Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best sentence I've read in a while...

From Greg Mankiw:

In my view, it is best to consider all knowledge as tentative. The best scholars maintain an open-mindedness and humility about even their own core beliefs. Excessive conviction is often a sign of insufficient thought, which in turn may be derived from a certain pig-headedness. Intellectual maturity comes when you can maintain the right balance between informed belief and honest skepticism.


Wow...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

你这个没有心的王八蛋

Today was the first day it rained in the morning when we were supposed to work... So we ended up huddling under an umbrella walking on woodlands road to the busstop... Some really inconsiderate bastards driving fast on the outermost lanes kept driving by sending huge plumes of water to drench us and the other pedestrians...

Assholes, would it kill you to slow down or take the fast lane? You're driving at sixty to seventy during thunderous showers on a two lane road.. Sometimes faster than wiser people in the fast lanes, other times with no cars in the fast lane at all. Are you just oblivious to the world, or a sick vilehearted thing who wants to drench pedestrians.

你会有一天后悔...

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mirrors Edge Makes Me Dizzy

And all I did was pick up the controller, look around, and take maybe five steps... Wow

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Hallucinations = Carbon Monoxide

Listening to the national public radio podcast for halloween, the first story was quite strange.. Really creepy story that sounds very much like The Others, circa 1920s... Phantom knocking, people walking around somewhere in the house, strange people in the bedroom. But instead of a ghost story, it's a medical journal entry. And once they fixed a furnace which was leaking carbon monoxide, everything ended. Amazing, no?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lifecast V1.2

Haven't blogged in a while. Part of it is just being too busy, and part of it was cos the previous lifecast got buggy and ate some entries. Hopefully this works. It's mildly irritating and quite a turnoff when you put a lot of effort into crafting something and it disappears into The Great Big Electronic Nowhere.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking the train at 7am is bloody murder

Ministry of transport senior management, both political and administrative, should try taking the train from say, jurong east and tanah merah towards town at 7am to understand how terrible it is. Without security guards and smrt minders of course.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ST Colour Me Tone?

This "ST-Colour-Me-Tone" item appeared on my Singtel bill this month, so I had to call Singtel to verify that I had not asked for this service and get it cancelled from my future bill and waived from my current one. A bit pissed off, actually. So if I had been more busy and just chucked my bill to one side they would have happily charged me for a service I did not utilise?

So yes, some level of service recovery by cancelling and waiving, but in my mind this is not a fair strategy. Thinking about whether I should be making a complaint to IDA...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Status Change

Zim is now a proud co-owner of a flat!

The second appointment was quick and surprisingly painless. Unlike the first appointment, we were done in pretty much half an hour and three forms. It's strange, I don't feel any different...

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Reminder - Go to the dentist after eating all that good food..

Or you won't be eating much more..

Here's an interesting CNA article that says

A survey has shown that 54 per cent of adults here do not visit their dentists regularly, and 85 per cent of Singaporeans have gum disease.
I was until recently one of the 54 percent, and am still battling to get out of the 85 percent. Go see your dentist today, really!

Beef D'luxe At TCC



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Brotzeit, Suntec. O Wow!



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Friday, September 26, 2008

All Routes Lead To Jams

1) Got on the 77.
2) Immediately stuck in jam on bt batok east avenue 3.
3) Got off, walked back one stop.
4) Got on 174.
5) Old lady offers seat
6) Stuck in jam on Toh yi drive


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You Know You Look Very Put Upon When...

An old lady offers you a seat on the bus! Damn paiseh, and very grateful!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Starting From Scratch

Just attended a meeting for the department where I'm to start work soon. Seems like a daunting task, with much to learn. Exciting, and worrying at the same time, with high stakes on the line. Can I make it?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time Crush

Just getting to sleep due to work overload. It's intensely frustrating that the to-do list is piling up. Worst thing about today was the feeling that a colleague just palmed off some work to me simply because he could. Does it look like I'm very free? Or is it some misguided sense that if you're taking notes for one meeting and I'm doing it for one then that's fair? Frustrated as he'll because I've been working till 1 or 2 for about three weeks and am almostvat breaking point.

Think these three weeks really brought home to me, that when there's too much work, the quality slides inexorably down waaaaay before work starts getting done, and it's not always noticeable till afterwards, when you can only look back and sigh on disappointment.



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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bad Grammar!

I was transferring over to the north line at dhoby ghaut yesterday when I noticed a poster that said "Exposing your valuables and you may end up losing it." So I google this and find that Mr Brown has already blogged it. Curious to see what he said, I click through the link and discover that he posted it in 2006! And the funny thing is, someone claiming to be from the police answered the post and said the posters were being removed.

So, why are they back? Organizational FUBAR screw up, probably.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Indenture

First I sold my soul to the government, now I've sold my body to the HDB.

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Proof Of Marriage Needed A Bit Earlier Than We Thought

As long as we're taking the hdb grant, we need to give our marriage certificate at the second appointment. Or, beforehand seek approval by showing our booking of a wedding venue. Oops.

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HDB

Wait wait wait.

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Getting Pissed With Citibank

So I've faxed in my ic twice already. First time was too dark, second time was too near the top and so the top was cut off. Funny they didn't mention it the first time considering it was in the exact same place. I'm this close to just stopping the application process and just using vpost. If they ask me to refax one more time, I'm just going to just stop. They have some serious service recovery to do.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lobster And Chicken At Spageddies



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Productive Weekend

I just spent the whole day shifting boxes. Didn't play boardgames, and didn't do much for the wedding, but somehow, it was still a very satisfying way to spend the weekend, with key, with friends new and old, sweating it out with some old fashioned manual labour.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Major Crash

Just had a major freeze. iPhone got stuck on safari screen and couldn't be switched off. Didn't know how to reset either. In the end, how you reset the phone is: press and hold both the sleep and home buttons for ten seconds. Simple right? Too bad it's not in the manual. Simple google search turns it up, but what if the phone is my only surfing device?

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Raining Cars And Dogs

For two months while I was in Geneva, I had a totally different world view on what the words "heavy rain" meant. I didn't miss these convection storms, and how if it was raining when you left the house, your pant legs, socks, shoulders, and backpack would be totally soaked even if you had a brolly. If you didn't have one... Well, good luck! Probably the only reason why they don't describe our storms as "torrential downpours" is because typhoons (like in Hong Kong) and other acts of God are supposed to be worse (wouldn't know, haven't experienced those) but then, those aren't exactly common experiences. Not as common as our convection storms, anyway.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Ate Curry Today!



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Longer Words Are Easier...

Thanks to auto-correct, or whatever it's called. If I get more bombastic, that's why.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lifecast: First Post

Trying out lifecast now. It takes away the complexity of logging on, but I wonder if the posts will look different? Only one way to find out!

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iPhone

first post with an iPhone, and it's not very easy. Think I need to explore alternatives!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's psurf?

Wow.. haven't blogged in a while.

So I was in the train and I saw these Nokia ads.. "musicapturenjoy" is obvious... but why "songpsurfind"? What's psurf? Is it a typo?

Takes a google search to toss up "gps" is one item. Kewl, yeah?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Freaknomics and Charity

Can people really change their behaviour easily, if resources were available to help them change their lives?

They believed that poverty was largely a result of resource deficiencies and organizational inefficiencies: if the poor had more money and their service providers could simply manage their giving more efficiently, change would happen. None placed much emphasis on feelings of self worth, the long-term nature of behavioral change or, most important, that staying above water is itself an accomplishment for a poor household. Everyone modeled their expectations after their family business or other corporate workplaces where they saw the “bottom line” motivate people to meet certain standards of achievement.

Very interesting post overall, for all of us who've burnt out on this in one way or another... and a few other interesting posts under the philanthropy tag on the site.

