Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Heh... this is the cute doggy for my competition robot. Note the cute bandana on the head!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

SUVs, minivans, and safety.

Was browsing through FastCompany and saw a link to one of Malcolm Gladwell's articles. Ever since my sis passed me his "The Tipping Point" I've been a fan and went out to get Blink when it hit the shelves. So I just surfed on to the article and found it quite interesting reading. Basically, it's about how SUVs are so popular mainly because people think they're safer, and actually this perception that they're safer might actually cause them to be more dangerous.

Anyway, my sister was considering buying a Nissan Prestige (?) last week, and I'd been telling Key that my sister wanted to buy an SUV. At the time, I said something like, MPV, SUV, minivan, all the same to me, but I guess the article highlighted to me the difference, and it's quite a big difference! So I take all that back!

Anyway: here's an interesting snippet to quote to your friends who are contemplating buying those SUVs which waste fuel, pollute the atmosphere, and always block your view of the road when they're in front of you:

According to Bradsher, internal industry market research concluded that S.U.V.s
tend to be bought by people who are insecure, vain, self-centered, and
self-absorbed, who are frequently nervous about their marriages, and who lack
confidence in their driving skills.

Yep, so don't!

settlers' cafe, holland v

Met up with tongli and poon (and key joined us after her paper) at settlers cafe yesterday. Key thought it should have been in chinatown, but turns out the original branch was in Clarke Quay, and the place we went was a new branch (soft launch!) at Holland Village, 15 Holland Drive. Should have had Andy and Junx over as well, but Andy's already traipsing all over Japan with his gal, and Junx's hockey season has already begun, so his saturdays are gone.

Anyway, it was a rather expensive day overall: At $140 for the time from 2pm to 11pm and including 4 dinners.. divided between us.. ow. I guess I'd rather have bought a couple of games and tried them out for several hours at a time? And also given that we played the games at a far slower pace than recommended generally.

Still, the environment was generally good. For those not in the know, Settler's Cafe is this place where you can rent tables and get refreshments and play board games all day long. I guess the advantage is that you can choose from a wide variety of games that may not be easily available in Singapore otherwise. And it's got a decent atmosphere. But for me, I don't mind spending a whole day only playing a couple of games repetitively. And most of the groups I hang out with are like that. We play several rounds of cranium, or taboo, or the various other games whose names I temporarily forget... So, probably, not so worth it for me, I should just go get the games. As for availability, I KNOW that I've seen many of these games on sale in Singapore before, the market seems to be increasing. The leisure stores that sell Warhammer stuff, the comics shops like the one at Bugis opposite Kino, and even those department stores.. Just have to look I guess. And next time I go travelling to European / US / Australian shores, I'll make sure to bring back at least two new board games for inviting people over. I was telling Key the other day that when I start work I plan to have small parties every two to three weeks... heh.

Anyway, for the record, what we played yesterday:

1) Basari: A trading game, rules were explained incorrectly to us and ended up in some impasses. Okay game, I wouldn't generally recommend.

2) Zombies: Hack and slash. Those old AD&D board games meets munchkin style "sabo your friends so they can't win before you!" with a B-grade horror movie premise. It's really like munchkin. Good for one game but too tedious to keep playing, and not much replay.

3) Modern Art: Auctioneering game, involving various different types of bidding and bluffing. Novel premise (to me) and quite cerebral. I thought it has high replay value (you could probably play it twice in a gathering and play it once every two or three gatherings) but you need a crowd who's willing to sit down and make fun and be extremely think think think about it.

4) Citadels: Building/resource game, think it works out better with more players. Kind of dry, actually, and there isn't a fantastic amount of interaction/backstabbing for a game that is so backstabby in nature.

5) Cranium: The old Stanford fave, except that only Tongli had any experience with it. It's a great game, but you need more people, more people, more people! hahaha... High replay, good fun...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Someone's better summary on racist scholar

I recovered this by following up the links on Singapore Ink, which I must add is pretty good at tracking Singapore political news..

