Friday, December 29, 2006

The Corelation Between Money Spent and Exam Grades

When I recieved my NUS exam results a few days ago, I was quite stymied by the contradictory grades. Allow me to summarise with a table of the results, as compared to a relevant factor.

ModuleGrade$ Spent

*Money treating project mate to lunch when doing project at my home.

The table data shows clearly that the more money you spend on a module, the worse your grades! When I first made this discovery, I could hardly believe it. However, some thinking, I realised that there was indeed some basis for this phenomenon!

First, most of the money spent on the modules went to buying textbooks and other reference materials. We can establish that textbooks and reference materials contain lots of knowledge. Then, we know that Knowledge is Power. Hence, textbooks and reference materials contain lots of power. However, Power Corrupts! Hence, textbooks and reference materials corrupt! Ah! So that is why more money spent on a module actually decreases the grade in that module!

The lesson here is obvious. To ensure that your grades are good, please do not spend any money buying reference materials! For example, a Mr OZ, who did not spend any money buying any textbooks, scored well for the modules he did not spend any money on. I am sure you can find other examples of such well-scoring misers cheapskates financially prudent students.

Furthermore, by not buying any exhorbitantly priced reference materials (published by the lecturers), you will cripple the economic livelihood of said lecturers. Hence, they will be forced to survive by other means, such as selling TYS, selling exam scripts, busking by playing violins, matchmaking students etc.

In short, Say No to Spending Money!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Quran Oath Controversy

I was alerted to the Quran Oath Controversy after tuning in to the BBC. For those without the time or the patience to read through wikipedia article, allow me to give a short summary. A muslim, Keith Ellison, was recently elected to the US Congress. However, he decided to take his oath of office upon the Quran rather than the Holy Bible. This act drew criticism from certain personalities, first Dennis Prager, and more recently Representative Virgil Goode. Both believe that the Holy Bible should be used for all swearing in ceremonies.

Speaking as an outsider to American society, I find this act of criticism somewhat xenophobic and irrational. In particular, I would seriously question swearing all officeholders, regardless of religion, on the Holy Bible.

Consider this. The oath of office acts as a pledge of loyality to the nation. Now, what is the role of the holy book (any holy book) in this act? Quite simply, the book acts as a symbol, and as a guarantee, of the stregth of the pledge. When people swear upon their holy book, they are also making a vow upon their particular religion.

Now, ask yourself this. What would you make of a pledge made upon a telephone book? Or one made upon a roll of toilet paper? One would be quick to dismiss such pledges, because (barring exceptional circumstances) neither a telephone book nor a roll of toilet paper would hold much significance to the pledger. Similarly, a pledge made upon a holy book which you do not suscribe to bears little weight. Considering this, I find it absurd that some americans would want the Holy Bible to be made as the only item to be used during swearing in ceremonies. It is as if they desire for empty pledges to be made. I would much rather prefer for my representative (if I could elect one, but that is besides the point) to make a truthful pldege which would neither against his beliefs nor be vacuously empty.

For more information on this controversy, you might want to visit the wikipedia entry or this article, which discusses the latest turn in events.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Letter about the Wifi Mooching Case

I was extremely interested by a letter in the Straits Times Forum. The letter referenced the Wifi Mooching case, in which a youth was found guilty of tapping illegally into a neighbour's wireless internet (this is known as mooching).

Apparently, many people do not agree with the sentence, or even the basic point of whether this was a crime in the first place. Two main arguments were raised to support the notion that this was not a crime. The first is that the act of mooching, at least in this particular incident, did not have any significant or discernable effect on the 'victim', since the youth was only engaging in casual surfing which consumed only a modicum of bandwidth. If we are to judge a crime based on the severity of the crime, then this clearly would only amount to a very minor infraction at best.

The second argument is the failure of the 'victim' in securing his Wifi connection. In the words of the letter writer,
Take the analogy of two adjacent landed houses. One owner sets up a lawn sprinkler which sprays over the hedge into the neighbour's yard. The neighbour captures the runoff and uses it to water his plants. Is he 'stealing' water? Who is to blame here? Is there a crime, and who is the victim?
I believe the second argument is flawed. If someone forgets to lock the door to his house, is it then justified to take items from that house? Even if that someone were to leave his front door wide open, this does not allow us to misappropiate anything. At best, we can only reprimand the 'victim' for his negligence or even his stupidity, but this does not obscure the fact that a crime was committed.

Now, let us return to the first argument. Again, I believe that this argument is problematic. The problem lies in the false relation between harm and crime. Just because an action has no discernable effect on the victim does not mean that a crime has not been committed. Consider the following example: Each day, before you pick up your mail, I, out of pure curiosity, read through your mail and seal it such that you would not notice any intrusion. Given that I do not misuse any information thus learned, and furthermore behave as if nothing had happened, you would never come to learn of this nor be disadvantaged in any real or physical way. Would this then justify my reading of your mail, and thus the invasion of your privacy? If the answer is no, then the question is, what exactly is the harm done?

I would argue that Wifi leeching is at least morally wrong, not neccessarily because it 'harms' anyone, but because it reflects a mindset which is undesirable. The idea that it is acceptable to take anything, at no cost to oneself, is dangerous, even if taking the item cost others little. It is the same kind of selfish mindset which encourages, among other acts, software and media piracy. Surely, this mindset should be discouraged.

Of course, I would question whether we should make a crime out of what is merely morally wrong, or whether we should make it a crime only to discourage selfish behaviour. In this respect, I believe I am aligned with the critics, because if elements of harm are absent, then the crime itself should only be lightly punished.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Compulsory HIV tests for couples

Recently, I've been listening to World, Have Your Say on the BBC World Service. The programme can best be described as a global discussion forum for news. I was particularly interested in what was discussed on Wednesday's programme, which was the plan by an Indian state for compulsory HIV tests before marriage. This plan intends to make it compulsory for couples to undergo HIV tests before any marriage can be registered. This, along with other measures, is intended to reduce HIV rates in the state. More details about this news can be found on BBC's website here.

Listening in to the programme, I found that there were two general views on this plan. The first view expressed support for the plan, citing the benefit towards combating the spread of HIV. The second view, which appeared to be more biased towards Western thinking, criticized the plan on issues such as invasion of privacy and loss of freedom. The comments can be accessed here.

While I describe myself as a (classical) liberal thinker, I find myself unable to accept most of the objections raised against the plan. First, consider the objection of privacy invasion. Admittedly, we would not like for our entire health history to be made available to the general public. However, this ignores two considerations which are vital to the issue. The first consideration is that of communicable and highly infectious diseases. If someone were to carry a highly dangerous and infectious disease, such as Ebola or SARS, and chooses to hide the knowledge of his disease, citing privacy as a reason, the outcomes are clearly disasterous. It is sometimes neccessary for everyone to lose a little privacy for everyone's best interests. This consideration is highly relevant to the issue of compulsory HIV testing, because HIV is a pandemic.