There's one particular post, on how to give away $70million to charity. Interesting comments, and I particularly like the comment by Shine:

I can’t tell you how many n– -s do stupid shit because they couldn’t get no food. Lot of people rob and steal to put some food in their belly. Make sure people got food. A man stops feeling angry against the world when his belly is full.

and this other comment:

I can’t believe all these people think we should first give outside America! That’s exactly the problem.

I go to the Hamptons, and they have these stupid fund raisers for things going on that are thousands of miles away. And, then you go back to 5th Ave (on Manhattan’s Upper East Side), and you tell your doorman to make sure no homeless people ask you for money on the block. It’s sick.

In my mind, there's an closer dilemma even before I get to the international-domestic line. What business do I have donating my time to other people, when I don't spend quite enough time with my own family? :<

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch has passed away...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interesting factoid on mirrors

From the NYTimes:

Imagine you are standing in front of a bathroom mirror; how big do you think the image of your face is on the surface? And what would happen to the size of that image if you were to step steadily backward, away from the glass?

People overwhelmingly give the same answers. To the first question they say, well, the outline of my face on the mirror would be pretty much the size of my face. As for the second question, that’s obvious: if I move away from the mirror, the size of my image will shrink with each step.

Both answers, it turns out, are wrong. Outline your face on a mirror, and you will find it to be exactly half the size of your real face. Step back as much as you please, and the size of that outlined oval will not change: it will remain half the size of your face (or half the size of whatever part of your body you are looking at), even as the background scene reflected in the mirror steadily changes. Importantly, this half-size rule does not apply to the image of someone else moving about the room. If you sit still by the mirror, and a friend approaches or moves away, the size of the person’s image in the mirror will grow or shrink as our innate sense says it should.
Hmm... I was fooled, too!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kuriya Dining

We ate at Kuriya Dining at Great World City today.. quite a pricy place, starting at $35 a head for set lunches, so you get the picture. But celebrating Wing's birthday, so that's okay, of course.

Of course, someone pointed out - if it's such a fine dining place, why are we using disposable chopsticks? It's a very good question, which was answered by MC. Basically, from his 5 years' experience in Japan, all the fine dining restaurants used disposable chopsticks. Anyone can verify?

On to the food - Konniyaku(?) soba comes with a raw quail's egg.. how strange!


My own dish was sashimi...


accompanying a codfish teriyaki.

The main dishes were.. decent not fantastic, but the chawanmushi was wow!

Food: Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge

An excellent, excellent place in Geneva, near Paquis and the Hotel Beau Rivage. Here's one of those really cool chalkboard menus...



And that last dish? The Tournedos Passini?



Wonderful beef, topped with foei gras that melts in your mouth, topped with caviar (which was to me, only meh... )

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lessons in Love, by Way of Economics

Wonderfully offbeat article, with great learning points, like

In general, and with rare exceptions, the returns in love situations are roughly proportional to the amount of time and devotion invested. The amount of love you get from an investment in love is correlated, if only roughly, to the amount of yourself you invest in the relationship.
If you invest caring, patience and unselfishness, you get those things back. (This assumes, of course, that you are having a relationship with someone who loves you, and not a one-sided love affair with someone who isn’t interested.)

and

Realistic expectations are everything. If you have unrealistic expectations, they will rarely be met. If you think that you can go from nowhere to having someone wonderful in love with you, you are probably wrong. You need expectations that match reality before you can make some progress. There may be exceptions, but they are rare.

or

Ben Franklin summed it up well. In times of stress, the three best things
to have are an old dog, an old wife and ready money.


Lol...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

iPod Game: The Song Summoner

That's right - an RPG for the iPod! I think KeY might really dig this. By way of Penny-Arcade.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reading: Never Let Me Go

I borrowed Kazuo Ishigaru's Never Let Me Go after reading LiCh's excellent post on the book. I haven't yet finished, even though I tear through huge chunks of the book each time I start. Somehow I feel like I don't want to read the book in snatches the way I usually do, I'd rather really read the text and understand what's being said. I feel like there's something beneath the surface there, that I'd only grasp if I could understand it better.

Plot-wise, it's quite clear that it must be alternate-universe - somehow, a world in which cloning was available in, say, the 1980s. I mean, cassette tapes and Walkmans. But I'm willing to suspend disbelief, and let meaning override consistency. In the meantime, here's a short excerpt which made me stop reading on that page, just so I would remember to blog it.

What I'm saying is that we were all of us struggling to adjust to our new life, and I suppose all of us did things back then we later regretted. I was really upset by Ruth's remark at the time, but it's pointless now trying to judge her or anyone else for the way they behaved during those early days at the Cottages.

Regret's a big part of my life. So many things I said that were cringe-worthy, so many things done that I should never have, can barely forgive myself for, so I simply try to forget, and hope that everyone forgets as well, that in others' memories only the best things are preserved. But then again, would I really extend the same benefit to those I know? If I don't blame others for their transgressions, it's likely because I did not notice, or don't remember.....

An unintuitive argument about the mechanism of suicide

In the late 1970s, Seiden set out to test the notion of inevitability in jumping suicides. Obtaining a Police Department list of all would-be jumpers who were thwarted from leaping off the Golden Gate between 1937 and 1971 — an astonishing 515 individuals in all — he painstakingly culled death-certificate records to see how many had subsequently “completed.” His report, “Where Are They Now?” remains a landmark in the study of suicide, for what he found was that just 6 percent of those pulled off the bridge went on to kill themselves. Even allowing for suicides that might have been mislabeled as accidents only raised the total to 10 percent.


More here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

On Milgram:

...those who stopped generally believed themselves to be responsible for the shocks, whereas those who kept going tended to hold the experimenter accountable...

One more reason to hold yourself accountable for your own actions.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Questions: Length of loan?

Trusted colleague was advising me: I may wish to consider getting a larger and longer HDB loan since I would be able to get better returns on the money than 2.6% anyway. Not sure, it's a bit against my inclination to get out of debt as soon as possible but I suspect he's right!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Major life decisions

So we finally put down for a option on a resale flat. Hmmm...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Art of the Job Offer

Encourage candidates to turn you down...

I don't agree with the last point. But, the first four points make sense!

First, don’t use the offer as an opportunity to sell the candidate.
Next, be completely honest about the culture.
Then, tell the candidate your concerns about them.
Fourth, don't give candidates a long time to make a decision

Will try to apply this if I ever get into that position, lol.

Kung Fu Panda: Favourite line?

It's quite a funny show - so many funny lines... I'm actually a little torn between two lines which have much applicability in real life...

"There are no accidents."
"I know, you've said it twice already."
"That too, is no accident."

Or... (rough approximation)

"There is no good news or bad news, only news."
"Tai Lang has escaped!"
"That is bad news."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Boom Blox is fun!

Just tried out Boom Blox for Wii today. Wrists hurt, but it was fun! Try it today!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wired features Descent

A very light review of Descent. However, I would say that a good Overlord isn't just trying to eliminate the players, but is trying to guide them through with a maximum of tension - ie, you're not trying to kill them entirely... just a couple of times to up the tension, is all...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

D&D seems even more appealing

Listening to Penny Arcade's D&D podcasts again.. like what one of the players was saying, this makes me really feel like starting a campaign, seriously! With a nice group of people, of course.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Finished reading: Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson

His prologue explains how his writing style is different from other fantasy writers. I'm not entirely convinced that it is that different, but he does try to make his explanations fit better into the story.

That having been said, I was captivated enough to want to finish reading it, but not enough to want to get the next book. At the end, I've got so many questions - How does one become an Ascendant? What is the relationship between Caladan Brood and Anomander Rake? Does the Deck of Dragons dynamically update? How will Sorry + Crokus work out? Are Kelanved and Dancer in a different book? What does Quick Ben have planned?