Anyway, this guy gives a good summary of what I was trying to say in that whole long rant earlier:

I agree with you. To all those who are reading this post, I think you
should think about this.
Calling for his head, or asking for his scholarship
to be revoked, serves no purpose. If he is truly racist, doing those things
would not change his views. What it would do however, is to make him hide those
From a broader perspective, making an example of him would also do
nothing to change society in general. Racists will always be racists, and find
reason to be racists. Only they themselves can change their minds, not us.
when I called out for vigilance, what was my intention?
I maintain his right
to be a racist. If he thinks racist thoughts, or says racist things to himself
or his friends, that is his right. But what we have to be watchful about is if
his racist thoughts impacts the way he acts if and when he should ever attain
public office.
That is in essence the point. We should not seek to punish him
for his thoughts: that would be cruel and inhumane. But we should be vigilant,
such that if he ever acts on his racist thoughts and puts them into action by
wielding the power of a public official, THEN we have every right to call for
his head.

Blogging at work? seems pretty good so far. It's also spurring me to read all those financial and world news things more thoroughly and with a keen interest, heh. Well that's good news as I gear up for the workplace. Along the way, I browsed back to fastcompany to do some reading. (That final year of NUS was filled with case studies from HRM and Management classes, and fastcompany was used for readings and case studies often. I found them free and interesting reading, so I keep catching up with it now and then). Turns out fastcompany now has a blog! Here's an excerpt:
The debate over employee blogs has reached new heights ever since a blogger who
works for a blog company has been reprimanded for blogging about employees

Catch the full article here.
Wow.. So what's going to happen when I go to work? Already I find it difficult to blog because I'm not supposed to even name the people in unit, not to mention what we do; is it going to get worse at MoM? Hmm.. I guess I'll find out eventually.

Diabetes Cure!

Doctors Use Living Donor Transplant to Treat Diabetes

The first successful operation to transplant insulin-making cells, called
islets, from a living donor has allowed a woman to stop using daily insulin
to treat her diabetes, according to a study led by Japanese researchers.

Wow! Good news for the world! A cure for one type of diabetes.. purely amazing. Especially as diabetes is predicted to be an even greater risk for Asians in up and coming developing and developed nations due to our changing diets and less sugar-resistant metabolisms...

Of course, we're not quite there yet. The operation itself is highly experimental; the article mentions that there were two failed attempts before this. And also, it seems to carry possible dangers for the donor as well, that the donor might in turn become diabetic. The transplants are taken from the pancreas, and I guess the islets (of langerhans?) may not regenerate.. Furthermore, it only cures (some) type I diabetes .. I know there's type II, what does that mean?

The American Diabetes Association has this to say about the disease.
There are 18.2 million people in the United States, or 6.3% of the population,
who have diabetes. While an estimated 13 million have been diagnosed with
diabetes, unfortunately, 5.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware
that they have the disease.

Wow.. scary. Worse still, it estimates only about 5-10% of diabetics have this type I diabetes. Most diabetics are type II (with another 200% more people who are pre-diabetic), and it seems from what I'm reading that this is a more lifestyle related condition as compared to type I, which is more to do with genetics..

Anyway, the links are there, read more at your own leisure, and take appropriate lifestyle steps!

arm almost recovered

Erin came by with Remy today in the morning before I left for hospital. Heh, so strange, she keeps calling me Jiu-Jiu Liang, which is basically what she's supposed to call my brother! Dunno whether she's genuinely confused, or whether she's just doing it for fun and attention.

Anyway, physio was good. My grip strength is apparently back to normal! And Gladys said that I should be done with physio soon. Now only have to work on pinch strength and the forward/backward flex flexibility.

Of course, I dunno what would happen after my further operation, so. :<

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sneezing all the way home

Eh.. *sniff sniff* After area cleaning in camp today, been sneezing most of the day, sneeze until I tired also. Can't be someone cursing me so long right? So poor Key, even come over to my place to study, have to endure every now and then a thunderous sneeze blasting out the place..

