Monday, November 29, 2010

The Preserver

I recall an elderly man from my childhood. He could always be found on a bench overlooking the main lake of the park. On days of fair weather people tended to gather about the lake, feeding the ducks.

Often when I looked up I could see him sketching away on a notepad. Sometimes he merely observed. When I was a child I was more curious, and at many times wondered what the old man was drawing. Was he sketching the same thing daily? How boring! Or did he switch subjects all the time, secretly taking notes like a spy?

One day I got up to the small overlook. He did not seem to mind me. Peeping from behind the bench, I then saw that he was drawing people, or more specifically, the people down at the lake. They were rough sketches, quickly drawn, and every few minutes or so he would flip the pages of the notepad and begin drawing another subject.

"Why are you drawing everyone? Are you a spy?"

He did not give me an instant reply. It was only after he completed the current drawing that he spoke, seemingly to himself and not addressed to me.

"In 100 years time how many will be remembered? In 200 years time, perhaps the only evidence that they ever existed will be my drawings."

It was many tens of years ago when my family moved away. I did not see him again after we moved; I supposed he must have died.

I wonder if anyone else remembers him today. Perhaps the only evidence that he ever existed is from this very story.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mental Laziness

There are some people who don't seem to know two hoots about anything of importance; not the name of the people running the country, nor of the workings of the world, nor of matters of common sense. You can't discuss literature with them, nor argue philosophy. And we think, how vacuous their minds are, perhaps not by any lack of capacity or ability, but by a strain of mental laziness, of a reluctance to examine.

But then we tend to endear ourselves to the idea of an absent-minded professor, someone so deep in thought that daily life seems to be neglected. He does not know about social graces or modern dresses, and has little opinion about food and gossip. But by some measure is this not also mental laziness? Is the neglect of the mundane considered a less troubling instance of laziness?

Maybe we should get off our high horses. Perhaps those who know naught about "higher things" are truly ignorant idiots in some sense, but then again, we are quite the same in other senses.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alternatives to Platform Screen Doors

Instead of installing platform screen doors for MRT stations, there are flashier alternatives. Effectiveness is not guaranteed, except in terms of dramatic terms.

It is not necessary to install complex door mechanisms that open with each aligned train carriage. My research finds that massively electrified fences have a greater deterrent effect against people attempting to commit suicide by jumping onto the train tracks in the face of oncoming trains. Not only does it serve as a physical barrier, it also serves as an active barrier! A further benefit is that it can coral recalcitrant idiots that refuse to line properly for the trains. Of course, some may ask how people may board the trains with the electrified fences in play; it is obvious, simply disable the electric supply to allow people to climb the fence when the trains arrive!

Another great idea is to line the platform with fountains dispensing vertical columns of fire. With this feature, commuters can barbecue food while waiting for the next train to arrive. The columns of flame also serve as cheap lighting during the evening. One crucial point to note while implementing this system is to ensure that the flames are turned all the way up, otherwise people may actually land on the train tracks while not being totally incinerated. We don't want people to die after being crushed by oncoming trains, do we?