May 2008

One Problem With Singapore Healthcare System

On Monday, the holiday ended rather dramatically for my gf and me. We thought she had broken her leg because her leg had got trapped under something heavy and the lower part of it looked terribly deformed. So, we rushed her down to Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Emergency department to get a X-ray of her leg and see a doctor.

We waited for 4 hours. Boy, did it feel long.

While waiting, I realized what was one of the problems with the Singapore healthcare system. The problem was people like my gf and me.

Here is the thing. When the accident first occurred, it looked really bad. Looked. We didn’t know how bad it was but because it looked back, we ruled out going to a GP, not that we knew of any 24 hours GP and I’ll come to that later, and went to a hospital.

I wonder how many of the cases at the Emergency department could have been handled by a GP. Actually, is the only range of options a GP, Polyclinic, Hospital? Are there any other healthcare providers in between – like a better equipped private clinic with its own X-ray facilities?

See. That’s the problem. I don’t know what my options are. And I should know. I should know so that we don’t unnecessarily tax resources that should be catering to real emergencies. And even if there might not be enough real emergencies to keep the nurses and doctors busy the whole night, at least it allows them to get some rest and prevent mistakes due to tiredness. I know I know. Aren’t these people operating in shifts. Shouldn’t they have been allocated enough rest time.

Well, think about this. How many of you can sustain a whole day of intense focused work even with the lunch breaks and tea breaks thrown in. Seriously. How many?

So, what’s the problem. Simple. I am not equipped with the basic skills to assess my own body.

I just learned about the Apgar score from Seth Godin’s The Big Moo. It is such simple ingenuity.

The Apgar score was devised in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar as a simple and repeatable method to quickly and summarily assess the health of newborn children immediately after childbirth.

The Apgar score is determined by evaluating the newborn baby on five simple criteria on a scale from zero to two and summing up the five values thus obtained. The resulting Apgar score ranges from zero to 10. The five criteria (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration) are used as a mnemonic learning aid.

I think we, as individuals who I hope are concerned about our own well-being, should learn more of such knowledge and methods.

A big part of the problem is us. We aren’t aware enough to prevent taxing the system.

On Singapore

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TDM Messes Up Name Of Event. Reveals A Lot About An Important Person.

TDM apparently ‘messed up’ the naming of an upcoming event on Friday. I got this message on Facebook regarding the correction you can now see on their site.

An excerpt of the mail is reflected below:

Vint is NOT the only father of the internet but the one of the creators of the underlying technology which the Internet today is based on. We understand the Vint is not too happy with the particular vocabulary and would very much prefer for it indicate him as part of a group of great people who revolutionized our world.

He feels that credit for the Internet needs to go to more people than just himself and this creates difficulties when others who helped in the Internet’s creation read these kinds of things.

I don’t know why but this struck me as particularly jarring with what I’m commonly used to in Singapore.

Tangled Web We Weave

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DK Is Doing What Nuffnang And Other Blog Advertising Networks Should Have Done

DK has just created a simple banner you can put on your blog to raise awareness how you can help with the earthquake in China. You can see it on the left of this post. I think it is a great and sincere idea.

I wonder why the blog advertising networks didn’t do this. Think about it. Nuffnang has a placeholder image on all blogs that currently don’t have any adverts to display. It wouldn’t have been that hard for them to have switched those images and link to the Red Cross page. It would have generated a lot of goodwill and also proved their worth. I mean, if you are a blog advertising network, won’t you actually be in the best position to galvanize the blogosphere for a worthwhile cause? Unless of course your ads and ad space inventory doesn’t work.

But let’s not go there. For now.

You can grab the code over at DK’s blog. In case you are having trouble inserting the code, note that you might not be able to just copy and paste what he has on his blog. You need to change the quotes as well as remove the blank spaces.

Tangled Web We Weave

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Is The Beijing Olympics Fated To Be Doom?

[Image unavailable]

Did the mascots of the Olympics foretell the troubles China are having. Or did they bring it upon China?

The power of superstition.

via:metafilter

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If Only We Could Speak To Our Leaders The Way This Guy Does

I have heard stuff from this guy before but this is the first one I think I am really going to remember.

via:buzzfeed

Videos

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The Screening of “One Nation Under Lee” – The Authorities Were Restrained.

Was watching the video of what happened when staff from the MDA turned up at a private function held by the SDP and I must say they were terribly restrained. I really hope they don’t become the target of abuse online.

Anyway, I don’t get it.

The SDP function was basically an exercise of preaching to the choir so why bother disturbing them. Only provided ammunition to put more videos on YouTube. The videos can easily be taken out of context and needlessly embarrass the officials who were just doing their job.

The problem isn’t these officials.

The problem are laws that are selectively used.

Anyway, the video is already on the net for everyone to watch.

Control is going to be hard to maintain. The only way it can happen in the long run is increasingly draconian measures – censoring the net by blocking all sites and only allowing white listed site through. We scoff at the possibility of such a day happening. But it might happen if people in power get desperate enough.

I don’t think the people in power would want that day to come though.

So, they are stuck. They want some element of control but can’t so end up looking like petty bullies and probably don’t want to go to extremes probably out of enlightened self-interest.

There are many ways to get people to say what you want them to say. You can force them not to say anything else. You can force them to say what you want.

OR, you can just give them a better story to tell.

A story that is authentic works.

And you don’t need to get everyone to tell your story. Seriously, you don’t. Just don’t give people a chance to stop telling your story. What happened in the above video makes it harder for certain people to tell the story of a good PAP, government and Minister Mentor.

May I recommend Seth Godin to our officials.

On Singapore

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An Excellent Look At The World Of Social Media

Apparently, there is a storm over at Digg regarding its top member. ReadWriteWeb has an excellent post covering the event. More importantly, the post brings up a lot of good points about the social media scene, its nature, the somewhat inevitability of the kind of people it will attract and the dynamics of community on a ostensibly democratic site.