Just found a website,, which is a place where I can try juggling a stock portfolio. I don't think it's for gamers, but still.. found it in Forbes magazine, maybe I'll give it a shot. :>

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Starting work... One step closer

One step closer to starting work, now they've given me a department! Labor Relations.. Hmm...

Some silly PSC scholar got himself publicly smashed for his racist comments on his Blog. All over the "old media" too, guess it was just an irresistable target for the ST columnists. Wonder if it's in Zaobao / Wanbao as well? Poor guy..

Why poor guy? Shouldn't I join the crowd in hammering this racist bigot? (Heh, I googled it, and the top two hits for psc racist blog singapore were other blogs, one quite strong, the other a bit more evenhanded.) Like this chap Kelvin who's really sinking his teeth in..

But then, I find myself thinking that (1) the psc scholar really has some enemy who would want him dead, going so far as to "compile a dossier" and send it to PSC, and (2) I was just having discussions with Wee Leong and Velle the other day about how racist most Singaporeans are anyway.. In the army, in NUS, even in Stanford. And I'm not saying "other" Singaporeans, even most of my good friends and myself are to some degree racist.. and even if I count people like Vijay and Subbu among my good friends (hey Vijay, I love ya man, don't take this the wrong way haha), but the general feeling is that most of the generation I hang out with has a particularly strong response to foreigners of all varieties (Indian, Caucasian, Malay, whatever). And it's not just racism, even Chinese nationals studying in NUS get ostracised, you'll notice it easily. Some (unnamed) friends of mine were just asked recently if they would ever date a PRC and the responses varied from "It depends, sometimes it's really a big cultural difference" to "No!". And alot of times it stems from (multiple) real experiences of bad behavior from them ( though they no doubt have even more examples of bad Singaporean behavior).

So maybe it's not really racism that's an issue, I think. If anything, it's more like xenophobia. Or maybe just Singaporeans who like to disparage anyone who's different, using convenient stereotypes. And you have to admit, for this Mr Chua Cheng Zhan, for the people who are scolding him now, it's far easier for them to attack the stereotype of "stuck-up, bigoted PSC scholar in a rose-tinted world" then to address the real issue: just one person who publicly made a statement about Indians in a society he's part of. Perhaps he was angry at one member of that community, maybe he was not in his right mind as he claims, maybe he IS an awful bigot. But mouthing off to the world at large seems to be just as much a hate crime, committed not against those of another race, nation, or culture, but perhaps against a class enemy. For those who wrote letters to PSC and the ST and other newspapers criticizing this d00d, would you have done the same if it were your nephew/brother/friend who made this comment? Or would you have taken him to the side and scolded him? Why did you write such a letter, what did you hope to accomplish, and why?

Anyway, rant done. Let's all try to eradicate racism in constructive ways. What constructive ways? Think about it yourself.

(Singapore Ink has a more "outside the fray" analysis of what's happening with Mr Chua.. Looks like quite an interesting journal I'll flip it every now and then for general Singapore commentary I guess.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Going philosophical

Glen made a comment, so I hopped over to his website. (Glen was my pastor for student fellowship Chi Alpha back in Stanford, and he's been a real inspiration for me, as well, as I guess now, one of the people I guess might be a little disappointed with me). Think the second post there's about Andrew Wright, (with whom I've had several late night conversations about love, life and philosophy) and his rejection of Ayn Rand's philosophy. (He's also a really fun guy, and even though sometimes I feel like he doesn't always act like a Christian should, but hey, at least he's real about it! :> )

Who's Ayn Rand? Well, I wouldn't have known until I got to Stanford. Ron Howard, the DA lecturer, also conducted a set of classes on Ethical Analysis and Voluntary Social Systems, and he drew heavily on references to Ayn Rand and her books, and her philosopy of Objectivism. To quote her,
"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." —Ayn Rand

Well, layZim's interpretation: Live for your own happiness as your purpose in life, work towards that happiness, and don't believe in any God except reason.