A product of his writing style, I guess, because he leaves sooooo many threads hanging. But despite that, I don't really feel like I HAVE to read the next book, and I'm now contemplating leaving the book in Geneva if I have problems with my luggage. Ah well, the book was cheap and it was an entertaining read, so it's not a total loss, I guess.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Does this apply to drivers with radio decals?

Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other "territorial markers" not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage -- by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.


Ie, they are more susceptible to road rage. But from my reading of the article, it's not that these people are more aggressive, it's that these markers "personalise" their car and make them more likely to be defensive about their space.

Does this mean 93.3 contributes to Singaporean drivers' unfriendly attitudes by giving out car decals?

Of WoW Raid Decks and Magic the Gathering

The guys at Penny Arcade went to play at a WoW TCG tournament, resulting in this comic.


We saw the same decks over and over and over and over for the three days we were there, I assume these were either "greatest hits" from previous tournaments or represented the current state of the art, but it made the experience much less organic. You could discern the entire arc of the game from the moment they placed their hero.


I think this may be why I suddenly stopped playing Magic again. I just don't really relish playing the same strategies over and over again.. True, by following the best strategies as refined by other peoples' research and play against each other, I am essentially playing a stronger deck. By playing other peoples' strong decks I am forced to play better. But maybe I'm not playing because I want to be better?

Somehow I find the 4-of, 60-card decks playing the best rares, uncommons and commons, just a bit boring. The combo decks were pretty fun for a while but it also became meh. Highlander was awesome right until the part where I find that everyone's playing the same cards - like really really the same!

I guess I'm looking for a story in it, and the Raid decks and their heroes vs DM style of play really appeals to me. But I don't want to learn a whole new card game, collect a bunch of cards, and then end up in one-on-one matches all over again. So... no, no, no. If I'm doing any of this stuff again, it's D&D 4th Ed. Or Descent. (and the two do seem quite alike, somehow. I might even be able to use Descent stuff to do D&D lol... )

Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge Geneve

Really, really wonderful beef and foei gras at this restaurant on the Rue de A. Vincent. Will post pictures once I'm home, forgot to bring my phone upload cable....

Monday, June 16, 2008

True words from Obama

NYTimes reports on Obama's speech on absentee fathers.

“But we also need families to raise our children,” he said. “We need fathers to realize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception. That doesn’t just make you a father. What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

Mr. Obama spoke of the burden that single parenthood was on his mother, who raised him with the help of his maternal grandparents.

“I know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house,” he continued. “The hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you. So I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children.

(Emphasis mine)
True words, indeed. I would add, being a good husband to my wife.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abortion rights

Frightful true stories - but we should not look away. Making abortion illegal may stop some abortions, but it drives the rest into the shadows.

Kindle, e-book reader

I've been thinking about an e-book reader for a while now. I really like reading, and especially re-reading favourite passages, but I hate storing books. They turn all moldy and brown and silverfish swarm all over, and it takes up lots of space. E-books are fine (I've been reading little books on my Axim for a while now) but it's difficult to read in sunlight generally. Plus battery life might be a problem. And the books I want to read may just generally not be available.. And it's difficult to do cross-referencing between pages.

So I've been looking with interest as the Kindle, Cybook, and other e-book readers get good reviews.

Communities Dominate Blogs linked up an article on the number of Kindles in circulation. And of course Tyler Cowen has been writing about the Kindle (since he bought one) saying that it's better for fiction than non-fiction, noting the low, low price of an e-book, and that sales of e-books are going up. That last post also linked an NYTimes article about how Kindle might affect the book market as a whole. Preetam Rai also reviewed much earlier the Cybook Gen 3, and the photos he posted (plus the Kindle photo in the NYTimes article) assure me that the screens can be bright enough for good reading. The usual tradeoff for that is battery life, though the article on Electronic Ink posted by Preetam suggests that it does not drain power as long as the page is not updated. (As a note, Wiki says that Kindle is also e-paper based.)

Hmm.. i-Phone? Kindle? Gosh... not earning enough...

The kind of thing that would make me change career...

Renovating a home, and building a puzzle in. Maybe not for the current homeowner, but for the next residents and generations to come. But what would happen if they renovated the place, or changed the bed? Sigh... I'm a romantic at heart, but it's like when you're building a D&D campaign, sometimes the players just can't solve the puzzles, and you have to help them out, which hurts things a little.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Loose Change

I was asked to watch this show, Loose Change, which basically talks about 9/11.



I'm not sure how I feel about this. It's very conspiracy-theorist, and I have mixed feelings about that - it's very cyberpunk, but I tend to think that the people who have the power and intelligence to pull these things off don't leave little clues for others to catch. Ie, if they're so smart, how did they get caught by you? Of course, nowadays, with the stunts people pull, it's not really that hard to imagine powerful people dumb enough to get caught.

Anyway: debunking Loose Change here, so at least you get some sarcastic commentary about the claims of the video.

JK Rowling's Commencement Speech at Harvard

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

Well spoken!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

D&D - brings back good memories, dammit!

Penny Arcade is playing D&D 4th Ed! And they're putting up podcasts! Woo hoo! It was fun listening to it, just a bunch of people having fun there (and I recognized Tongli in Gabe... ) and it seems fun.. dammit, I miss RPGs.. :(

Obscure, useful fact of the day: Mark your heat waves

If there's a heat wave, the wines from that region in that year are likely to taste better. So, mark those heat waves!

Credit: CP!

Monfils Sliderman

Was watching Monfils' semifinal against Federer - damn good match, but the thing that stuck for me was how he was so expressive and showy. He wouldn't have been out of place in a Prince of Tennis comic, seems like, the opposing gaijin with some special abilities and bizarre motivations...

A short break

A short break from work - good.
A short break from work on Saturday - wait, what am I doing working on the weekend?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sheer insensitivity.

I was at a meeting, and they were taking time out to remember someone who passed away. One of the guys started reading from a poem which he felt described the deceased well. This was Invictus, and it's a beautiful piece. "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." How many people can say that? I wish I could.

So anyway, he's reading halfway, and someone starts making a commotion off to one side, and makes a hullaballoo that there was no interpretation. Cuts off the speaker entirely, and the speaker just stops.

Turns out the interpreters stopped because, you know, it's poetry. And not a prepared statement so it's not easy to translate. And I'm like pissed, because like, isn't that a totally totally insensitive thing to do? I mean, given the solemnity of the situation, just shut up and act sincere, why don't you?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Now reading: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

I'm so starved of English books here, I went to Foyle's in London and looked for anything on sale. This was pretty cheap, 4 quid special price. Good reading so far, will have to see...

I'm thinking about getting a Kindle. I've seen a few good reviews of it, and frankly for me an electronic reader is probably best. I treat my books badly, travel frequently, like to re-read but don't really like the storage space they take up. Only thing is, will all the titles be available? And will I get used to reading off a screen? Part of my experience with screens is that it's awful hard to read outdoors, and turning up the brightness normally burns out the battery pretty fast. Whereas, well, a battered paperback can be read pretty much anywhere - except where it's dark, of course. Haha....

Limping to the finish line

It's been a tough week. Sigh... Full of strange requests, rushing between meetings, and too little time to complete my work. Damn it. I hate these kinds of weeks. And to make it all worse, I'm missing my baby...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

HDB Revises Flat Application Rules (part III of III)

Continuing parts I and II,

Against the hope that someone important reads these posts, let me put the constructive comments before all the vitriol below.

Who are those "with urgent housing needs" who HDB should be selling flats to? They are the couples married or getting married, planning to have children in less than five years. When you have thousands of such couples applying for flats, and none of them wanted any one of the 30% of flats available in a particular BTO, what does that tell you? It tells me that for some reason, those flats are not suitable. Too expensive, too far away, too small, etc.