A lot of the stuff said is what I have always felt about social media. I just didn’t say it as eloquently as Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb. I’m going to highlight some parts which I find useful and end with a comment at the end about what social media online reveals about democracy.

There are a number of criticisms that Digg users levy against Andrew Sorcini. The primary one, which Vogt’s cartoon remix refers to, is that MrBabyMan submits duplicate stories that other Diggers have submitted, knowing that his superior prowess will eliminate any chance that the original submission will hit the front page.

The next criticism is that MrBabyMan uses an unfairly large network of friends and spam-like “shouts” to garner favors and give his submissions an artificial momentum that they don’t warrant on merit alone.

The dominant one is this. Andrew Sorcini’s MrBabyMan persona is sitting at the top of a small network of loyal friends, made up of people like SEO marketers, PR agents turned would-be social media experts and other unsavory folk. That circle is further surrounded by an even larger network of millions of Digg users who try to have fun on the site but also wish they could find success there. Many of them no doubt with they too could find a way to make a living in the snake-oil filled circus that is “new media marketing,” as many of the top Digg users have done.

MrBabyMan says he has added friends to help promote stories because that’s how the rules work, if he didn’t need to do that he wouldn’t.

“All I ever wanted,” he said, “was just for the stories to live or die on their own merits. If everyone was on a level playing field I would love that – because I still have the skills to find the great stories…I’m not complaining about the algorithm, but I don’t want to be vilified for working within the parameters of it.

While mid-tier Diggers are far more likely to be engaging in pure pay-for-play, other people at various points in the hierarchy are building careers as “new media experts.” The experience that lands them the consulting contracts they live on? A demonstrated history of success in promoting stories on sites like Digg.

but to claim that top Digg users invest as much time and energy into the site as they do entirely “for the love of it” and “to share good stories with people” – with no economic incentive, short or long term, is a cynical joke.

He’s human, too, so sometimes he fudges a little. “The only promotion I do,” he said, “is Digging the stories my friends submit and keeping the chain of Digging going. That’s the same thing everyone does and that’s the system Digg has set up.”

We like to think that democracy is a system where every individual’s vote counts. I believe it is. But it isn’t just a system where everyone who has an idea or plan or opinion just puts it out there for everyone else to hear and then hopes everyone supports and vote for it. There is work that needs to be done behind the scenes. Part of the work behind the scenes is to build up a network of friends who are more likely to support you because of the nature of an existing friendship. We can feel that it is unfair. We can feel that it goes against the essence of fairplay that a group can dictate proceedings. While some members of the group will have their own selfish nefarious agenda of personal aggrandizement, I believe such groups are necessary because it allows people to find support for their ideas, plans or opinions. Sometimes, these people have terrible ideas, plans, opinions and the sadly, they gain momentum in the wider community because of the work and support of the inner-circle/elite/core group of whatever you want to call it.

The thing now is not to criticize these groups of power-brokers within a community. The question is this – if you feel you have an idea, or plan, or opinion, or whatever worth advancing, do you have the skills to bring it to the rest of the people. A core skill in a democracy is the ability to network.

The only criticism that can possibly be levied against such systems is when the existing power structure prevents a new group with better ideas, plans, opinions from advancing their cause.

Is that the case in online social media sites?

Links Watch
Tangled Web We Weave

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Girl Cries When Father Says ‘I Love You’

Gf and I had a bad day. Totally my fault. She said something and my reaction wasn’t the best possible one. In fact, it is the third worse thing a guy could do. After our phone conversation, I began analyzing why I reacted to what she said and I remembered this story my father shared to me a long time ago.

A girl came home from school one day. Her father greeted her at the door and said to her, “I Love You”. The girl started crying and ran up to her room. The parents were shocked. The father tried to talk to her but the girl wouldn’t let him into the room. So, the mother tried instead. Inside the room, the mother was hugging the girl and consoling her and trying to find out why the daughter was crying.

The daughter said, “Father is going to leave us.”

The mother looked at her, incredulous by the remark, “No, he isn’t. Why did you say that?”

The girl explained, “John said he loved me too, but the next day, I saw him kissing another girl. When I confronted him, he said he was leaving me.”

After a while, in this life, we are all going to meet all sorts of people. Inevitably, some of them, if not most, will disappoint us, hurt us and sadden us. The danger then is that we response to the same cues from different people the same way. In a way, it is a defense mechanism left over from our days when we were still living out on the savannah. You see lion. Lion react certain way. Body instinctively react certain way, getting ready to flight or fight.

It happens with our emotions too. The trick is to master these sort of reflex actions.

Much to learn. Much to control.

Musing about Life

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Run Out Of A Labyrinth Blindfolded – Today @ the Padang.

A bunch of us from my company and a few of our friends will be gathering today at the Padang at 6.45pm to try to train for the lost sport of the ancient greeks. The lost sport involves running out of a labyrinth blindfolded. On a side note, I just learned there is a difference between a labyrinth and a maze.

Anyway, if you are around the area and want to come down and try playing the lost sport, do join us. There might even be beer.

Below are some videos of athletes from other countries training for the lost sport:

The Swiss:

The Americans:

The New Zealanders:

Gaming
On Singapore

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The Shoemaker’s Child has no Shoes

I work for an IT company. We develop software for companies. What’s the purpose of software? One of the purpose of software is to automate processes. The funny thing is, like in my last company, a good deal of the developers’ time is spent preparing reports for our clients. One set of reports that need to be generated is excel sheets that detail our testing progress. So, we have developers preparing each sheet manually. The funny thing is that we could easily cut our time preparing these documents if we have a piece of script to automate the process.