The second consideration takes marriage into context. I would seriously question the character of a person who hides a disease as grave as HIV from his or her spouse. Such malice goes against the conception of marriage itself, which should be that one not harm one's spouse. Furthermore, another belief regarding marriage is that couples should be able to share much between themselves.

By similar arguments, we can dismiss the objection that these measures are too draconian. While I admit that forcing people to undergo medical tests seems unreasonable, we must remember that this plan does not does not really curtail a servere reduction in personal rights and freedom. Firstly, this compulsory testing is not frequent, and most people would only be required to undergo one test. Furthermore, the test itself is not for trivial or meaningless reasons. Hence, while the idea of compulsory tests seems unpalatable, it is actually quite reasonable. Still, I would agree that this opens some ground for a slippery slope, but with care, this should be avoidable.

In short, I believe that the plan is sound, at least on moral grounds. However, this judgement is only applicable to this particular social context. I have serious doubts whether this plan can be applied to other nations, especiallly Western states. The benefit in reducing HIV rates hardly seems worth the loss in social liberties in those states, considering the lower rates of HIV there. Furthermore, the relative wealth of the West allows for other methods to be used. In other words, the medicine must match the patient.

Monday, December 18, 2006

School Pocket Money Fund Ad

By now, everyone must have seen the ad for the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. The ad itself is simple, comprising of a report card of an underprivileged student. What interests me, however, is the possible subtext of the ad itself.

There can be little doubt that the reported grades are good, since all but one of the subjects scored at least an 'A'. However, this itself draws attention to that one odd subject. Why was there a 'B' grade in the report? Would that not diminish the persuasiveness of the ad itself?

I have a possible explanation. A report card comprising of all A's would not be too convincing or credible, or worse, might reek of the elitism which we all are wary of. The 'B' grade acts to make the student appear more falliable and more human, and thus, more deserving of our sympathy and aid.

Furthermore, the subject recieving the 'B' grade is Arts and Crafts, which, at least in the conventional Singaporean mindset, is not a subject of critical importance (such as English, Maths and Science). Hence, the fact that the grade is less than sterling is at least acceptable.

If we accept the last point, then we might also want to examine why the report card reflects an 'A+' grade in Malay. Is there any message hidden inside this 'A+'? My first thought would be that this is a stereotype of Malay students as having, at least compared to Chinese students, a high level of proficiency in their Mother Tongue. My second thought was also along racial lines. Specifically, I asked the question, why a Malay student (in the ad) rather than one of other races? My question should not be construed as a racist question, but rather, as a question of whether racial stereotypes have been used (by the ad) in order to make the ad more effective.

Since race is often a tricky subject, let me clarify my last point. Now, consider an alternative pocket money fund ad. This time, the student is not a malay, but a caucasian. Would the ad then be more or less effective? My suspicions would be that the ad is less effective, because our racial stereotypes compel us to imagine of caucasians as being well-off. Now, my question would be whether malays are stereotyped to be the reverse.

Despite my thoughts regarding the ad, I still believe that the Pocket Money Fund is a cause worthy of our attention. My belief is that giving to children yields a significant future benefit to society.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lack of Basic Maths Literacy

Apparently, some people can't grasp the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents. More interestingly, these people seem to congregate together inside the same company.

The story arose when a George Vaccaro, on discovering a phone bill which was 100 times larger times than it should have been, made a call to Customer Service. Unfortunately he ran into a bunch of innumerates.

The recording of the phone call can be found here. Alternatively, the full transcript can be found here.

After you listen to the recording or finish reading the transcript, I think you will feel some sense of utter frustration at the innumerates. It makes me feel like there should some sort of crusade against the dumb.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To know the exact hour of your death

If you were to somehow gain the knowledge of the exact hour of your death, and if that knowledge was absolutely accurate and immutable, what would you do ? Since the prediction was absolutely accurate and immutable, this prevents you from changing your time of death in any way. In such a scenario, what most people would do is probably to plan out their lives to make the most of such knowledge. I have other ideas.

The important thing to note is that the prediction (or prophecy) fixes the hour of death. It is true that one cannot live past that hour, but more importantly, one cannot die before that hour! In essence, the prophecy renders one immortal until the predicted hour of death.

Hence, if I were to gain such knowledge, I would undertake many extreme tasks which would otherwise take any human's life. I could easily beat all the survival stunts of famous magicians, such as holding my breath for months, or fasting for a year.

Of course, there are many possible pitfalls, The most important is to never participate in acts which could result in non-fatal injuries. For example, even with practical immortality, diving with hungry sharks is unadvised! The prophecy ensures that you will survive the swim, but survival does not equal immunity to harm! It is perfectly possible that you survive, but limbless. Hence, we should only choose acts which have two outcomes, death or perfect survival without any physical harm.

A major problem with this theory is that perhaps the prediction does not grant you temporary immortality, but rather, merely ensures that somehow, someone or something will happen to save you. For example, you may try to suffocate yourself with a shopping bag, but it will then be fated that someone will pass by and save you. Or, a gust of wind happens to blow the bag away before you carry out your plans.

In any case, being able to know the hour of your death is macabre, but useful.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Unquotable Quotes

Unquotable Quotes

An offshoot of my main blog (Hmm offshoot seems like something a particular villain in a particular anime would say). This blog is still somewhat alive though.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Term Break Conspiracy

I am amazed by how fast time appears to pass when it is term break. Before I knew it, it was already Thursday! This is certainly very depressing. However, because I am of a curious nature, I soon began wondering why time passes particularly quickly during the term breaks.

After much thought, I came to be aware of a number of strange events which hinted to some conspiracy. First, it was not only this particular term break which appeared to pass quicky - in fact, all known term breaks have been known to pass quickly. Second, time never passes quickly during the school term, and rather, it is quite the opposite. These two points alerted me to the truth, which I will reveal shortly.

It cannot be a coincidence that the time flies only during term break, and crawls only during the school term. Since it cannot be a coincidence, this only leaves one conclusion - that this particular oddity with time is planned and premeditated!

I postulate the following conspiracy - that the "school board" was aware of certain periods in the calendar where time would slow or speed up. Hence, with such knowledge, they planned the school term and term breaks such that they would coincide favorably with the "time oddities". This conclusion may seem hard to accept, but there is much evidence to support my conclusion.

I am certain that everyone remembers that particularly tough module where the lectures appeared to be exceptionally long (although appearing to occupy the standard duration of a lecture). This is proof that the timetable was specially planned to take advantage of the "time oddities"! The "school board", knowing that the module was tough and hence needed more time to be devoted to it, chose a timeslot where time would pass particularly slowly.

This is obviously a conspiracy ! I shall gather more evidence and expose the conspiracy !