Yes, they could compromise to have less than ideal flats, so by definition they are picky. But if you choose to define them as picky, and try to shoehorn them into your plans rather than catering to their needs, then you're going to get delayed marriages, delayed parenthood, less children than they might otherwise have had.

My suggestion is this : 70% of the Coral Spring flats were sold. 30% could find no buyers at the price. I'm sure it was no accident that this 30% were not selected. They must be overpriced, in the sense that all the remaining homeowners rejected them. Can they be priced lower? If the price is already "unreasonably" low, then these flats must be worth less than they cost to built. Should they not be built? If they must be built (maybe they're all the low floors, or all the afternoon sun units), then the prices of the entire block should reflect the losses that would be made on the low-value units. And if the HDB overestimated the value of those units - then like private sector organisations, it should decide if it's better to discount these units or hang on to them and absorb the loss.

---------------------
Well those flats are subsidised, they're being built to help (more unfortunate) Singaporeans "with urgent housing needs". HDB should be allowed to tweak their rules anyway they want - you ungrateful twats! Right?

Well - point 1 - urgent housing needs. I'd previously browsed articles about people urgently seeking rentals. Can't easily find them again, but Google popped up at least one -

Every time they ask HDB about their rental, everyone says the same thing -
to wait. It has been almost two years now and there is still no news. I am
really sad to see them this way


Right...
Well, enough character assassination. Think about it - urgent housing needs. The implication is that the picky ones are getting in the way of those with "urgent housing needs" - a phrase which conjures up visions of people living on the street, who could get a home now that the picky ones are being purged. But if your BTO is 30% under-sold, there's nobody with urgent housing needs, at least not urgent enough to buy what you're trying to sell them. It's a silly way to justify the policy, to disguise it as a resource prioritization issue. What HDB is trying to do is to incentivise homeseekers to buy what HDB wants built, rather than what the homeseekers are looking for. The thinking might go something like this:

"Ooh. Unsold flats. Why don't they want to stay at these places? If enough people moved into these remote locales in these beautiful communities we have planned, then the demand for services would bring services to these communities and everyone would benefit! These silly people, so picky! They're spoiling our system! Making us look bad too, first so many applicants, makes it look like we didn't build enough. Then so many empty flats, as if what we offered is so unattractive! These picky people! How do I make them stop applying and then not buying flats?"

I'm sorry - in my idealized view of government, I would have thought that the approach should have been to find out why the BTOs were falling short of those homeseeker's expectations.

Or maybe they've asked already, and discovered that these picky people are just unrealistic buggers who expect cheap and good, and their expectations are unrealistic. You'll never meet their needs so get them out of the way. Well, if that's the case - then the implication is that the unsold flats ARE worth their price. Obviously all the people applying for HDB flats are too stupid to see that the flats are good bargains!

-----------------------

HDB revises flat application rules (part II of III)

Continuing the previous post,

Weren't the BTOs supposed to ensure that supply did not outstrip demand (and saddle HDB with unsold homes) (and on the side, cause a fall in housing prices that would anger existing home owners - hmm I wonder which is more important)?

The recent Coral Spring project, for instance, saw about 30% of flats not taken
up even after all applicants had been invited to book a flat.


So a question to self - if BTOs are 70% sold as reported there, then does it reflect that supply is outstripping demand? And how does that tally with 1000+ people still looking for flats and applying to the new BTO projects Compassvale Pearl and Punggol Sapphire?

It tallies. It tells me that the BTOs as HDB is building them is not meeting the needs of that bunch of people who rejected the flats and are still out there shopping. Rather than questioning the pickiness of the homeseekers, maybe the HDB should be asking questions like
"What are they looking for? Why are they so picky? Which 30% of the flats are not being sold? Maybe it's the low floors? Maybe it's the bigger flats? The smaller ones? Would it sell if we priced it lower? Would it sell if we made them bigger?"

If you tell me that the flats were eventually taken up after many applicants rejected them, sure, I'll agree that maybe those guys in front were picky, and the guys later got their homes in the end - after a longer wait then necessary. But when nobody wants the flats at all - maybe those guys aren't being picky. Maybe those flats really are lemons. I wouldn't know, I didn't apply - but if I had to guess from the available info I'd say, hell yes those flats must have been bad.

HDB Revises Flat Application Rules (part I of III)

Recent launches of Build-to-Order flats have seen an overwhelming number of applications, especially those in mature estates, leading to speculation that there is a shortage of new flats. But HDB said, on the contrary, the bulk of applicants often do not end up making a purchase.


Right. Let's see.
1) The policy change targets first-time applicants.
2) As of my writing this post, after applications opened on 22 May (day before in Singapore time), there are 1226 applicants for 1485 apartments in Compassvale Pearl and Punggol Sapphire. Presumably the demand will be comparable to previous times. I haven't applied for BTO in a while, but the last time I applied for mature estates flats, there were >10,000 applicants.
3) Presumably many of these applicants are first time applicants.
4) There are 1226 couples (mostly first-time? Maybe HDB has some stats they'd like to release to us) watching HDB's site like eagles, waiting for new sites. There will be more applicants, since the application closes on 5 June.
5) Ie, > 1,000 people queueing eagerly for a flat. No shortage? Right.
6) At this moment, another page of the HDB site shows 1691 flats for sale - 1485 under the BTO and the rest for bi-monthly sale. Ahh... 206 flats unsold, including 196 in the wonderful Jurong West locale. Of course there's no shortage.

There's no point talking about shortages versus those unsold flats. As one of those people looking for a flat, I can tell you - the prices of those JW flats are going to have to be much lower before people are going to want to buy them. Any househunter is going to look at a house and compare its value to him and the price he wants to pay for it. Rather than saying that those unsold flats (and the 30% in Coral Spring) reflect picky homeseekers, maybe HDB should look at those unsold flats and ask itself, why those flats can't be sold to 1000 over people looking for homes? Basically, value < price! And part of that crappy value includes things like : far out in the middle of nowhere; lack of facilities; far away from MRT station; 2nd floor above the !#$%^ hawker centre; surrounded by industrial factories; and the list goes on.

Even though JW is sooooo far away, I might move into a JW flat if it was sufficiently lowly-priced. If you have excess goods, slash the price!

Yes, I know the valuers give a price to the flat based on many factors, but if a valuer prices something at $x and no-one wants to buy it at that price, even with HDB subsidies, well that tells me the valuer is wrong!

Put it simply - there's a shortage of HDB flats which new owners find have a higher value than the price HDB is charging. There's a small glut of HDB flats in JW (and presumably the 30% in Coral Spring) which new owners find are lower value than the price HDB charges.

Put it another way - HDB is selling flats, and when it can't sell some of the lousier sets in its collection it calls buyers picky. So to force-sell those units, it's trying to scare first-time applicants that they'll lose their privileges if they reject some of the lousier, unwanted sets they offer up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More reasons to go to the gym

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/health/13muscles.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

If you don’t work your muscles, they will atrophy, especially as you grow
older. Older people often fall because they are too weak to brace themselves,
and they have trouble with steps and opening jars because their muscles have
lost so much strength.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A follow up from my previous post

Very coincidentally, Errol Morris updates his blog yesterday sometime after I'd made my post. (Not the most probable thing, since his updates seem to be quite well-spaced-out). He's talking about how a photo from Abu Ghraib unfairly implicated (character-assassinated) one of the contractors/soldiers involved. She's seen smiling, posing with the body of a dead torture victim and we immediately assume that she's a sadist.

He interviews Paul Ekman (the facial expressions guy from Blink) on this:

“Horror,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the combination of disgust and terror. So I think “horror” is the right word. It’s a horrible sight, and it instills horror. And then you see, right next to that, someone having a good time. Most people will not realize that’s a “say cheese” smile. They’ll think, because of the broadness of the smile and the thumbs-up gesture, they’re having a good time. That’s what makes this a damning picture to the typical viewer.