We finally do. I wrote a script that generates the excel sheets based on our junit tests. No more duplication of work. No more mundane work.

More time for beer.

Whispering from the Cubicle

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Singaporeans Are Fast Readers Or Maybe We All Just Jump To Conclusions Easily

The irony is not lost. This post was written just based on only one piece of data so I’m probably guilty of the same ‘sin’ I think the visitors to these blog have. I was checking my Google Analytics data to see how my blog was doing. The result is terrible in terms of traffic which is expected. What surprised me was the average time spent on the site. The top referrer is Singapore Daily.

The average visitor from that site spends only 30 seconds on my blog.

Ok. Not all posts, if any, deserve more than 30 seconds of anyone’s time. I’m honored when someone decides to invest minutes of their life to read my posts and some people do. To those people thank you. And to those who bother to comment, thank you too. Am I indignant when someone doesn’t spend more time. Not really. I won’t be presumptuous to assume that everyone should appreciate or even bother about what I write.

What amazes me is how fast we decide that. I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of making up my mind a wee bit too fast.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. Blink. Blink.

Hmmm… is 30 seconds actually too long? Gladwell uses 2 seconds as a benchmark.

Why do I even care?

Maybe, I just want to feel like I am contributing to something online.

Also, the key thing is this for me. If I think I have something to contribute ( oh, the arrogance ) and I think people are not spending enough time ( oh, the presumptuousness ) for me to give something to them through my posts, then how can I improve the stickiness of the blog.

this young padawan, much to learn.

On Singapore

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Rediscover Singapore! The Old Way… Sigh …

I am not sure what the old incarnation of the page looked like nor when the supposed new page was launched (Google has a cached entry of the old page on 19 Feb 2008), but a friend shared on Facebook that apparently URA has a new page called Rediscover Singapore.

It seems like an underwhelming effort.

What’s up with using the WMV format? And what’s up with the inconsistency with the display of the videos. One takes me to a page where I have to download the WMV Player plugin. Another needs me to download the wmv file. The last video takes me to another page – although the video I would be looking for is the first one I see, I need to click another link to get the video.

I mean, this sounds like a really half-baked effort from a government agency. Surely some thought could have been made on taking all the videos and hosting them at the same place and displaying them with the same interface.

With the ubiquity of Flash, why isn’t the flv format and a flash player used? Better yet, why not host the video on YouTube and embed the video into the page. Better yet, you can actually skin your own version of the YouTube player.

The Walking Maps got me excited. But when I looked at it I was terribly disappointed. I really shouldn’t be surprised. What’s up with just scanning in pamphlets. I mean, look, we have Google Maps. We could, you know, do a mashup. The people over here and here seem to be doing better work.

Of course, you might add, I can’t print out a Google Map. Nonsense. You can. Go Google about it. I really don’t get the use of the pdf format here. Not when you have better formats to represent these sort of data online.

And finally, why would I even want to print out the map. Seriously. If i can find a copy of the original pamphlet, I’ll rather use that. So how does the page add value as a new channel of distribution? Might I suggest doing videos and mp3s for iPods? I can load these videos and mp3s when I am exploring a particular part of Singapore.

Oh well…. I just hope they didn’t pay whoever they did too much money for this effort.

On Singapore
Tangled Web We Weave

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The Application That Made Scoble Cry

The WorldWide Telescope made Robert Scoble cry.

I downloaded the application and tried it out. Somehow, the default user interface of the application just seems better than what you get when trying to explore the sky with Google Earth. In the end, maybe among the astronomy buffs and the techies in the know, WorldWide Telescope isn’t much better than Google Earth or maybe even not on par. But, in terms of selling an idea, I think Microsoft has done a better job than Google. Unfortunately, some people can’t get beyond the fact that this product is from Microsoft and judge it on its own merits – see the comments on TechCrunch.

It really is funny. Microsoft has been accused of being this soulless borglike entity. In this case, they have captured the essence of the wonder that looking up into the sky can bring better than Google and they still get shit.

Compare the video below found on Google Earth’s page introducing Google Sky.

Now, go to WorldWide Telescope and watch the videos there.

Sure, the Google video is less polished. That doesn’t make it more authentic which is a marketing buzzword people like to throw around when criticizing videos that seem to be too polished when in actual fact the video’s only crime is that it just doesn’t gel with their own world view.

Anyway, try some of the tours on Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope. It is like having an Omnimax experience on your laptop – an experience that you can interact with and contribute more of.

Finally, this application made me remember some happy times associated with looking up into the sky. One of them was at the end of sec four when I went for a Christmas party at my bestfriend’s church and some of us went to look at the stars. That was the day I learned how to spot Orion‘s belt.

The second time was in junior college when a bunch of us went down to the beach to gaze at the meteor shower.

There is something that stirs the human spirit (or at least in this human’s spirit) when looking out into the sea and up into the sky. Microsoft’s application and their website invokes that feeling.

I leave you with a passage from Wikipedia explaining the novel and one passage from the novel by Isaac Asimov ‘The End of Eternity‘.

discovered that Eternity was suppressing the creative individuals in humanity in order to protect the rest. In the end this has the effect of denying humanity’s access to the stars, as alien species advance technologically and confine humanity to Earth. Eventually humanity will die out, millions of years in the future, leaving an empty Earth.

With that disappearance… came the end, the final end of Eternity — And the beginning of Infinity.

Tangled Web We Weave

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See Emma Watson Morph Into A Dude.

