going to be sued now, NKF, for speaking my mind?" For the first time ever, forum letters seem to have become adversarial, passionate, honest! Would staffers take this opportunity to break free from political correctness and ride on their new found freedom from the past few days? In Friday's Forum, Mrs "Peanuts, No Fuss" Goh was not spared as well. I think Mrs Goh was sincere in what she believed in, because that's the worldview she subscribes to. Also, the CEO and Board have not stated they did anything wrong (because so far, everything is legal). Anyway, I'd hope that in this drive for transparency in charities, other things should also be made more transparent. As someone used to say, 'where's the money?' I think it's all part of the importance of disclosure when public monies are involved. Where's the money, how much do you have, how are you going to spend it? Anyway, what saga is without a movie tie-in? Watch it now!! (via mrbrown, please don't sue, similarity to similar persons is entirely coincidental ) Update (!V): More reactions from the local blogsphere; Mr Wang (court room proceedings tutorial, auditing charities and more from the Act, bits and pieces), HuiChieh (links this saga back to the Xiaxue Doctrine, Technorati victory of NKF over the evil Karl Rove, links and a reproduction of the news article that started it all.), CEO Tan of NTUC Income talks about transparency and reveals how much he earns. And almost 7000 blog entries on this story.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Believe I'm Not Intelligent

I was just reading Adina's blog entry about a friend who's depressed he didn't do well for the exams, and as a result even begins to doubt his intelligence. I'm probably like him; I just got my results today, and they aren't good by any measure. I did get the B.Sc.; but I thought I'd do well enough to get into Honours, and that seems unlikely now unless there's a calculation error in the final tally of the marks. There is, however, a difference between Adina's friend and me. I no longer doubt my intelligence. I'm pretty sure by now that I am not intelligent. I had the impression (and still do) that I'd done quite well for the stats module, but the reality is that it's as bad as ever. I really have no explanation for this, and it is due to this that I can now quite confidently say that I am not intelligent in at least one thing, the ability to consistently and knowingly produce a favourable outcome in exams. Either I do not know myself, or the enemy, or both. For the other module, I'm short of two marks to get a distinction. If I for some reason got two marks more, I just might feel a lot more intelligent. I spent a few years in NUS computer engineering before dropping out and going to Australia to study a completely different field, doing psychology. In my first semester at NUS, I flunked three subjects. To the uninitiated, this might seem to require extraordinary intelligence, but trust me, it doesn't! You just need to be crazily lazy and brave! Anyway, I think it's seriously abnormal, and I'm not too sure how I survived that period of time. That experience essentially changed me. It was emotionally draining, frightening and absolutely traumatic. And also, I gradually became a left-wing person. It's like a thorough cleansing process. I personally do not recommend this to anybody. There is a reason why kids jump from the top of buildings when they get less than desirable grades, and I know that there are enough justifications for this sort of behaviour given the right set of social conditions and individual push factors. Anyway, to get rid of the demons of the past is not an easy process, but I believe I've done quite well in my time in Australia, all things considered, in that regard. Adina talks about the tendency of the system to 'overlook people who don't seem to perform in school'. That's probably me. But I also think that if one scraps the current system (which is really a tradition that has existed for over 2000 years from the time of Imperial exams in Confucius' China and is what makes Chinese people, Chinese), what does one replace it with? Or what I think is a little similar to what Hui Chieh asks in the last sentence of this entry, what sorts of things should determine/quantify our abilities? For a long while now, I've felt the idea of separating people according to a mutually agreed set of criteria (such as exam results) is not really an exercise to determine good allocation of jobs to different people, but a more urgent necessity to justify picking one person and rejecting another. This is just a realistic situation in a supply and demand market. Some people use a more 'holistic tools' to measure ability, like if you've a Starfleet cadet, you'd probably have to go through the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru simulator. However, all we have are current technologies and methodologies. But sometimes, winners succeed despite what they hear about their abilities. Just look at the alumni of college dropouts. (Also not recommended for the faint hearted!) Maybe they are more intelligent in other areas, as Wang shows us... Coming back to my intelligence and ability, or the lack thereof, I think there are some who think I'm intelligent in other ways. They may well be right, to a certain extent. In the meantime, I'm still not sure what went wrong. Without the ability to control the outcome of the evaluation process, I don't see a way to get better in the future. If this continues, I won't be able to become more intelligent in this particular area. Hopefully my prof would give me some leads soon. Abide with me... Update (!): The wacky Blinkymummy has related thoughts on this issue...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

MIT Blog Survey

Go and participate! The presentation of the results is quite fun to watch...
"This is a general social survey of the greater weblog community being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Our goal is to help understand the way that weblogs are affecting the way we communicate with each other. Specifically we are interested in issues of demographics, communication behaviors, experience with weblogs and other technology, and the meaning of various types of social links within the blogosphere. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete, and we are asking anyone with a weblog to participate. The larger the sample of individuals we can get, the better our picture of the community will be."
Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Love Triangle Between Three Nations