I’ll add one more thing. When we see someone smile, it is almost irresistible that we smile back at them. Advertisers know that. That’s why they link products to smiling faces. And when we smile back, we begin to actually experience some enjoyment. So this photograph makes us complicit in enjoying the horrible. And that’s revolting to us.

So why it is such an upsetting photograph is not just because we see someone smiling in the context of the horrible, but that when we look at her, we begin to have to resist smiling ourselves. So it’s a terrible, terrible picture for that reason alone.


So going back to the issue of context which I'd mentioned in my earlier post, Errol Morris says:

Photographs reveal and they conceal. We know about al-Jamadi’s death because of
Sabrina Harman. Without her photographs, his death would likely have been
covered up by the C.I.A. and by the military. Yes, at first I believed that
Harman was complicit. I believed that she was implicated in al-Jamadi’s death. I
was wrong. I, too, was fooled by the smile.


It's an addition to what Yon had to say about photos, truth and context. The photo is fact, but like statistics, it's so damn easy to twist the fact into a false interpretation. Truth can only be obtained by investigation and reasoning, which we often hand over to the powers that be. The result? People wronged, and others who get away.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On perspectives, continuity and so on.

A couple of interesting posts which seemed to converge today.

First off, found an interesting blog by Errol Morris, a documentary filmmaker. In this article, he writes about continuity errors - for instance, how a director can change the actors mid-movie and most people still wouldn't notice - and how that relates to the idea of narrative overriding evidence, change blindness, and the documentary he made which helped free a wrongfully imprisoned man. Through the piece, he moves from philosophical quotes like:


If the world ceased to exist for 2/3 of a second would we fail to
notice?

to cute facts like:

Everyone knows the most famous line from the movie “Casablanca” isn’t a line in
the movie “Casablanca.” When Ilsa enters Rick’s Café Americain, she says to Sam,
“Play it, Sam.” But everyone remembers, “Play it again, Sam.” So why does
everyone remember the line incorrectly? I have a simple theory. Because the
additional word “again,” clearly captures that something is being repeated,
something is being re-enacted.

It's funny that he uses the idea of an orange at the end to give an example of image vs perception vs consciousness, and in his earlier post focusing on the documentary of the innocent man, says

The engine of uncovering truth is not some special lens or even the unadorned
human eye; it is unadorned human reason.
Because Jim Cowen's Spade of Reason (my favorite short story) uses the example of an orange to illustrate how we make models in our head as well.

The second post is from Michael Yon, who's castigating Michael Moore (and others) for using a rather famous photo taken by Yon (to him, a true thing) to illegally (because Yon owns the copyright) convey falsehoods. I still have not watched any of Moore's works (not even Columbine) and haven't really formed an opinion, but Yon was fairly critical of Moore even outside his use of the photo - which given my currently fairly high opinion of Yon, doesn't reflect too well on Moore.

But that's not the point. The point is that idea of truth - the engine of truth is reason, according to Morris, and when you apply that to Yon's post, you get a rather more nuanced version of Yon's reasoning. Which is, the photo is "true", not because it is a statement of fact ( a photo is just a capture of a particular perspective of a scene - fact, perhaps, but not truth), but because when Yon shared it with the world, the context was fully disclosed - at least as far as was possible (which I will not discuss further, because the examples I give could offend). And in Yon's view, when Moore puts it into a different context, the implication, the reasoning that follows draws a false link (and Moore should know that this is false) between the death and the politicians in the same poster.

The Relativity of Wrong

One of the two things I always clearly remember Glen Davis (pastor of our campus cell group at Stanford) teaching was, that there are different degrees of wrong, and that believing the world is a sphere is less wrong than believing the earth is flat. It's a quote that really makes sense to me, and a principle that has helped me in a lot of my thinking.

Today, I discovered that the quote is from Isaac Asimov's essay on "The Relativity of Wrong". I'm a big fan of Asimov's short fiction, so this just awes me totally.

Even crazier is how I discovered this, going from Gobwin Knob to Xyzzy to Asimov. Strange paths to true things.

(The second thing I remember very clearly is that Christians have five duties... )

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some pictures out of Paris

Most of the pics were in KeY's camera of course (the camera I'm using now is much worse than hers, and getting a new camera is not on the list of financial priorities), but here's a couple from mine.




Us in front of Notre Dame. KeY's first time in Paris, and so I brought her around to see all the sights. Should really have stuck in the Latin Quarter just across the bridge from here, she would probably have enjoyed that more than traipsing around half of Paris.



We queued for maybe 45 min waiting to go up. Walked out on to the landing, and it was just a little underwhelming, especially when we've been up so many peak views, and they do tend to look the same after a while. (Honestly, I think The Peak in HK is the best of those I've seen so far. Easily the most recognisable as well. Probably because there's only one side to really look at) But we were a bit lucky, just as we were thinking "Nothing special", the tower erupted in lights. If we'd arrived just a bit later or somewhat earlier we would have missed it entirely... :>

Sunday street party

Serendipity! (the show? Or those little villages in Civilization?) We came across some kind of street carnival while we were looking for lunch... We'd heard about this restaurant called Tanah Merah and wanted to take a look, but it's closed on Sundays, oops. Photo of signboard to follow, but if you happen to want to go, it 9 rue de Clos, Geneva.



But along the way, we walked past a really happening street party at the Eaux Vives, complete with rappers at one end, dancers at the other end, lots of amateur street stalls (I know they're amatuer because (a) they don't all have shelters and (b) quite a few involve teenagers and pre-teens selling PS2 games and trading Pokemon cards) and a wonderful crowd.



Some photos to accompany soon of an outdoor rock-climbing wall for the kids. Looks really attractive, what do you think it would take to set something like this up in Singapore?


Here's the back, notice that the belaying is automatic, probably some kind of fixed-rate-release. It seems like a simple enough setup, and given swiss standards is likely quite safe as well.

Saving for the future...

I've been falling behind my savings targets for a bit.. Adding to the stuff I have little by little, eating at swankier places, taking more taxis, and so on.

And of course, when KeY asked me about how much she should be saving after she just started work, I remembered the advice I had received in the interim, and said that she should just work out her spending patterns before deciding how much to save.

Today, we decided to try a savings target for the next 6 months. We're going to see if we can achieve it, inclusive of holidays, gifts, etc. Might be a bit more difficult, as we're quite used to certain spending habits. But then again, it might be easier than we think. No matter what, its definitely time that we started being disciplined in saving for the future.

On the same note: an interesting NYtimes article on Five Basics for Building a Solid Financial Future appeared today.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Teach for Singapore?

NYTimes has a very short editorial on the Teach for America programme and its success in raising the performance of students. Apparently

These teachers, many of whom come from elite colleges, commit to two years’ teaching. Besides their salaries, they receive modest federal grants and the right to defer loan payments while teaching.

Critics have challenged the program’s usefulness, pointing out that the teachers it places are neophytes and that a majority leave the classroom after two years. But the new study suggests that talented young people can have a lasting effect even if they do not make a career of teaching.

Seems like this could be an interesting program. What are the kinds of schools/graduates you could consider, though? NUS/NTU/SMU? Overseas programs? Scholars? Interesting thoughts here. So, research time: internet first, and the yields are - discouraging..

Start with the Wiki as a summary

Positive?
What Is Teach for America Really Like?

Mixed
Why Teach for America (NY Times again - some positive anecdotes, also comments that the teachers really are not prepared.)

Scary (for would-be teachers)
Two Teach For America Recruits Share Their Stories

(Unbelievably negative)
How I Joined Teach for America—and Got Sued for $20 Million
(but it doesn't really blame TFA, seems to blame the school system)

But I'd like to think the our school systems aren't that bad, so something TFA-like could be helpful. Something to think about...