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Paint by Numbers

Recently, I've been spending my free time doing Paint by Numbers, which is a type of logic puzzle not totally unlike Sudoku. Basically, you're given some numerical clues and using these clues you're supposed to fill in boxes. After the puzzle is complete the shaded boxes will reveal a picture. Of course, my explaination isn't really that good - for a clearer explanation check out Wikipedia's article , or better, try out some sample puzzles here.

If after trying the puzzles you discover you like it, you can signup for a free account at Griddlers Net, which has many such Paint by Numbers puzzles.

Of course, I am not to blame if you discover that your free time has somehow vanished. =)

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Tiring Meals

Why heavy meals tire people

Often, after a heavy meal, people have the tendancy to feel sleepy and tired. This has often been attributed to the blood in the body, especially the head, being drawn into the stomach to digest the food, hence making the body tired. This explaination, however, is incomplete.

The truth of the matter lies more with heat. As food is being consumed, it has to travel down the esophagus and various passages to reach the stomach. In the process, it has much contact, and thus friction, with the various passages. This friction creates a sizable amount of heat in the body.

Also, when food is being digested, the chemical reactions generate heat. Thus, consuming a meal actually generates a great deal of heat. This heat, combined with that of normal body functions, may exceed the body's capacity to remove heat, leading to the body's failure. Hence, when food is being consumed, the body's natural reaction is to lower the body's activity rate so as to reduce heat production. Thus, people may feel sleepy or tired when eating. This natural reaction is similar to a person with heatstroke fainting, as both involve slowing the body's activity rate to reduce heat production.

Thus, we should learn to eat in cooler places to avoid dozing off.

I wrote this article a few years ago for my (now defunct) website, under the section "Prevarications". I may post more articles of the same nature in the near future.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

100th Post

deMo sCoreThis is the 100th post. That is all.

No there is actually a secret message !!! Hehe.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rationality and Morality

In much of popular culture, the solely rational creature has portrayed as a malevolent and amoral force. AI, composed of pure intellect, is often depicted as trying to eliminate humanity. The sociopath, deprived of human emotion but still with mental faculties intact, murders in cold blood. It must appear, then, that to be purely rational is to be amoral, or worse, immoral.

But is this really true ? I am inclined to believe otherwise, that a purely rational being would be more moral than a normal human.

First, it must be evident that rationality is a prerequisite for morality. A non-rational creature cannot be moral nor immoral. It may be wrong to kill another sentient being, but a tiger killing a human is at best a regretable affair. This is because there must some element of concious choice before any act can be considered moral or vice versa.

If rationality is indeed required for morality, is it then the sole basis for moral behavior ? Could it be that something else is required, for example, an innate human conscience ? I doubt this.

Arguably, conscience guides us in making moral decisions. It is a built-in and instinctive sense of morality. But, precisely because it is instinctive, conscience ceases to be either a sufficent qualifier of morality or even a neccessary condition of morality. In clearer terms, a person acting solely on the basis of conscience appears to be acting morally, but is internally no different from an animal or an automaton. For the same reason, I hold that conscience is not neccessary for moral behavior, since it does not contribute to the concious moral decision process.

Since I have accepted only rationality as a basis for morality, I must be prepared to defend this view from a number of attacks. One such attack is the egotist principle, which argues that to be rational is to pursue one's own interests. It would then be rational to betray moral considerations if one's interests can be maximised.

I would argue that it is irrational to betray morality, because in doing so one's self-interest is actually reduced. Although the betrayer gains from his departure from the moral, in doing so, by reciprocity, he is himself subject to the immoral/amoral depredations of others. It is inherently more rational to obey the moral laws and to live in a moral society.

Hence, I would conclude that a purely rational being would be more moral than a normal human.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kingdomism and Animatism

Speciesism, as described by animal activists, is the prejudice against other beings on the sole basis of their species. Speciesism, as with racism or sexism, is wrong !

Unfortunately, while activists recognise the moral shakiness of speciesism, I am sad to say that they too are bigots ! Clearly, by favoring animals over other types of organisms, such as plants, fungi or unicellular colonies, they are committing an act of prejudice. To discriminate along taxonomic kingdoms is obviously Kingdomism ! We should respect the rights of all organisms, whether they are fungi or animals.

However, repecting all life is, in itself, still insufficent. Why should animate objects be valued over the inanimate ? Is this not Animatism ? Every object is an indispensable member of the universe, without which the universe would not be the same. We should value the natural order of things, and correspondingly treat inanimate objects with respect.

Respect everything !

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mobai Room and Others

Have you played "Crimson Room" before ? If so, then you may like to play Mobai Room, which is based on the same concept. It is a flash-based game where you have to find a way to escape from the room. Anyway Mobai Room is much easier than Crimson Room, so you should be able to escape in a couple of minutes at most.

Quaint Room, also in the same website, is harder than Mobai Room. My advice is to inspect your items carefully ! Otherwise you will spend much time searching for certain parts without which you cannot win the game (even if you can guess the secret to the room).

Swan Room is the hardest of the rooms. I'm still trying to solve it now.

Have fun playing these games !

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Moral Matrix

Recently, I encountered an interesting quiz which attempts to measure your moral and political alignments. The long test of The Moral Matrix is actually rather accurate, at least according to my own experience.

After the long test, I was assessed to be the following :

Which is certainly not incorrect, since I consider myself a believer in the ideas of classical liberalism.

In anycase please do give the test a try. The experience should prove most informative. Be warned, though, that the server may be unstable at times - I was unable to access it yesterday (I was intending to blog about it yesterday).

A last point of interest - it is possible to see the aggregate results for Singaporeans who have taken the test. The results suggest that, at least for internet dwellers, there is little support for authoritarianism. Food for thought.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

An Exploration into the Nature of Faith

Warning : Religious people may find the following material offensive.

I would like to propose a hypothetical scenario to those of faith. Assuming that one day, the supreme deity of the faith materialised before you and commanded of you to "Disbelieve in the faith", what would be your reaction and subsequent response ?

To close any loopholes in the question, due to some deific force, it is absolutely certain that the deity is indeed who he/she/it appears to be. Futhermore the command was conveyed in similarly deific way such that the meaning was unambiguous - that it was an instruction for you to turn way from the faith.

Faced with this unusual circumstance, what would you do ? Continue believing in the faith despite the commands of the deity, or to obey the command and disbelieve ?

An Analysis

To ignore the command is to believe that one's own internal compass is somehow more accurate than divine instruction. By continuing to believe in the faith, this act ironically negates one's faith in the divine agency. In essence, this is similar to the bibical story of Abraham, who was instructed to sacrifice his son. Faith requires a complete confidence in the power of divine agency, even over what one believes to be right.

The second option, to disbelieve in the faith, seems logically inconsistent. It is the equivalent to saying "This statement is false". However, I find this statement inherently more favorable than the first. Indeed, if I was religious and faced with the above scenario, this is the choice I would choose.