I haven't intentionally watched a Chinese drama serial on TV in over 20 years, so to make up for lost time, I'm now slogging through this mega set of 28 DVDs, 84 40-minutes episodes of "Love Triangle Between Three Nations" (三国演义). I now have a better idea of why the Chinese people are unparalleled in their ability to think up the most awesome plots to trick others; it's totally thinking out of the Chinese takeaway box. I reckon it's so much a part of the culture, a 2000-year history that contains such interesting tales of heroes and intriguing battle strategies that folks live their lives or act partly in relation to these ancient stories. I'm halfway through the DVDs, just finished the Battle of Red Cliffs (赤壁之战) in which the insanely clever master tactician Kong Ming knows that they will be able to trap their enemy Cao Cao, but commands the red faced general Guan Yu to stop him, knowing that Guan Yu will let him off because Cao Cao will appeal to his emotions by citing his past kindness towards Guan Yu. Kong Ming wants to let Cao Cao go because he still needs him to be alive as part of his plan. My shocking reaction was: Has Bush read Triangle before? Where on earth is Bin Laden?! Anyway, I'm wondering if there are Western stories of a similar nature. I haven't read The Iliad, maybe it also has these sorts of political, military, ridiculously ingenious plans and plots, too?

London Weeping

When I first heard the news on TV, one thing that came to my mind was: can Singapore handle something of this magnitude? I guess I'm resigned to the idea that terrorist acts will happen anywhere in the world; it will happen, if not in London, then elsewhere. The victims were innocent civilians who for no particular reason were at the wrong place at the wrong time. The bad guys think they have justification for their actions, but they do not. They are just plain cold-blooded murderers. On a related note, I think it's easy to forget that we're also collectively responsible for a different kind of terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere. The world is already such a messed up place; we don't need more violence to make things even worse. Then again, things are not always that simplistic. For the friends and families of the victims, no explanation would be adequate to make sense of things...

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Google Earth: View Of The Gods

I've just downloaded Google Earth, and this program is absolutely stunning! I once tried to collect satellite images to make scenery for Microsoft Flight Simulator, it took so long just to find the relevant authorities/service providers that possess the images, then searching for relevant pictures, cutting and pasting one small piece of map one by one... In contrast, Google's just so bloody intuitive! Here's my almost daily cycling route when I was in Perth... Here's Singapore; this particular picture is pretty old. I remember seeing this from NUS' satellite pictures website. Hopefully the next time the LandSat satellite passes over, it won't be a cumulus day... I'm convinced this is the natural progression for the Flight Simulator, for e.g., probably we'll see this in ten years' time. Real time updates from the web. It's not only x and y axis, it includes height information as well; so one can pan and tilt the maps up and down. The pictures below of Hoover Dam near Las Vegas are panned and rotated. Can't wait to see what applications folks come out with. Imagine, a 3D bus guide! The possibilities are really endless...

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Gay Couples: Methodists Move Progressively Forward

I've just been reading some news on the Internets that the Methodist church has endorsed gay marriage. This was incorrectly reported, the recommendations from last week's Methodist Conference 2005 was more like:
35. Guidance should be published on how to respond to requests to conduct prayers or services of blessing for same-sex couples, particularly in the light of recent legislation on civil partnerships.
This was a follow-up to the Conference two years ago that held that:
Conference recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church. Conference calls on the Methodist people to begin a pilgrimage of faith to combat repression and discrimination, to work for justice and human rights and to give dignity and worth to people whatever their sexuality.
The report is found here. I didn't know the Methodists had started exploring the issue 10 years ago (background info included in the report.) So that's good to know. Meanwhile yesterday, the protesting protestant Church of Christ has gone forward and endorsed full marriage rights for all, no matter what their genders are. UCC's general minister and president Rev. John H. Thomas prayed...
"“Lord Jesus...We give thanks for your presence, especially here this morning. We have felt your warm embrace, stilling us as we tremble with joy, with hope, with fear, with disappointment...Let us use our hands not to clap, but to wipe away every tear..." via here.
Amen to that.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Writing Letters To The Editor