Mirror's Edge trailer: Assassin's Creed / Urban Running?

First time I'm hearing about the game, but the trailer looks and sounds great!





I also saw a MadWorld trailer.. but that's not cool to put on this site, in case my nieces somehow end up here. I mean, like the guy stuffed a stop sign through his head!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Graffiti, writ big, and with purpose

Great animation!

The importance of soundproofing in hotels

I was waiting for my colleague to open his room door - we were going for dinner. Off to one side, I could hear the sound of a kid crying and sobbing away. Quite creepy, especially as it went on, because it didn't really sound like a full-throated cry, and was rather rhythmic. In my mind, I was already thinking, ghost?

But after listening a while longer (since my colleague took a while to reach the door), I concluded that it wasn't crying. Quite embarrassing,no?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gamer at heart

Seeing so many new games I want to play coming out. Boom Blox, GTA 4, Left 4 Dead... Trailer makes me feel like I need to get multiple TVs and consoles in the house to play in coop mode!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love is..

Cool, funny laid back comic at Three Panel Soul.

Love is giving someone the power to hurt you terribly.... and hoping they don't. And we never trust anyone as easily as we did the first time.
If that's the case, it still feels like the first time.. Strange...

iPhone

non-phone freak Zim is thinking about an iPhone! Phones are not one of the gadgets that I have genearlly obsessed over - before my current S-E K800, none of my phones had ever had cameras, mp3, or even polyphonic tones. And one phone before that, I had never even had a colour display.

Now I'm contemplating an iPhone, and I'm not quite sure why. Especially since I won't be able to blind-sms anymore, and that's one of the things I really like to do.

And you know what? iPhone is coming to Singtel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Preventing injury - core muscle strength, balance, coordination

Interesting NYTimes article about sports injuries to women...

The injury rate among amateur sports players (read - weekend warriors) is quite phenomenal too. I mean, I dunno stats but there are always people out with injury. Some of it is due to insufficient rest / rehab after prior injuries, but this is quite interesting.

To quote:
These were elite players, but from one end of the field to the other, Silvers pointed out girls she judged to have insufficient core muscle strength, balance or overall coordination to play safely. Their movement patterns put their knees — and probably their ankles, hips and backs — at risk.


I'm thinking, this would probably be the only thing that could drag me to gym - how to improve core muscle strength. Googling doesn't seem to reveal anything useful, as many of the articles emphasise doing particular exercises (eg the lunge) accurately - something I guess you'd need a professional for.

Monsters?

Last week KeY and I visited a museum in Annecy which had a display of monsters and chimeras - some really really strange creatures (the weirdest include a mongoose with a snake for a tail, a beaver that had a long, long ,long , flexible mouth, and a bird that had a tortoise shell. Like huge. encapsulating its main body. Really!)

I didn't think it was real, more like a joke played on the stupid visitors who can't speak french - then again, there was a platypus on display too... and I know how I'd react if you'd shown me an animal like that without background. It's either "Fraud!" or "Alchemy Transmutation!" (yes I'm a geek)

Today I'm feeling a bit less certain... After reading an article about the platypus, and one about a 26-foot 1000lb colossal (not giant) squid.

Maybe some of these things were real after all...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cabdriver Thanked for Returning a Stradivarius

This kind of story just puts a smile on your face, a hop in your step, and renews your faith in humanity.

Simple things - an act of honesty, gratitude given with an artist's skill, music that can be enjoyed by anyone, and an act of kindness.

Happy... :>

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gone again...

But still, her fragrance lingers in the bedsheets...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ready to marry, but only if they can find their own homes

There's apparently a TODAY report on this.. sigh..

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sour experience at Easyjet

Just booked a flight to London. It's a bit strange, how Easyjet claims that the fare is everything in, but then afterward there are so many charges... leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Hold luggage charges, charges for using a credit card (damn I need a Visa Electron), etc etc. Swissair would have been cheaper except that
(a) Swissair had this massive fuel surcharge that was like half the total airfare.
(b) I had the option not to bring hold luggage on Easyjet.
Right. No more easyjet...

I wonder how Easyjet is coping with the cost of fuel. Tomi Ahonen at the Communities Dominate Brands blog has been talking about his budget airline canaries dying...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A sunny labour day in Geneva

Where I watched enviously as people whizzed by on blades, and in the clouds I saw dogs playing tag and dragons breathing fire...
6 hours to go.

Devastated

We lost.
I've always said that life as a Liverpool fan is fraught with anxiety, and this was another one of those days. From 1-0 down, to that beautiful Torres equaliser, then to 3-1 down... After that fateful Champions League final, we believe our team can come back from anything... You think that Reina can surely save the penalty. Then you think that Babel's goal is magnificent... and you hope...

Which sets you up for a devastating, devastating fall.
Damn. We lost...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cuttlefish Camouflage

This is just amazing

Basketball blues

I haven't touched a basketball, boardgame, guitar, or console in 2 weeks. Damn, my fingers are itchy....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eneloops

The Simple Dollar just did a cost calculation of rechargeable batteries vs standard AAs, using some new "Eneloops" batteries. I'd seen some adverts for these batteries previously (some advertisement with a spiel about saving the environment through R&D) and was interested. I recall trying to use rechargeables maybe 8 years back, and it was a discouraging experience. The inconvenience of charging, the quick discharge of the batteries, the batteries charge worsening from about the 10th charge onwards...

So it was quite interesting to see his evaluation of these new batteries. I think the newest things to me was the calculated cost of charging the batteries, which comes up to.. just US$0.002. Which is quite amazing.

Of course, his calculation is slightly off. This review of the Eneloops notes that Eneloops contain less charge than other NiMH rechargables, which begs the issue, whether alkaline AAs have an even higher charge. In other words, he may have to replace the Eneloops at a higher rate than his normal usage.

Of course, at less than a cent per recharge, the cost is hardly significant. And the Eneloops really seem to do well in terms of storage charge retention.. Which means
(1) You can throw a bunch of eneloops in a (cold) drawer for emergencies and bring them out to charge occasionally - like once a year.
(2) You can keep a bunch of spare eneloops around when you change batteries and not have to worry about them losing charge in between.

It also means no more sticky spoilt batteries destroying the battery contacts...

Of course, I barely use AAs anymore. The only things I actually use them for now are: (a) Xbox 360 controllers, and in this case I don't think I've replaced the batteries since I got them; (b) clocks at home; (c) guitar tuner.

Anyway - will probably go and check costs when I get home...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

3 days in a row of good weather!

The weather's finally turning. 3 days in a row of good weather here in Geneva, today it's so nice I can leave the window open and it still feels fine.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sita Sings the Blues

After Wired's interview, I definitely want to watch this!

Sword of the Stranger

Just watched Sword of the Stranger, apparently was released in Japan in Sep 07. Well, it's swords, so I'm interested, yeah, but it's also by BONES, which produced Wolf''s Rain, Scrapped Princess, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Period swordfighting, like Champloo and Kenshin, but totally totally different from the two. Well, obviously it's a movie, but its style is totally different from either of those movies, because it's totally totally serious - kind of like the Kenshin prequel. Anyway, storyline is quite straightforward, tale of redemption kind of stuff, feels actually like a Chinese swordfighting movie, actually, down to the melancholic ending, and the overwhelming preference for flute music. And the fighting scenes tend towards realism, none of the characters have special powers and everybody's kind of mortal - including the main character. Love the way they have like three ranks of fighters - Grade 3 nameless dudes who are just there to die and make the rest look good, Grade 2 chaps with names, and weapons to distinguish themselves from each other, and the two Grade 1 guys who are like pre-ordained to meet. Only bad thing was the Chinese, it's probably more enjoyable if you don't understand Chinese so you can't understand what that group of bad guys are saying.