The reason for my choice boils down to faith. As mentioned earlier, faith requires complete conviction. Faith, by its very nature, requires belief outside of known fact [this line I quote from Wikipedia]. Hence, even if the command was absolutely ridiculous, I would obey, since I have [assuming I was religious] placed my entire trust in the divine.

Faith requires much out of people. Which, of course, is why I do not believe.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Lying and Weakness

Why is lying bad ? Alternatively, why is lying immoral ?

I do not consider lying as being either bad or immoral. However, I do consider lying as perhaps an indicator of weakness (although not neccessarily in the person telling the lie).

In essense, when one lies, one uses the lie as a sort of manipulator to influence existing circumstances. Simply expressed, the lie becomes the means to a certain end. In fact, lies exist for no other purpose than to service that end. A lie cannot either exist idly without purpose or be an end in itself.

Yet, that is not my objection to lying. My objection lies in the fact that lying be taken as the means to the end. If deception is truly the only possible solution, then this implies a great weakness which tells that one is insufficent to effect the solution otherwise.

Perhaps some examples would be more enlightening. When you lie to another regarding your bankruptcy, the weakness underlying this is not only your poverty, but also the inability to accept this state of affairs, and the inability to accept the social stigma associated with it. When you lie to a child by giving a simple (but wrong) explanation to a complex event, this reflects an inabilty to teach as well as an inabilty to learn. When you tell a white lie, this indicates that the other party has some deficiency which disallows her from the truth.

I am inclined to believe that all lies are indicative of weaknesses - The man who does not lie out of necessity may be the strongest of us all.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Language and Thought

First there was thought, and then there was language. Language facilitates the exteriorization of thought, which is interior in nature. However, language, in serving this exterior function, is limited by thought, because ultimately it is only a subset of thought. Everything that can be expressed by language must have an originating cause-thought, whereas thoughts can exist independently in themselves.

And yet, often thought is seemingly constrained by language, as it appears to be in Nineteen Eighty Four, where the language of Newspeak serves to limit the formation of deviant ideas. Does this mean that certain thoughts cannot exist without a sufficiently developed language from which to manifest ? If this hypothesis is indeed accepted, then this means certain thoughts cannot exist independently in themselves.

I doubt that thoughts can be non-independent. Admittedly, thoughts can be hard to properly concieve in the absence of language, and indeed the presence of the correctly developed vocabulary would do wonders in the manifestation of ideas, which are vague at best. But even in these cases, language only serves to solidify and make visible the nascent spark of inspiration. Without language, thought still remains, misshapened and misty perhaps, but still present nevertheless.

In conclusion, simply, thought preceeds expression.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

How many Horses ?

Here is a picture I found on the net, drawn by a Steven M. Gardner . How many horses are there in the picture ? If the picture is too small you may want to click on it for a larger version.

An amazing picture, truly. It really gives your eyes an workout.

And no, the answer is NOT that there are two horses.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

An Analysis of Descent

Both the word descendant and its root, descent, appear to be normal and unremarkable words. Yet, on closer inspection, we can uncover some interesting ideas behind the words.

When we descend, we move down, or we fall. Implicit in this word is weakness, darkness, and the loss of power. Surely, descend cannot be a word with a positive connotation. Yet, to descend from also means that one is connected by blood to a predecessor.

To interpret from a unique perspective, descent implies a certain structure of power. In one sense, it imposes a sort of hierarchical order to society based upon seniority and age. Later generations would, being descendants, by default be positioned below previous generations in the scheme of power, authority, and respect. In essence, descent reflects the society which coined the word.

Another possible intepretation has more religious overtones. The tale of Adam and Eve tells us of original sin. What this means, then, is that all descendants are literally descending into the darkness. Hence, the word descent refers symbolically to the original fall from grace since Adam and Eve.

A last point of interest comes from a decidedly more scientific point of view. According to evolution, later generations are more likely to be fit than predecessor generations. Thus, later organisms have ascended the evolutionary ladder, becoming better in the process. Then, perhaps it would be more appropriate to reverse the naming convention to better reflect the gradual improvements across the generations.

Descent - perhaps not such a unremarkable word after all.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bidding Strategies For CORS

The time has come again for CORS module bidding ! Let us review some possible strategies for bidding.

Extremely Suicidal Strategy (AKA 0 MC workload strategy) :

1) Start bidding from round 3 onwards.
2) Choose any module that fits your timetable, and not refer to previous bidding info, and also ignore the current lowest / highest bid and other helpful statistics.
3) Bid 1 point after executing 2).
4) Go for modules like FNA1002X without 100000000 points in your account.
5) Win the bid for FNA1002X, then drop it. (WOOT 1000 points lost)

Pretty Lousy Strategy :

1) Place a good bid during the open phase, then totally ignore it.
2) Place bids ending with 9. Like 49, 99 etc.
3) Place a bid of 1 for modules which appear untaken. (And feel sad to be beaten by a bid of 2)

Good Bidding Strategy :

1) Place bids ending with 1, or 6. Like 51, 66, 101 etc.
2) Exception to rule 1 - always start with a minimum bid of 2.
3) Place a bid of 1 during the open phase if nobody has done so. This is to mislead competitors.
4) Be prepared to increase your bid during the closed phase.
5) Choose modules which are taught at strange times.
6) Always, if possible, utilize module preference exercises.

Evil Strategy (AKA get cursed by competitors strategy) :

1) Totally ignore the open phase, and bid only during the closed phase. This denies others of any information regarding your bid.
2) Place bids ending with 2 or 7. This is to beat relatively intelligent competitors. (Best part is, you can suan them by saying you beat them by 1 !)
3) Don't tell friends competitors what modules you are bidding for. If possible, discourage them from taking those modules !!!

Bo Liao Strategy (AKA got 5 allocated mods plan) :

1) Log in CORS to check bid points. Log out. Log in again. CORS hang.
2) Place an insane bid in a hot mod (all your bid points!) during open phase. During closed phase retract your bid.
3) Place an insane bid in a cold mod. Tell friends about the 'someone' who placed such an insane bid. Drop the bid later.
4) Jio friends to go out during bidding period.
5) Write bo liao posts about CORS bidding strategy.

The above advisory was written by TWL, who has spent no more than 1 bid point for any module during the previous 2 semesters. He is expected to continue this trend for at least 1 more semester. Incidentally, he likes the Bo Liao Strategy the most.

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Two views regarding the Public Transport Fare Hike

View One :

i) It is unreasonable to raise fares again, since there was already a hike last year.

ii) Futhermore, despite the previous hike, there has been no discernable improvement in bus frequencies and service quality.

iii) Another question worth raising is whether consumers should be made to shoulder the rising cost of fuel.

iv) Besides, although public transport has been corporatised, ultimately it is a public service. Hence, the desire for profit should be tempered with a concern for the public.

v) To expand upon the previous point, not only is public transport a public service, it is an essential and unsubstitutable public service. Quite simply, many, especially the poor, have no alternatives available. Raising fares would certainly, and greatly, affect the poor.