Watch Emma Watson morph into a man here. Amazing. I got my invite to Aviary today. Unfortunately, the invite allows only access to two tools but I think this setup is just brilliant – people are compelled to contribute to the beta period to gain further access to tools. I also love the name of the company and its tools. The name is an inspired choice as an umbrella name for a set of tools to help people create.

aviary: a building where birds are kept

Subsequent naming of tools is easy because all you need is to choose a suitable name of a bird – there is consistency in the naming of the tools and brand identification is easy. The whole naming concept also fits in with their tagline – Creation on the Fly – where ‘on the fly’ means ‘quickly’ and ‘fly’ invokes an image of artists reaching for greater creative heights.

Anyway, I tried out Phoenix, the image editor tool, and although I am a total noob and created the worse image probably ever not to be seen, I’m totally amazed the things that can be done within a web browser.

Exciting times.

Tangled Web We Weave

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Singapore Is Making Some Of The Mistakes That Led Empires To Ruin.

I am not sure if this blogger is jesting when he suggests we outsource the Singapore Armed Forces. Maybe he is. Or maybe the frustration of NS supposedly handicapping us Singapore males against foreigners have gotten to him and he sees this as the only way to restore some sort of equity.

Let me share with you all a story I heard about the Gurkhas.

A Singaporean soldier was sent to Nepal to train with the Gurkhas to be paratroopers. One the first day of training, the instructor asked the Gurkhas and the Singaporean for volunteers to jump out of the plane. No Gurkhas put up their hands to volunteer. The Singaporean found it strange. These were the Gurkhas whose bravery were legendary and yet they didn’t dare to parachute out of a plane. The Singaporean thus decided to volunteer. The instructor seeing the Singaporean’s hand raised asked for more volunteers. Slowly, hesitantly, a few other Gurkhas raised their hands.

The instructor was satisfied. He then took out a parachute and said, “Each of you will be jumping out of the plane with this parachute”.

“Oh…we can use parachute, ” the Gurkhas started whispering among themselves.

It has been said that the Gurkhas are famous for their bravery and loyalty. Maybe they indeed are. Maybe more so than the average individual who decides that they want to be a soldier which by definition should be a different breed from guys who are conscripted.

However, history is filled with cautionary tales about empires that expand beyond their means and who rely on foreign talents/labour to sustain the expansion.

One case in point – the Romans. Edward Gibbon’s book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a good place to start.

Second case – The Persians versus the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon.

As the clatter of spears, swords and shields echoed through the valley, the Greeks had ensured that their best hoplites (heavily armed infantry) were on the flanks and that their ranks were thinned in the center. Persian battle doctrine dictated that their best troops, true Persians, fought in the center, while conscripts, pressed into service from tribute states, fought on the flanks. The Persian elite forces surged into the center of the fray, easily gaining the ascendancy. But this time it was a fatal mistake. The Persian conscripts whom the Hellenic hoplites faced on the flanks quickly broke into flight. The Greeks then made another crucial decision: Instead of pursuing their fleeing foes, they turned inward to aid their countrymen fighting in the center of the battle.

The weak links in the battle were the foreign conscripts.

You might then say, these foreign conscripts are different from paid mercenaries. True.

In this case, it would be instructive to see what Machiavelli has to say about this in The Prince which had roughly two chapters devoted to this issue.

From Chapter 12:

I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were.

On auxiliaries which are more akin to the foreign talent / labor we used to grow our economy:

Therefore, let him who has no desire to conquer make use of these arms, for they are much more hazardous than mercenaries, because with them the ruin is ready made; they are all united, all yield obedience to others; but with mercenaries, when they have conquered, more time and better opportunities are needed to injure you; they are not all of one community, they are found and paid by you, and a third party, which you have made their head, is not able all at once to assume enough authority to injure you. In conclusion, in mercenaries dastardy is most dangerous; in auxiliaries, valour. The wise prince, therefore, has always avoided these arms and turned to his own; and has been willing rather to lose with them than to conquer with others, not deeming that a real victory which is gained with the arms of others.

The first bold portion makes me think Machiavelli would have expected the problems we currently have with the PRCs.

Lastly, why our economy’s growth is not going to be sustainable even if we are willing to sacrifice our social fabric:

I conclude, therefore, that no principality is secure without having its own forces; on the contrary, it is entirely dependent on good fortune, not having the valour which in adversity would defend it. And it has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength. And one’s own forces are those which are composed either of subjects, citizens, or dependants; all others are mercenaries or auxiliaries.

Singaporeans, be warned.

On Singapore

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Powerset Doesn’t Excite Me The Way Google Did

Firstly, Wikipedia didn’t really excite me when I first discovered it. I thought it was cool that there was an online resource I could use for information but having grown up with my World Book encyclopedia set since Primary School and having a really good library in school which I knew how to search effectively, Wikipedia didn’t strike me as a particularly breakthrough piece of work.

However, now, as I come to understand it more than just an online resource of information but an artifact of social interactions unique to this period in human history, I have come to appreciate it more. And actually go whoa when i think about it but it didn’t have that effect on me in the beginning.

Maybe Powerset is going to be another Wikipedia to me. Maybe. For now, I can’t seem to get excited about it. I like the way they have represented the data from Wikipedia and the user interface to discover and learn more information but that is about it. Using Google or using the Wikipedia page of any topic of interest as a starting point works just as well or rather it works just as well for me.

To borrow a bit from Seth Godin, the problem, at least to me, why I can’t seem to get excited about Powerset is that it doesn’t tell the kind of story that Google did when I first used it. Google told a really simple yet effective story when they put this short message at the right of search results:

Results 1 – 10 of about 1,240,000,000 for friends. (0.22 seconds)

The story was simple. There is too much information out there. Google is able to tell you which is the top ten places to get the information for a particular query. And they did it in less than 1 second. Of course, time was spent indexing the web. That’s not factored in. Time was spent developing the algorithm. That’s not factored it either. But the consumer doesn’t care about all that. The consumer cared about the simple story of how fast Google managed to produce the right sort of results after the query was made. That simple message at the upper right of results became the base for people to share about Google.