Eh. Well. Seems like a lot of people do that anyway? Andrew explained to me that it was a kind of philosophy that was spread through classrooms, with friends explaining to friends and passing them the books, (fiction books, actually) and maybe some teachers mentioning it in classes. And it was apparently quite popular! (Well, in Singapore, even if people don't know her name they're still living by it.) And now that I'm aware I DO see her books around. But the philosophy just didn't take in my life. Guess I'm the sort of person who doesn't really like to be told what the truth of life is, I gotta experience it for myself -- source of a thousand arguments with mom.

Anyway, Andrew just blogged that he's over Ayn Rand. And to that, I say Amen, and congratulations!

And now, a message from Ah Ping:

ah ping loves u

heh. lovable pig, isn't he?

Table tennis over

Well, at Key's place recuperating from oxertions over the last few days. I was taken out from the doubles team and pressed into mixed doubles for the last match, 3rd/4th placing. We'd actually played the same team in our very first match, but both of our teams lost our semi-final matches and here we were again. The first time, we'd lost 4-1, with only our second singles claiming victory, and we wanted revenge this time. Both our singles players' won, and our veteran lost, so we had two chances to seal the match. First, my mixed doubles game, we won the first set easy, 11-4, but then proceeded to lose the next three sets. Then the doubles team, lost two sets, won one, and then lost the third in an agonizingly long deuced contest, 15-13. So we're fourth. :<

I was quite disappointed overall... I improved a lot in my table tennis skills over only 5 days. My serve has gotten better, forehand push and smash, and serve returns. But over 4 games (we had one walkover) I lost all four! And three of those were not against opponents of overwhelming calibre. (The other was our semifinal match yesterday.. totally outclassed). Could have won, but didn't. My doubles partner put it down to lack of practice, but I'm disappointed nevertheless. Still, I do feel a sense of pride that my skills have improved, and thankfulness to all the guys who've been coaching me.

So, back to camp! At least until the basketball tournament!

Andy passed me Sid Meier's Pirates (Live the Life) yesterday, and I tried it out this morning. Seems quite interesting, I'll give it a few more shots. And reading the Clan Novel Saga: The Fall of Atalanta. I actually borrowed Greg Bear's Songs of Earth and Power, but even though it's somewhat interesting, the style of the Clan Novel is much more suited to my style of reading. I mean, Greg Bear is a good writer, critically acclaimed and all that, but even the short story Blood Music had me struggling to finish it, not to mention a full length novel. Guess my attention span is too short!

Another new feature photo. It's a very simple image by Alex Verne but it's a fantastic portrait shot. That's one of my aims, to become a good portrait photographer, able to use frame and setting to draw out a good representation of family and friends. A looong road ahead there.

Starship Operators?

Looks like I'm going to try a new anime. Andy was trying to tell me about this new season anime, which basically has a bunch of cadets out on a space training operation when their home territory is conquered, leaving them country-less. (Sound like Terminal?) Well, in order to get supplies and stuff (since they're a rogue ship) they syndicate their story as a, get this, reality TV program to the Galactic Network. Their fights and battles and day to day lives are broadcast to the world (for huge profits) and they get paid. And because the enemy nation is getting its ass kicked on galactic tv, they keep sending more and more ships to eliminate the rogue ship! It's so... neurotically modern! Want to watch at least ten episodes to see how it turns out!

A grand adventure

I've spent the last two days at inter-unit table-tennis.. A lot of improvement, mostly because on Monday after the second game we went to Bishan stadium for a two hour round of training. Jeffrey's been giving me a lot of pointers, so I've spent a lot of time working on serving, on pushing.. about three hours every day in "zha ma" position. Now my legs are sore. Despite that, I just keep losing my doubles matches. Three times in four matches, 3-1, 3-2, walkover, and 3-0. Even though my doubles partner said our last loss was good, we did pretty well against a better doubles team, but I feel like I disappointed my convenor. Anyway, tomorrow I'm not playing doubles, they're changing the team. It's 3rd-4th placing tomorrow, and we still stand a chance!