An anonymous person commented yesterday on my entry on PCK...
Hi, I was wondering why bloggers like yourself do not write to the forum of ST. For example, your take on SM Goh's comments brought out a very important point on Singapore society's attitude today. Does not writing in have anything to do with heavy editing on ST's part?
I have at times suggested to other bloggers that they might want to consider writing letters to the Editor (LTE) after reading their thoughtful entries. However, I have trouble following my own advice LOL. First, I don't think I'm able to write in the style that has a high chance of success in getting published. Second, do I want to be published? The commenter mentions 'heavy editing'. I don't think the ST does heavy editing all the time. And even if they edit a little bit here and there, problems can still arise. That is enough to make some cringe and hesitate in submitting letters. I'm guessing there're probably two things that the Forum Editor does. First, he or she selects articles for consideration, or KIV them so that it goes into a forthcoming day's 'theme', then the letters with similar theme gets published. Also in this process, those letters that are deemed 'unacceptable' for public consumption due to political or other pressures are being discarded. I can't sleep at night if I'm in that position. It is a thankless job. The second thing that happens is when a letter is accepted for publication, the editing starts. There's nothing wrong with editing for things like grammatical errors and tweaking awkward sentence structuring. It's not just the censoring, per se, it's the selective pruning of words to 'tone it down' that many would probably find unacceptable. What's worse is if the original message is changed in a subtle manner that doesn't bring out the original intent of the author. There are bloggers who write to the newspaper. My friend Vivien's very first LTE was published. You can see exactly how the original became the published version. It's not really 'heavy editing', but one is left with a sense of helplessness: how is my LTE going to turn out?! Worse, what happens if the Editor misinterprets what I'm really saying? This point is a concern for some because the circulation of the newspaper is 1.23 million. One wrong corrected word, one inappropriately tweaked sentence, and the public is your judge and executor. There's no way to defend yourself because one hardly has the right of reply in the context of the ST Forum. In the meantime, if I think I have something to say that might be published with little risk to myself, I might just do an LTE. For the time being though, I'll continue to blog. First, I have complete editorial control. Second, others have the chance to counter my arguments, and I in turn can counter-counter. I'm also able to update my original arguments as a result of these exchanges. It's a remarkable fluid and efficient platform for discussing things. This cannot happen in the newspaper because others' opinions also need to survive the editorial process first before they have the chance to get published! Oh BTW, talking about my PCK post that mentions Robin, in case Robin is reading this, I'd still like to have tea with you! I won't be surprised if you got misquoted or misconstrued in a certain fashion... therein lies the risk in talking to the press, in whatever shape or for[u]m...

Friday, July 1, 2005

Airbus A320 Cockpit Pictures!

So while everyone was moving slowing out of the parked aircraft at Singapore's Changi Airport, I noticed a kid walking into a cockpit. What was he doing there?! Post 9-11, it's totally impossible to ask for permission for a tour of the cockpit while the aircraft was in flight. But what about if the flight was already over? I never considered that scenario, did the kid know something I didn't? Valuair has a more informal and carefree attitude towards life, could they possible accommodate to the most minute request in the entire world and allow someone to waltz into a cockpit for a glimpse of heaven? So I waited around while everyone alighted, and then walked to the front and asked the stewardess if I could go into the cockpit. She turned and asked the Singaporean co-pilot, whom I thought was an angel; he was so friendly and said sure, go ahead! So I went in and it was fantastic, with all the glowing gauges and knobs... I decided to push my luck because I had already had an inch and wanted a foot more. I asked whether I could take pictures. He didn't have a problem with that, but out of respect for the French captain, he asked his superior. The French man was still sorting out his Jeppesen charts, and casually agreed. So I got my foot. I didn't dare sit at the empty copilot's seat because it wouldn't be right. I was but a computer simulator turbo prop student, this is a real jet aircraft! I trembled in fear whilst in this temple of aviation, and hence some of the pictures are quite blurry. I told the copilot that I play the computer simulator (although that's technically incorrect since I don't know how to fly a jet with the computer yet), and he said yeah, this is just like the simulator. I guess he's probably right, since this aircraft, an Airbus A320, is flown-by-wire where electrical signals and not mechanical effort is sent to the flying surfaces. The pilot was probably quite amused as I bid him farewell...I'm going to try my luck in this manner from now on. Maybe I'll even dare sit in the right-hand co-pilot seat next time... Is that bad manners? Is this against FAA regulations?!

I Am A Tourist

So take, take me home Cos I don'’t remember... ~Phil Collins/Take Me Home
So I've just come back from Perth. There're some rumours floating around that foreigners are treated better than locals, so I'm going to test this idea by imagining I'm a tourist. Of course, all tourists pick up tourist brochures. So there's a new Visitors' Centre at the airport and it's beautifully decorated with lots of things for folks to pick up. I picked up this funny bit. Now what I'd like to know is: what on earth is the true Merlion? What do the fakes look like? LOL The Merlion scares me, especially with the green laser light coming out of its eyes. And the magical fountain laser show, is it still showing nowadays? Uniquely Embarrassingly Singapore. The NEWater brochure is pretty cool too. There're descriptions of the various water treatment processes including very useful analogies of the filter being the size of tennis balls, water molecules the size of ping pong balls, chemical contaminants the size of soccer balls, and viruses the size of trucks. But nowhere in the brochure does it say what the source of NEWater really is. Does anyone know? Maybe I'll visit the NEWater Visitor Centre to find out more...