Powerset has nothing like that. Looking at the way the data is presented, I can’t find a story to tell. Sure, the algorithm is able to understand the indexed content and query. Sure, the information returned is supposedly more relevant to my query. Sure, the techies are all getting excited about the technology powering the service. Sure, there is the story the people responsible for the service are telling at conferences and investor meetings.

But where is the story told on the site. There isn’t one. Yet.

Tangled Web We Weave

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How To Survive Or Even Thrive In The World Of Print Media.

I admit. I didn’t like the magazine when I saw the first issue. I didn’t give it a chance. Didn’t explore its contents beyond flipping the pages. When I needed to remove clutter, it was one of the first magazine to go. But recently, I can’t seem to avoid this magazine. One of the founders of Lexean shared about the magazine at Singapore’s first Pecha Kucha Night. Ridz has shared an article from the current issue here. I stumbled onto their site and enjoyed their articles.

From throwing away the first issue (sigh.i had a piece of history in my hands and I didn’t realize it.dumb), I want to get a subscription of this magazine (my gf is so not going to support this).

Why?

Firstly, I understand what the founder was sharing when he talked about the direction the magazine was taking. It is simple and normal for a magazine to put on its cover a photoshopped picture. Normal. And if you think about it, one thing that magazines like to do is put celebrities on it. But a celebrity can appear on many covers and only once in a while, do you get a cover that really speaks so eloquently about the economic, social, political, cultural issues of a point in our shared human history.

Looking at the past covers of Lexean, you will find that every cover is unique and a piece of art. No other magazine can have the same illustration on its cover. I’m not sure if the founders intended it this way, but the decision they made with regards to the art direction for the cover of their magazine has made their magazine something worth collecting.

The founder also shared about creating a magazine which you would want to put on your desk. I think they really understand the power of the desire to create an identity. We humans do it all the time – from the laptop we choose to buy, to the clothes we wear, to the car we choose to drive, to…

Online, you can see that desire in how we decorate our blogs with widgets and badges. Bookjetty allows people to post on their blogs the books they are currently reading – in a way, it allows us to project, if not fake, our intelligence and consummate taste.

We don’t just exist in the online world. As we move to do our reading online, and as people herald the death of print media, maybe what Lexean is doing might be a lesson in how to survive if not thrive with print media.

On Singapore
Tangled Web We Weave

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People Working In Bakery In US Earns More Than Most Of US Per Hour.

Read an interesting article about a bakery in the States that uses the honor system in collecting payment.

“I liked the idea of simplifying things and … the honour system made a whole lot of sense,” Bergen says. “What irritated me about going into Tim Hortons, for example, was waiting in line for something as simple as getting a donut and a coffee. So the thought was, someone can pour his own coffee, grab his own bagel, cut it himself, throw the money in, and walk out. We don’t touch 60 per cent of the transaction.”

Because it is up to the customers to total their purchases, Bergen has simplified the cost structure.

“Everything is rounded off to the nearest quarter with taxes included where applicable,” he says. “So every desert is $1.50 (tarts, brownies, and date squares), every pizza lunch is $5, every beverage is $1.25, every loaf of bread is $2.75 (Italian sourdough, multi-grain, and raisin bread on weekends), croissants are $1 each, and bagels are three for $2 (plain, sesame, and multi-grain).”

The bakery conducts audits every six months and Bergen says only once did things come up short.

“Our theory is that two per cent of our sales are being ripped off. ‘Ripped off’ in the sense that there are people who forget to pay or they make a mistake in paying, and then there are people who deliberately don’t pay. And every so often we have to kick somebody out that we know hasn’t been paying,” he says. “But at the same time we figure we’re being overpaid by three per cent. Some people come in and want a $2.75 loaf of bread, but they see we’re busy so they throw $3 in and walk out. Or, although we discourage tips, some people still give them to us. But because the staff is paid well (the average wage is $15.50 an hour), the tips go into the general pot.”

What is interesting is this. Their finances didn’t come up short. I don’t think this says a lot about the inherent goodness of people but it says a lot about the power of community.

“What’s really satisfying is we’ve created a community here,” says Bergen. “Ninety-five per cent of our customers on any given day are regulars. I have people who literally come here seven mornings a week. For them this is like going down the stairs and into their kitchen for breakfast. And then there’s another crowd – a lot of artists and writers who work at home – who come in around 10 a.m.
at least five days a week for their coffee break. We probably do more to establish community than almost any recreation centre in the area because we get to know people. I like that I can walk in anytime and it’s a place where I can belong.”

Another thing that caught my attention – the average wage. I have never been to the States so obviously I haven’t worked there so I’m not sure if this sort of salary is the norm and why it is that amount(power of unions?). But I do know this – the owner doesn’t seem to be losing money and it seems the model is profitable.

Ok. Where am I going with this. If you own a business, I guess one of the many goals you might possibly have is to make shit loads of money. You can do this in a number of ways but the basic equation is the same Revenue – Cost = Profit. So, you can either increase revenue or decrease cost.

Obviously, different businesses face different conditions which affect how easy it is to reduce cost and increase revenue. In Singapore, with our current policy of foreign workers, reducing cost seems to be the easier alternative to increasing revenue. Now, I know that there is the argument that if cost wasn’t reduced, then to make any sort of (?decent) profits, cost of products and services will go up to increase revenue and everyone else suffers. The dynamics of this is a little bit too complex to cover in one blog post so I won’t do it any injustice by trying to cover it.

What I do want to say is this in the context of Singapore. A lot of times, a decision is made on the amount of profits you as the business owner want to make. We can grumble all we like about how the government isn’t taking care of the people which isn’t true. The government just isn’t taking care of all the people. Now, the question is then this – if you are a Singaporean business owner, are you going to make the decision to make your staff more, maintain the same revenue, and take home less profits.