But that's not the grand adventure. After the semis today, Andy jio-ed me for bball in NUS. Since I was meeting Key I didn't mind. But after going home and changing and stuff, i'm heading to school, get off the 106 and just as the 96 arrives, I realize I don't have my shoes! I was carrying them earlier! So I thought I'd left them at the busstop opposite my house, quickly ran across the road and hailed a cab. But 5 minutes later I realised I left it on the bus, so tell the taxi driver to u-turn and chase the 106. The taxi driver must have thought I was nuts. He was very helpful though! Chased until centrepoint, and overtook the 106. Taxi stopped in front, I got on.. but the bus driver doesn't look familiar (he's not Chinese!) and I'm like.. did I get on this bus? What time did you leave the terminal. Turns out it's the next bus. So back onto the cab, chase some more, asking Key to check where 106 goes after town, when I see it! It's leaving plaza sing busstop, so we intercept it at the next stop (taxi driver stopped next to the bus) and I jump on! Again, under the first seat my bag's not there, and my heart stops. So I ask the driver, hey, do you recognize me coming on the bus earlier, and he takes out my bag...

Wow! But inclusive of the ride back to school it cost me $18. But I got my shoes back.. hee.

Anyway, thank you Mr Yap Pow Liang of taxi SHA 5810X, and the unknown driver of TIBS 106 TIB1084J!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I haven't been at a while, but had time to surf today. And you know what, it's really fantastic stuff, you should drop by for a look. This is from Daniel Bayer. He's got a lot of cool shots, but this is the one I enjoy the most. It looks kind of surreal, I'm not even sure if the rainbow is real or added. But it's an AWESOME picture.

Don't be angry..

I made Key angry yesterday.. :< Don't be angry with me anymore..

Table tennis, mentoring, and wine..

Been a really long day.. but get back, if don't blog, then all gone right? Probably wouldnb't blog at a later date.

To begin with, went to Ngee Ann Poly for the table tennis training. Silly thing, meet at 10am, but only started at 10.30, at which time the occupants of the hall chased us out so that they could lock up. As a result, I ended up playing basketball with a couple of people there.. Two guys named Ivan and Zhiyuan. Turns out Ivan was like us, with Engineers Formation, and the two quite nice guys. Some more, Zhiyuan was the table tennis captain of NAP, so... after 3 games, we went to start training, and because they were school mates with some of us, they joined us.

Zhiyuan trained me for a bit, and he's really good. Compared to me, anyway. So I learnt how to differentiate between sidespin and chop serves and how to counteract each. Also, practiced a lot of forehand play, so now I'm more comfortable with forehand stroking and smash.. Can actually use the backhand for chop play and right hand to hammer, much more offensive power now! So I learnt a lot today, really beneficial! Thanks Zhiyuan!

Then, rushed to pick up mentoring toolkits from Sijia and then to the OSY (Out of School Youth) mentors' meeting. Though I was half an hour late, meeting hadn't started when I got there. In the end, other than JiaEn and me, there was Dana, Shalini, Smita only. Which was kind of a disappointing response, but at least most of the others had valid reasons for not coming. Still, the planning session was successful, we got a good plan, well thought out for the first mentor meet mentee session.

Lastly, had dinner with the MC people. Attendance today was Wee Leong, Velle, Harun, Jo, Regina. We had dinner at Wine Network at Dempsey road, pretty out of the way... Meatballs, pizza, chicken wings and a bottle of decent white wine (well, Wee Leong said he chose the cheapest white) for $72. But we felt the food and wine weren't the best, so we wandered up the road to Wine Company and had.. meatballs, spinach pizza and sausages, and a bottle of dessert wine, for $84. All in all, rather expensive meal, but good company. Like Jo said, it's the company and atmosphere! With this bunch, I've gotten kind of used to this: Long nights of fun and deranged conversation on wide range of topics, and pricey meals.. Got back close to midnight.. tired out... But at least my foot is okay.

"Change is inevitable, except from the vending machine".

Saturday, April 09, 2005

My walk with God: currently taking a rest break.

Hm. I seem to have fallen into that category of people I never understood. How can I possibly believe in God and still not do anything about it? It's kind of like that thing I heard before:

"It's not enough to say, I believe in God, isn't that enough? Why should I follow all these obscure commandments? I believe, and I'm generally a nice guy, I don't murder rob or rape." To which the reply is, biblically, "Even the demons believe, and tremble!"