View Two :

i) The cost of fuel has been rising. It is unreasonable to expect the transport companies to absorb these costs alone.

ii) If increases in fuel costs were to be absorbed, this would definitely necessitate cost-cutting measures in other areas. Service quality would almost certainly be affected.

iii) Consumers desire improvements in service frequency and service quality. Consumers also desire increased fuel costs to be absorbed by the transport companies. Put together, these desires are contradictory. Something cannot come from nothing.

iv) Lastly, the fare increases are not large. A 2-cent per trip increase would, assuming 4 trips a day and 30 days a month, amount to a $2.40 additional monthly overlay. $2.40 is the price of a pack of chicken rice. Futhermore, student fares and concessions remain unaffected.

Pick whichever view you agree more with, but try not to ignore the other view. Also, try not to assimilate both views - that would be doublethink.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

To Demonise and To Humanise

How easy it is for us to demonise one another! For one, it is an extremely easy way to dismiss any and all arguments - "He is a Fundamentalist / Greenpeace Activist / PAP Minister / Communist / Atheist / Muslim / Human Rights Demonstrator / Gay / American , and hence his views should be dismissed."

You would believe that your opponent is someone unreasonable, or that he has ulterior motives. You would believe that against such an opponent, no peaceful recourse is possible, or that in fact they are deserving of such extreme measures. In essense, you are human, and they are not.

And they would probably think the same of you.

If we can demonise, surely, we can humanise. To humanise is to believe that our opponent is as much a human being as ourselves. Once we realise that fundamentally we are all human, we can take a step forward and begin to understand, rather than caricature, each other. This would lead to way to reconcilation rather than factionalization.

In short, believe the best in people.

Of course, this is no simple feat. We would need every bit of reason, of personal strength, and of faith in humanity, to overcome our inherent human baseness.


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Saturday, July 29, 2006

IMF-World Bank Meeting and Civil Society Activities

The Singapore Police say the lobby area on Level One of the convention centre has been designated for civil society organisations to express their views.

Those intending to get their voices heard will first have to be registered and accredited with the IMF and World Bank.

The above excerpt from Channel News Asia.

Some might find the above news distasteful. Admittedly, this appears to sanitise the loud and chaotic nature of demonstrations, leaving the "civil society activities" somewhat neutered, almost docile, and surely artifical. Yet, I find myself in support of this move.

My reasoning is simple. A question - what is the primary motivator of demonstrations? Arguably, it is to bring about change to certain percieved inadequacies. How, then, do demonstrations help advance these changes? Two possible ways: indirectly by raising public awareness, or directly by engaging those who are in a position to enact change.

Singapore's handling of the IMF/WB meeting cuts off the first route, but also facilitates the second. By excising the most disruptive elements of protests, it is likely that [IMF/WB] people would be more receptive to reasonable voices.

Of course, my approval of Singapore's move stems from my severe disapproval of prolonged and unneccessary conflict. Often I think that protests are among the least effective ways to advance any cause. Surely, there must be clearer and more direct ways to effect change. This, however, is only my opinion. Now back to the topic.

What is my conclusion, then? There can be no doubt that Singapore's proposal seems artifical. But perhaps a better word to use is clinical - a word which reminds us of the chlorine in the air, but also of the amazingly efficient, if sometimes unemotional, style that Singapore is known to be.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Ghost Stories Time

Considering that it's the Ghost Festival now I think its somehow the season to tell ghost stories.

Here's a thread from EDMW (something I picked up in the army) which has a good number of ghost stories. Many of the stories are non-serious, while some are spooky. A few are NS ghost stories, which we may have heard before (NS ghost stories are usually retellings of some originating event with much spice added in each variant). In all its a good read, barring some extremely poor English (HWZ standard).

Is anyone is interested in writing or telling ghost stories ? Please share your stories (lame or scary) - I'll try to link to that post if possible.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Diet of Advanced Aliens

What is the likely diet of an advanced (spacefaring) alien civilisation? I suspect that all such aliens will be omnivorous.

Firstly, let me explain why we are unlikely to find herbivorous aliens (for brevity, I use aliens to refer to intelligent ones). For intelligence to evolve, it must first be useful to the evolutionary fitness of the creature. Is intelligence useful to early herbivores? I doubt this.

Intelligence is much more useful for meat-eating animals than purely herbivorous animals. Intelligence allows for the development of hunting tools and simple hunting tactics, which would prove highly significant in increasing the food sources of the hunting animal. But for a herbivorous species, intelligence affords no such benefit. If it does not increase the fitness of the herbivorous species, it is unlikely to evolve.

Then, if herbivores are unlikely to evolve into advanced aliens, would the opposite, a carnivorous race, be more likely to do so? Again, I doubt so.

It is quite reasonable to believe that a carnivorous race would become reasonably intelligent. However, as a civilisation, they are inherently limited. The reason - the lack of argiculture. Without agriculture to support a sufficently large population base, civilisation would not form, and technological advancement would be halted. This is why purely carnivorous species are unlikely to become our advanced spacefaring aliens.

From process of elimination, it appears that any advanced alien species must be omnivores!

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cheapass Games

Cheapass Games has some free games. Not computer games, but rather games which can be played with dice, playing cards, coins, ie, objects which are quite common.

Some games which would be quite interesting to play are:

Bogart which is basically a variant of snake-eyes.

FIGHT! appears to be a game which involves a fair bit of strategy. Best of all, it can probably be played anywhere, since the only things required are coins.

The Lost Pueblo of Doctor Green is a multiplayer game which, I think, plays a lot on psychology and bluffing. Players would try to second-guess the motives of other players and trick other players.

Roll Out the Gun Barrels is a simplified dice wargame. Since I have never played dice wargames, I wonder if it might be fun.

These games would be a refreshing change from the usual games that we play. Now, if only I can find people...

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

How Pigs Can Fly

After reading some nicknames on MSN, I decided to research some methods to make pigs fly.

Method One :
The first method is probably the most well-known and best documented. Many people have successfully used this method to launch various projectiles objects into the air.

Pros : Tried and tested method. Can entertain tent full of people.
Cons : Two people needed to hold pig. People must be small. Some charring of pig may result (although this may be a benefit if bak gua is needed).

Method Two :
Lighter-than-air machines are simple in principle. The following design uses hydrogen as a lifting gas and at the same time incorporates a heating element to increase lift. Maximum lift is thus ensured. Pros : Hydrogen gas is easily available. Balloon can entertain small children. Only ONE person needed to heat pig !
Cons : "POP" sound may be heard.

Method Three :
Let us turn swords to ploughshares ! This last method turns weapons of war into useful tools of propulsion ! Pros : Best way to travel if destination is Sea of Japan. Other nations may give you food aid.
Cons : Possibilty of irradiated pig. May be taken as biological warhead.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

MD5 Battle

I've been fiddling with this extremely simple (yet time-wasting) 'game' called MD5 Battle. Basically you type in the name of two contestants and the game generates a set of combat stats based on their respective MD5 checksums.