The idea is this. Every Singaporean has to stop thinking that the government is the only one that can help other Singaporeans. And helping other Singaporeans isn’t just about doing volunteer work or donating to charity. It is about making ‘small’ decisions like how much profit you are willing to take and whether paying your own fellow Singaporeans more despite the availability of cheaper (and probably younger) foreign workers can still make you some money though not as much.

via: kottke

On Singapore

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Another Speech From Senator Obama

Transcript (from here):

You know, some were saying that North Carolina would be a game-changer in this election. But today, what North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, DC.

I want to start by congratulating Senator Clinton on her victory in the state of Indiana. And I want to thank the people of North Carolina for giving us a victory in a big state, a swing state, and a state where we will compete to win if I am the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

When this campaign began, Washington didn’t give us much of a chance. But because you came out in the bitter cold, and knocked on doors, and enlisted your friends and neighbors in this cause; because you stood up to the cynics, and the doubters, and the nay-sayers when we were up and when we were down; because you still believe that this is our moment, and our time, for change – tonight we stand less than two hundred delegates away from securing the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

More importantly, because of you, we have seen that it’s possible to overcome the politics of division and distraction; that it’s possible to overcome the same old negative attacks that are always about scoring points and never about solving our problems. We’ve seen that the American people aren’t looking for more spin or more gimmicks, but honest answers about the challenges we face. That’s what you’ve accomplished in this campaign, and that’s how we’ll change this country together.

This has been one of the longest, most closely fought contests in history. And that’s partly because we have such a formidable opponent in Senator Hillary Clinton. Tonight, many of the pundits have suggested that this party is inalterably divided – that Senator Clinton’s supporters will not support me, and that my supporters will not support her.

Well I’m here tonight to tell you that I don’t believe it. Yes, there have been bruised feelings on both sides. Yes, each side desperately wants their candidate to win. But ultimately, this race is not about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John McCain. This election is about you – the American people – and whether we will have a president and a party that can lead us toward a brighter future.

This primary season may not be over, but when it is, we will have to remember who we are as Democrats – that we are the party of Jefferson and Jackson; of Roosevelt and Kennedy; and that we are at our best when we lead with principle; when we lead with conviction; when we summon an entire nation around a common purpose – a higher purpose. This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country. Because we all agree that at this defining moment in history – a moment when we’re facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril – we can’t afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush’s third term. We need change in America.

The woman I met in Indiana who just lost her job, and her pension, and her insurance when the plant where she worked at her entire life closed down – she can’t afford four more years of tax breaks for corporations like the one that shipped her job overseas. She needs us to give tax breaks to companies that create good jobs here in America. She can’t afford four more years of tax breaks for CEOs like the one who walked away from her company with a multi-million dollar bonus. She needs middle-class tax relief that will help her pay the skyrocketing price of groceries, and gas, and college tuition. That’s why I’m running for President.

The college student I met in Iowa who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can’t pay the medical bills for a sister who’s ill – she can’t afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and the wealthy; that allows insurance companies to discriminate and deny coverage to those Americans who need it most. She needs us to stand up to those insurance companies and pass a plan that lowers every family’s premiums and gives every uninsured American the same kind of coverage that Members of Congress give themselves. That’s why I’m running for President.

The mother in Wisconsin who gave me a bracelet inscribed with the name of the son she lost in Iraq; the families who pray for their loved ones to come home; the heroes on their third and fourth and fifth tour of duty – they can’t afford four more years of a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged. They can’t afford four more years of our veterans returning to broken-down barracks and substandard care. They need us to end a war that isn’t making us safer. They need us to treat them with the care and respect they deserve. That’s why I’m running for President.

The man I met in Pennsylvania who lost his job but can’t even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one – he can’t afford four more years of an energy policy written by the oil companies and for the oil companies; a policy that’s not only keeping gas at record prices, but funding both sides of the war on terror and destroying our planet in the process. He doesn’t need four more years of Washington policies that sound good, but don’t solve the problem. He needs us to take a permanent holiday from our oil addiction by making the automakers raise their fuel standards, corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future. That’s the change we need. And that’s why I’m running for President.

The people I’ve met in small towns and big cities across this country understand that government can’t solve all our problems – and we don’t expect it to. We believe in hard work. We believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance.

But we also believe that we have a larger responsibility to one another as Americans – that America is a place – that America is the place – where you can make it if you try. That no matter how much money you start with or where you come from or who your parents are, opportunity is yours if you’re willing to reach for it and work for it. It’s the idea that while there are few guarantees in life, you should be able to count on a job that pays the bills; health care for when you need it; a pension for when you retire; an education for your children that will allow them to fulfill their God-given potential. That’s the America we believe in. That’s the America I know.

This is the country that gave my grandfather a chance to go to college on the GI Bill when he came home from World War II; a country that gave him and my grandmother the chance to buy their first home with a loan from the government.

This is the country that made it possible for my mother – a single parent who had to go on food stamps at one point – to send my sister and me to the best schools in the country on scholarships.

This is the country that allowed my father-in-law – a city worker at a South Side water filtration plant – to provide for his wife and two children on a single salary. This is a man who was diagnosed at age thirty with multiple sclerosis – who relied on a walker to get himself to work. And yet, every day he went, and he labored, and he sent my wife and her brother to one of the best colleges in the nation. It was a job that didn’t just give him a paycheck, but a sense of dignity and self-worth. It was an America that didn’t just reward wealth, but the work and the workers who created it.

Somewhere along the way, between all the bickering and the influence-peddling and the game-playing of the last few decades, Washington and Wall Street have lost touch with these values. And while I honor John McCain’s service to his country, his ideas for America are out of touch with these values. His plans for the future are nothing more than the failed policies of the past. And his plan to win in November appears to come from the very same playbook that his side has used time after time in election after election.