Oh, and I really love the "where's my sword?" bit. (I need to steal someone's screencap of that scene) Dark humour, yes, but... lol, that's the only humour I found in the whole thing. Oh, and maybe the sarcasm about the hostage situation...

A review.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

La Vida Robot

This is a pretty inspirational and cool real-life story... robots, neighbourhood school kids vs MIT kids, inspirational teachers, etc. It's got everything.

Intelligence-enhancing drugs?!

Eh, if you've played Fallout 2 you remember Mentats... Well Wired ran an article about various kinds of intelligence-enhancing drug regimens which readers were actually using.

Crazy stuff... I'm not so much put off by the idea, it sounds great to be more focused and productive, just that I wouldn't want to risk my health for it. I just wonder how delusional some of these people are about the results they actually get - like those who say they get more done in an hour than in their normal workday, and I cannot imagine how that can be.. unless your normal output is darn low... Still that's more possible in creative industries I guess. and the idea is ... intriguing.

I'm more interested in the feature on improving memory... More on that later.

Full Metal Alchemist

There's something to be said about reading manga versus watching anime. I started out as an anime watcher, and loved my Scryed, FMP, FMA, and of course, Makoto Shinkai's stuff. For the longest time, I preferred anime to manga.

But now, reading FMA instead of watching it, I'm finding that I actually connect better with the story. I'd heard a lot of talk that the anime corrupted the story pretty badly, but it goes beyond that. I'm at chapter 9 now, and finding that reading the manga actually helps me to connect better with the characters. When we see Armstrong crying to hear Alphonse's account, well, I'm just like - yeah, I feel a bit like that too!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A good explanation of what those CDOs, and how they got their ratings.

Triple-A Failure
Here's a funnier version, told in Google Docs.

British watching Randy Pausch


So close!!!

Liverpool 1 - 1 Chelsea. I arrived a bit late for the game with Julien, but just after I ordered my drink Kuyt scored that beautifully scrappy goal. He made the first cross, won back the ball, and then ran in to score off the chip over the defence. Then desperately defending (and desperately attacking) until that 94th minute own goal... sianzness....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Damn sianz - screwed up some work

Two weeks ago I was rushing something, and made a call to okay a particular item, in order to make the deadlines...

Just came back to bite me, looks like it was a bad call. Damn sianz.... Haven't been scolded yet, but maybe that's because I'm out of sight.

And they expect me to have 3 or more children in what house again?

A4369. Queue number 4369 out of 5700 applicants. Fourth time. Wtf.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life Lessons: Randy Pausch's last lecture

First found out about this off the New York Times article on Apr 8, and only just got around to listening. It's really awesome, and you can find links to the video and transcript here. 70 min Youtube, so make sure you have a block of spare time, and you'll find it's well worth it.

Tons and tons of learning, but the part that resonated most with me was when he said "when you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up". Criticism is good, it means people care and hope you can change. Maybe because I screw up so often, I'm a bit more sensitive about this particular topic. But a little bit of a belated thank you to all of you. Some of the simplest pieces of advice I've received - like giving people reasons to help you do your job, or not scraping my heels as I walk, or that nothing is beneath me or beyond me - have already made a large impact in my life, and my main regret is that I wasn't always listening carefully for the advice that I've been given.

At a different level, just listening to this talk gave me pangs for a higher calling in life. What dreams have I had? Probably nothing much. But I've been hearing a siren call in my life for sometime now - I need to focus on it more, see if it's where I need to go...

Final note: isolated 1 slide in the lecture as my mantra:
1) Tell the truth
2) Be earnest
3) Apologise when you screw up
4) Focus on others, not yourself

Government in action: Oil, traffic, and organs

Its overcast but sunny today - kind of like the clouds are blanketing the sky, but thin enough that the sunlight shines through... It's Sunday, and the town is half-dead. Maybe I should have gone to find the Magic tournament. Instead, I'm staying in my room and reading - which means analysis of news.. lol.

Oil
From the US presidential race, some analysis of how gas tax cuts could lead to demand increase leading to increase in prices to erase the tax cut.

Traffic
Milan put in place an EcoPass system, similar to ERP, with very impressive results.

Organs
Iran doesn't have a transplant kidney shortage. Apparently, in 1988 organ vending was legalized, and in 1999 the waiting list for kidneys was eliminated. It's got government paying vendors cash plus 1 year of limited health insurance coverage, and charitable organizations and transplant recipients can chip in at the sidelines. The policy analysis, complete with ungated pdf, is available online. Some problems highlighted include: apparently lower efficacy of the transplant (it doesn't survive as well as organs from donors), questions about long-term health of the vendors, reduced donation rates from biologically-related donors. The analysis also includes an interesting short philosophical discourse on whether an organ market would be "coercive" to poor people. Good reading!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A day out at Carouge

Well, CNN still says it's going to rain today. Here's what Geneva has to say:





Well, maybe later in the afternoon. I can't emphasise how good the weather is right now. I can see the snow on those mountain tops in the background, and the sunlight is so bright it hurts. And when I'm walking in the street with my gear on I feel like I'm just about to sweat. Of course, when you look at the fountain of water in the centre (that's the Jet d'Eau) you can see just how windy it is too.... the water is actually blasting almost perfectly straight up and the wind is blowing it out in this spray. On good days when you're on a ferry on the lake you can see the rainbow inside that spray...

Carouge

If you're in Geneva on Saturday morning, take train 13 away from the United Nations until the Marche stop. Just around the corner, will be a street market for fruits, vegetables, cheese, and wine....



Carouge is nice, people are quite friendly. If you're looking for a flea market, the place to stop would be Plainspalais on the same line. I stopped there too, but it's not really the kind of stuff I would buy.

Geneva has these strange trees all over the place. I've seen ones with leaves on, they're like needles. I wonder what they're called?


They look quite ominous if you focus on them. The craggy, twisted limbs look like the claws of some strange anorexic creature, and if those are claws, then on the ends of those fingers, those must surely be shrunken heads? The horror! It's a good thing I took these in the daytime..


There are also all these fountains around. Most of them serve an ornamental function in addition to the utility value they once may have had. Many of the spouts are beasts, for instance this one, which looks like a wolf of some kind, perhaps the Roman Romulus/Remus-type wolf....


And this one, which is much more fantastical winged-dragon...


I did manage to find the boardgames shop. It felt just like PI.. :> But most games are in French. Damn it!

Well, back to dreaming. Geneva's a nice place to wach the clouds go by. The clouds have mostly run away now, making it very unlikely that CNN's prediction is going to come true. Earlier, I was watching a fleet of star destroyers bearing down on Geneva, led by a single hammerhead shark...

Sunny saturday, against all predictions

Yes, it's sunny! Lots of clouds though, hopefully it doesn't rain later. The sunlight has a peculiar colour which I usually associate with afternoon showers in Singapore. Not sure how much attire I should bring out, lol.

Planning to go on a little trip within Geneva today, to Marche, and Carouge, and then to a games shop somewhere in the Bains. Round off the afternoon with a pub lunch and watching Arsenal v Reading, Fulham v Liverpool. Ah well, warmer is better than colder, so I'll be bundled up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Not a good shopper

Thursday is shopping day in Geneva, with the shops open till 9pm, instead of the usual 7pm. Was planning to go shopping, but... then I thought about it, what would I actually buy?



Nowadays it seems I only buy 3 things - clothes, books and toys. Toys include my videogames, but also board games, my guitar (if I didn't have one already), and so on. But I'm not going to buy toys here, it's difficult to carry back. Books I would buy (and I'm already regretting that I left A Game of Thrones, which I'd started reading, behind in Singapore), but most of the books here are not in English and are generally more expensive anyway. Plus, it's difficult to carry.