So far the best characters I've created are Mrs Spoon, Wii and Godzilla. Mrs Spoon has such amazingly high stats that I'm still trying to find something that can beat her.

It was also somewhat sad that Wei Liang was defeated by Mrs Spoon in one hit. My name has pathetic stats !!!

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Life-Extending Process

Zombian medical researchers have made yet another advance. After much research, they have invented a life-extending process, which can artifically extend the life of any zombian. The procedure works by replacing aged cells with the newly discovered pseudo-cells, thus side-stepping aging. The same replacement process can be applied to diseased cells to treat all known illnesses.

Unfortunately, the process has one flaw. Due to some yet unrectifiable defect in psuedo-cell synthesis, all users of the life-extending process will experience permanent and chronic pain. Because this pain works on a still un-understood level, it cannot be relieved with current drugs.

Doctors are now faced with an interesting conundrum. Being doctors, their key prerogative is to save lives. If so, then they should use the life-extending process to prolong the lives of their patients. However, doing so would certainly cause much pain to their wards. This is problematic, for isn't reducing suffering another duty of doctors ?

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Stasis Machine

On the planet Zombius, a special stasis machine has just been invented. With this machine, doctors can zap a patient and render him in a state of stasis. Effectively, time stops for the zapped patient. This state of stasis can be reversed by using the same machine on the 'reverse' setting.

With the invention of the stasis machine, death has been averted (and in fact that was the advertising tagline of the stasis machine). Nobody rushed alive to a medical facility dies- if a patient cannot be saved using current medical technology, he is zapped with the stasis machine and stored in a 'temporary housing facility' to await a time where a cure has been discovered.

Everything goes smoothly. One day, however, doctors discover that they are unable to activate the reverse setting of any stasis machine. Zombian scientists research this phenomenon and link it to a permanent change in the frequency of solar flares, but are unable to come up with any solutions to the sudden problem. "It's hopeless", the scientists said.

With the failure of the stasis machines, the ruling body plans to shut down all temporary housing facilities. Arguably, those patients in stasis are little more than bodies incapable of being restored to life. Maintaining the facilities, however, costs a significant amount.

Family members of patients in stasis are displeased with the ruling body's plans. After all, those in stasis are not dead (yet). And there is always a small hope that the strange phenomenon would reverse itself.

Meanwhile, philosophers on another planet are pondering on what to do with brain-dead patients 'living' on life support.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Some Prophecies

Here are some vague prophecies that I have written. Unfortunately I don't have Nostradamus' skill in obfuscating things, hence my predictions may not come true anytime soon. Of course, I could always write more prophecies to increase the hit rate.

  1. At high fire, men of low stature destroy metal circle.
  2. One man, killed in dreamland, relives to defeat suited smith.
  3. As new sun awakes, eight arms sacrifice selves to save apple.
  4. Cleansing potion and beast turns man unattractive.
  5. Black knight born with blessings of new emperor.

Anyway the 'prophecies' are all based on some 'source material'. Perhaps you could try to deduce the sources. In the meantime I'll be keeping half an eye on the news to see if any of my divinations come up.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

My family may be trying to kill me

I have a suspicion that my family may be trying to kill me. Let me recount the incident that happened today so that you can judge for yourself.

I was hungry, and there happened to be a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates on the table. There were about four of these chocolates left. I took one for myself, and one for my sister (you always need an accomplice when snacking hehe). Amazingly, the person with a sweet tooth refused the Ferrero Rocher !!! I then put my chocolate back into the box and took hers to eat.

This is a picture of the Ferrero Rocher chocolate before I unwrapped it.I slowly unwrapped the chocolate. The colouring seemed a bit off. Maybe it was a bit mouldy, I thought at first.I continued to unwrap it to survey the extent of mouldiness. It must have been an interesting type of fungus, being multicoloured.
But after more unwrapping I realised what the 'chocolate' was. It was one of those small rubber balls that you get by feeding 20 cent coins into vending machines.My mother and sister were cackling away when I could have been killed !!! Surely this was no laughing matter, but a serious attempt on my life.

I advise all people to check their confectionery before eating. Who knows, there might be marbles in your M&Ms.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Singapore an Unhappy Place to Live

When browsing the BBC website, I came across a story on a report compiled by think-tank the New Economics Foundation (Nef). This report considers statistics like the average happiness of a nation, the lifespan of its citizens, then compares it against the ecological footprint the nation occupies. Using these data, they generate a statistic, the 'Happy Planet Index' (HPI), which attempts to measure the efficiency at which a nation converts resources into the well-being of its citizens.

Ok, that sounded complex. But I suppose we all want to know how Singapore did, right? I'll post an extract of the report here. By the way, the first column is the Life Satisfaction index, the second the Life Expectancy, the third the ecological footprint (the number of earths we need if everyone lived like that), and the final column the HPI.

The results are not very pleasing. While Singapore scores well in two categories, it suffers from a very severe habit of high resource consumption. This same problem is faced by much of the Western world-- if you turn to the table documenting the Western world, you'll find the entire table to be much like Singapore, two columns green and one red.

The report, which can be downloaded free at the Nef Website, suggests that human well-being doesn't require lots of resource consumption. While many parts of the report may not be very objective, I think that their suggestion makes a lot of sense. Happiness doesn't always mean buying more stuff.

**For those people who downloaded the report, the tables start from page 16. You might want to skip the first few pages.

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Some Photos from

Here are some nice pictures from Discover.

The diver is holding onto an area of the fin where there are no nerves. This allows him to tag a ride safely (relatively).

Just a praying mantis... made from paper.

And an origami stick insect.

All the previous images were from Discover. They have some interesting articles for reading, so just hop there and take a look.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mr Miyagi, Resignation

Divide. Schism. Disconnection. Factionalism. Polarization.

All these screaming ideas were apparent when I read through Mr Miyagi's post, and especially the comments to that post. My reaction to his resignation is simple, as I commented:
While I respect your decision to resign, I can’t help but wonder whether it is the best possible solution. For one, you yourself have noted a schism between ‘the online and the offline’. By resigning, there is one less opportunity for reconciliation and one more chance for division.
The division already exists. Just read through the comments to Miyagi's post. An overwhelming majority expressed vocal support for his decision. A good number of these showed extreme cyncism towards Today and other public media. Only a mite few found his resignation regrettable.

I was never a fan of conflict and disengagement. If the blogosphere indeed becomes totally separate from the mainstream, I would be very much dissapointed. Any such polarization suggests that there are some innate, irreconcilable differences between bloggers and the mainstream media. But aren't we all human, and aren't we all the same?

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Sony PSP White Ad

I am going to show you an image. Just note down your responses to it.

Now, I am going to show you the full image.

Did you feel offended by the first image? If so, did you feel the same, less, or more offended when it was revealed to be an ad?