Yes, we know what’s coming. We’ve seen it already. The same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn’t agree with all their ideas. The same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hope that the media will play along. The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences to turn us against each other for pure political gain – to slice and dice this country into Red States and Blue States; blue-collar and white-collar; white and black, and brown.

This is what they will do – no matter which one of us is the nominee. The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they’ll run, it’s what kind of campaign we will run. It’s what we will do to make this year different. I didn’t get into race thinking that I could avoid this kind of politics, but I am running for President because this is the time to end it.

We will end it this time not because I’m perfect – I think by now this campaign has reminded all of us of that. We will end it not by duplicating the same tactics and the same strategies as the other side, because that will just lead us down the same path of polarization and gridlock.

We will end it by telling the truth – forcefully, repeatedly, confidently – and by trusting that the American people will embrace the need for change.

Because that’s how we’ve always changed this country – not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up; when you – the American people – decide that the stakes are too high and the challenges are too great.

The other side can label and name-call all they want, but I trust the American people to recognize that it’s not surrender to end the war in Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and go after al Qaeda’s leaders. I trust the American people to understand that it’s not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but our enemies – like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.

I trust the American people to realize that while we don’t need big government, we do need a government that stands up for families who are being tricked out of their homes by Wall Street predators; a government that stands up for the middle-class by giving them a tax break; a government that ensures that no American will ever lose their life savings just because their child gets sick. Security and opportunity; compassion and prosperity aren’t liberal values or conservative values – they’re American values.

Most of all, I trust the American people’s desire to no longer be defined by our differences. Because no matter where I’ve been in this country – whether it was the corn fields of Iowa or the textile mills of the Carolinas; the streets of San Antonio or the foothills of Georgia – I’ve found that while we may have different stories, we hold common hopes. We may not look the same or come from the same place, but we want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

That’s why I’m in this race. I love this country too much to see it divided and distracted at this moment in history. I believe in our ability to perfect this union because it’s the only reason I’m standing here today. And I know the promise of America because I have lived it.

It is the light of opportunity that led my father across an ocean.

It is the founding ideals that the flag draped over my grandfather’s coffin stands for – it is life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the simple truth I learned all those years ago when I worked in the shadows of a shuttered steel mill on the South Side of Chicago – that in this country, justice can be won against the greatest of odds; hope can find its way back to the darkest of corners; and when we are told that we cannot bring about the change that we seek, we answer with one voice – yes we can.

So don’t ever forget that this election is not about me, or any candidate. Don’t ever forget that this campaign is about you – about your hopes, about your dreams, about your struggles, about securing your portion of the American Dream.

Don’t ever forget that we have a choice in this country – that we can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together and solve the problems we’ve talked about all those other years in all those other elections.

This time can be different than all the rest. This time we can face down those who say our road is too long; that our climb is too steep; that we can no longer achieve the change that we seek. This is our time to answer the call that so many generations of Americans have answered before – by insisting that by hard work, and by sacrifice, the American Dream will endure. Thank you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

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How To Prototype A Game In Under 7 Days

Came across a rather old article on Gamasutra about how a team of students ran a project with the goal to prototype a game in under 7 days.

“Rapid prototyping can be a lot like conceiving a child. No one expects a winner every time, but you always walk away having learned something new, and it’s usually a lot of fun!”

Gaming
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Why Some Guys Pump and Dump Girls.

The totally worship-worthy Geek Goddess talks about guys who pump and dump or at least talk about it. Let’s forget about the guys who do not walk the talk and focus on those who actually do the pumping and dumping.

Disclaimer: ‘Pump and Dump’ is a phrase that kinda belongs to a friend of a friend.

The paragraph that launched a thousand keystrokes:

“You don’t know meh? Alot of guys just to have a f**k buddy, you think they really want to stick with their girlfriends faithfully forever meh? Don’t be silly lah, s’pore guys won’t settle down with the last fling until they reach 35. And never get those clingy GFs, they will commit suicide if you dump them, just get one that you can f**k and dump, who cares about commitment?”

What crosses the line for me is the fact that he outrightly says this, in front of his friends.

Before we go into why they do it, Estee shares the thing that gets her is that he openly says it. What’s wrong with that. I rather a guy tell me, ‘fuck you, I’m going to fuck you over in this business partnership once I get the chance’ then have a friend say, ‘no contract needed, just a handshake, cos we are friends and you know, I’ll never cheat you’.

Basically, I like a guy who says what he means, is constant and isn’t afraid to share his stand.

So, why do they do it? Estee has a few theories of her own. She divides these guys into 3 categories:

1. The young and immature.

Why is pumping and dumping women an immature act? Lots of people do pumping and dumping and not just in a sexual way. Also, there are many kinds of relationships and I don’t think a guy is any less mature if he doesn’t want a committed one.

2. The jaded.

3. Those who have never loved before.

So, you know why guys pump and dump. Simple. BECAUSE THEY CAN. I mean, look at what the person leaving the comment continued to say after sharing what the ‘despicable’ guy said.

I suspect alot of guys are like this, well, at least those who look ‘passable’. the other option would be the CMI geeks. Tell me, what is a girl to do in sg? How to find a good guy who doesn’t have the intention to f**k and dump?…sigh…

Well, you want to know how to find a guy who doesn’t have the intention to fuck and dump? Simple. Don’t fuck before marriage. That could be one suggestion. Don’t let people eat the tohfu until they have paid for the meal or at least you have the credit card to charge to their account.