Eh. I'm stuck in a rut. And true to form, thinking about it, not acting on it. I guess my relationship with God shares at least one aspect with my relationship with mom (though she would hate the comparison.. :( ) I want His (and her) approval over what I'm doing with my life.. to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" or even "Yo dog, I'm cheering for you all the way!" What I don't want, is being told, "Do this! Do that! Don't do that!" I guess, lots of things I want to find my own way, even if it's messy and screwed up. And when I'm stuck for ideas, or trapped, then I can ask for help, at my own timing.

But you know, I love CS Lewis' writing, and one thing he said fills me with sadness when I compare it to the above. Basically, he was describing for a lay audience, what is sin? Why does the Bible say that all men have sinned? It's not about eating an apple, or the act of being born (you know, like original sin). It's simply that sin, is living separately from God. And men sin, because we believe, in our pride and arrogance, that we can live independent from God, to live without His blessing in our lives, without His presence and guidance.

I'm gliding along, and God doesn't seem to have withdrawn His blessing.. but somehow it feels wrong. Yet, going back to that churched lifestyle, putting all my time and life into cellgroup and church.. doesn't feel right either..


"Like anyone who's a drinker knows, you borrow courage when you're drinking, and you lose it someplace else. Addiction is about credit. That amazing thing you said at the bar last night, that thing you would never say in person to anyone, it's a onetime occurence, because tomorrow, in the light of dawn,when you are separated from your wallet and your money, when your girlfriend hates you, then you'll be unable to say that courageous thing again, because you are wrung out and lying on a a mattress without sheets. You borrowed that courage, and it's gone."

The Albertine Notes, Rick Moody
A beautiful and utterly confusing sci-fi story, written very non-traditionally.. pick it up in Year's Best SF 9, at your National Library Branch today! Fiction, under YEA (for Year's!)

A tough week is over! Phew!

Well! It's now April 9th, and I'm 3 months from ORD! Heh, rush of euphoria at the moment. The big Skills-At-Arm event is now over, and even though we didn't win, at least I don't have to worry about organising it anymore. I was getting pretty frustrated with all the times that I would be out with Key and some guy would call me and ask me for this info, or that info, or whatever.

So I had yesterday off, and Monday to Wednesday going to play table tennis for inter-unit tournament. That's actually quite good, means I won't be doing much camp work for a while. =p Though it also means that today I'm supposed to go table-tennis training in the morning..

It's one heck of a packed day coming up. After the training, there's a meeting for the OSY mentors in the afternoon, followed by dinner with the Engin 20/21MC (mostly 20 actually) someplace in town. I want to meet them, but a bit concerned about priceyness of the dinner. The places they're picking are quite classy.. And of course I'm the only fool still in NS, the rest are raking in the big bucks already... :< One good thing is that I won't have to neglect Key to do all this stuff, she's got general plans for the day.

But it IS a worry.. THC stuff is swallowing up every weekend this month. And end of April, on the Labour Day weekend, both my family and Key's family are planning vacations. Sis wants to go Club Med cruise (SGD 580 a head! Ex for only two nights) and Key's going to visit her dad. Looks like I'm going to miss both.. :<

Anyway, I've sprained my ankle. Double-sprained it actually, at basketball yesterday.. Heh, but God is good, healing factor kicking in! Good for training today, and should be fully recovered by Monday's matches!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

ah ping's operation

Ah Ping is going for an operation today.. We're bringing him to get stuffed! Should be quite a routine operation but Key's kinda worried anyway. And Ping's just kind of in a low-background-worry mode. But he'll look better after the op, so.. it's good. life-prolonging!

So they came to stay over yesterday night. We watched Kill Bill vol 2 yesterday. It's such a bad movie in so many ways.. like watching some of those old Swordsman movies with some new touches and in English of course. And there are so many slow scenes. But as a whole package it's not too bad. That's strange isn't it? I didn't like the movie in its parts but as a whole it worked out.