This ad, which promotes the PSP white, was displayed only in Holland. Interestingly, it didn't cause much of a hooha in Holland. However, the ad was quickly spread on the Net where it upset some.

Is it racist? Does it have racial overtones to it? Probably not. As I have written previously, everything will be intepreted differently by audiences from dissimilar backgrounds. The ad might be offensive in America, with its history of racial tension. This might not be so in Holland, where racial issues are not salient.

I first learnt of this ad from Crtl+Alt+Del, a webcomic I read regularly (although the comment on the ad was in another section, not the webcomic itself). One comment which stands out is:

It would be nice if we lived in a world where anyone looked at that billboard and all they saw was two people.

You can read the rest of his words here.

I'll like to sign off with a final picture, which may also be considered racist.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

mrbrown Satire Video

I have just discovered a brilliantly funny video satiring the mrbrown saga (yes a saga muhaha).

This video was produced by cloudywind. Kudos for the funny work!

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Desktop

Here's a low-res picture of my desktop, which I believe is more optimised than most people's.

The icons are arranged very logically. The left side is populated by links of high importance (like recycle bin, My Computer) and low usage. The right side is basically the things I use daily.

For example, I can access any drive on my computer via the top right row. The next row is even more useful, because I can access all the folders where I keep my stuff ( I estimate that at least 75% of my desktop clicks are on this row). The next few rows are by sorted by function; multimedia software, internet software , games etc.

This arrangement allows me to do whatever I want very quickly. It also looks less cluttered than the normal windows arrangement, which just piles all icons on the left side of the screen.

I will reveal my web brower setup sometime later, which is also rather efficient for surfing. As a sidenote, it is rather interesting that I tagged this post as 'Productivity Tips', because all it allows me to do is to waste time more efficiently. Hmmm...

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Friday, July 07, 2006

What Colour is a Mammoth ??

By examining the DNA extracted from a mammoth bone, researchers have determined the colour of the fur coats of woolly mammoths. This is simply amazing!

I wonder what is next thing they are going to do. Are they going to clone the mammoth (which may be technically impossible for now) ?

Some links and further reading:
BBC article on Mammoth Colour
Article on Mammoth Cloning
Another one on Cloning

** As a disclaimer, I don't think Jurassic Park will happen yet. There's a lot of difference between 65 million years and the Ice Age.

Although I think that perhaps Dodos are better targets for cloning than mammoths.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

To Interpret

We always interpret. That smile from the cute girl at the bus stop, that sudden pause in conversation when someone enters the room, the absence of a particular person at a important event. We take all these happenings to mean something, and in our minds we interpret to shed light on characters and events.

He shakes his head. Why? Is he being dismissive? Does he not like? Is he showing disapproval? All are possible interpretations. All are useless, absurd.

It is only human to read deeper into things. I believe that this is a limitation, not a strength.

~~ Wei Liang ~~

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Mr Brown is under attack !! But Relax, guys.

mrbrown was recently criticized in a letter from MICA (Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts). Since mrbrown is probably one of the most respected bloggers in the Singapore Blogosphere, the letter evoked quite a response from many local bloggers as well. This turn of events is, in my opinion, rather unfortunate. It does little to reconcile both sides (the Govt and the Bloggers), and only succeeds in polarising the already poor relationship between the two.

I understand that I may appear to be wuss or worse, a government lackey, but surely, there must be some more measured and reasoned response to this. We may be enraged, but we must always remain engaged to the issue at hand.

Having said the above, I think it is time to look at MICA's letter and pick out some useful points which we should take note of.

I will only look at the later part of MICA's letter, because the earlier half refers only to mrbrown's article which I do not have at hand.

mr brown's views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with.
I think MICA is correct in that all political satire tends to breed a sense of cynicism, and also a corresponding lack of faith in the authorities. But it is also valid to note that satire cannot arise from nothing- there must be both an issue to parody and an already-cynical audience. In this sense the question becomes pretty much of an chicken-and-egg problem, which certainly is useless and effort-wasting to even argue about.

What should be clear is that cynicism cannot be fought by clamping down on negative satire. This is foolish and probably only creates more resentment. The Government should focus on fixing the problematic issues, while satirists should not, if possible, bring up issues which are in the process of being fixed. Excessive and unneccessary parody when something is being done is certainly not wanted and only worsens matters.

Besides these points I would also like to question MICA's use of the word 'calculated'.

mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.
MICA accuses mr brown of not providing useful alternatives and constructive criticism. I agree that a useful political column would not only point out flaws but offer ideas to overcome these problems. But mr brown is a satirist, not a political columnist.

Wikipedia's article on political satire says
By its very nature, it rarely offers a constructive view in itself; when it is used as part of protest or dissent, it tends to simply establish the error of matters rather than provide solutions.
Besides this rather obvious point which MICA seems to have missed, MICA also does not seem to know the true identity of mr brown, which is strange at best.

It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.
I can understand the idealised concept of a newspaper being truly unbiased. The role of a newspaper is to inform, hence letting readers form their own views. But the problem is that sometimes, one cannot raise the awareness of some news issues without appearing to champion the issues themselves. For example, it is very easy to be mistaken for an animal lover when you write about the mistreatment of stray animals.

Another problem which is evident is how everything seems to have to take sides for or against the Government. This kind of thinking is rather George-Bush-ish in nature. One particular quote from a blog stands out in my mind : "If I complain a lousy initiative, I'm a partisan player?"

I realise that my analysis seems to be quite violently against MICA's views. But I think this was because the first part of MICA's letter was more reasonable (perhaps?).

In anycase just relax, people. Although from the 42 trackbacks on I don't think that many are relaxing.

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Transformers are coming !

There will be a live action movie for Transformers. It will be released in one year's time (on Independence Day).

Of course, I think that a live action Transformers movie is almost going to disappoint. But thankfully the robots themselves are not going to be done with actors in boxy suits - that'll certainly cause fans to roll over with mouths foaming- but rather CGI. Still, don't expect too much.

The teaser poster doesn't show any details.

This absence of detail is also reflected in the movie teaser (a pre-trailer, if you will). I think the producers are deliberately keeping all the things secret. In fact, according to the wikipedia article, even the cast of robots is being kept secret.

Hopefully this wasn't done because they did something stupid (like renaming the transformers or changing their robot modes). Anyway the movie teaser can be found at the movie website here.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Singapore, Politics and Clowns

Increasingly, I think that Singapore needs a few more clowns, a few more jesters, in order to raise a few highly political issues. But of course, the word clown evokes seemingly negative connotations- we are reminded of a person who talks nonsense, someone who cannot be taken seriously. Hence, is it even concievable for a clown to bring up serious issues involving the country? Or am I just talking rubbish?