Or maybe, moderate your standards. You want to label people Cannot Make It and go for those that can make it and seem to consider those who don’t look good as an unenviable option , of course you are going to attract a certain kind of crowd. Besides, what’s wrong with geeks who cannot make it by whatever absurd, bullshit superficial standard you have (notice, she talks about looks in that comment).

Gosh.

Guys pump and dump because they can. I suspect most guys would pump and dump if they could. The guys who don’t pump and dump are:

1. Those who think God is watching. (he isn’t)

2. Those who can’t.

3. Those who haven’t been caught.

So, what sort of guys can? They are those that (and this isn’t an exhaustive list nor do the guys need to have all these attributes ) are rich, good looking, hunky, intelligent and charming.

Now, I know some of you might be saying this – ‘but there are some guys who really cannot make it leh, yet still got a chance to pump and dump’.

Simple. The market is imperfect. Women do not have information on all the guys out there. So within their limited social circle (say all the people in Toa Payoh who go to XXX school who like to hang out at XXX location), as long as a guy is the top dog there by whatever arbitrary standards a girl might have, he is going to get some action. Now, guys, the imperfect information works in your favour, so don’t go and get smart and think of some Web2.0ish idea to improve the market.

The conceivable problem with being a player is that it is hard to sustain the advantage that allows you to be a player. Age and the degradation of the body are two things that are impossible to fight against although the latter can be mitigated with money.

The other conceivable problem is that a player might decide to not be a player for whatever reasons like wanting to father a legitimate child thus needing to get married but not wanting to lose any assets in the eventuality of getting caught. Or maybe he decides he doesn’t mind eating the same sushi everyday.

Now, at that point, the choices are rather limited unless you are the top tier of players which is by definition a small group. So, what are your choices? The funny thing is this, most guys want one kind of girl when they are being a player, but when they think about getting married, they want another kind – sweet, homely, virtuous … kind. I am generalizing and stereotyping but I have seen enough of my peers to know there is some truth in this. The problem is this, at that age, most of these girls are already taken and it is harder to get them (every contract after all is negotiable, even the marriage contract) or there is too little of them going around (after all, in the prime, the players themselves were responsible for reducing the pool of nice sweet, homely, virtuous … girls).

So, what’s the solution? Go younger or go foreign.

Now, I totally laughed when Estee shared that girls are smart and will wise up to these sort of players. REALLY? I think Estee is really the exception to the rule because I think most girls don’t learn.

They may be wary but there is something about humans that make us always think we are the only that will change that guy or girl. We all have these ridiculous notions of our own value that we think we can be the one to ‘save’ that guy and girl from the philandering unfaithful or just plain fear-of-commitment ways.

Also, the very fact that a guy has a string of past relationships show that he knows his stuff. Even if a girl is wise, which is a rarity, I think the safer option is not to even enter the lion’s den. But, no, we all like to play with fire. We ALL think we can handle it. That we won’t fall for the same scam.

I want to leave you all with this. Estee and I, when writing our blog posts, are stereotyping and generalizing. But the world isn’t like that. Humans are complex and we can’t all be painted or rather typed with the same keystrokes. So, if you didn’t read anything in this post, I hope you would read the last two paragraphs.

If you play a game with certain rules, the rules are going to constrain your rewards. You can’t play chess and hope to win the game by getting the most money. That’s monopoly. So, the key thing about this life is this, you got to decide what values you hold dear and what are your priorities, then find someone who is like-minded and hopefully you get a chance to build a strong, loving and lasting relationship with that person.

The thing is this – humans are selfish. I know we have our moments, but the rule when dealing with a human should be is that humans are selfish. For guys, somehow, there is a big score card in our individual and collective male consciousness that is tallied based on the quality of women we get to bang and the number. This isn’t the only thing that governs our thoughts, decisions and actions, but it is a big part of our psychological and biological makeup. A guy who can pump and dump is more likely to do so than one who doesn’t. So, to answer the question of Estee’s reader, the way to find a good guy is simple – manage your expectations and always be mindful of which game you are playing and more importantly, which game the other guy is playing. Some guys are playing the get-to-heaven game or the treat-women-with-respect-because-i-want-my-sister-to-be-treated-same-way game. They are better candidates.

Musing about Life

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Yael Naim – New Soul

First heard this song ‘New Soul’ by Yael Naim via Hypem and I totally loved it. So did a Google search on the singer and learned that this was the song used in a Macbook Air commercial.

I couldn’t describe why I loved this song until I found someone online describing it as:

light, ethereal, infectious and personal.

The music video for the song:

The commercial:

The lyrics:

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake

La, la, la, la (21x)
La, la, la, la (21x)

See I’m a young soul in this very strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout what is true and fake
But why all this hate? try to communicate
Finding trust and love is not always easy to make

La, la, la, la (21x)
La, la, la, la (21x)

This is a happy end
Cause you don’t understand
Everything you have done
Why’s everything so wrong

This is a happy end
Come and give me your hand
I’ll take you far away

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake

New soul… (la, la, la, la,…)
In this very strange world…
Every possible mistake
Possible mistake
Every possible mistake
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…

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A Content Management System Where There Is No Need To Store Any Content.

Is it possible to have a site powered by a CMS without the need for the site to store any of their own content on their own servers? If so, what would the solution look like?

ideas

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My South Park Avatar

The official South Park website with full episodes in super good quality.

My avatar below:

South Park Avatar

Videos

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The Inability To Feel Pleasure

Recently, I’ve been suffering from a serious case of the blues. I don’t think it is because of the weather. Maybe it is because I haven’t made the time to spend with my gf – time with her has increasingly become my serotonin. Or maybe I am just suffering from Anhedonia. Anyway, I just want to share this essay about Camus which I shared in 2006 – The Myth Of Sisyphus. Read more about this essay from Jane.

My happy food for today was the Ugly Chicken Puff from Starbucks.

The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Musing about Life

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