So I would have bought clothes! And I know just how deficient my casual wardrobe is... and I suddenly realised how dependent I was on KeY to help me select clothes - to the degree that I don't even want to go shopping on my own... If KeY didn't give me tips, the only things I would buy would be basics - plain monocolor shirts and tshirts, black pants, blue jeans. Boring, right?



Ah well.. so I went back to my room and surfed instead. Sigh - so loserish!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A taste of spring

It was a bright and sunny day in Geneva today. Still frightful cold in the wind, but it was like a little bit of a preview of spring, a tiny tease of a taste to keep you hoping that the weather will warm. The prediction for the next couple of days isn't so bright, but a little sunlight goes a long way to restoring hope.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Argh - pesky virus social engineers

The other day I got a link from Airmund on MSN. It looked like a photo link. Clicked on it and was asked for my MSN login and password. Now, why would it do that? So.. suspicious, paranoid Zim didn't follow the instruction. Msn Edmund back asking about the link, and promptly forgot abt it when he didn't reply.

Today I read this:
http://phatybomb.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-to-solve-this-pesky-msn-virus.html

Lol... She suggests to change the password, which is correct. I'm just wondering how many people use the same passwords and userids for 50 - 100% of their online accounts - which means that if I was the password stealer I would be testing it on various accounts pretty quickly, looking for that email where you've got a financial password or financial email hidden away.

Of course, these guys would very quickly run into the problem of how to find that email, when it's buried under a mountain of spam....

In any case, if you kenna this, advice - change all your passwords which are the same....

Role playing is in my blood?

I started playing rpgs when I was in upper primary - someone in class ran Dragon Warriors campaigns after exams. But I really got my start with rpgs with Junx and company playing AD&D (and later Shadowrun) in Sec 1. I used to cut ECA and German classes to go and play - which, of course, I feel guilty about, but you know, it was fun!

Those days were fun.. very juvenile, come to think of it, but I really enjoyed the campaigns, those fun stories our characters would get into, puzzles solved, monsters killed..

Of course, nowadays it's almost impossible to find our old friends to roleplay with anymore. And I've come to realise I just don't have it in me to really be in roleplay campaigns. Especially as a DM, I was never as good as Junx in fleshing out story, mood, and style. I was more of a mind-twisting plot / ouroboros kind of person, and face it, that makes better reading than roleplaying. But I've always liked the idea...

Last year I bought and played a board game know as Descent. When I'd bought
it I'd thought it was simply a dungeon crawler - the fighting part of the dungeon, minus the roleplaying that you needed to get to that point. And I wasn't sure if I would, but hell, yeah, I enjoyed it. Which surprised me, until recently, when I read this Penny-Arcade item about someone else's role playing experience. And then I suddenly realised, as a DM I had faced the same problem.

As a DM, you are not the players' adversary. You are their partner, helping them to tell the legend of their heroes. And so you can't hammer them too hard, and they know it, which takes away from the tension of the game. That's one reason why I liked Shadowrun, with the shadow of disaster constantly hanging over the characters. Death was easy, and resurrection impossible. But Shadowrun is an impossible campaign to run properly unless your players are devious little things who actually think of the kind of skullduggery you actually read in the shadowrun and cyberpunk literature - ourouboros, double blinds, pre-surveillance, Ocean's Eleven and Italian Job kind of tricky, cool ways to get things done.

But Descent, like Fury of Dracula, like Betrayal at House on a Hill, like Shadows over Camelot - these are games where bad guy gets to really play to your full ability, to fight, struggle with, obliterate the good guys without feeling like you ruined their game. Well, you did, but that's the aim. Sweet! I'm looking forward to finding people to complete the basic campaign with, and then to play each of the next three expansions, ending with Road to Legend, which really really really makes me want to play it, since it allows the DM to try to level up at the same time by outsmarting the good guys strategically.

Interestingly enough, Penny Arcade's comic has been featuring the World of Warcraft CCG, specifically the Molten Core Raid Deck, which is a card-based version of what I just described - the struggle between bad guy and good guys.

I think I'd have enjoyed it too... lol.

Monday, April 14, 2008

First day away..

Now in Geneva, after a loooong flight. I never used to have difficulty sleeping in planes before, but with the new SQ seats and pillows, I can't get a good neck support at all. So, didn't sleep as much as normal, even though the movie selection was quite crappy and I only watched one movie - American Gangster, which reminded me in a lot of ways of Protege. I'm so gonna get a neck pillow for my return flight.

(So what did I do the whole flight? I played Crisis Core, which is turning out to be far far better than I'd thought it could be. The gameplay takes advantages of the portability of the PSP, is action-paced, and while being totally new manages to remind every FFVII player of sequences from that great game. Sweet!)

So now I'm in my hotel room, halfway through packing. Decided to check my internet connection first, make sure I will be able to work. Later I've got to do some grocery shopping for some of the stuff I'll need to stay all the way. Sianz just thinking of it. It's just very clunky...

Like the way I'm holding three handphones now. Personal, office, and swiss.

Travelling's supposed to be a job perk - Doesn't feel a lot like it now, maybe because I'm sick and it's drizzling outside. When the weekend comes, life should be better.

Zim out.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some nice places to eat - and some not so nice

Three months of eating compressed into a single post!


This is Reif + James at Clarke Quay. Really small, exclusive restaurant, with an expansive selection of wines. Quite pricey, but I must admit the food was quite nice - look at that beef! The restaurant is not well lit and sits maybe 20 to 30 people at most, so if you like a feeling of exclusivity and intimate service, this is quite a good place.






This next one the Huang Jia restaurant at Kallang Leisure Park , which was rather more pricey. The dishes were very flavourful - very enticing for the first eat, but I'm not sure whether it would become boring after a second visit. All the dishes were quite good - but after a while I forgot to take photos... I was particularly impressed with the crispy chicken. Normally, the skin and the drum stick of the chicken is really good but parts of the chicken become too tough. But in this case, every part of the chicken meat remained moist and tender as well!

The out-of-focus piece at the back here - foei gras with a slab of suckling pig and the crispy pork skin - was fantastic - the flavours combined really well!

















I also liked this dish a lot - it's just a piece of scallop and a snowfish, but it tasted great... heh.

The restaurant is quite large, I'm guessing about 80-100 persons seating, max. What I really like about the decor is the seats, which are really comfortable and large chairs which you can recline in and really enjoy your food in. The restaurant has made sure that there's ample space for these large seats, reducing their capacity but helping to create a spacious, imperial, feeling.








On to a not-so-good place.

Finest Cuts at the basement of Central is somewhere between a butcher and a coffeeshop. There are all these appetising cuts of beef, lamb, and pork waiting to be purchased, and they have a small serving area - maybe 10 persons - where they can serve you your steak at about $20. For that price, you get what's pictured left - looks like NUS canteen western food right? The crime is not the dish decoration, though. It's that the beef is truly ordinary - for $30 I can get much much much better beef at Hogsbreath or Prime Society, so I'm never coming back here again...



Next up - Magma German Wine Bistro. As you'll see below, German food - ie sausages and beer. And in the name, German wine. Honestly - not very impressed, either with their pork trotters or with their sausages. The beer (see how happy we are?) was pretty darn good though, with a nice variety of beers to choose from. I'm curious about some of the non-standard alcohols they have, and next time I'm going to try the honey wine. Is that like mead, do you think?


























Rounding up.... Back to the ole trusty Dessert Hut, in this case at People's Park Center. Yummy ah Boling and other desserts at about $2.50 per bowl. Good stuff. Don't mind the queue, you'll get a seat soon enough...

Wedding: Wedding bands decided, courtesy of Love & Co

Today we paid for our wedding bands. Simple white gold affair, no diamonds. High three digits for the pair. Platinum is almost twice the price, whereas if we had gotten simple silver ones the price would have been in the two digits per ring - but that seems a little too ... ordinary?