There are very few people in this country that will stand up openly to point out the flaws in the running of our nation. This might be because of a fear of repercussion (of all sorts, imagined or otherwise). But there is one person who is rather remarkable, in that he made a number of films portraying the Singapore system in a light which might be considered unfavorable, and yet was able to publise the films and win acclaim from the Singapore public, and even the Government. In a sense, it is like slapping a person in the face and yet being praised for it. It is sheer genius.

Now, it may dismay you to know that this 'genius' I am talking about is Jack Neo. Yes, you may cringe at his movies, which tend to be lame, but you have to admit that it is a remarkable proof of concept. We should use humor to sheathe issues which would otherwise be dangerous to point out.

The idea of using satire to disguise political issues is certainly not new. I have just learnt that there was a jester named Stańczyk who used his job to criticize and warn his contemporaries, and whose witty jokes often pertained to current political or court matters. In recent times, there was the Bar Chor Mee satire which was even well recieved (or well tolerated) by some government figures. It appears, then, that humor is a good way for people to talk about important issues without any fear of being dealt with.

I must admit, though, that in a truly mature society the use of humor in such a fashion may be redundant. It may even tend to trivialise the issued so parodied. But in a less than mature society, any publicity of the issues tends to be for the better rather than for the worse.

Hence, to the clowns !

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Friday, June 30, 2006

An Imaginary Scene at a Coffeeshop

One imaginary day at a non-existent coffeeshop.

Uncle: I think this kopi, really worse leh!

Kopi-boss: Eh you better shaddup and dun anyhow tok cok hor! You neber say your name before you tok! You chicken heart issit?

Uncle: Wah lao, tok cok also must say name one?

Kopi-boss: Of course lar! If you neber say name before tokking cok then you orbiously no guts to sulpport what you say. Only tellorist and racist and bad peepur tok cok don say name one.

Uncle: Wah liketat also can? But I regular customer what. You all know me what.

Kopi-boss: I know you lar, but peepur dono! What if they dono you and think you are tellerist or racist? Cannot be ilresponsibe. Eberytime must say name before toking, to show you have guts to sulpport what you say. Acrtually huh, say name also not enuf. You must wear tshirt with your name, ic number and address wlitten on it.

Uncle: So mafan? I think I better shaddup and relac one corner.

Kopi-boss: Yarlor, nexttime don anyhow say my kopi worse. Want to say can, but must wear special tshirt. Otherwise I wlite letter to State's Times to complain you are tellorist!

Slogan of the Story: Be responsible. Tok Cok can , but must wear special Tshirt !!!

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Spiderman 3 Trailer

The trailer for Spiderman 3 is out.

It appears it will be action packed. From the trailer, I can see at least 3 villians, which are Venom, Sandman and Green Goblin II respectively. Should be interesting how the film fits at least 3 considerably powerful opponents in (of course, Spiderman with Venom suit can beat at least one of the other opponents easily).

That is, of course, assuming the 3 villians are all in the movie and not fanservice like the Sentinels in Xmen 3 (the opening part in the Danger room). Anyway Xmen 3 sucked.

May 4 seems rather far away.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The World Cup is more popular than I thought

From Sports section, page H27 , Straits Times, June 28 2006
About 30 billion television viewers are expected to view the World Cup Finals, breaking records for the world's most-watched sports event, a television chief said yesterday...
I never knew the World Cup was this popular. Now, assuming that every one of the 6.5 billion humans on this planet are watching the World Cup, this leaves merely 23.5 billion unidentified viewer lifeforms. Obviously, the statistic must have taken into account other creatures, such as household pets and pests which happened to be viewing the football matches.

Or might it be that the figure actually includes Alien viewers ? It is concievable that they could recieve satellite broadcasts of the World Cup from their spaceships or even home planets (although this would mean extremely delayed broadcasts).

Goes to show how football is a universal sport.

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Watching Eyes

According to a report by New Scientist, even a photocopy of a pair of watching eyes can make people behave more honestly. Evidently, we are extremely sensitive to being watched.

I can imagine some 'uses' for this discovery. For future projects, I will wear some watchful eyes when forcing people to do surveys. Hence, the survey findings will become more accurate.

Also, if I paste many watchful eyes on the main door of my house, it may deter intruders, who will quickly become uncomfortable when trying to break into my home. What a brilliant use!

One final idea goes out to the ruling party. They should consider sticking giant watchful eyes on the walls near the polling booths. Heck, they could paste it on the polling boxes also! This would encourage voters to make the 'right' choice. Hehe.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What sort of leaders do we have ?

After reading the article titled "GRCs make it easier to find top talent: SM" in the Straits Times, I must admit that I lost quite a bit of confidence in Singapore's leadership and also faith in the SM. For those who are unfamilar with the article (or do not subscribe to ST), you may read a commentary by Mr Wang.

I won't say too much, but I will ask one question. What sort of 'talent' is going to run our nation in the future ? I shudder to think that our leaders are people who are afraid to take risks, people who weigh their own wellbeing over the interests of Singapore, and people who need monetary encouragement to not be enticed by the private sector.

What a future Singapore has ahead.

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Amateur Stargazing

Of course it may be quite pointless to try to stargaze in Singapore, because it is a bloody bright city at night. Still, I had at least 2 experiences of stargazing, but unfortunately I am unlikely to reproduce both experiences anytime soon.

The first incident was technically not in Singapore Island, but rather, in Pulua Ubin. Certainly you can see more stars unaided there than in Singapore. But as I said, it is rather unlikely that I would go there and be bitten by mosquitoes just to watch stars, unless they build a stargazing resort there with the comforts of modern life (and hence brighten up the surroundings and ruin everything ! Drats ! ). I wonder, though, whether one can get a good view from one of the resorts in Sentosa.

The second incident was set in an unfortunate background. I was serving POI (protection of installation) duty on Jurong Island when I discovered that the image intensifier binoculars the SAF provided for the POI was excellent for stargazing. I suppose any normal binoculars would have done well, but image intensifiers are especially good, because they magnify the insignificant specks of starlight into something visible. That said, I doubt I would have another chance to handle an image intensifier, unless I can purchase one cheaply from say, cash converters?

I do have some ideas for stargazing though. I was thinking of ways to duplicate the functions of an image intensifier when I realised that time exposure photography was remotely similar to an image intensifier. Basically, time exposure photography is when you expose the film for extended periods of time. Hence, each film grain has more time to react with more light.

Of course, for this idea to work, certain modifications will have to be made. First the platform for the camera must be super-stable. Second, preferably a blocking cone should be setup to eliminate sources of stray light. Third, the camera must be capable of this type of exposure photography. This third point sounds stupid, but I doubt normal digital cameras are capable of exposure photography (unless you consider manually holding the shutter still a smart solution.)

Now, the exposure time should be relatively short, maybe a few minutes at most. This is because the sky moves also, and if the period of exposure is longer you may get pictures like this (I would add pictures, but blogger is bloody acting up). I admit that that is nice, but the current aim is to capture stars, not startrails.

Anyone up for this stupid project ???

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